Dear People of Ascension,
Some of you have been asking about our plans for reopening the church. All of us miss being together in person in our beloved sacred space.
You will recall that last month I reported that Bishop Dietsche had told us that no churches in the Diocese of New York are to reopen before July 1. Remember that our diocese includes parishes throughout a large part of New York State, so that directive includes some communities in very different circumstances than we in New York City.
At Ascension, we will not open for worship before September. In making decisions about when, how and with what precautions to meet in person, I will be guided by the love of neighbor that seeks to keep each other safe, our bishop’s guidance and the counsel of public health experts and scientists. I am planning to appoint a task force on reopening comprised of parishioners with a variety of expertise. We need to grapple with these issues at least: physical distancing within the space, severe limitations on the number of people who can be together, the threats posed by singing, preaching and sharing communion, and requirements for cleaning and sanitizing hands and wearing masks. We must also think through the possibility of other kinds of gatherings in the church and parish buildings. Reopening may feel quite different than our previous experiences of church together.
For the meantime, we will continue our Sunday services on Zoom, supplemented by Evening Prayer, our Facebook meditations and checking in with our fellow parishioners. Several people have also asked whether we will continue to use Zoom after partial reopening, and the answer is yes. I expect that we will continue to have some sort of online worship for the foreseeable future. Zoom church has brought a surprising kind of intimacy and immediacy to our life together in these times, and it feels important to continue to explore it.
I know that some of you are hoping for a different reopening time frame than this, even as others will be mightily relieved. Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or questions. Let us keep each other in prayer, and in Christ’s love.