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Faith

Avenue Church Creates Virtual Café

by Terry Rogers 

 

Milford School District Online LearningWith school districts in the area starting the year in either a totally remote or hybrid learning atmosphere, Avenue United Methodist Church recognized that many children were having difficulty accessing the internet at home. In an effort to address this need in the community, Avenue created the Virtual Café, making space and Wi-Fi available to those who do not have internet or whose internet is not reliable.

“In the spring, when schools went to virtual learning, we became concerned about students who may not have reliable internet,” Steve Lamotte, Lead Pastor, said. “We saw that this would adversely impact the learning process and that the achievement gap would increase for students who could not participate in the virtual school day. We have Wi-Fi and plenty of space, so it seemed to be a no brainer to make our space available.”

Lamotte explained that members of the church have heard and experienced the challenges parent and students are facing with virtual learning. Some of the students have no access to internet while others do not have enough bandwidth at home for multiple children to participate at once. Still others have financial limitations that prevent them from accessing the internet.

“The community has done a great job of coming up with creative solutions since the spring,” Lamotte said. “We hope that this can be a helpful option for some families. We are currently open on Mondays and Thursdays for both morning and afternoon groups. We plan to be open as longa s needed and as long as we have volunteers to staff the Café.”

Lamotte praised the Milford community for stepping up and helping students who may be struggling with online learning.

“The Milford community has always done a great job of caring for our students,” Lamotte said. “Our school district and our teachers are doing an amazing job making the most of a difficult school year. They are rock stars! Our goal is to help take some of the stress off of families who may not be able to provide internet access for their child’s education. We believe every kid has the right to the best education possible. Our teachers are doing their part. WE hope to provide space for students and teachers to connect, virtually, in order for each student to achieve their best.”

Avenue is asking parents to preregister their children for the Café which will be open Mondays and Thursdays from 8 AM until 3:30 PM. Elementary students should be accompanied by a parent or trusted adult as they are not set up as a daycare facility. Middle and high school students are allowed to attend on their own. Students must bring their own Chromebook, headphones and educational supplies. Volunteers will be available for questions regarding the Wi-Fi only.

Parents may register their students here. Anyone with questions can call the church at 302-422-8111 during regular business hours.

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Culture Faith Headlines Police & Fire

Red, Blue Masses to honor law enforcement, legal profession

Two Masses are coming up in New Castle County to honor people serving the community in public safety and jurisprudence.

A Blue Mass will honor law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services and military. A Red Mass will honor lawyers and those in the justice system.

But the last White Mass, which honors healthcare workers, seems to have been held in 2015.

The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington’s annual Blue Mass for will be 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 2 at St. Elizabeth Church, 809 S. Broom St, Wilmington. It will also be live-streamed on the diocese’s YouTube channel.

Bishop W. Francis Malooly will preside, with the Rev. Michael Murray, chaplain of the Wilmington Fire Department, as the homilist.

Although this will be a Catholic Mass, those of other faiths are warmly welcomed and to pray for those who risk their lives for the sake of public safety, the diocese said, noting that all state coronavirus rules apply for those attending in person.

The Blue Mass was begun in 2008 by Father William T. Cocco, a former police officer, as a parish event at St. John the Beloved in Milltown. He’s now the pastor at St. Edmond in Rehoboth Beach.

Law enforcement honor guard at 2019 Blue Mass in Wilmington. Photo courtesy of Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.
Law enforcement honor guard at 2019 Blue Mass in Wilmington. Photo courtesy of Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.

The Red Mass, a tradition that dates back to the 1200s, started in Wilmington in 1988 as the signature event of the St. Thomas More Society of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.

The next local Red Mass will be at 3 p.m. Oct. 11 at St. Mary Magdalene Church, 7 Sharpley Road, Brandywine Hundred. Malooly again will celebrate. It will be live-streamed on YouTube.

It’s intended for judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law school professors, students and government officials.

“The Mass requests guidance from the Holy Spirit for all who seek justice and offers them the opportunity to reflect upon their God-given power and responsibility in the legal profession,” according to the society.

There’s also a White Mass for healthcare workers.

“It looks like the last time a White Mass was held at St. Francis [Healthcare in Wilmington] was in 2015,” said Mary Beth McCloy, communications director for Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic.

“According to the bishop’s secretary, a White Mass was scheduled to be held in the St. Francis chapel back in 2018, but it was cancelled because of some last-minute date complications. There was no Mass requested in 2019, and there is nothing scheduled in the near future in the diocese.”

