In recent weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has begun to lay out plans for the gradual re-opening of New York’s businesses and communities.
As the Governor’s plans unfold, churches across New York are making plans as well. Pastors and church leaders have two challenging questions to consider as they contemplate life after the coronavirus lockdown.
First, when should a church re-open for in-person services? The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors and circumstances. Is the church located in New York City, in a rural area of upstate New York, or somewhere in between? How prevalent is the coronavirus in the church population? In the surrounding community? Will church facilities make it easy or difficult for the congregation to practice social distancing? Is the congregation largely composed of young and healthy individuals, or are there many elderly persons or persons with significant health challenges? Is the congregation largely able to participate in online church services and gatherings? (If the answer is “no,” resuming in-person services will likely take on a greater urgency.) How will government action or inaction affect the church’s decision? Suppose that a church desires to respect the governing authorities by waiting for permission to re-open, but government drags its feet and the church believes that First Amendment guarantees are being infringed upon. Will the church continue to wait? Or suppose that a church perceives a calling to step out in faith and re-open without waiting for permission? Is that church prepared for a potential legal battle?
Second, how should a church re-open for in-person services? What will its “new normal” look like? How will the church prepare its facility for re-opening? What measures will the church take to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission? How will the church prepare its people for in-person services? What will the church do to establish social distancing norms? Will the church gradually re-open, or will it re-open all church activities at once? In what ways will worship services change in the post-COVID-19 world? Will some activities remain available online? Significantly, what will the church do to respect, care for, and accommodate senior citizens and persons with health challenges that place them at high risk for the coronavirus?
Our organization doesn’t have all the answers to these questions. However, we desire to provide informational resources for churches to use. It is our prayer that these resources will be a blessing, and that God will grant wisdom to churches and pastors as they navigate these challenging questions. Please revisit this page in the coming days; we intend to update it as new information becomes available.