Dear Good Shepherd,
Covid19 is on the rise again and both the state and the city are taking steps to clamp it down. Good Shepherd lies within one of the state “Yellow zones” identified as a hotspot. Within the Yellow zone, houses of worship like Good Shepherd are free to meet together so long as we do not exceed 50% capacity and observe New York State guidelines for social distancing. Because we have both a very large sanctuary and a good-sized parish hall, we thankfully do not exceed the 50% limit.
Nevertheless, taking extra care to guard against infection is important. I know, as I have mentioned before, some at Good Shepherd do not believe that this is anything to be worried about and that the shutdown has been a manufactured crisis. Others at Good Shepherd take the opposite view. I take no position except that I want to do whatever I can to be sure that we can meet together and people are taken care of. I do not want to give the state any reason to take note of us or shut churches down. I also worry about what would happen should anyone at Good Shepherd test positive. While even the most cautious acknowledge that the present form of Covid19 is less dangerous, any positive test traced back to Good Shepherd would mean that everyone who was on the premises with the test-positive person would be required to quarantine for two weeks. That would be financially disastrous for the many people at Good Shepherd who are self-employed. That response may be entirely overblown on the part of the state, I think it would be, but even so, that’s what would happen.
So, during this spike, I think we must take all the necessary precautions to prevent a positive test and to guard against being quarantined. We recently moved the mask optional service from the tent outside to the parish hall. Meeting outside meant that we could be far less worried about certain precautions. Inside, we need to be more careful. In my letter to the church which I sent about 2 weeks ago, I listed the following protocols:
1. If you choose to worship upstairs, we ask that you wear a mask and enter and exit through the Saratoga doors.
2. Upstairs worshipers, please use the restrooms in either the sacristy or the crying room near the entrance.
3. If you worship downstairs please use the downstairs restrooms.
4. If you wish to go from one service to the other, please do so by going out of the assigned exit, walking outside to the entrance for the other service, masking if necessary (depending on the service you are entering).
In addition to these, please remember that whether you are up or downstairs, masked or unmasked, social distancing is in effect. Each family group should maintain 6 feet of distance from the other. The tables downstairs have been arranged to facilitate this and Tyler has placed tape on the floor downstairs to maintain social distancing for Communion.
Because of the spike and the need to distance, we will move coffee hour outside again. It may be chilly but I think we have a couple of months before it becomes frigid. So as soon as the 10:30am service is over, people at both services should exit the building immediately.
Finally, and this really hurts, while we had a fantastic start for evening Sunday School last Sunday, I’ve decided that until the spike is over we should put evening activities on hiatus. I believe this will only be for two or three weeks. During that time we will re-work the protocols for the evening gatherings.
All of this is terribly frustrating. I do not want to do any of it. But I would rather make the necessary sacrifices and take the precautions that need to be taken so that we can continue to meet together.
Of course, I also understand that a good number of people do not feel safe gathering at this time and that is perfectly understandable. Please let us know if you are having any problem accessing the worship or education livestream.