Dear members of the Trinity community,
As we approach eight months of living with the pandemic, I am reminded daily that there is no playbook for what we are all experiencing. I miss you all deeply and continue to pray for you daily, and I hope you are finding solace and connection in our worship services and programs during this prolonged time apart.
Over the past few months, we have continued to plan for a phased reopening of the church, which we had hoped to begin on Sunday, Nov. 29. With the help of our medical advisor, Dr. David Shulkin, former US Secretary of Veterans Affairs, we have continued to track the course of the COVID-19 virus to assess when it will be safest for us to gather for worship once again.
It has been hard for me to get my head around the idea that, after closing the church for Holy Week and Easter, we might have to remain closed for Christmas as well. It is clear that New York City and State are not today in the same terrible place that we were in March and April, but infection rates and hospitalizations are starting to tick up, and the news elsewhere is not good. We have to consider the current spikes in COVID-19 cases around the country, increases in our neighboring states, and the uncertainty about what winter, holiday travel, and indoor gatherings will bring. As Dr. Shulkin told us recently, the virus itself is unpredictable, and there’s still much we don’t know. On the positive side, you as a community have continued to hold one another with great care, and to serve God with profound faith, throughout this time.
For all these reasons, I’ve decided to keep the church closed for worship until March 1, 2021. Our office building will remain closed until then as well, as will the Trinity Retreat Center.
That said, some of you have shared a deep yearning during this time for sacred space — a place to pray for yourselves, your loved ones, our city, our nation, and the world. Assuming no significant deterioration in the status of the virus in New York City and State in the next month, we are planning to open the church daily for “prayer hours” from 1–4 pm, beginning Monday, Nov. 30. We will of course be following all the necessary protocols, including limiting the number of people who can be in the church at any time to no more than 30, conducting health screenings and contact tracing, requiring masks and social distancing, cleaning the church several times daily, etc. As Nov. 30 approaches, we will provide more details on what you can expect if you choose to visit the church during these hours.
I recognize that offering prayer hours is not a substitute for in-person worship, but I believe that public services bring additional risk. The necessary precautions we would have to take also would make worship very different, and perhaps difficult. I know that being unable to gather for Christmas worship in person is a disappointment. But as I have said since March, my first priority is the safety of our congregation, and I believe there is simply too much uncertainty at this time to merit the risk. Despite talk of Christmas being “canceled” this year by the pandemic, we as Christians know that the Christ-child will come, wherever and however we are in the world.
Take extra care of one another as the days grow shorter and the weather gets colder; the isolation that many of our friends and loved ones are feeling is very real. If you are having a “COVID day,” as Page and I call them, go easy on yourself and reach out for help or a comforting ear.
I look forward to the day — and it will come — when I can greet you all in person and worship together in our sacred space.
The Rev. Phillip A. Jackson
Priest-in-charge and Vicar