Where we are now

As of June 16, 2020, the Diocese of Central New York is in Step 2: Early re-gathering. Parishes may submit Covenants for Gathering Anew to the bishop’s office for approval at this time. For parishes whose Covenants are approved by the bishop, limited in-person gatherings, following all diocesan Step 2 guidelines, may resume on or after July 5, 2020.

Until a vaccine or cure is developed, there will be a risk associated with in-person gatherings, no matter the precautions taken. 

Many Episcopal congregations have a higher proportion of individuals who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. A return to in-person gatherings in Step 2 may not be appropriate for every congregation.

Recent Updates

Steps on the Journey to Gathering Anew: A COVID-19 Response Plan for Central New York Episcopalians will be regularly updated as new medical and policy information informs decisions. The last update was June 16, 2020.

  • Expansion of allowances for in-person gatherings in Step 2 including:
    • Communion permitted (bread only) with safety protocols around distribution;
    • Baptisms permitted;
    • Outdoor gatherings of up to 25 individuals permitted;
    • Modified version of Covenant for Gathering Anew available to congregations wishing to offer outdoor gatherings only.
  • Requirement to complete the New York State Business Affirmation and creation of a Safety Plan prior to returning to use of church buildings in Step 2. 

Overview: Central New York’s Faithful Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, God is calling Central New York Episcopalians to live into our shared vision of a world healed by love. We will care for our communities and one another through our faithful response. 

The goals of Episcopalians in Central New York include: 

  • Sharing God’s love and hope with our communities in this uncertain time. 
  • Keeping Jesus’ command to “remember the least of these”—the most vulnerable members of our community—by limiting physical contact and initiating practices to slow the spread of infectious disease. 
  • Continuing to provide people with the very best pastoral care now and in the months to come.
  • Continuing  prayer, worship, and formation, whether gathered in-person or online. 
  • Continuing community outreach ministry where this is safe and feasible.

What the way forward looks like: 

  • Careful and cautious: 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. Therefore, the churches of the Diocese of Central New York will return to in-person gatherings and re-open our buildings for use more slowly and cautiously than required by the government.
  • Inclusive: Throughout the “gathering anew” process, to ensure the safety and inclusion of people who may not be able to return to in-person worship and gatherings, we strongly encourage the continuation of online worship and pastoral care.
  • One step at a time: We will return to in-person worship and gatherings in a series of steps. These steps may vary in length and our movement through these steps may not be linear. We will be prepared to move to an earlier step if circumstances change. There will be times where the way forward is not clear, and we will trust in God’s constant presence.
  • Transformative: 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.

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.

“Gathering Anew” Resources

Thrift Shops: Sample Covenant and NYS Safety Plan from The Key, a ministry of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cazenovia, New York

Cleaning Guidelines for churches from the diocesan Property Committee

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

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

Parish Administrators 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)

Zoom etiquette handout (resource created by M. Roman of St. John’s, Ithaca)

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

Health and wellness concerns

Mental Health Support
New York State COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline

Call 1-844-863-9314. The Emotional Support Helpline provides free and confidential support, helping callers experiencing increased anxiety due to the coronavirus emergency. The Helpline is staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals, who have received training in crisis counseling. Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week.

See more resources from the New York State Office of Mental Health.

New York State Coping Circles

The New York State Office of Mental Health is coordinating free six-week support and resilience groups, held by video or phone, facilitated by licensed mental health professionals. Download a shareable flyer or learn more at ny.gov/copingcircles>

National Suicide Prevention Talkline

 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24/7, with special supports for Veterans by pressing 1 after dialing.

Mobile Crisis Teams

1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355)

Mobile crisis teams (MCTs) respond to mental health crises in the community within 48 hours of receiving a referral. Response time depends on the urgency of the call. Any concerned person can make a referral to the mobile crisis services by calling the above number. Teams are staffed by mental health professionals who can assess the person and their situation, provide crisis counseling and make referrals to community-based mental health and substance misuse services for ongoing care, and emergency services as needed.

Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook

Free, downloadable Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook published by The Wellness Society, an organization offering support to individuals who aren’t able to access traditional therapy.

Substance Use & Recovery Resources

Online & Mobile Self Help Meetings

Smart Recovery Group – Instructions

    1. smartrecovery.org
    2. Click “Find a Meeting”
    3. Click “Search Online Meetings”
    4. Select any meeting that says “Verifications Provided”

Narcotics Anonymous meetings by phone:
meetings.nabyphone.com

Narcotics Anonymous online meetings:
neveraloneclub.org
livethenasteps.online
virtual-na.org Virtual NA Meeting

A free mobile application called In the Rooms is available in Google Play. 

Narcan Resources

A directory for a variety of harm reduction resources, including Narcan: naloxoneforall.org/newyork

Narcan resources by region: health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/general/resources/oop_directory/index.htm

Domestic Violence Resources

National Domestic Violence Hotline Staying Safe During COVID-19 Phone number: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

For church employees: Employee Assistance Program (EAP):

Lay and ordained church employees: If you need support, your Employee Assistance Program is a great place to start. All employees who are enrolled in a Medical Trust plan, all members of their households, and all covered dependents, have access to this benefit.  The EAP is a confidential 24-hour service that can help you access the resources you need if you or a loved one wants someone to talk to.

To learn more:

Or to access your EAP benefits right now, call (866) 395-7794. You can reach someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For church employees: Your personal health and finances

The Church Pension Group has created a list of online resources related to finances, health, and your well-being that can help with questions you may have as a result of the disruptions related to COVID-19. Whether it is managing your budget, using telemedicine, or listening to CPG’s Walk and Be Well podcast series, we hope you find these resources helpful.

Liturgy and Worship

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

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.

Singing

As the Diocese begins to plan for a return to in-person gatherings, a fast from singing may be the best way we can protect one another. Scroll down to the “What we’re reading” section of this page for two articles on why singing increases the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Guidelines for tracking attendance at online services

View diocesan guidelines for recording online worship services in the parish register.

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

From our diocesan Stewardship committee

Article: Stewardship committee offers resources for COVID-19, including online giving

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.

Giving Beyond the Offering Plate 101:” White paper from the Ecumenical Stewardship Center

CARES Act

Parishes may be eligible for forgivable loans, such as the PPP loan, 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. (On May 1st, we added a fraud warning to this document about individuals posing as PPP loan administators in order to gain access to church banking information).

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 & buildings

Planning for an extended closure of the parish office

This guidance from the Church of England on caring for the parish building and preventing vandalism while in-person gatherings are suspended may be helpful to many parishes

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