In recent days, progress has been made toward the goal of safe church re-openings in New York.
After announcing that he would allow religious gatherings of 10 or fewer individuals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 202.32 on May 21, 2020. That order modified Executive Order 202.10 to “permit a gathering of ten or fewer individuals for any religious service or ceremony, or for the purposes of any Memorial Day service or commemoration, provided that social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection protocols required by the Department of Health are adhered to, and provided further, that any drive-in or remote religious service may continue in excess of the ten person limit so long as there is no in-person contact between participants.” The order added that vehicle caravans are permitted. The following day, Gov. Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 202.33, which allowed “any non-essential gathering of ten or fewer individuals, for any lawful purpose or reason, provided that social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection protocols required by the Department of Health are adhered to.” News reports on the Governor’s order quoted New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, and City & State New York noted the organization’s successful efforts to draw the Governor’s attention to the issue of safe church re-opening.
On Sunday, May 24, pastors from Wayne, Seneca, and Ontario counties gathered outside New Covenant Baptist Church in Canandaigua to discuss safe church re-opening. Reid Robbins, principal of East Palmyra Christian School, said the following in a press release: “‘In a time of bipartisan bickering and social media slandering we hope to help clarify our role in helping to keep the community safe… Understandably, our community is worried about the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic and also their spiritual and mental health.’” “‘We want to be back as a church, we want to be back as God’s people,’” added Pastor Jay Riggleman of the Bible Baptist Church of Sodus.
On May 26, Asm. David DiPietro (R-East Aurora) and other believers gathered outside the Old Time Baptist Church in Hamburg to call on Gov. Cuomo to open churches immediately. Church leaders announced that they planned to hold a service on Sunday at half of their building’s capacity.
Old Time Baptist was not the only church gathered last Sunday either. There were many. “Our church returned to corporate worship on Sunday, May 31,” said Jason McGuire, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. There were smiles, joy—and yes, tears present. Mental health has taken a hit during the pandemic. People have been isolated. Depression, suicide and unemployment rates have all increased, but now the healing has begun. At a time when our state and the nation are coming apart, churches need to come together. I implore Governor Andrew Cuomo to recognize that fact,” concluded McGuire.