As we were contemplating the gradual reopening of the church several weeks ago, the improving statistics and a feeling of optimism led us to believe that a limited opening would be possible for all services. Since those guidelines were put together, several developments have occurred.
The Rector and Vestry have decided to modify our re-opening schedule for the following reasons:
- While the infection rate in NYC continues to hold steady or even decline, there is an alarming increase of infections in other parts of the country and concern expressed by the Governor that these spikes may eventually return to New York, resulting in travel restrictions. Further, the Governor has postponed phase 3 opening for the time being. This leads us to be more cautious in our approach.
- In his pastoral letter regarding re-opening of June 24th, the Bishop of New York gave permission to delay re-opening: “…I have no expectation that churches will resume public worship at this time. A significant number of our churches and clergy are telling me that they do not intend to reintroduce worship inside their churches until September or the end of the year. I completely respect those decisions.” Therefore, as a congregation of the Diocese of New York, we are under no obligation to re-open beginning July 5th.
- Only a small number of people have responded to our email asking about interest in returning. For the moment, the vast majority of our members would prefer to keep watching online (you can still fill in the survey if you are interested in attending in person by clicking here)
- If we were to go ahead with reopening as initially planned, eleven people would be present in our sanctuary following our protocols. The sanctuary is small. According to the latest guidelines set out by the Bishop of New York, everyone will be required to wear masks at all times, including those who preside, read or pray. Congregational singing will not be possible unless parishioners are spaced 12 feet apart. Many of those who have expressed an interest in returning are elderly, therefore all air conditioners and fans will need to be on, and the door to the garden open for safety and ventilation reasons. The quality of the live stream would be gravely compromised, almost to the point of inaudibility. The experience of the vast majority of the people attending by internet would be fundamentally changed.
The Rector, Wardens, Vestry and staff have decided on the following:
- This coming Sunday July 5: a partially in-person communion service, specifically inviting those who haven’t been able to join us through the live-stream (three people). The service will include an in-person message from our Warden following the death of Marjorie, and address the safety concerns of a partial re-opening.
- Sundays until September 16: will continue online only. The presence of five people necessary for the service (Nigel, Fred, Cynthia, Aya and Joris). Partial re-opening of Sunday services will commence on September 16, unless the situation deteriorates.
- Wednesday services of Holy Communion: open to those who wish to attend (1 or 2 at a time), by application and invitation to avoid overcrowding. There is no singing on Wednesdays, people will be expected to leave the premises immediately after the service.
- Morning and evening prayer on Tuesdays and Thursdays open by application and invitation (1 or 2 at a time).
- Other meetings: All other meetings will be held by Zoom (Bible study, Vestry, occasional coffee hour, etc.)
- As a way to increase virtual social interaction, there is a recurring virtual coffee hour all summer for those who wish to attend (not moderated). The link, phone number and meeting ID will be under the video on Sundays.
Finally, and unfortunately, the services cannot yet be ‘social’ occasions. Physical distancing regulations and the absence of physical coffee hour mean that our sole priority must be the worship service itself. Masks will have to be worn at all time on church premises and attendees will need to leave the premises quickly at the end of the worship service so that the church can be sanitized. There is no access to the garden.
The Rev. Nigel Massey
Rector of Saint-Esprit