GRAFTON, W.Va. (AP) — In the West Virginia town where Mother’s Day started 112 years ago, there was another first: an online-only audience due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pews were empty Sunday as an organist played the opening hymn at the International Mother’s Day Shrine in Grafton.

The tradition began when Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her late mother on the second Sunday of every May. The first service was held in 1908 in Grafton, three years after her mother’s death. Six years later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

“This year’s observance will be a first,” Marvin Gelhausen, chairman of the Mother’s Day Shrine Board of Trustees, said in the service’s opening statements. “It’ll be a virtual online observance because of the ongoing health concerns of coming together during the COVID-19 pandemic. It did not seem appropriate to have an in-person observance and ask you to come out to have to wear a mask and social distance.

“Sheltered safely at home with the family together would be viewed by Anna Jarvis as exactly the way she wanted Mother’s Day to be observed.”

Built in 1873, the brick building that once was home to Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church was named a national landmark in 1992.

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