Episcopal diocese announces suspension of indoor regular services

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The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York is suspending indoor in-person services Nov. 29 through at least Jan. 1 because of COVID-19.

Bishop the Rt. Rev. DeDe Duncan-Probe announced the policy change Thursday.

Live-streaming and recording worship from within the church is permitted, as are outdoor and drive-in gatherings with Eucharist are permitted, and essential community outreach ministries will continue, according to the diocese’s announcement.

Provisions are made for funerals, baptisms and weddings, including limiting in-person participation to 10 people, mask wearing and distancing, according to the diocese’s website. Up to six worship leaders may gather inside to conduct recorded or live streaming services.

At outdoor services, communion will have only the bread. Singing is to be allowed only by a soloist, who is to stay at least 15 feet from others and wear a mask when not singing. The diocese covers a swath of the center of upstate New York.

Rome-area churches in the diocese include Zion Episcopal on West Liberty Street in Rome, St. David’s in Barneveld, Gethsemane in Sherrill, and St. John’s in Oneida.

“The population of the Episcopal Church in Central New York has a higher median age than the general population of Central New York and therefore a higher proportion of people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19,” said guidelines posted on the diocese website.

“Therefore, the churches of the Diocese of CNY will host in-person gatherings and open our buildings for use more slowly and cautiously than required by the government.

The guidelines add that parishes are encouraged to continue online worship for those who may not be able to return in-person.

“We do not expect a “return to normal,” but rather that God is already doing a new thing in the midst of this crisis. As we learn to love God, one another, and all creation in these changing circumstances, our churches will be transformed.”

State guidelines limit occupancy to about a third of a space’s rated limit.

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