Every year since the 1950s, the ladies at All Souls’ Episcopal Church in Point Loma have organized and hosted a much-anticipated home tour. In the mid-’80s, the event was moved to the first Saturday in December with an added Christmas marketplace. It has become such a beloved holiday tradition that one year when the church did not have the tour, people in the community were greatly disappointed.
The Rev. Joseph Dirbas explained that happened before his time. “From what I understand, there was such an outcry in the community that they picked it up again the next year. The home tour is a community tradition.”
The home tour is always on the first Saturday of Advent, and the Christmas marketplace has many unique handcrafted items. This year will be the 69th annual All Souls’ Point Loma Home Tour — with a few significant changes, pandemic-style.
Mary Brown, who is the home tour coordinator this year, explained. “In the spring, of course, we were not sure if our Home Tour event could go on as a live event, but many were not ready to give up planning,” she said.
December seemed like a long way away back in April, and the home tour committee thought things could change a lot as the spring and summer progressed.
“But by midsummer, as COVID-19 took another tougher hold on the nation, we realized that we would have to get creative and start fashioning something very different if we were going to have an event at all,” Brown said.
The committee started imagining how an online home tour event day could go. While the home tour committee did have many hospitality skills, most of them did not have the technological know-how to envision, much less execute, an online event.
What they did decide to do, as part of their robust event website, which will be unveiled on the virtual tour day, Saturday, Dec. 5, is to have a gala slideshow on the website of many of the festivities of previous years’ home tours. There will also be photos and videos of the homes and holiday celebrations of past years.
This new perspective serves the participants — the ones who post and those who view it — a uniquely personal tour experience. Additionally, the marketplace, which has always been a part of All Souls’ Home Tour experience, will be available through an online sale of items this year. The committee is working hard on this now, busy loading photos, descriptions, and prices on the event website.
“Folks can buy and pay for the items online, and the items will be picked up or delivered in a safe manner. There will be special new musical offerings on the event website as well,” Brown said.
Instead of obtaining tickets, we are asking the community to donate the amount they usually spend on tickets, which they can easily do on the website while they are getting into the holiday spirit with Christmas music, marketplace shopping, and all the other online festivities planned.
Brown explained that the home tour committee had to convince themselves, the parishioners, and the friends of the tour that this year was going to go forward in abundance even though it would be very different than previous years. The preparation for the home tour this year has been challenging, to say the least.
“But it’s funny, there is actually less to manage, especially with regard to homeowners and logistics,” Brown said.
“The planning and management of hundreds of people walking through four or more different homes are not there this year. What’s the challenging part this year is starting with a clean slate and getting a vision of what we could do--and it’s all a very new take on what we have traditionally done.
I think our convincing skills have been exercised quite a bit. Like many institutions, but maybe more so as Episcopalians--we have jokes about how hidebound we can be — we had to encourage people to embrace this needed new version of our annual home tour event,” she said.
As a result, Brown and the other committee members have been helping the congregation community to imagine and look forward to this newly fashioned virtual home tour.
“The most important thing to us all was to continue this year to raise money for outreach projects. As every year, our proceeds help our local community as well as humanitarian projects worldwide,” Brown said.
Father Dirbas agreed. “During this strange year when we all feel a bit disconnected from our communities the Home Tour gives us an opportunity to remember that we are all in this together and, most importantly, we will get through this together.
“We're a community. All Souls' Episcopal Church, as a faith community, is dedicated to serving and caring for our wider community,” he said.
Brown said that there are already plans to do a live version of the home tour next year. But she does believe that the committee will incorporate some of the safety and health considerations of 2020 as they go forward. In future years, very likely the technology innovations developed this year will be implemented.
“While it is our signature fundraiser to support our mission and ministries, All Souls’ considers the home tour as a gift to our community with a festive way to start the Christmas season,” Dirbas said.
To find out more about this year’s virtual home tour — which has been dubbed the Christmas Home un-Tour and to make donations, check in regularly as the website adds more details to ptlomahometour.com.