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Two churches combine services outside this fall

Two historic Rochester churches have partnered for outdoor Sunday worship services.

First Unitarian Church and First Universalist Church are collaborating on a unique and COVID-safe mission this fall. The two congregations will hold Sunday worship together under a tent at First Unitarian’s 220 S. Winton Road location. Church officials said that they have held services online since March 2020, so the outdoor experience will be the best of both worlds, enabling members and friends to gather together to worship.

The weekly 10 a.m. service also is live-streamed.

The Rev. Lane Campbell, lead minister at First Universalist, and the Rev. Shari Halliday-Quan, lead minister at First Unitarian, launched the idea early last month. Staffers from both congregations quickly went to work to make the outdoor services possible.

“The pandemic has been a time of great challenge, but we’ve also seen a flourishing of creativity, community building and mutual aid, not only in our congregations but across the community,” Halliday-Quan said in a statement. “To share what we have and to come together to do good work and celebrate life is what church is all about. Last year, the downtown congregation invited us to do some justice work in their location; now we get to offer and use our outdoor space. Together we are better able to respond to our broader community, to rain and traffic noise, to change and uncertainty.”

Added Campbell: “This collaboration has helped our two congregations come together in ways we never could have imagined before the COVID-19 pandemic. We are being collectively nourished by worshipping outside in the natural world and engaging in creative liturgies both online and in person.”

The two inclusive churches have a total of more than 1,000 members.

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