December 2, 2021

Churches resume in-person services

After three months of virtual services, churches in Cortland County are bringing back their parishioners for in-person services.

“It’s wonderful,” said the Rev. Joe Zareski of St. Mary’s Parish and St. Anthony of Padua churches in Cortland. “At least we can see the people now. We’re happy this is coming about and we are being very careful to keep things safe.”

The churches will limit their capacity to 25% and require registration for Mass, he said.

People will also need to wear masks, be 6 feet apart from each other and are encouraged to use hand sanitizer provided by the churches.

Surfaces will also be wiped down in between services, which will also be shortened to 40 to 45 minutes.

“We’re taking all kinds of precautions,” Zareski said.

Other churches developed plans of their own for safely reopening this weekend.

Grace Christrian Fellowship in Cortlandville is offering four services, according to its website.

The first, at 7:30 a.m., is for attendees 60 years old and older or who have compromised health or are at risk.

The others are at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Registration is required.


In-person services this weekend:

  • St. Paul Lutheran, Cortland: 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
  • Virgil and Homer Avenue United Methodist churches: 10 a.m. Sunday service at Homer Avenue.
  • St. Anthony of Padua, Cortland: Mass with 25% occupancy at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.
  • Grace Christian Fellowship, Cortland: Four services Sunday: 7:30, 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.
  • St. Mary’s Parish, Cortland: Mass with 25% occupancy at 4 p.m. Saturday, 8 and 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Other safety precautions the church is taking include:

  • Providing a contact list in case of COVID-19 exposure
  • Wearing a mask during services n Sitting 6 feet apart from people in pews
  • Cleaning surfaces between services

Not all pastors are ready to reopen, though.

“We aren’t convinced it’s safe at this point for our membership to come back together,” the Rev. David Johnson said.

The church, which has been posting pre-recorded videos of its services on its YouTube channel, has a congregation composed of vulnerable old and young people, he said.

Additionally, he wants to see how the virus is affecting people and whether there might be a second wave of infections.

“It makes sense for us to be careful and observant in terms of the virus and we’ll make that decision when it’s going to be a good decision for the church,” he said.