Yes, that's Father Tim. Photos by Larry Peplin
There's gotta be nothing more 2020 than Father Tim Pelc of the Detroit-area St. Ambrose Parish "communio," admirably cognizant of all things COVID, blessing his longtime parishioners’ Easter baskets with a squirt gun, or what Twitter has gleefully dubbed "the super soaker of Christ." Located in Grosse Pointe Park, St. Ambrose Parish describes itself as "a group of Christians working together as best they can to become a forgiving, loving, serving, sharing brother and sisterhood." Their mission statement calls for congregants to "come together...in the signs of the times and in our own individual, familial and communal lives" to nourish spiritual growth and "increase our understanding that our parish community includes the local community, the nation and the world." With Michigan seeing the country's fourth-highest COVID-19 death toll - over 4,800 - and despite those assault-rifle-toting idiots protesting bars being closed, Pelc, 70, says his parishioners are "taking lockdown very seriously," with live-stream services drawing about the same crowds as always. "People are saying they don’t want to come out just yet," he said. "There’s still a lot of fear out there, and I don’t blame them." Since the pandemic hit, the Parish has been honoring the state's COVID-19 victims with blue ribbons tied around trees on their property. When the lockdown started, they had six ribbons; now it’s almost 5,000: "Each of those pieces of ribbon represents someone who was loved and had a family. It brings tears to your eyes."
Acknowledging "you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube," Pelc says the Parish is considering leaving up the current live-stream cameras indefinitely, prepping for long-term strictures. Meanwhile, he's trying to keep things both safe and lighthearted, especially for kids. Thus, his idea of a squirt-gun communion last month to bless Holy Saturday baskets from an acceptable distance, even checking with an E.R. doctor friend to be sure it was kosher. Parishioner Larry Peplin took photos that were posted to the church’s Facebook page; they later took off on Twitter, and eventually sparked a Reddit photoshop battle, because why else would God and Al Gore invent the Internet if not for this. When you walk through the Valley of Death, some mused, thy rod and thy staff and thy holy water squirt gun will comfort you. While a few disenchanted believers mulled returning to the fold, other fans suggested innovations: A water balloon baptism, or maybe Pelc could "flip the Communion wafer at your face from a distance and make you catch it like a seal? That would also be great." The church, delighted with its new fame, has been sharing memes on Facebook. Pelc, who says he's "perfectly happy being the masked avenger here," offers a resonant message for the times. “This whole idea of combating evil is a good one," he says. "When Jesus dies, he doesn’t just lay around doing nothing. He goes down to hell and kicks the doors in. He really wrestles with evil. We all want to believe that the devil is not the most powerful force on the earth, and neither is COVID-19.”
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