Thoughts and Concerns Regarding Reopening the Church

Patterson Community Church PO Box 298, Patterson, NY 12563 (845-878-3961)

Dear members and friends,                                                       May 11, 2020

None of us could have anticipated the disruption this pandemic has caused for all of us.  The inability to get together and to go about life as before has presented us with huge challenges which we are trying to meet in ways that preserve our purpose and identity within our community.  At this point, aside from our online weekly worship services, the only ministry outreach to our community we are able to continue to participate in has been our food pantry, which is serving more than double our previous clientele due to the growing needs within our community as a result of the shutdown of the economy.

As I am sure you are aware, the desire to reopen everything up has been a steady topic of late in both national and local news.  In a call last week with Hudson River Presbytery it was strongly recommended that Houses of Worship follow the guidelines put forth by New York State.  This includes abiding by the regional and phased approach to opening up various portions of NYS as it is determined that they are at a relatively lower risk of a growth or surge in virus infections.   Our region is known as the ‘Mid-Hudson Valley Region’, and includes Westchester, Putnam. Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, Ulster, and Sullivan Counties.  In addition to NYC, our region has the greatest concentration of positive cases, and as such will lag behind the rest of the State in terms of when we will actually begin Phase 1 and enter into subsequent Phases.

But before getting into specifics for our community, please be assured that our first and primary concern is for the health and safety of every one of you.  A good majority of our congregation is within the higher to highest risk category (older than 60 years old).  These individuals have a substantially greater risk of poorer outcomes should they become infected. If you are at all uncomfortable coming back out to worship when the time does come, please feel free to stay safe at home.  We will continue to offer our worship service online in the future, even after we are back in the church.

However, that experience of being back together in the church will be very different for most likely a long time.  Until effective treatments and/or vaccines are developed and tested, we will still have to abide by certain guidelines within the church building. Again, even up to and including whenever we are permitted to enter Phase 3, we will need to observe certain practices that will be new and certainly unsatisfying to a degree.

These include:

  • Social distancing within the sanctuary of at least 6 feet apart, with only family units permitted to sit closer together.
  • Masks and gloves to be worn, and extra ones available if needed,
  • No use of the restrooms in the Fellowship Hall except in emergencies.
  • No greeters before worship, or socializing or coffee hour after worship
  • No singing in the service (this has been deemed one of the most dangerous and worrisome ways to spread the virus to others), therefore, use of taped or recorded music only
  • Use of projection screen and bulletins, no books or bibles
  • Weddings and Funerals limited to less than 10 individuals
  • All individuals over 60 years old are strongly encouraged to remain sheltered safe at home.
  • Sanctuary to be used for worship, Grange building to be used only for Food Pantry, Fellowship Hall closed.

Now obviously this presents some unwelcome conditions, however, the Council has agreed to follow the recommendations of the Presbytery and will abide by these guidelines as long as is necessary. Please note, our own motion through these Phases is tied into our Mid-Hudson Valley Region’s designation by the State. As we are a high viral-incidence area, it is currently not known how soon Phase 1 may begin for us.

On another, more positive note, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you who are out there trying to reduce the effects of the pandemic on our community.  From our dedicated Food Pantry volunteers to all those in our community and congregation who are serving in health-care related capacities, we are all grateful for your blessed and holy service in these times.

We will continue to reach out to keep you informed of our status regarding when we will be able to gather in the sanctuary again.  In addition, thank you to all who have so graciously been able to continue your support of the church through these times.  The economic impact of the pandemic has made it hard for many families to make ends meet and it may get much worse in this regard before it gets better.  Please know that it is the Council’s deepest desire that you take care of your own, and your family’s financial needs first, and then consider the church’s needs.  By grace we shall all come out of this stronger and even better able to serve our community.

And finally, please continue your prayers for all who are in harm’s way, as well as others in need within our congregation and our community.  And pray as well for our nation and the world as a whole as all together we struggle to meet and overcome this virus and its effects on our lives.  Pray for safe and solid leadership, and especially for the scientists working overtime to develop a vaccine or effective treatment.

I so miss all of you, and our time together, and I pray for each one of you to stay safe and well, all God’s blessings be yours,

pastor david

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