Leaders with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown and those from other denominations are preparing, but are in no hurry, to reopen their church doors.

What You Need To Know

  • Episcopal Church in WNY not ready to open
  • Diocese of Buffalo releases guidance
  • Local Catholic churches don't meet criteria for opening

"Our number one priority right now is serving our communities; it is not about getting back into buildings. It's not a tragedy. It's a tragedy that people are dying in a pandemic," said Sean Rowe, bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Rowe is uniquely working with reopening guidelines across two states.

He says he'll plan to follow the science and let public health lead the way as he puts a reopening plan together for his churches that is appropriate and safe.

"We're going to hold ourselves to the highest standards in that regard. What it will look like in each place, and we believe that our local communers will be able to adapt," said Rowe.

"To know how to respond is difficult, we have to follow the science for sure. We're still finding new ways to be a church in this moment," said Luke Fodor, St. Luke's Episcopal Church rector.

Reverend Fodor is working in concert with Rowe, as in-person worship has been suspended until July.

While the church does livestream a virtual Sunday service, Fodor says letting a congregation of about 170 parishioners in 10 at a time, per state orders, wouldn't work. 

"I'm not sure how you do that. That would mean 17 services. Church is essential of course, but us gathering in physical locations that may endanger folks is not essential," said Fodor.

On Thursday, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo released a lengthy guide to reopening in what leaders called a safe, gradual and orderly return.

The Forward in Faith document details changes to every aspect of Mass, and concludes the counties that make up the Diocese are simply not prepared to reopen at this time.

"Not prepared at all," said Dennis Mende, Holy Apostles Parish pastor.

Father Mende is also not ready to let churchgoers in 10 at a time and will follow the Diocese’s guidance.

He says he'll need time to review how he'll safely distance people before, during, and after mass. 

"The real concern is we are in closed space with a fairly large number of people in close proximity to one another. And it's different from going to the grocery store for instance," said Mende.

General state guidance for all denominations can be found here.