June 10, 2020 Official Message from Bishop Provenzano
Guidelines for Worship from the Task Force for Reopening Church Buildings
June 10, 2020
Dear Clergy and Wardens,
On March 13, 2020 I announced that due to the growing number of people in our diocese and around the country being diagnosed with COVID-19, I was making the decision to temporarily close our church buildings and to suspend in-person worship.
Since that day we have experienced deep grief and loss and we have also experienced blessings beyond our understanding. The clergy and people of this diocese adapted quickly to the pandemic by moving worship to online platforms, providing care for those who were sick and suffering, and uniting in prayer for the sake of the whole world.
We are grateful that over the past weeks we have begun to see some relief from this pandemic due to the sweeping policies of physical distancing and safety that were put in place.
Over the past month, the Task Force for Re-Opening Our Church Buildings has been working to create a phased reopening plan for our church buildings.
In this letter and accompanying documents we lay out the required procedures for each stage as well as recommendations on how to implement the phases.
Please remember that recommendations are not requirements and much will need to be decided on a local level. I encourage you, the clergy and wardens of this diocese, to work with your individual vestries and lay leaders to develop a unique reopening plan for your community.
The reopening of our churches and the resumption of the public celebration of the sacraments will be a gradual process marked in phases.
These phases apply to ALL in-person gatherings in ALL of our buildings:
Phase A – (Current) All in-person gatherings are suspended.
Phase B – (Begins July 1, 2020) Churches open for non-Eucharistic public worship
and meetings. Baptism and weddings are permitted (Appendix B) observing phase B guidelines. The number of people allowed to gather at one time shall be determined by the clergy-in-charge in consultation with their vestry and wardens. The maximum number allowed shall not exceed state and local regulations regarding Houses of Worship.
Phase C – (To be determined) Celebration of the Eucharist following the protocols
set forth from the Bishop. Celebration of Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals. See Appendix A.
Phase D -- Resumption of full parish schedules and sacramental activities.
It should be noted from the start that no parish is required to reopen on July 1, 2020. The decision on whether to reopen a particular church building rests with the clergy-in-charge in pastoral consultation with the wardens and vestry of the parish.
All parishes will be required to comply with the regulations set forth for public gatherings by state and local health officials. Clergy are expected to stay up-to-date with this information and make the appropriate modifications as governmental guidance regarding the epidemic evolves.
It also must be acknowledged that no plan, no matter how comprehensive, guarantees perfect safety. There will indeed be risk of infection by gathering together once again.
The documents linked below include specific requirements for reopening our building and recommendations for worship during Phase B and Phase C. Also included is a list of suggested cleaning supplies as well as some recommendations on maintaining practices of good stewardship as we begin this phased process of reopening our buildings.
I anticipate that there will be many questions raised by these guidelines. In order to expedite the answers to your questions and concerns, your Area Dean should be your first point of contact for any question or concern. In order to assist the Area Deans, I have appointed the following clergy persons to answer their questions on my behalf:
Brooklyn – The Very Rev. Lawrence Womack: firstname.lastname@example.org
Queens – The Rev. Lindsay Lunnum: email@example.com
Nassau – The Very Rev. Michael Sniffen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Suffolk - The Very Rev. Denis Brunelle: email@example.com
While we encourage each worshiping community to use their own creativity and imagination to live into the advice given in these documents, these four clerics are available to answer any questions you may have and have been empowered to answer your questions on my behalf.
As the scientific community continues to study this virus, it may be necessary to make adjustments to the requirements and suggestions made in these documents based upon newly discovered facts. It also must be said that we also may find ourselves needing to close down our buildings again if there is another outbreak of the virus in the coming months and years.
If we have proven anything these past months, it is that the People of God are still able to find ways to be the Church, even in the midst of the most extraordinary of circumstances. I pray that we take the lessons we have learned over these days and not cast them to one side but that we use them to create an even more powerful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this broken and hurting world.
On behalf of the Task Force for Re-Opening Our Church Buildings, I thank you for your patience and understanding as we begin this process. Please be assured of my prayers as you engage in this work of reopening our church buildings and know of my gratitude for your commitment to this holy work.
The Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano
Bishop of Long Island
DOCUMENTS AND RESOURCES
FROM THE TASK FORCE ON REOPENING CHURCHES
Click on the links below to download PDF files of each document:
1) Guidelines for Worship
2) Offertory Recommendations
3) Suggested Supply List