As you are well aware, the Coronavirus crisis has proven to be a progressing situation which has continued to develop at a brisk pace, deeply affecting the common life of our parish, our city, our nation, and the world. This afternoon, gatherings of 20 or more people have been forbidden in Dutchess County. A few moments ago, our dear friend Bishop John O’Hara of the Archdiocese of New York telephoned me to tell me that the Cardinal was cancelling all public worship from this evening. The clergy of the Diocese of New York have been in contact with one another this afternoon.
As you know, we have been coordinating our response with neighboring clergy and consulting with medical professionals, the Vestry, our staff, and many of you.
I am very sorry to tell you that we will cease public worship from today.
I am sorry that this is yet another change coming only a matter of hours after my letter of yesterday. However, we must walk a fine line between the safety of our community while remaining a place of respite and spiritual feeding during these uncertain times. I thank you for your patience and understanding and the many, many messages of support that my clergy and I have received.
I said in my letter of yesterday that things were changing rapidly and that we would only be open for public worship for as long as it was safe for our staff and our parishioners to do so. The wardens and I feel that this is the appropriate response to the changing situation we are facing this afternoon.
Please know that, although public worship is suspended, our church will remain open for private prayer, with reduced daily hours and safety protocols in place. You will find instructions for these safety protocols on signage in the church as you enter.
At this time, we do not know how long this suspension will last. As our consultations continue, we will continue to update you via email and our website on our schedule of events (in person and on-line) and how our parish is responding to the current state of affairs.
Our clergy and staff have been working to make the worship and music of St. Thomas Church available to all those who must remain at home. Live and on-demand webcasts will continue for our services at a schedule to be determined. These webcasts will remain available on our website.
In addition, we have arranged to have cameras on hand to film the 11am service tomorrow. This online video will be made available on-demand through our website and on Facebook later the same day. We ask for your patience, as it will take some time to edit and produce this high-quality video. When this and any future video is available, we will be sending E-news messages with a link to the video, including special posts on our website and our Facebook page.
Through the generous support of our members, we are pursuing options for making live video of our services, classes, special messages, and other parts of parish life available very soon, including daily prayer and worship. This will be a time of experimentation and expansion of how we communicate and worship with you going forward.
My friends, I started my letter yesterday stating that these were troubling times. Let us continue to pray for one another and for those affected by this crisis.
Your Priest and Pastor