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Culture Faith Government & Politics Headlines Health

Avenue of 500 flags along Wilmington’s Riverwalk salute military, essential workers

A mile-long display of American flags along Wilmington’s Riverwalk salutes service to our country, especially that of the military and the essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 500 flags, put on display by the Wilmington Rotary, stretch from Hare Pavilion by the AAA Building to the new Margaret Rose Henry Bridge across the Christina River.

The uplifting, patriotic display seemed to energize and delight people walking along it Friday at noon.

One office worker, who didn’t want to give her name, gushed about how glorious it was, how much it improved her mood and how it made her feel more positive about the world to see the flags flapping in the breeze.

“And just in time for Labor Day,” she said. 

It will stay up for two weeks.

Flags line both sides of the walk near the pavilion, skip the boardwalk in front of the restaurants and Delaware Children’s Museum, and then resume single file to the bridge. (But the gap offers the usual spectacular views of the city and the river).

This is the fourth year of the Rotary display, originally meant to honor the military. It’s moved from Fletcher Brown Park near the Hercules Building, then to Constitution Yards on Justison Street where the Walk of Celebration was born, said Margi Preuitt, chair of the Flags for Heroes Committee during a dedication Friday.

When the club decided to move it to the Riverwalk, “It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had a whole new list of heroes and that they come in all shapes, genders, colors, clothes, pay scales, places of work, vehicles and ages,” Preuitt said. 

They include caretakers, teachers, delivery people, health care workers, cleaners and emergency service personnel, she said.

“They may not call themselves heroes, but they are – and we learned that they are all essential,” Preuitt said. “It’s a word that covers workers that we likely took for granted before COVID  – but not today.

“Today, we dedicate this display to all the essential workers — the heroes and she-roes — and publicly honor them.”

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Culture Faith Headlines

Women pick up hammers, drills to finish Habitat house in Milton

MILTON – Some Sussex County women are strapping on their tool belts and donning their safety hats and safety googles to help an area family become first-time homeowners. 

The women, who are part of a Habitat for Humanity’s Women’s Build crew, are working on a 1,232-square-foot house with three bedrooms and 1-1/2 bathrooms. They began in March but the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to stop in mid-April and they couldn’t return until June 1.

Not only was there a more than a month-long stoppage, but a decrease in the number of volunteers working, said Courtney Tull, the project’s volunteer service manager. 

“Our first two or three build days we were fortunate enough to have 15 or 20 volunteers which was awesome, all local ladies, working towards building this house,” she said. “Then, we had to shut down obviously for coronavirus and we couldn’t have any volunteers on site. And now that we’re allowed to have volunteers on site again, we’re only allowed to have up to eight volunteers working at a time on outdoor projects.”

On their Wednesday, Friday and Saturday work days, Tull says, there are consistently now four to five volunteers.

“It’s really cool to see people from Milton or near Milton, like Lewes come together to help build affordable housing,” she said. “The ladies have built relationships with each other and with Habitat, and they learned all of these skills by coming to the classes that we held and now they are putting that into action on site.

“It’s just a cool dynamic between them.”

Habitat for Humanity Women's Build in Milton
Progress on this Habitat for Humanity house in Milton was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nancy Haefeli, the house leader in charge of the crew, says COVID not only affected the number of women participating, but also the concept of only women building the house.

“Once COVID hit, we still didn’t have the roof on, not all of the walls were up and sealed up. They had to bring a contractor in to put on the roof, put the windows in, just so it would be pretty much sealed,” she said. “We didn’t get to do those kinds of things that we would normally do, which is kind of a bummer but you need to preserve the structure of the house, so it had to be done.”

Even though the crew couldn’t work on the house, they individually would drive by to check on it.

“I would just see how it was coming up, see it under roof,” she said. “You couldn’t see what was going on inside, so you just looked at the outside.”

With the women back on the job, Haefeli says the house’s exterior is basically done except for landscaping and building the backyard shed. The crews now has moved inside where they are on installing luan plywood subfloor for the laminate flooring. 

“Unfortunately, we were told last week the cabinetry and the vinyl planking aren’t going to be here for about a month, so I don’t know what we’re going to be able to do after we get all the luan done,” Haefeli said.

The homeowner, who is required to work a certain number of hours on her home, came on Saturday and wanted to paint.

Habitat for Humanity Women's Build in Milton
Inspecting their progress on the subflooring at the Habitat for Humanity Women’s Build in Milton are, from left, Nancy Haefeli, Lynn Welden, Judy McCallum and Terry Hide.

