Arkansas church fills pews with ‘cardboard parishioners’ as congregation worships from home – Episcopal News Service

Cardboard cutouts of parishioners of themselves sit in the pews of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Photo: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] Livestreaming a worship service from an empty church can be a lonely experience for clergy, and the sight of empty pews is a visual reminder of the isolation many are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. A church in Arkansas has found a solution: cardboard parishioners.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville has invited its parishioners to make their own cardboard cutouts to put on the pews so that live worship services look less empty and priests can once again preach at a host of familiar faces – even if drawn with a marker.

The idea started as a way to give parish parents something fun to do for their restless kids that would keep them connected to their church while they can’t congregate there.

“Our staff have been trying to think of creative ways to engage our families – and the whole congregation – while we’re stuck at home, especially looking for activities for families who may need something. to fill the time,” said Samantha Clare, the church. Director of Christian Education.

Staff members at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, pose with the cardboard cutouts they made. Photo: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Using cardboard, pom poms, feathers, googly eyes, pipe cleaners and other craft supplies, clergy and staff cut out each other last week, which they showed off on Facebook , then during their live morning prayer service on March 22. Jack Cleghorn (with a feather beard) and Reverend Evan Garner, Rector (with the sequined collar) even wear their cassocks. Clare, who is pregnant, used a photo of her face in profile, stuck on hair string, and even included her baby bump.

The cardboard cutout of Christian Education Director Samantha Clare sits in a pew at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Photo: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Titled “Fill the Pews: A Social Distancing Art Project”, they invited parishioners via Facebook to make their own waist cutouts, bring them to church and support them on the pews. Although the office is closed and no public worship takes place, the church itself is open for individual prayer. The project quickly took off. As of March 25, Clare said, a dozen cutouts had appeared on the benches and “a few more are popping up every day.”

“People of all ages have them, and some of them are seniors in the congregation, some of them are entire families who have dropped them off, so everyone is getting involved,” Clare told Episcopal News Service. They will all be able to see each other during the Sunday worship live stream on March 29.

“I think as people continue to find themselves restless, we’ll bring more people together,” Clare said. “We just want to bring some joy, so hopefully we will.”

– Egan Millard is associate editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be contacted at

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