News & Notes

Reopening Guidance

Our understanding of how we can protect ourselves and others in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop daily. As regions of New York begin the first phases of reopening, questions have arisen as to how churches might resume public worship...

5/21/2020

Brothers in Christ,

Blessed Ascension Day!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

These are difficult days. Life has been upended in so many ways; yet, we still have hope--a hope based in Jesus who died, rose and ascended on our behalf.

Our understanding of how we can protect ourselves and others in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop daily. As regions of New York begin the first phases of reopening, questions have arisen as to how churches might resume public worship.

In his NYS Coronavirus Update on May 20, 2020 Governor Cuomo stated that "Starting tomorrow, May 21st, religious gatherings of no more than 10 people will be allowed statewide. Social distancing measures must be enforced and all participants must wear masks. Additionally, drive-in and parking lot services will be permitted. The state is convening an Interfaith Advisory Council to discuss proposals to safely bring back religious services."

This is good news and a step in a positive direction for all of us, but it is still limiting. It is important to remember that this is not a return to the way we did it before. This is a very specific guideline on meeting in person.

It is not sufficient simply to limit the attendance to 10 people, as all the other guidelines that have been issued by the state and local agencies remain in place.

  • Many issues must be considered in resuming in-person worship:
  • Will your congregation offer multiple services?
  • How will your congregation determine who will come to each service?
  • What will be done when the limit of 10 people is reached? (Remember to include yourself and other assistants in the count.)
  • How will digital services continue for those unable to worship in person?
  • Will there be a supply of masks and other PPE available as necessary?
  • Does your congregation have a completed Return to Operations (RTO) plan?

It is important to have a completed RTO plan. This document will help you and your congregation to work through the various issues that must be considered as a congregation seeks to reopen. Policies with regards to: physical distancing, masks and other PPE, cleaning protocols, and more must be implemented prior to reopening.

It is also important to consider what a “normal” Sunday might look like when worshiping in-person with a limit of 10 participants:

A 10-person service including a pastor, a musician, and an usher leaves space for 7 more participants. To accommodate an attendance of 70 participants would require 10 services. If each service were to last 30 minutes and allow for 15 minutes of cleaning between services, this would equate to over 7 hours.

The Governor has opened the door to limited in person worship services. This is the beginning of the process of how each congregation will accommodate this guideline and all the other guidelines including an RTO to safely resume in- person worship. These guidelines are for the safety and protection of ourselves and each other. It may be prudent to continue to worship digitally until such time that the number of participants in a public gathering is increased sufficiently.

The RTO guide on the Atlantic District website (AD-LCS.org) continues to be updated. We have added a number of resources. There is also a guide to sacred acts that will be included as an appendix in the coming days.

As always, you remain in my prayers. Please feel free to get in touch for conversation, with questions and to work through the nuances of each approach to reopening.

Thank you for your continuous work in “Engaging the World with the Gospel of Hope” in light of COVID-19.

The link is below and can also be accessed through the Atlantic District website

Return to Operations (RTO) plan - Word Doc

Return to Operations (RTO) plan - PDF format

Sincerely yours in Christ, 

Rev. Derek G. Lecakes
President/Bishop of the Atlantic District

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