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Church staff optimistic amid lifted capacity restrictions


Recently in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Governor Cuomo lifted most capacity restrictions as a result of Covid-19 vaccination progress and due to the Covid-19 case declines. The outdoor social gathering limit was increased to 500 beginning on May 10 and the indoor social gathering limit will be increased to 250 starting on May 19 in New York.

With the capacity limit increasing both indoors and outdoors, many pastors of houses of worship in Baldwin said they are looking forward to the next few months as summer approaches. Baldwin resident and four-year pastor of St Christopher’s Church in Baldwin, Rev. Nicholas Zientarski, 49, said the Diocese of Rockville Centre informed him that he could open his church at 100 percent capacity on May 19. 

Following the announcement in capacity change, Rev. Zientarski said he immediately removed the tape and barriers that he had in every other pew in his church. Originally the tape barriers kept congregants from sitting in every other pew in order to meet social distance requirements. 

“Now at full capacity, we have more people attending our church services than ever before or during this pandemic,” said Rev. Zientarski, adding that he has been fully vaccinated with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. “Even though there are a lot of faces that I still haven’t seen back at church, there are still a high number of people that have been vaccinated and they have come back to church.” 

Rev. Zientarski said he is relieved that more people are receiving Covid-19 vaccinations because in the past he was mildly worried about contracting Covid-19. “Even with the vaccines, I still take precautions but, I’m a lot less worried now,” he said. “I still make sure to sanitize my hands frequently and we will continue to wear masks inside because not everyone is vaccinated.” 

As the warmer months unfold, Rev. Zientarski said he hopes to bring back outdoor events, such as, the annual St. Christopher’s Church feast, which usually takes place at the end of July. “I hope the pandemic will help people to refocus on what is most important in life; family and faith,” Rev. Zientarski said.

Island Park resident, and the 16-year pastor of Calvary Church in Baldwin, Rev. Charles Lucchesi, 66, said his church has just become aware of the lift on capacity restrictions. “My church has held together despite the previous restrictions and limitations of in-person gatherings,” he said. “ Fortunately, there have been no cases of Covid contracted and, even though we have had congregants die because of various illnesses, we have not lost a congregant due to Covid-19.”

During the past year, Rev. Lucchesi said his church congregation has followed the Centers of Disease Control guidelines and during church services, congregants have maintained social distancing, worn masks and had only 30 percent of the congregation present. Throughout the pandemic, he also offered online services on Youtube and bible studies online.

Since the capacity restrictions have been lifted, Lucchesi said he is looking forward to ministering to more of the community, seniors, youth and extended families. “In a spiritual sense, during this pandemic, the gospel has continued to go forth impacting lives, and encouraging people in this time of the pandemic,” Rev. Lucchesi said.