by Laura Tayman
Director of Communications
St. Margaret’s, Annapolis

One was a paramedic from Colorado who went to New York to support his colleagues in the spring. Another was a cafeteria worker who helped to feed her school’s families that would otherwise go hungry this summer. A third was an Oscar-winning cinematographer who worked with Steven Spielberg on films like E.T. and Close Encounters.

For several years, St. Margaret’s Church of Annapolis has held All Saints’ Day services joyously with a good, old-fashioned Dixieland Mass, singing songs like “Shall We Gather at the River” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” led by a Dixieland group of musicians in the style of a New Orleans funeral.

But this year was different. With more than 230,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19 and more cases diagnosed every minute, it was hard to imagine a service celebrating “going home” that did not acknowledge the ongoing crisis.

It is a tradition in The Episcopal Church to read out the names of those parishioners or their loved ones that died in the annual All Saints’ service.

“It just didn’t feel right,” said Laura Tayman, director of communications for the church. “There is so much sorrow, so much grieving. Just as the members of the church remember their own losses, we decided to honor our nation’s losses as well.”

Tayman scoured the enormous lists of stories of people who lost their battle with the virus. Out of them she chose people of different ages, races, and backgrounds. With support from the clergy, she printed out their stories, faces, and ages on postcards that were hung up along the sides of the sanctuary, as well as others available for parishioners to take and to pray for their loved ones’ healing.

“It’s one thing to know the numbers, but when you see children, young parents, professionals, and even seniors enjoying retirement whose lives were cut short, it is astounding,” the church’s rector, the Rev. Peter W. Mayer, said. “There is a great deal of healing to be done.”