The Church of St. Stephen, the First Martyr, has the largest number of parishioners in the Town of Warwick and on Monday, March 23, they received a message via email that no one would have expected to see in his or her lifetime: “St. Stephen’s Church is now closed until further notice.”
The email explained that the decision was not made lightly but was in the interest of the health and safety of not only the St. Stephen parishioners but those in the community to minimize exposure to COVID-19.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had just banned gatherings of more than 50 people. But even before that the federal government had also issued guidelines discouraging social gatherings of more than 10 individuals. And two weeks ago the Archdiocese of New York had canceled all public attended Masses.
During the season of Lent and Easter, St. Stephen’s had recently installed live-stream technology and parishioners were able to go to the Church’s web site and spiritually participate in daily and Sunday Mass.
Other churches throughout the area have also canceled services to help combat the corona virus. Almost all, like the following sample, have web sites with information and contact numbers.
The Warwick United Methodist Church, for example, has issued a statement on its web site that reads: “In light of ongoing recommendations from the CDC in response to COVID-19, we will not be gathering for in-person worship until further notice.”
However, the pastor will be on Facebook live on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. and a Facebook account is not necessary.
Christ Episcopal Church announced that all services are canceled until May 17 but that the Church will be open Sunday mornings from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. for private prayer.
Calvary Baptist Church has postponed all worship services, children’s programs, and Bible studies until further notice. But Pastor Craig or Pastor Kevin will be recording a message each week and will be posting it online.
The Warwick Reformed Church will limit large group events and in-person small groups but offer worship services through Facebook and YouTube and offer sermons on the church web site.
Churches with smaller congregations at services, under 50, may continue to meet on Sundays.
The Warwick Assembly issued that possibility on its web site but added that it will also be adding a live on line service every Sunday at 10:15 a.m.
Grace Community Church also offers a service on line and Pastor Jarrod Jones may have expressed the sentiments of all the other pastors in Warwick during a recent sermon. “I miss you,” he said.
- Roger Gavan