“She got in the laundry room on Saturday,” Haefeli said. “It was her first-time painting and she did a good job.”

Terry High, another member of the Milton crew, is a veteran of Habitat builds having worked seven years on different building projects. This is her fourth Women’s Build. She has worked on houses in Ellendale, Seaford, Selbyville, Georgetown and Milford.

She said this has been the most successful Women’s Build because women have shown up.

“Seriously, that is it,” High said. “We would have a lot of women on Day One (of other projects), and unfortunately most of them were working and they couldn’t come back. This one we’ve had consistent people coming. We’re getting to be a tight-knit group and that keeps you coming out.”

Lynn Welden totally agrees with High, saying it’s a blast working with her teammates.

“We have a lot of fun and laughs together, and support each other,” Weldon said. “It’s fun to be around other people especially during COVID.”

Not getting to work during the shutdown was really hard on Welden for several reasons.

“I worried about the house, about the family that was moving in because of all the delays,” she said. “I just missed the purpose of coming out here.”

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Faith Government & Politics Headlines Health Schools Sports

High school athletes, parents ask state to let fall sports play now

DOVER – Delaware Military Academy sophomore Ashley Hughes stood in front of Delaware Legislative Hall Saturday to send a clear message to Gov. John Carney and other state officials that she and her fellow student-athletes want their sports back in the fall.

Hughes and about 100 student-athletes, their parents and supporters were part of a “Let Them Play Delaware” event meeting on The Green to air their feelings about the Delaware Interscholastic Athletics Association pushing all fall sports were back to early 2021. They will play between shortened winter and spring seasons.

“I’m speaking on behalf of the thousands of student-athletes in Delaware who deserve to have a fall sports season this fall,” Hughes said. “My question to Gov. Carney, the DIAA and the Board of Education where is your concern for us the students?

“You shut down our schools in March and canceled our spring sports season due to the spread of COVID and the many unknown factors about the virus. It is now the end of August. Doctors have a better understanding of the virus, and the data does not support delaying the fall sports season. In fact, the data supports having a fall sports season.”

Isolating students has increased mental health issues, anxiety and teen suicide, she said, which poses much more of a threat than COVID.

Parents and high school athletes rallied on The Green in Dover to urge the state to let them play. Photo by Dave McCallum.
Red Lion Christian Academy football head coach and athletics director Ken Anderson, left, spoke at Saturday’s rally.

Linda Moffett, a grandmother from Newark, choked back tears as she talked about taking her grandson Joshua to the military academy to pick up books from school.

“These kids in line are waving and cheering each other from their cars,” she said. “They haven’t seen each other in six months. These kids need to be together. “It’s unfair, it’s cruel, and everyone is passing the buck.”

It’s easy to close schools and cancel seasons, Moffett said.

“Do you know how many kids are thriving on the extra hours that they can stay in school, are underprivileged, are going home to who knows what.” she said, “but they love those extra two or three hours that they get to stay and get to play a sport because the sports teams are their family?”

“You don’t get these years back,” said Red Lion Christian Academy football head coach and athletics director Ken Anderson.

He said Delaware athletic directors had a good plan to have fall sports begin practice in September, with games starting in October and the seasons going into December.

Anderson said schools had developed such things as QR codes and scanning documents to help keep players, and staff members safe. Transportation was another issue they focused on because some student-athletes would have a hard time getting to practice, he said.

Anderson and other ADs presented their plan to the DIAA board at its Aug. 6 meeting before it voted 15-0 to postpone fall sports.

“I don’t know if you listened to the meeting, but for me it really made me nauseous,” Anderson said. “If you listen to it, ‘Let’s refer back to 10-10, 10-8-4.’

“These are our kids. There was no empathy, no drive or mission there to get them back on the field, so they voted to kick it down the road.”

Parents and high school athletes rallied on The Green in Dover to urge the state to let them play. Photo by Dave McCallum.
Parents and high school athletes rallied on The Green in Dover to urge the state to let them play. Photo by Dave McCallum.

Jill Dietrich, whose son is a senior at Salesianum School, saw the DIAA Let Them Play petition on Facebook. As of late Saturday afternoon, more than 5,500 had signed it.

“We just want them to play,” Dietrich said. “We want them out of the house. They’ve been locked down since March 13, and we’re lucky because we (Salesianum) get to go back hybrid starting next week, so they will have interaction with students.”

