Our role in responding, as churches, dioceses and compassionate Christians, is to:

  • Combat fear with knowledge in order to encourage preparedness and decrease stigma.
  • Maintain operational continuity and continue worship life in the case of potential quarantine and disruption.
  • Show God’s compassion and care to those in our communities who are affected. (from Episcopal Relief and Development)

Bishop’s Directive

updated March 24, 2020

In-person worship and gatherings in parishes of the diocese are to be temporarily suspended in favor of remote alternatives after Sunday, March 15th. Exceptions are made for essential ministries as outlined below.

Diocesan staff are working remotely and the diocesan office is closed. Staff are available by email and phone (just dial the office for instructions on connecting to individual staff members).

Ministries with our neighbors living with food insecurity: The bishop urges all churches with food pantries, community meals, etc. to continue operations at this time wherever possible, maintaining appropriate safeguards including handwashing, social distancing, etc. as directed by our state and local governments. In most cases, moving to a “to-go” model will be appropriate. Volunteers and staff who do not feel well must stay home.

Twelve-step ministries: The bishop’s recommendation continues to be that these ministries move to remote alternatives wherever possible. Should your church continue to host in-person twelve-step groups, please direct them to maintain appropriate hygiene and social distancing and to disinfect surfaces before and after meetings. (Governor Cuomo’s office confirmed to the New York State Council of Churches on March 21st that twelve-step meetings are permitted to continue meeting in churches in groups of no more than 50 with appropriate social distancing).  Please let all those attending recovery groups in our churches know that as guidelines may change, seeking support online is a helpful way of ensuring ongoing support.

Renters and community groups: Only truly essential health programs (such as twelve-step groups) and food pantries and community meals shall gather in-person in the church space. These essential groups shall continue to exercise appropriate social distancing and hygiene precautions. All others shall be directed to delay meetings or move to remote alternatives until further notice.

Parish offices: Parish staff who are not essential staff for essential ministries (defined as twelve-step groups or food pantries/community meals) shall work from home. Please see Planning for an extended closure of the parish office.

Live streaming or recording from the church: The safest way to record or live stream worship services is to do so from home. However, church staff are still permitted to gather in churches for the purpose of recording or live streaming services. Proper hygiene and social distancing must be observed. Governor Cuomo’s office confirmed to the New York State Council of Churches on March 21st that church staff are permitted to continue gathering in churches to record or live stream services.

Open for prayer: Churches may continue to be open for prayer on weekdays for limited hours. Please provide instructions at each entry point for appropriate hygiene and social distancing. You may encourage social distancing by cordoning off alternating pews. Clean and disinfect all pews and surfaces regularly.

Pastoral offices: Funerals shall be delayed. A small graveside service for family only, may be offered. Baptisms shall be delayed until the full community can gather. In the case of a true pastoral emergency, a baptism may be performed with parents and godparents only. Weddings shall be delayed. In the case of a true pastoral emergency, a wedding may be performed with spouses and witnesses only.

Pastoral visits: At this time, in-person pastoral visits shall be discontinued, with the exception of the administration of last rites. For hospitalized parishioners, please ask the hospital chaplain to visit. Phone or Zoom calls are another alternative.

Vestries: Please ensure that vestries continue to meet regularly. Please do NOT hold in-person vestry meetings. Phone conference or Zoom conferences are an alternative. We are consulting with the diocesan chancellors regarding vestries voting when not in person. Bishop Duncan-Probe will be asking our District Deans to check in every other week with all parishes and vestries for the duration of our response to this epidemic.

Ongoing communications from the Diocese

The Diocese of Central New York will continually monitor the situation and update the bishop’s Directive and resources here. Significant updates to the bishop’s Directive and will also be sent by email to clergy, parish wardens, and parish offices.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding these directives may be directed to Meredith Sanderson, chief of staff and director of communications for the Diocese, at [email protected] or (315) 474-6596.

Additional resources for Parish Leaders to help one another

Wardens and Vestry Members Resource Group on Facebook

Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York Group on Facebook

Building online community and alternatives to in-person worship and gatherings

A list of churches in our Diocese and beyond that are offering online worship and formation. We appreciate your help in keeping it up to date (email [email protected] with new or updated info).

Connection, Worship, Formation, and Outreach: Making a plan for your congregation’s faithful response to COVID-19 (includes a comparison of Zoom & FB Live)

Getting started with online and live-streamed worship and meetings

General Tips

eFormation at Virginia Theological Seminary has brilliant Resources for Communities Online including hardware recommendations, Zoom and Facebook Live how-tos, and more!

Caffeinated Church, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, has created a great resource for parish leaders who want to explore options for cultivating online community: Epidemic Preparedness: An Opportunity to Cultivate an Online Worship Community.

How to “Go Live” at church in four easy steps (Episcopal Diocese of San Diego)

Live Streaming Resources (Episcopal Diocese of San Diego)

Facebook Live

How to use Facebook Live

Youtube

How to Broadcast with YouTube Live

Zoom

Zoom Meeting Best Practices (webinar and resources from Lifelong Learning at Virginia Theological Seminary)–great whether you’re brand-new to Zoom or ready to up your Zoom game!

How to Prevent Zoom-Bombing (Anti-Defamation League)

Copyright:

U.S. copyright issues related to live streaming music (guidelines from The Episcopal Church)

Information about Copyright Licenses and Streaming (from Caffeinated Church, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado)

Get creative!

