June 16 update regarding the reopening of church during the Covid-19 Pandemic
June 16, 2021
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Recognizing the rapid shifts in the CDC’s and New York State's directions regarding
COVID-19 restrictions, I have waited until now to provide any further guidance. I find it necessary now to provide some assistance and suggestions to the clergy in charge of our congregations.
To begin, the implementation of any of this guidance is at the sole direction of the clergy person in charge of the congregation. We must recognize that as COVID-19 restrictions are removed statewide, it remains the responsibility of the clergy to exercise pastoral sensitivity and care for the people of the local church - their particular needs, fears and conditions.
To avoid the necessity of “policing” people regarding their vaccination status, masks must be worn by all participating in indoor worship, liturgies, and gatherings, without exception.
There is no longer any reason to continue contact tracing at the door or taking temperatures. Given the open access throughout the state, the church need not attempt the recording of tracing data.
So long as masks are worn indoors, there is no longer the obligation of physical distancing unless, of course, it provides a more welcoming and safer approach to liturgy for those who are fearful. Here is where I ask the clergy-in-charge to practice pastoral caution.
For the foreseeable future we will continue to recommend that no open food be available at coffee hours or church receptions. In keeping with state guidance, serving food by those in masks and gloves is recommended. NO open, pot-luck style food should be left out, talked over, or open for people to help themselves. (Here the recommendation is to err on the side of caution and welcome inclusion of people who might still be reluctant to partake in open receptions.)
Congregational singing with masks indoors is permitted. No masks are required outdoors.
The Holy Eucharist will remain distributed to the people in only the consecrated bread until the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State Department of Health are able to provide proof that the virus is no longer a threat to anyone.
Sisters and brothers, I ask that you use common sense, based on the science and in keeping with our best traditions related to adjusting to the real needs of the people we serve.
Once we arrive at fall, we will again evaluate the impact of the vast reopening efforts and make adjustments according to the science and the best pastoral care of the people.
Have a good, safe, restful summer.
The Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano
Bishop of Long Island