New North Church Hosts Virtual Services
Reverend Steven Aucella has been pastor of New North Church on Lincoln Street for just over three years. During his tenure, he has participated in many events that highlight the church’s unique history and its interest in giving back to the community. One such event was the commemoration of the abolitionist celebration that took place in 1844 at Tranquility Grove. “Our history is as an abolitionist church,” said Rev. Aucella. “The Tranquility Grove event started right out in front of the church in Fountain Square before everyone went down to the wharf to meet the steamships and then headed over to Tranquility Grove.”
The church was started around 1805 when congregants broke away from Old Ship Church “for a variety of reasons – some political, some personal.” General Benjamin Lincoln, whose home sits across the street from the church, and some others raised the money necessary to build the structure. The building was erected in 1806, but the first service wasn’t held until 1807. No material change to the exterior of the building has been made since then. Inside, many of the historical details still exist. For example, the box pews in the sanctuary are all originals and are the oldest pews in Hingham.
As with other churches, New North has been through many seasons. Rev. Aucella has dubbed this recent one “interim time” and sees it as an opportunity. “There are all kinds of ways we can benefit from all of this,” he said. For example, the church now has a broader reach through the use of their YouTube channel. Pre-recorded videos of sermons are uploaded and then shared on the church’s website. The link is also sent to parishioners in an email so they can watch at their leisure. “There are still way more people watching these things than have been in the building for a church service on any given Sunday,” said Rev. Aucella. “We are hoping that people will join us after all this is over.”
Virtual services have worked out very well for members of the congregation, like Craig Noble of Hingham who tunes in every Sunday. Craig and his family have been attending New North since the mid-70s, and he serves on the Parish Council. The Council has maintained its regular schedule, but they are now holding meetings via video conferencing. “It’s kind of like the Twilight Zone,” said Craig. “The parish is staying together, but it’s a different experience.”
Easter Sunday was different this year too. Rev. Aucella had decided that the church body would hold off on celebrating until conditions improved. “When the Governor says we can go ahead and gather again,” he said, “we will celebrate Easter the following Sunday.” One Easter tradition was still maintained though. Friends from St. Paul’s Parish and Old Ship reached out to Craig and asked if New North would be ringing the bells on Easter. A decision was made that all three churches would do so at 10:00 a.m. Craig recruited a few others to join him, one of whom was his 23-year-old daughter, and for close 15 minutes they took turns going up to the belfry and ringing the bells. Social distancing guidelines were abided by, and hand sanitizer was made available.
One of the biggest challenges for churches is figuring out how to accept tithes. New North used to have an online giving page, but it was costing too much money and not many people were using it. However, it has become a necessity, so now they are using a platform that is more affordable. Rev. Aucella includes a link to the page in his Friday email blast, and information on giving is shared during the virtual services. “Like any church, we have buildings to maintain,” he said. “We are really dependent upon the kindness of strangers.”
Strangers and parishioners like Craig who owns his own HVAC design and contracting business. Although the work done by his company is considered essential, they are experiencing quite a bit of down time. Craig decided that instead of having employees sit idle, he would put them to work doing projects at the church, like replacing downspouts and repairing a chandelier. It’s his way of giving back to the church and keeping his employees busy at the same time.
Moving forward, New North Church will continue to utilize their online platform even after they return to live services. They are also planning other offerings. Volunteers have been asked to come forward to film readings along with some short commentary. These will be made available during the summer months when the church doesn’t meet as frequently. “In one sense the virus has given us all these new opportunities,” said Rev. Aucella, “but we still all want to get back here.”
Craig echoed that sentiment. “I miss the people,” he said. “You can do all you want on Zoom, but when you are able to look someone in the eye you can see their spirit. It will be good to see those guys again.” When asked if he had a special message to share with the community at large, Rev. Aucella said, “I think we are going to get out of this thing in better shape than we think we will. In five years, this will be way in the rearview. We are going to fully recover from this. I want people to keep their heads up, stay safe and keep smiling. That’s my mantra.”
Kristen can be reached at email@example.com