By the grace of God, we have come to the moment when we are able to reopen our beloved Church. You have all been greatly missed during these last few months. However, our main concern has been the health and safety of every parishioner.
As we continue our concern for your health and safety, our Church has implemented new policies and procedures to do our part in preventing the spread of COVID-19, in accordance with CDC guidelines. We thank you in advance for your patience and commitment as we navigate through this “new normal.”
In keeping with the health issues confronting us, those older than 65 years of age (the recommended CDC age), or anybody with a compromised health condition, are encouraged to stay home at this time. Also, if you are a caregiver, you are encouraged to stay home. Anyone who is ill, has an elevated temperature, cough, etc. should definitely stay home for your own health, and for the health and benefit of the whole community.
Our St. Stephen church will be open, following the physical distancing guidelines, and including the 25% maximum capacity rule set forth by the State of New York. For the sake of caution, our church (and all churches) is not permitted to fully reopen and return to our usual social practices and standards. Also, at present, we are cautioned to not open social centers for coffee hours and the like. All will be possible in due time, with God’s help! Slowly, but surely!
Some changes you will see upon entering our church are listed below:
• You will be greeted at the door when entering the church. FOR YOUR SAFETY AND THE SAFETY OF OTHERS, ALL WILL BE REQUIRED TO WEAR A MASK/CLOTH FACE COVERING unless there is a contraindication (e.g., claustrophobia, breathing issue, communication difficulty, or very young age). Also, when physical distancing is not possible, (entering /exiting the building, lining up for Communion, receiving nafora, etc. a mask or face covering should be worn. If you do not have one, a mask will be provided for you prior to entering the church.
• Masks, gloves and hand sanitizers are available in the Narthex and throughout the church. • PLEASE REFRAIN FROM KISSING/HUGGING AND HANDSHAKES.
• If you plan to light a candle, please observe proper distancing between you and the other faithful who are doing the same thing. Your greeter will help you if it gets too crowded.
• A donation box for your stewardship, prayers for health or memory prayers donations is also available in the Narthex, as there will be no ‘tas’ baskets passed during the services.
• Please allow a greeter to seat you and your family, as the pews have been marked for proper physical distancing. This process will accommodate both individuals or families.
• The Divine Liturgy books and Prayer cards have been removed from the pews. Bulletins and informational material are not available for now.
• Call Father Vladislav at the Church Office for your special requests or questions (823-2846). Leave a message if he is not available when you call.
• At this time, full choir participation is not allowed. Only a few individuals are allowed to gather to sing, with the choir director facing forward or standing to the side, away from the singers. The prescribed distance should be observed.
• Icons may be venerated by crossing yourself and bowing, as opposed to kissing the icons.
• At the end of the service, please remain in your seat until your pew is called for final blessing and nafora. This process will keep us at a physical distance.
• When you approach Father at the end of the Divine Liturgy, cross yourself and bow. The practice of kissing the Cross or the hand of the priest is temporarily not observed.
• After the service, we respectfully ask that you NOT congregate in the Narthex of the church. THIS IS FOR YOUR SAFTEY AND THE SAFETY OF OTHERS.
Once again, we thank you in advance for your compliance and understanding of these new rules. We hope you will appreciate the measures taken to reopen our church. Welcome back!
A final note to all the faithful of our Parish:Each individual is responsible to make health decisions that are appropriate for him/herself. While the Parish is making every effort to minimize the transmission of disease, all risk cannot be eliminated. Anyone who has reason to believe that they have been exposed to COVID-19, a fever or has respiratory issues, should stay home. Anyone simply “not feeling well” should also stay home.
These rules are set forth in conjunction with the guidance of our Diocese and our national Church. God help us all as we continue to observe safe practices to keep us from falling ill to the terrible consequences of the Coronavirus.
Parish Council President
Peter D. Stevanoff