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Houses of worship can hold services; but will they? 

Rabbi Peter Stein says he’s taking it slow when it comes to bringing people back inside Brighton’s Temple B'rith Kodesh.

That’s an option now that Governor Andrew Cuomo says places of worship can host services with a quarter of their occupancy. Stein says his temple is large enough to add social distancing protocols but he says there are other concerns like keeping common areas safe for everyone.

For now, Stein says he expects to keep connected with his congregation through live streams and other technology.

"Our congregation is about more than being inside a physical building. We’re able to do a lot through other kinds of outreach," said Stein. "We’re able to do a lot through other kinds of outreach, through Zoom, through phone other kinds of things, we’re going to keep doing that until it's truly safe to be in person in the building."

Singh said he expects each church in the diocese to decide individually how to adapt in-person services over the next few weeks. He expects those services will also be live-streamed.

Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester said he was surprised by Cuomo’s decision to allow in-person church services with 25% of their occupancy. He sees it as progress in flattening the curve of the coronavirus.

But Singh doesn’t expect Episcopal churches to rush to hold those in-person services immediately. He says they’ve adapted to the pandemic and can afford to wait a little longer.

"I believe we have been able to keep the community together even though we have not been able to meet over the last three months," Singh said. "Many of our congregants are older and have you know conditions that would put them in jeopardy in the current moment in time."

Singh said each church in the diocese has to decide individually how to adapt in person services for the pandemic over the next few weeks. He expects that they will all have an online element.

In a statement, Bishop Salvatore Matano, who leads Rochester's Roman Catholic Diocese says parishes are preparing to hold in-person services soon while adapting them for social distancing protocols.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News, a media partner of CITY. He can be reached at jbrown@wxxi.org.
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