Faith leaders weigh next steps as state allows limited religious gatherings

Local religious leaders are weighing their next steps as the state now says they can hold religious services, albeit with some limitations.

At the Islamic Center of Rochester, the chained up doors to its entrance are as far as you can go.

Islamic center president Tabassam Javed says the doors are staying this way for now, even as the Islamic holiday of Ramadan comes to a celebratory close on Saturday, and even as faith leaders have the green light to hold services, so long as it has less than 10 people present.

Javed says while he’d love to be open, he would not want ‘to be known as the person who defied the order.’

“If a swarm of people show up, which 10 am I going to choose to go in and be part of the mosque area of prayer, and who do I reject and on what basis?” Javed??????? said.

It’s a question on the minds of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, security director (and former Brighton Police Chief) Mark Henderson tells us he’s talking with area rabbi’s about idea of limited services, especially as the holiday of Shavuot approaches next week.

He says as of now, there’s no definite plan, but there is a desire to move forward in-person. He says in Sabbath law, 10 people is considered a ‘minyan’, or minimum requirement for a Jewish gathering.

“This is not a community that’s knee jerk reacting and going to go out and have large scale gatherings, that’s not going to happen,” Henderson said.

It’s why the discussion now turns to what to do when people show up for a service, like how to keep the place clean, how to keep people physically distant, or, how to keep people together online.

Previously, faith leaders said they’d be flexible when it came to balancing faith practices and safety.

In a statement, Catholic Diocese of Rochester said:

“We are awaiting more information from the state which will help us determine how best we can resume Masses with the faithful present, albeit in some limited manner. Our parishes have begun implementing general protocols for how they will ensure social distancing, regulate the number of faithful who can be in attendance, and achieve the necessary cleaning regimens and safety standards for the well-being of all.”

Gov. Cuomo says drive-in and parking lot services can continue, but Javed says they’ll pass.

Locally, News10NBC reported that Old Paths Chapel in Perry, has been holding its Sunday service at the Silver Lake drive-in and streaming it live on its Facebook page.

Henderson says faith leaders plan to meet with Monroe County health leaders to plan the next steps as they wait for state guidelines. Cuomo says the state is starting up the Interfaith Advisory Council to discuss proposals to ‘safely bring back religious services.’

“I am not hearing as of first thing tomorrow morning, or sometime tomorrow on Thursday there’d be any type of services.” Henderson said, “What I am hearing is, let’s do our due diligence find out what the best protocols and procedures are, and proceed cautiously.”
Churches and synagogues are currently slated for phase 4 for a full re-opening, which may be a ways off, but Javed is preaching positivity.

“We are trending in the right direction in our area, and we are eventually going to be reaching the Promised Land so to speak,” Javed said.

— WHEC

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