Covid-19Magazine Exclusive

Global Pandemics Stone on tour

The Salvation Army’s Cambridge, Mass., Corps teamed up with the Peace Abbey Foundation, an organization that creates and installs public works of art that promote peace and nonviolence. In times of national and worldwide crisis, Peace Abbey has used commemorative stones to honor innocent lives devastated by gun violence and war.

This year, The Global Pandemics stone, which has been a memorial for victims of AIDS, will also acknowledge the ways that COVID–19 has affected the world through sickness, death, job loss, home foreclosures, and canceled events. As travel regulations permit, the hope is that the stone will make its way across Boston, New York, and the country.


Facing challenges as one

One day, Lewis Randa, founder and chair of Peace Abbey, drove down Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. He noticed rose bushes as they adorned the front of the Salvation Army corps. He also saw that the Army resided next to the city’s fire department.

Lieutenant Elizabeth Carvill, assistant corps officer at the corps, remembers Randa saying, “The Salvation Army is a beautiful, safe location.” Randa contacted Majors Douglas and Judy Hart, corps officers, and arranged for the corps to be the Global Pandemic Stone’s second stop.

On the first Sunday in October, members of Peace Abbey towed the one–ton stone on a cart from its first stop, Swedenborg Chapel in Harvard Square, and placed it in front of the Cambridge Corps. Lieutenant Carvill offered a blessing, saying she hoped that, in this space, the community would find comfort and the peace of God.

“The stone is considered a living thing,” said Carvill. “The weather affects it, and it changes color over time. When you touch the stone, it takes the oils from your hand. Those oils mix with the oils of other people who have placed their hands on it. It symbolizes that, whatever we are all going through, we go through it together.”

Every night the stone stood in front of the Salvation Army building, a member of the corps would carefully cover it. In the morning,  someone removed the cover so that it could be clearly seen by motorists and pedestrians along the busy avenue.


A mayor’s welcome

The following Thursday, Cambridge Corps members held a ceremony in recognition of  the  National Week of Mourning. “The numbers are not just people who have died,” said Karen Meehan, corps sergeant major and director of operations at the corps. “They are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles.”  To date, the state of Massachusetts has had over 144,000 COVID–19 cases and close to 10,000 deaths.

Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui was a guest at the event. It was the mayor’s first visit to the corps. While enthusiastically introducing the mayor, Carvill compared her to singer Beyonce Knowles. “Just as Beyonce said, ‘Who runs the world? Girls!’ Who runs the city of Cambridge? Our Mayor Siddiqui!”

Siddiqui said, “May all who view and touch the stone find comfort in placing their loss in a global context, for the human family suffers as one, and heals as one.”

After the event, Suddiqui toured the Cambridge Corps and learned about its programs, such as the Our Place day care center and the Bridging the Gap program. Carvill said, “We also spoke to the mayor about the importance of having a database of social service needs. It’s important for us to know who we are helping and how.

“Even though we have not been able to serve in full capacity, we still serve three meals a day, with proper social distancing parameters,” says Carvill. “It has been a great blessing that the Cambridge Corps has remained open during the pandemic, while many other service providers have had to close their doors.”

by Hugo Bravo