Despite the corornavirus pandemic, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church will hold its annual Fall Bazaar for the 29th year, with a handful of changes to ensure the safety of volunteers and attendees.
“The first thing we did is realize that it was going to be a different year,” Jesse Lebus, the St. Luke’s rector, said. “We knew the chances of us being able to gather in our parish hall, as had been tradition, were very slim. So, we changed the date. We moved it to earlier in October. It had always been the first week of November.”
October was chosen because the weather would be better. Traditionally, the bazaar’s big draws have been the preserves, chutneys, pickles, jams and jellies, which congregants make. Jams and chutneys will be available for pre-order, Lebus said. Curbside pickup will also be offered.
“On the face of it, from about a 20,000-foot view, not much has changed,” Lebus said about the church. “We have continued with our services. We continue to find ways to minister to the folks in our community and congregation. But a closer look would reveal something a lot different. We began, the first several weeks [of the pandemic], streaming our services and stopped having our services in person.”
Now in-person services are still live-streamed for congregants who are uncomfortable meeting in person. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop offering our services through the internet,” Lebus said.
Services are held in the church’s courtyard, where this year’s bazaar will be held.
Kristine Janusas, a congregant who has been involved with the bazaar for roughly 30 years, said, “People can expect this year to be basically the same as every year, but just a little bit scaled down and a little less interaction.”
Janusas said there might be slightly fewer vendors, but there will be raffles, the annual thrift store, Unique Boutique, and offerings from the church’s Country Kitchen. Masks and social distancing will be required, she said.
“With the jams and the jellies, people love to pick it up and put it down, and then they go to the next booth,” Janusas said. “They’re looking at the different flavors and the different products. So this year . . . there will be one blueberry jam out for you to touch and hold, but the other ones we’re going to keep behind, and if that’s something you want, we’ll package it for you for less touching and more social distancing.”
To make the jams and jellies, Renee Swanson wrote in a column, women from St. Luke’s purchase strawberries, peaches, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries from local farms. Throughout the summer, they come to the kitchen each week to make and can their products with family recipes collected by Janette Heurtley, who has been involved with the bazaar since its start in 1991. She keeps the recipes in a large binder that she calls St. Luke’s Book of Secret Recipes.
“We have a crew varying from six to eight people, [but] they aren’t all there at the same time,” Heurtley said. “We’re enforcing social distancing. We are sanitizing the kitchen, and jellies by their nature are boiled. So you have a sterile liquid going into sterile jars that are then sealed. That’s the whole point of canning.”
Lebus said that people return each year asking for triple berry jam. The cooks “put their hearts into this project,” he said. “I was thinking about it the other day, The ingredients for these things are pretty basic; it’s fruit, pectin and sugar. But I think that people put other ingredients into it. They put their faith, they put their hope and love into these things.”
“We have a lot of regular customers,” Huertley said. “We have people that come from all over the island. We don’t know if people will come from Suffolk or the South Shore this year. We hope they do. We look forward to seeing them.”
The community “just needs to know,” Lebus said, “that whether they are members of our church or not, that our church is part of the community in Sea Cliff, and [the bazaar is] about bringing joy to these folks. When they show up, they know that there’s something that we’ve made for them. They are happy to support and purchase it.”