Dear members of the Trinity community,
Nearly a year into a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, I have a sense of both weariness and hope. I am weary of a virus that has kept us apart for so long and isolated so many, that has wounded our families, our city — especially the most vulnerable — our country, and the world. But I am hopeful that the arrival of vaccines, however uncertain the timelines for availability and distribution might be, means we can imagine better times ahead.
For 10 months now, we have been setting targets for reopening our church buildings, only to cancel and push those dates out further as the pandemic surged and spread. As the data we’ve been tracking on COVID-19 continue to be disheartening, it is clear that it would be unwise to reopen our buildings on March 1. In fact, our best information today — from Dr. David Shulkin, former US Secretary of Veterans Affairs who also is now working with the Biden administration, and various sources of government data — indicates that it will be at least summer before we all will have access to a vaccine and can consider reopening.
I realize that means another Lenten season, Holy Week, and Easter with our church buildings, office, and Trinity Retreat Center closed. It means our first Ash Wednesday without ashes, and it means we are facing more than a full year of worshiping and gathering remotely.
But I have seen your resilience and deep love and support for one another over these past 10 months, and I know that this beloved community can and will persevere. When I think back to last year, I remember how quickly we had to adapt to online-only Holy Week and Easter services — and I remember how beautiful they were. We already are putting our creative spirits to work again this year: Our new Vicar, the Rev. Michael Bird, is making plans for virtual family services; a festive online Mardi Gras is in the works; we will walk the Lenten journey together with our annual meditation booklets for adults and a Lent at Home packet for families; and the Retreat Center is offering monthly online retreats.
Rather than announce a new “target date” for reopening, we will continue to study the data and use metrics to guide our decisions and timelines, and we’ll provide regular updates so you have a sense of the course of the virus and how our plans are progressing. I do want to note that, even with the availability of vaccines, we expect that when we do reopen, we still will need to adhere to restrictions on the size of gatherings, as well as safety protocols on social distancing and mask wearing, for some time. We will need a few weeks to get the church ready once it is safe to reopen, so we will give you plenty of notice — and what a joyous announcement that will be.
I do encourage you to get the vaccine as soon as you are eligible and able to do so. If you have questions about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, I’d advise you to check credible sources such as US CDC Vaccine Info and What New Yorkers Need to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines, and page 36 of the White House COVID-19 strategy.
While we remain apart, know that you are in my prayers daily. Please stay vigilant, no matter how much this pandemic has worn you down. I, too, am tired of social distancing and mask wearing and being isolated from all of you, but I know that these are the right things to do. This time is hard, and it is long, but with the grace of God, we can hang on a bit longer and do what’s necessary until we can gather safely and joyfully once again.
The Rev. Phillip A. Jackson