Dietrich is concerned students going to school virtually will not get the interaction they would have in a face-to-face or hybrid option.

Her son wants to play volleyball in college.

“Our spring season was taken away from us, so he didn’t get have video and the looks from recruiters,” she said. “A lot of this is getting taken away from these kids. Division I and Division II have been targeting these kids, but kids who want to play Division III, these are the times they are looking at these kids.”

Kelly Boettcher, whose twins Lexi and Logan attend Caravel Academy, decided to start the Delaware HS Athletes Parent Group page on Facebook three weeks ago for parents who didn’t think the DIAA ruling was acceptable.

She thought 50 to 100 people who join by the next morning. Within two days, more than 1,000 people were part of the group.

“Never did I think that I would be here in Dover two weeks later,” she said. “We just want the kids and parents to have the choice for what we think is best for our kids. If kids don’t want to play, they don’t have to play. We just want that choice.”

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Culture Faith Headlines Health

Kids create art work for social distance floor spacers in museum contest

Go ahead. Step on Claire Robinson’s painting of her sister.

She won’t mind.

She painted it with the expectation that  you would. 

Robinson was one of nine young artists who responded to the Delaware Art Museum’s Creative Spacers Youth Art Contest this month. They were asked to create an image that could be used as a COVID-19 floor spacer, one of those small reminders on a floor or a sidewalk to socially distance by staying 6 feet from people you don’t know or are not with.

“Both kids and art are really undervalued right now,” said Lillia Schmidt, the museum’s community engagement intern. who had the idea for contest. “With this we wanted to empower kids and encourage the next generation of artists.”

Robinson, a 7th grade student at P.S. DuPont Middle School, chose the themes of love and hope and intended for people to feel like they can get through whatever they can get through with that love and hope. 

She decided to her sister’s image was perfect for the art work.

Delaware Art Museum Creative Spacers Contest
Kiley Farina

“I’ve been spending a lot of time with my sister and family recently and seeing how my sister is so loving has given me hope that things can get better so she can have a normal childhood,” Robinson said.

“Her hands are in the shape of a heart to represent love,” Robinson said. The bird in the work represents care, affection and hope.

The children’s contest was an adjunct of the Museum’s Creatives Spacers Project. That program paid professional artists early in the pandemic to create spacers that would be offered to downtown businesses, partly to help the artists maintain an income. 

The professional spacers can be found in the State Building in Wilmington, at the Delaware Community Foundation, Latin American Community Center, Greenbox Kitchen on Market, West Side Neighborhood House, Delaware Art Museum, River Road Swim Club and YWCAs across New Castle County.

The idea for the youth contest started with a brain-storming session with Schmidt and Jonathan Whitney, manager of performance programs and community engagement. 

Delaware Art Museum Creative Spacers Youth Contest
1st Grader Kiley Farina created this image to celebrate how everyone is connected.

The youth program, which may spawn future contests, was opened to students ages 6 to 19. They were asked to create 12-by-12-inch 2D work that conveyed the messages of hope, love, social distancing or pandemic safety. 

While the museum originally planned to declare a few winners and give each a gift card to a local art supply store, it’s now declared all nine artists who entered winners.

One is Kiley Farina, who’s going into the first grade this year. She decided to depict about how everyone is connected. 

“Love is in our hearts,” Kiley said. “We’re all connected, no matter what color you are, boy or girl, glasses or no glasses.” 

She said that she felt proud about her art and being a part of an art contest.

“I really like drawing,” she said. “I usually draw every day.”

Other winners were Azalea Banks, Reeves Ohlinger, Natty Moffett, Simone Moffett, Scarlett Burleigh, Natlie Weinberg and an artist named Karl, who didn’t give a last name.

Kiley’s’ father, Matt Farina, supported his daughter entering the contest. 

“I think it provides an outlet for the kids,” he said. “Kiley really seemed to press the idea that we were all connected, and we really pushed her to follow that idea.”

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Culture Faith Headlines Police & Fire

Student campaign to rebuild Newark Chabad exceeds goal

NOTE: This report has been updated to reflect the campaign surpassing its goal.

GoFundMe campaign run by University of Delaware students has raised more than its original goal of $250,000 to rebuild the fire-damaged Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Newark.

Officials have said the fire, reported about 11 p.m. Tuesday, was intentionally set.

