Shuttered: How Covid-19 Changed Sunday Service for Kennedi Carter

Ever since Durham issued its shelter-in-place order on March 26, Sunday service in the North Carolina city hasn’t been the same. For photographer Kennedi Carter’s family, as well as many others, this meant that Easter was spent in their living room, with the couch as the pew and the television as the pulpit.

“Toward the end of sermons, the congregation would normally get so hyped,” says Madison Cater, Kennedi’s sister. “People would start shouting and getting up and running around. That energy just isn’t there anymore.”

The Carter family portrait has been an annual tradition for the last four years. This is the first time Kennedi photographed them using black-and-white film. “I think black-and-white has an ageless quality to it and that’s something I wanted to bring into the photos,” she says.Photograph: Kennedi Carter

Typically, her Easter Sundays are filled with the aromatic mixture of cinnamon rolls and the chicken that was being prepared for dinner later in the evening. In the past, her mother, Felicia, would twist her hair and decorate the ends with barrettes, a hairstyle that required, at the very least, a moderate amount of hair grease. Madison would habitually rest her head on her mother’s lap during the middle of the service, and later realize she’d left a massive oil stain on her dress and pretend it wasn’t there. “She’d feel some kind of way but I always thought it was funny,” she says.

This past Easter, though, was much more muted. Felicia didn’t do Madison’s hair. The family didn’t buy new Easter clothes for the at-home occasion. And the egg baskets Felicia usually made for her god-daughters, Jaelle and Jocelyn, didn’t exist. The Carters simply gathered in their downstairs living room, slowly trickling in to watch Bishop Clarence Laney, Jr. livestream his sermon from the local Monument of Faith church. Onscreen, he was joined by a handful of choir members, assisting ministers and parishioners from the worship team, all distancing from each other.

“I think that—especially below the Bible Belt—we feel church has to be under a roof and it has to take place in a specific place. But as someone who has not been routinely going, I feel like church is wherever you make it,” Kennedi says.

Kennedi’s 7- and 10-year-old godsisters, Jaelle and Jocelyn, wear masks while keeping a safe distance from her.Photograph: Kennedi Carter Link to Original Story

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