Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
As many of you know, Bishop Provenzano has granted permission for us to reopen churches in the Diocese as of July 1st. While granting us that permission, he has also left it up to the judgment of the priests in charge to decide when to open the church to groups and worship.
As your co-priests-in-charge of Holy Apostles, we take our responsibility to the church community and the greater Windsor Terrace community very seriously; looking out for the health and well being of all of God’s children in the midst of COVID-19 is of utmost important to us. How and when the church re-opens will be done with a lot of thought and prayer. We will take many things into consideration and listen to many voices; science and medicine will lead us in this decision and we will always err on the side of caution to protect the safety and well being of our parish and greater community.
In May we convened a working group made up of parishioners to consider the issues about re-opening the building and two weeks ago we issued a parish-wide survey to get your input and to see how you were feeling about a return to the building.
What we are issuing today are the results of that collective data gathering, conversations, guidelines from the Diocese as well as recommendations from health-care professionals. We have also attached the guidelines from the Diocese so that you can read what regulations they have put forth for us to follow. If you have any questions, please let us know. We are open to hearing from you.
Of the 55 responses we received from our survey:
- 85% of you are attending Zoom church
- 70% of you are attending every week
- 54% of you said you would continue worshipping at home if we opened in September, 15% said you would wait until a vaccine, and 16% are unsure
- 65% of you said you would return in November or were unsure of when you would return
- Most of you miss seeing people in person & quiet time in the sanctuary.
Please keep in mind that this is a very fluid situation. While we will certainly pray for guidance through these difficult times, we will also be paying attention to the facts. To the extent the number of cases begins to rise in NYC as they are in the rest of the country, we will reevaluate how and when we use our church building. We pray that everyone will remain flexible and remember that while our building is closed, church is open and thriving: attendance, engagement and giving are all very strong.
Over these months, we have learned to connect and deepen our relationships with each other in new ways using the technology at our disposal. People have been joining us in worship and in small groups from all over the country; our choir under the great direction of Saya has lead us in song every Sunday; our Sacred Ground series has over 30 people enrolled; we have sponsored over 70 school children and have raised and given away over $13,000 to families from PS 15 to pay their rent for 3 months.
We have begun to do our fall program planning, and based on these last 3 months, we know that looking forward we will be able to offer Spirit filled opportunities. While it will be some time before we come back together in person, we do not see this as a constraint, rather as a great opportunity for growth in unimaginable ways. We want to take what we have learned from this time and reflect on how we can continue to be engaged on this level, transforming our own lives and the lives of others. As a result of these challenges we have faced over the past months, we have truly become a church, not limited to the confines of our treasured space - expanding our reach beyond our walls. It is an exciting time at Holy Apostles, for us to experience the expansive movement of God in our collective life together and for the church!
Members of the Task Force
Audrey Whitworth, warden
Peter Saghir, warden
Elizabeth McCormick, MD
The Revs. Kimberlee Auletta & Sarah Kooperkamp, Co-Priests-In Charge
Guidelines for Re-Opening the Building of Holy Apostles
Preparing our Space:
- As we move towards re-opening the building, as a working group we have had to consider our space and how we can most safely and dynamically make adjustments – not just because of the pandemic – but thinking about the future and how we can use the space in the sanctuary.
- We are in the midst of reconfiguring the seating, to establish a more flexible worship space. In this process the sanctuary floors are being refinished.
- In order to return to worship on Sundays in the building, we will need to be set up for a hybrid worship experience: broadcasting our services from the sanctuary for those who choose to continue to worship at home. In order to do that, we will be upgrading our internet service as well as purchasing audiovisual equipment.
Cleaning the Space:
- Holy Apostles does not employ a full or part-time sexton (person who cleans the church and the grounds). We have someone who cleans weekly. One of the considerations and new expenses for the parish will be to have a cleaning person or service more days a week especially when we re-open the doors to AA & Al-Anon.
Phase 1: Later this summer, we will host 1-2 gatherings on the lawn for people to stop by so that folks can see each other in person. We will ask folks to sign up in advance.
* Funerals – graveside only with 10 people are permitted
Phase 2: September: The sanctuary will be open 2x per week for prayer for 1 hour. A maximum of 10 people will be allowed in at a time. (see entering the building guidelines below).
*Funerals, weddings allowed in church with limit of 10 people, no music or communion.
Phase 3: Target date: November 29, the first Sunday of Advent. Hybrid church begins. Max # of in person attendees TBD. No communion, no in person choir; we will have music and a soloist.
*Funerals, weddings and baptisms permitted with a max number of attendees TBD.
Phase 4: Date TBD: Communion resumes. Hybrid church continues.
- Hand sanitizer near the entrance;
- Masks available and worn by all people in the church for the duration;
- The service bulletin will continue to be distributed electronically;
- Registration of attendees for contract tracing purposes;
- Bathrooms will be closed through phase 3;
- Suspension of coffee hour or any other social gathering through phase 3;
- Suspension of use of air conditioning, windows to be open when possible.
Link to Diocesan Guidelines: https://www.diolicovid19.info/lcp-june-10-2020.html
Link to American Progress Article on re-opening church buildings: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/news/2020/06/18/486522/17-faqs-houses-worship-considering-reopening-amid-coronavirus-crisis/