At a news conference today, the state fire marshal said it resembled other nearby arsons. “Absolutely nothing” points to it being a hate crime, said Rabbi Motti Flikshtein, youth and family program director of Chabad Lubavitch of Delaware. Flikshtein, who attended the news conference, said the 4,000 Chabad centers worldwide form a network of Jewish culture.

“We’d like to express our deepest and most sincere appreciation to the so many friends from far and near who are joining together in support of our students,” Rabbi Avremel Vogel, who runs the UD Chabad, and his wife Shulie say in a posting today on the GoFundMe page. “This is the greatest testament that love is stronger than hate and light can overcome darkness.”

“This individual tried to RAZE us to the ground, together we’ll RAISE to even higher heights than ever before!”

“There is no doubt in our mind that the best way forward is to not only rebuild the space that once was, but rather to create a new one that is even better, grander, and larger with even more space to host even more students, thereby bringing even more light to this world than ever before,” the page says, in explaining that its new goal is $500,000 of a $3 million project.”

The campaign was set up Wednesday evening and has drawn more than 5,000 donations. Flikshtein called it “a wave of giving” from donors worldwide that the Delaware community doesn’t know.

Multiple donations were for $18 or multiples of it, because 18 symbolizes life in Jewish culture.

Chabad offered Shabbat meals, classes, discussions and social events. Until the fire, it was always open, its Facebook page says. There are about 2,000 Jewish students at UD, about 12% of undergraduates, according to Kristol Center for Jewish Life

Because of coronavirus guidelines, Chabad had anticipated having programs under tents, Flikshtein said, and it will continue that, with food brought from the Vogels’ home rather than made at Chabad.

“The little blue house, which we students called home, will be missed, but it is time to give back and rebuild what we have lost,” the GoFundMe page says. It says “all funds will be given to the Vogel Family to rebuild The Chabad House.”

County records describe the house, at 262 S. College Ave., as a 1930 Cape Cod with almost 2,000 square feet. No one was inside when a neighbor discovered the fire, the state fire marshal said.

A criminal arson investigation is underway, and anyone with information is asked to call the state fire marshal at 302-323-5375 or Crime Stoppers at 800-TIP-3333. 

The campaign is led by Grace Hollander, Haley Levine, Jessica Ehrlich, Sarah Chalmin, Nikki Matza, Louie Gelb and Alex Beigelman, plus alumnae Gabby Taubenfeld, and Ariana Marks.

“We affirm our solidarity with the Jewish community at this difficult time,” UD President Dennis Assanis and José-Luis Riera, vice president for Student Life, wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to the university community. “While not a University of Delaware-owned facility, the Chabad Center serves as a Jewish community center for our campus and sponsors a Registered Student Organization. It is an active part of UD’s religious, faith and spiritual diversity.”

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Culture Faith Headlines

Jesus Love Temple Launches Food Pantry

by Terry Rogers 

 On August 1, Jesus Love Temple Evangelical Association will kick off House of David Food Pantry with the goal to serve at least 20 families per week in the greater Milford area. Pastor David A. Shockley explained that although the kickoff will be August 1st, that will only be the beginning for the project.

“Almost half the children in our school district are under the poverty line,” Shockley explained. “Statistics also show that 5,000 people are affected by food deficits in Milford. We believe the need is great, so our goal is to help as many people as possible.”

Currently, the church is accepting donations of non-perishable food as well as cash donations to help complete setting up for the food pantry. The goal is to do weekly distributions, emergency food and coordinated events with the Food Bank of Delaware.

“My father, Reverend David A. Shockley, sr., started Jesus Love Evangelical Association in 1979 upon the premise of showing love and ministering to the needs of the community. We’ve carried on that same legacy over the last 40 plus years. We’ve always helped, but now we’ll be able to reach more people.”

Shockley explained that the church had a smaller operation before and the State of Delaware sent them clients.

“We couldn’t keep up with the volume,” Shockley said. “However, my sister, Azandra Smith-Bennett, who ran the program years ago, passed away in 2018. Back then, we didn’t have the resources to operate efficiently. Now, with the help of our members and the community contributors, we are much better prepared.”

The church is looking for volunteers to help at the Food Bank which will operate starting on August 1 from 9:00 a.m. until Noon. Anyone interested in helping can reach Shockley at pastor@jesuslovetemple.org or call 302-422-2110 to leave a name and return phone number on the church voice mail. The food pantry will be held at 106 South Walnut Street with food boxes and more distributed. Food boxes will be handed out at Shockley Hall with the front office of Jesus Love Temple handling all paperwork.

