After a year of meeting only over Zoom, Pescadero Community Church hosted its first in-person service back in mid-May. Her congregation fully vaccinated and singing together inside the small South Coast church, minister Rosemary Feerick said the service was invigorating.
“The biggest celebration is just being back in the church again,” Feerick said.
Even after a year apart, the Coastside has never felt more like home for some locals who have found community amid solitude.
At the South Coast church, transitioning to video conference services was a nearly seamless process, Feerick said. The group didn’t miss a single Sunday service.
“Early on, there was a lot of creativity,” Feerick said. “I felt like I got into a rhythm of how to make it work, and then we started just doing church a different way.”
But without face-to-face interaction each week, Feerick knew that some, particularly older members, were more at risk during the pandemic and would need more ways to stay connected. So she made it a priority to create social space for community members to talk to one another while stuck at home. So began the Wednesday evening “happiness hour,” during which locals could gather virtually to say “hello.” Feerick said, despite being apart physically, the wildfire evacuations and the pandemic actually brought the South Coast community closer.
“I think the community is coming out of the pandemic where people are feeling more connected,” Feerick said.
Many local cultural groups have found a way to stay connected during the pandemic, mostly through virtual or socially distanced meetups. Coastside Jewish Community has been meeting virtually, for twice-a-month Friday night services, for volunteer and activism meetings, and for classes like Mussar, an ethics-centered mindfulness practice, Rabbi Moshe Tom Heyn said. He increased the number of Shabbat services during the pandemic to keep people connected while physically apart. What he didn’t expect was for Mussar groups to keep meeting even after the formal classes ended.
“They have been meeting for months and find it remarkably helpful,” Heyn said. “Some would even say it’s life-changing.”
Meanwhile, some local groups have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to cast a bigger net. CoastPride teamed up with local businesses, government officials and community groups to celebrate Pride Month in June by flying the new rainbow “Progress Pride Flag” across the Coastside. And a car parade is still part of the plans even as regulations ease, board member Cathy Hauer said.
The organization's support groups for LGBTQ youth and their caregivers will begin meeting in person again and “breaking bread,” Hauer said, now that the group’s new community center on Main Street is opening.
Organizations across the San Mateo County coast are working toward meeting in person again. Most are taking it slowly. At the two outdoor Shabbats he’s led so far, Heyn said members could choose to attend in person or virtually.
And last week, the Half Moon Bay I.D.E.S. Society even hosted its annual
Holy Ghost Festival in a down-sized version of the normal procession and feast, celebrating 150 years on the Coastside. Former President Mel Mello said he didn’t know what to expect after not advertising the celebration so as to keep it small. But members of the local Portugese community and other Coastsiders showed up anyway.
“People just wanted to get out,” Mello said. “The locals were just glad to be at something normal.”