General News

An Update from the Reopen Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church Task Force

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be “a pandemic.” That same week, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church made the decision to suspend in-person worship and to limit access to the church house.

It has been quite a year.

The church has lost members and staff to the disease. We have extended Christ’s love and care to those who grieve and to those who have been sick. We have sought to respond with compassion to the isolation and loneliness many have experienced in this time.

In this challenging season, we refocused our street outreach efforts targeting food insecurity (which skyrocketed as the pandemic’s effects broadened). In addition to maintaining our strong Meals on Heels program, we launched a new midtown meal program that we dubbed, “A Place at the Table.”

Along the way, we shifted a good deal of the church’s programmatic life to an online format. In youth group meetings and Sunday school classes, in worship and adult education forums, in fellowship opportunities and through glorious music, we have made good on our pandemic slogan: “The building is closed, but the church is open.”

Thankfully, the finish line is coming into sight. Every day, we get closer to the herd immunity that epidemiologists have held up as our goal. Every day, we get closer to returning to the precious sacred space that is our church home at 55th and Fifth.

It is going to happen soon.

The Reopen Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church Task Force (Greg Dow, Mark Moreland, Dave Roberson, Janeen Sarlin and Scott Black Johnston) has listened to your feedback and scrutinized the most current scientific data, governmental regulations, and best practices for churches.

Our clear goal is to reopen Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in a safe and smart manner as soon as we possibly can!

The church staff and appropriate committees of the Session are putting the finishing touches on comprehensive plans so that the church can begin reopening in phases.

• Phase 1: We plan to open the church house for regular small meetings and limited activities during the week (Monday through Friday) beginning June 1st.

• Phase 2: We resume in-person worship sometime this summer (on a date to be announced in early June) in accordance with New York City regulations and depending on the completion of repair work being done to the sanctuary ceiling.

Why not open sooner?

We would like to move more quickly, but there are two key challenges impacting our timeline.

First, we want to allow all members of the staff (including choir members, security personnel and child care workers) and targeted volunteers (such as ushers, greeters and Sunday School teachers) who are eligible to get vaccinated an opportunity to get vaccinated. This is to protect them and to protect our members and guests. We believe that access to a vaccine will have been made available to all interested parties in New York City by May 31, 2021.

Second, we need to wait for important ongoing repair work in the sanctuary to be completed. Recently, while doing work in the sanctuary attic to prepare for livestreaming our worship services, we discovered some critical repairs that need to be made to the sanctuary roof support structure. Our architect and a team from ETNA engineering have studied the issue and are striving to provide us with a plan, and custom fabricated components, for fully completing these necessary repairs. Once the repairs are completed, the scaffolding inside the sanctuary will come down and we will be ready to resume in-person worship.

We will continue to monitor these two challenges, as well as governmental recommendations for healthy practices in regard to indoor gatherings, and we will make adjustments to the church’s policies and plans as necessary. Please be assured we are doing everything we can to reopen FAPC as soon possible in a safe and thoughtful manner. We will keep you apprised of new developments. As we begin our phased opening, you will soon be able to find a new page on our website dedicated to answering your questions in regard to what you can expect in terms of protocols as we re-enter the church.

We deeply appreciate your continued understanding as we faithfully seek to respond to these challenging circumstances. Some report that, as this pandemic comes to an end, kindness, grace and patience are in short supply in this country. We do not sense that this is true in our beloved community!

Finally, we want to close by recognizing and extending our deep appreciation to the staff of FAPC who have been working tirelessly to keep church happening remotely over the past year in a meaningful way. We are fortunate to have a talented and dedicated team making such a positive difference. Please continue to provide these good people with your support and keep them in your prayers.

The Reopen FAPC Task Force