In addition to donations of non-perishable food and cash, sponsorships are available. A Wall of Fame will be created in the Jesus Love Temple Evangelical Association front office to recognize sponsors. Sponsorship information is available at https://kindest.com/campaign/jlea-food-pantry-launch.

Jesus Love Evangelist Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Their mission is to help meet the economic, spiritual and social needs of the General Milford Community first and the rest of the world next.

“Our next House of David project is to have a clothing closet and a baby supply depot,” Shockley said. “We greatly appreciate everyone who helps. Every dollar and effort given will make a difference.”

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Culture Faith Headlines

Presbyterian Church to Play Patriotic Music on July 4

by Terry Rogers

 On July 4, the sound of the carillon at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Milford will ring with patriotic music. John Huntzinger, an elder and historian at the church, explained that this was something he did as a young man at his church in northern New Jersey.

“I started doing this in about 7th grade,” Huntzinger said. “We had a carillon with about nine real bells. After retiring from the Air Force and moving full time to the Milford area in 2013, I became a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Milford. I learned that they had an electronic carillon and remembered playing bells/carillon on special occasions to include the 4th of July and got permission to play their carillon on the 4th of July several years ago. One reason I wanted to do this was because there were no other 4th of July events in or near Milford. I recall watching the fireworks display at Slaughter Beach where my parents lived, and I missed that.”

Huntzinger explained that Milford native, Harvey Gillespie, have played the patriotic carillon music for several years. This year, Gillespie will be handling the bell ringing on his own as Huntzinger will be out of town visiting family.

The First Presbyterian Church is on its third electronic carillon, Huntzinger explained. The first was dedicated in 1963 in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel C. Evans, Jr., who were both active in the church and its music programs.

“The first carillon was state-of-the-art for its day,” Huntzinger said. “It used paper tape for music and tuning forks to generate the music which was then amplified. The second electronic carillon was also state-of-the-art for its day and had unique, large cassettes which held the music. Harvey faithfully changed them for the seasons for many years. That electronic carillon gave up the ghost late in 2017 and was replaced on Easter Sunday 2018 by a modern, solid-state electronic carillon in which all music is internally stored on a hard drive. The speakers for the carillon are located in the Church spire and are quite large but not as loud as one might think.”

Anyone interested in enjoying the patriotic carillon concert can bring chairs to areas around the church. Huntzinger suggested that the best place to hear the bells is within a block or two of the Church.

“Good listening spots are in parking lots at the rear of the Church on Pearl Alley, near Lifecycle,” Huntzinger said. “Also the Milford Public Library, the City of Milford Customer Service Center on South Walnut Street and in front of the Church on South Walnut Street.”

There will not be any food or beverage services, but residents are encouraged to bring picnic lunches to enjoy as they listen to the bells. Huntzinger also asked that those enjoying the music practice social distancing in order to keep everyone safe.

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Faith Government & Politics Headlines

Gov. Carney Issues Guidance for Churches

Governor John Carney on Monday issued updated guidance for churches and other houses of worship in Delaware. The guidance – created in coordination with the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) and the Delaware Council of Faith-Based Partnerships – encourages virtual services but expands the ability for churches and other houses of worship to conduct in-person services with restrictions.

Gatherings must be limited to 30 percent of stated fire code occupancy. Strict social distancing must be maintained. High-risk Delawareans, including those over 65-years-old, and anyone who is sick should not attend in-person services. Anyone 13-years-old or older must wear a face covering. Children 2-years-old and younger should not wear a face covering due to risk of suffocation.

“All of Delaware’s restrictions – including those inside our churches and other houses of worship – are intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” said Governor Carney. “I know it’s difficult. Practicing your faith is a fundamental right. But Delawareans who are at higher risk should not attend in-person services. Do your best to practice your faith virtually. Wear a cloth face covering if you attend an in-person service. Remain at least six feet away from others. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Now’s not the time for Delawareans to let up.”

Service or gathering times must be staggered to permit cleaning of public spaces between services, in accordance with guidance from DPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Exchange of materials of any kind during services is strongly discouraged. Baptisms, weddings and funerals are permitted if the services can follow precautions in the updated guidance.

Under Governor Carney’s stay-at-home order, churches and other houses of worship are essential, but must adhere to basic safety precautions to protect congregants from COVID-19 infection and transmission.

Anyone with a question about COVID-19, whether related to medical or social service needs, should call Delaware 2-1-1. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can text their ZIP code to 898-211. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.