By Fr Graeme Napier
St John’s in the Village
St John’s in the Village has been running, and continues to run, a free grocery service for Villagers who have no access to the internet. It is one of the many services which have come into being to help particular groups hit hard by the pandemic. During this pandemic, to which St John’s grocery project is a direct response, many seniors (and other vulnerable people) feel unsafe, even with masks and distancing, when in crowded indoor places such as grocery stores. Many seniors can, of course, either order their groceries online, or have non-senior friends or relatives shop for them. Seniors with no internet access and with no non-senior friends or relatives in the Village are in a difficult situation. That’s where St John’s steps in to help. Our volunteers staff the phone line (open from 11am to 1pm Monday-Friday), seniors call and say what they need (up to about $80 for a weekly shop of basics), and St John’s volunteers place and pay for the groceries and have them delivered. It’s as simple as that. The project is funded by St John’s with the help of Episcopal Charities (NYC’s Episcopal Diocese ‘home’ charity), some private donors, and significant grants from charities in the UK.
If you are a senior with no internet access, and are still apprehensive about visiting grocery stores, please do consider letting St John’s help you in this matter. If you do have access to the internet but know seniors who do not, consider ordering for them or passing on to them this article and the number to call:
Call 929 292 9235
11am to 1pm Monday to Friday
You can consider these groceries to be a gift, or, if you might be in a position to repay St John’s for part of the cost of the groceries you order, that would help us run the program for longer and help more people in the same circumstances. The Village has one of the highest proportions of seniors living alone in all of the five boroughs of NYC. Charity begins at home!
St John’s in the Village has a notable history, humbly worn, of helping Villagers in times of distress. St John’s played a significant pastoral role in the Village’s cholera outbreaks in the 19th century, in the Village’s response to the so-called ‘Spanish’ Flu of 1918, and, of course, in the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s. It is in keeping with this long tradition of community care that St John’s in the Village has begun new programs in this time of COVID-19.
In addition to helping seniors and other vulnerable people with their daily bread, St John’s has also kept very close to the arts community, so much part of the life of the Village. Before the pandemic St John’s presented at least four of five concerts each week, from early music, through Baroque, Classical, Romantic, modern, folk, jazz, and more. Having invested in top-of-the-range audio-visual equipment, St John’s now offers its fine acoustic and this equipment to musicians who wish to live-stream their concerts to online audiences. Recently these have become ‘fusion’ concerts with a limited in-person audience attending the live-streamed performance. This is to the benefit both of the musicians, who can continue to perform and earn revenue, but also to music lovers, who can hear live performances from a Village venue, and now, at last, attend concerts safely in person once more. St John’s is delighted to be able to keep music alive in the Village despite the cost incurred in engaging professional sound engineers and other skilled personnel to enable this service to musicians.
Theater at St John’s continues online, though St John’s theater itself is closed, with a number of innovative community and cultural events curated by St John’s resident theater company Rattlestick.
It is important for the Village’s visual artists to be able to show their work at this time when many commercial and even not-for-profit galleries are closed. Revelation Gallery, St John’s own art gallery, has uninterrupted shows by Village artists this season: Maria Carla Genovesi (of Parsons School of Design) in September, Joyce Rezendes (of Westbeth) in October, Kazuya Morimoto (of W 11th St) in November, and Barbara Braun in December. Kazuya Morimoto, known as ‘Kaz’ to Villagers, and a familiar sight on Village streets, is now busy painting the new Paris-like, table-lined, diner-filled streets of the Village for his November show.
As restaurants have now lost their indoor seating and some have very little outdoor space, St John’s has offered its lovely interior garden, St Benedict’s Courtyard, to its neighbor Taïm, the Israeli falafelry on Waverly Place. Taïm customers can enjoy shade, quiet, free wi-fi, the gentle splash of the water-fountain, and the chirping of St John’s two blue budgerigars as they eat. The courtyard is open to everyone (not just Taïm customers) between 11am and 3pm Monday to Friday.
Significantly also, when so many churches in the Village are closed, St John’s has re-opened for in-person worship, with a Eucharist (mass) at 6:15pm every Wednesday, followed by ‘distance drinks’ (champagne and soft drinks) in St Benedict’s Courtyard: a time of prayer and fellowship much needed these days.
St John’s has done all this while at the same time experiencing, as have all churches and not-for-profits, a steep diminishment in its own revenues due to the pandemic. If you feel you might be able to help with either the grocery program or the concert-streaming (the two costliest of the new programs), please do be in touch (all details are on our website: stjvny.org) or pop in (the church is open from 11am to 3pm Monday to Friday) and say hello.