Dio CNY Creates! A Facebook group for anyone who is creating beauty and connecting to God as we stay at home.

Holy Week Online Icon-Writing Workshop. Join the Facebook group for daily instructions.

Spiritual Direction

Spiritual direction is an ancient practice in which an individual can talk confidentially about their relationship with God to a person trained to listen deeply without judgment and without trying to solve problems. For many individuals, working with a spiritual director over phone or video-conference may bring many benefits during the present crisis.

The School for Spiritual Direction and Formation established by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas has more information about spiritual direction, including volunteers willing to work with you by phone or video-conference. You can also review our list of recommended spiritual directors in the Central New York area.

Don’t forget the phone!

Parishioners not online? Pick up the phone!

Set up a phone tree. Or pair parishioners with prayer partners and encourage them to swap calls daily or weekly.

Remember that in addition to videoconferencing, Zoom allows people to join by phone only for an audio experience.

Encouragement:

If this all feels overwhelming, read this article: You already have everything you need to be a digital media minister

Liturgy and Worship

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Word to the Church: On Our Theology of Worship (March 31, 2020)

Preparing for Holy Week and Easter

Triduum under Quarantine: Planning Holy Week Services That Honor Social Distancing

Two-part webinar from Lifelong Learning at Virginia Theological Seminary
Watch Part 1
Watch Part 2

Get resources in the Triduum Under Quarantine Google Drive from VTS! (To edit the Word documents within, you will need to OPEN the desired document on the drive, DOWNLOAD it to your machine, OPEN it on your device, ENABLE editing, and then edit away (make sure to save your version!)

Spiritual Communion

Restrictions on in-person gatherings prevent the celebration of Holy Eucharist. As Episcopalians, we believe that Jesus is fully present in both Word and Sacrament and in this time, we are truly fed by Scripture although we cannot partake in the Bread and the Wine.

Bishop Duncan-Probe has approved the following resources for use in the Diocese of Central New York:

Prayer of St. Alphonsus de Liguori

My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. I love you above all things, and long for you in my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though you have already come, I embrace you and unite myself entirely to you; never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.

A Form for Spiritual Communion from the Order of Julian of Norwich

Vigil for a Pandemic

Vigil for a Pandemic created by the Rev. Brooks Cato. Use this vigil service in your context or join the people of St. Thomas’, Hamilton to pray every Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. at facebook.com/StThomasEpiscopalHamiltonNY.

For ministries responding to food insecurity

Guidance for Feeding Ministries in Light of COVID-19 (Diocese of Indianapolis)

In addition to the above excellent resource, please see:

New York State Health Department

Food and Drug Administration’s COVID-19 FAQ (scroll down to “Food Products”)

And remember that frequent hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of germs!

Stewardship Resources

Online Giving

Your parishioners can give to your parish online through the Diocese at cnyepiscopal.org/give-to-my-parish. Givers will receive an email acknowledgment.

Want to set up your own online giving campaign? There are many great options available. We recommend Tithe.ly but you can also view this comparison of online giving options.

CARES Act

Parishes may be eligible for forgivable loans covering payroll and some operating costs under the Federal CARES Act passed on March 27th. In addition, the CARES Act provides for an expansion of unemployment benefits to cover clergy and 1099 contract employees.

We have created this summary to help you better understand these programs: Financial relief for congregations and church employees through the CARES Act.

Apply for a two-month waiver of clergy pension assessment payments

The Church Pension Group is accepting applications from parishes to waive up to two months of clergy pension plan assessments. You can apply through the Diocese of Central New York. Details and information here.

Apply for a two-month waiver of diocesan pledge and assessment payments

The Diocesan Board is accepting applications from parishes to waive up to two months of diocesan pledge and assessment payments. Vestries may apply by April 17th. Details and information here.

Other stewardship resources

Also: TENS (The Episcopal Network for Stewardship) offers best practices to prevent a cash-flow crisis including online giving solutions, mission-focused messages, and lots and lots of gratitude!

Webinar: Church Fundraising in a “New Normal” from TENS and CEEP (recorded March 19th):  Stewardship professionals from around the church to discuss our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll talk about what we are learning, how we are responding, and ways to engage our parishioners in this new normal.

Webinar: Don’t Feed the Beast: Trusting in the Gospel in Trying Times from TENS and CEEP (recorded March 2oth): A moderated conversation about money, meaning, and ministry for volunteer stewardship teams, clergy, and lay professional fundraisers in the Episcopal Church. During this webinar, we focused on resources, inspiration, and tools our congregations will need in the coming weeks of COVID-19.

Vestries Meeting and Voting Online

Vestries should continue to meet and conduct business remotely when in-person meetings are not an option.

Diocesan recommendation for Vestries Meeting and Voting Online (includes sample resolution for amending parish by-laws to provide for meeting and conducting business remotely).

Clergy Pensions, Church Insurance, and Medical Insurance

The Church Pension Group is accepting applications from parishes to waive up to two months of clergy pension plan assessments. You can apply through the Diocese of Central New York. Details and information here.

Church Insurance is extending premium payment deadlines, and is exploring options for coverage of losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Details and information here.

The Church Medical Trust will waive all co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance for its members for healthcare services relating to the evaluation and testing for COVID-19, and will waive all co-pays, deductibles, and in-network coinsurance for its active members for healthcare services relating to the treatment of COVID-19. Details and information here.

Planning for an extended closure of the parish office

Planning for an extended closure of the parish office

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