Grand Forks native, seminary student featured in New York Times article on coping with holidays alone

Victoria Remer, a 2013 Red River High School graduate, is one of five New Yorkers featured.

Victoria Remer, a seminary student and 2013 graduate of Red River High School, is featured in a Dec. 23 New York Times article on coping with the holidays alone. (Submitted photo)

Victoria Remer, a 2013 graduate of Red River High School, is featured in a New York Times article headlined “How 5 New Yorkers Are Coping with Holidays Alone,” published Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Remer, a student at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, is serving a year-long internship at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Jamaica, Queens, New York.

She was chosen for the Times article after responding to a query from the newspaper. A reporter-photographer spent parts of three days with her, interviewing and taking photos, she said.

Before heading to New York in August, Remer, 25, was looking forward to an internship that would allow her to get to know members of the church, most of them from Guyana, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

But it has become a more solitary experience, she said.


From Labor Day until early November, the church was open for services, “but now we can’t have normal services,” due to the pandemic, Remer said.

“The only other social interactions I have been able to do (with congregants) is at funerals or wakes, and those are held at a funeral home,” she said.

She said had been hoping to connect with church members in Queens at worship services or leading in-person Bible studies and youth groups. An annual fall carnival, which brings many people out to celebrate in the streets, was canceled this year due to COVID, she said.

"We’re missing those big things that make up a church community," she said.

This past fall, until in-person worship services were prohibited, only 24 people could attend services, masked and seated in pews labeled with signs designating the service times, to keep people physically separated.

“Even though I got to know people, I joked that I only got to know half of them, because you only got to see half of their face,” she said. “Your interactions with them are very limited, too, as far as conversation.

“I feel embraced by this community,” she said. “It’s so funny, when we were doing in-person things, people would say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen you online,’ and I’m like, ‘But I haven’t seen you; I don’t know you.’ ”

She has enjoyed connecting, as is possible, with people in Queens.


“People everywhere are super-welcoming, super-inviting,” she said. “They really want to get to know me, it feels like, and want me to be part of the community as much as I can be, and want me to feel welcome, too.”

Normally, during the Christmas holiday, she would be spending about 13 hours at the church, participating in worship and getting things ready.

“But now I’m just at home, doing a puzzle and getting ready to watch (the service) online," she said.

On Thursday, Dec. 24, while talking with the Herald, Remer recalled growing up in Grand Forks, the daughter of Fred and Donna Remer, and regularly attending Calvary Lutheran, where she was baptized and confirmed.

She usually spent Dec. 24 with her family, celebrating her birthday in the morning and serving as ushers or worship assistants at the Christmas Eve service at church.

These days, with the pandemic taking such a toll on society, she said: “It has been difficult, but it gives me a lot of hope for the future (as church leaders) will be figuring stuff out – this has been a completely different way of doing church, as we know it. It’ll be good for a lot of places to reflect on what was working and what was not working, and (think about) how do we move forward as a church for the future.”

When the coronavirus pandemic subsides, it will be important to consider what changes should be continued, Remer said.

“Once churches have gone online, you can’t really remove your digital presence,” she said.


Through its virtual services, her church in Queens is reaching “family back home in Guyana or in England or Canada; we have a lot of people who also watch in the Philippines – so it becomes this kind of international presence. They’re all watching, and like, isn’t that also a form of church? Aren’t they part of our congregation, then, digitally? And so how can you remove church from them if they’re tuning in?

“I think, once you put it out there, you can’t really get rid of that online presence – because someone must need it, if they keep watching," she said.

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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