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NYC churches hit by coronavirus react to Trump’s reopening plan


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NYC churches hit by coronavirus react to Trump's reopening plan 1

Pastors of city neighborhood churches hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic reacted cautiously to President Trump’s call Friday to reopen houses of worship.

Pastor Adolphus Lacey of Bethany Baptist Church in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section Brooklyn said Trump has good intentions, but it’s too risky to have regular services now.

“I will not put my congregants in jeopardy,” Lacey said, noting that 600 congregants are participating in virtual livestreaming of prayer services and other events.

“Get over the idolatry of a building,” he said.

Elaine Flake, co-pastor of the Greater Allen AME Church in Jamaica, which has one of the largest congregations in the city, said she  heard Trump’s call to reopen faith-based institutions just before she participated in a conference call Friday with aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and members of his Interfaith Advisory Council.

She said Cuomo’s office explained the new state policy of allowing religious gatherings of up to 10 people — though participants must maintain social distancing and wear masks to stave off the coronavirus.

“You have to be very careful. Just because the president says something on Friday doesn’t mean you open on Sunday,” Flake said.

“I’m going to be very careful. We buried too many people. We have too many people in the hospital. It’s a very delicate situation.”

Greater Allen has 10,000 congregants and many are elderly residents who are high risk for COVID-19, she said.

But that doesn’t mean churches aren’t itching to reopen — when it is safe to do so.

Catholic church leaders — Cardinal Timothy Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn-Queens diocese — laid out a five-phase “Faith Forward” plan for reopening church services.

In the first phase, churches will open for private prayer and confessions.

Phase two will offer celebration of baptisms and marriages — but be limited to no more than 10 attendees.

Phase three will allow celebration of Holy Communion outside of Mass.

Phase four will permit celebration of daily and funeral Masses with limited attendance and phase five will permit Sunday Mass with limited attendance before resumption of full Mass schedules and sacramental activities.

Parishioners must wear masks and hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance of the church. The phase-in will likely vary by region, depending on the COVID-19 cases.

Asked about Trump’s directive, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said the city will instead abide by Cuomo’s order limiting religious gatherings to no more than 10 people at a time.

“Houses of Worship never closed in New York City, but have been under reasonable capacity requirements that prohibit large gatherings,” said City Hall spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie.

“We will continue to work closely with faith leaders to ensure people can safely worship during these stressful times, but will not take any steps that could jeopardize New Yorker’s health.”

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