Dec 20: Update on COVID-19 Protocols from Bishop Provenzano
December 20, 2021
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The recent upswing in reported COVID-19 cases and increased hospitalizations has many people concerned regarding church attendance - especially with regard to Christmas Eve Masses, other related liturgies, pageants, and social events.
Given the situation in our diocese - where the positive infection rate in New York City is up 23%, Nassau County up 12%, and Suffolk County up 7% in the last thirty-six hours - it is clear that we must all be vigilant in our care for one another, our loved ones, and families.
Therefore, I am directing:
That no one be admitted to liturgies without a mask. All will be required to remained masked throughout the liturgy. Anyone refusing to wear a mask must be asked to leave.
That clergy endeavor to keep in-person liturgies to a minimum of time spent in close proximity in a closed environment.
That there be NO social events or gatherings besides church services, NO pageants (unless it is in place of the Liturgy of the Word in the liturgy scheduled for Christmas Eve), NO coffee hours, or open food or beverages served. Those events are proving to be too dangerous in the spread of the virus because they are generally attended by many more people who are either health compromised or have traveled from places in which the vaccination rate is much lower.
Further, I am directing our congregations to impose the same restrictions on ALL outside groups who make use of our indoor spaces. If outside groups, (AA, NA, yoga, dance, theater, etc.) cannot follow our protocol, I ask that they suspend their use of our buildings until this present crisis passes.
Lastly, as an act of holy stewardship and mutual care, in each setting, I ask our clergy to encourage everyone to get vaccinated and to take the booster. This present upswing in cases is directly related to the spread of the virus and its mutation by those who are not vaccinated and by those who mistakenly have removed their masks.
We may celebrate Christmas in our churches, but we must practice caution, be mindful and careful of the local infection rates, and be vigilant in our care for one another. I am deeply sorry that we have arrived at Christmas this year and continue to struggle against COVID-19.
I am encouraged that we may gather for liturgies together, but want to support any rector or priest-in-charge who determines that the risk is too high in their particular communities and arranges for electronic transmission of the Christmas liturgies.
In the midst of this bleak mid-winter, the Christ-child arrives nonetheless to offer us comfort and renewed hope for all humanity.
Have a blessed start to the Christmas season and Holy and joyful New Year.
With my prayers and a blessing,
I remain, Faithfully in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano
Bishop of Long Island