Immediately after closing its physical doors in March 2020 as New York City took emergency action against the novel coronavirus,
the Cathedral of St. John the Divine began work on the long road to rethinking the daily life of this sacred space, including plans for what its gradual reopening would look like.
Beginning July 14, 2020, the Cathedral will reopen from 7:30 am – 1 pm seven days a week for individual prayer, reflection, and meditation. Health screenings will be administered upon entrance, and masks and physical distancing will be mandatory. Visitors’ cell phone numbers and email addresses will be collected for contact tracing and communication purposes. Small funeral and memorial services are also anticipated to resume beginning July 21, 2020.
Streamed worship will continue to be offered each Sunday at 11 am via the Cathedral website (stjohndivine.org), along with daily Morning Prayer, Monday-Saturday at 8:30 am; Evening Prayer, Monday-Saturday at 5:30 pm; and Night Prayer (Compline), Wednesdays at 8:30 pm.
Following guidance from public health and governmental authorities, and in accordance with recommendations issued by the CDC, the Cathedral has made the difficult decision to cancel large in-person events and major services for the remainder of 2020 in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Cathedral anticipates resuming in-person services of worship and large-scale events after January 15, 2021 if allowed by governmental guidelines. If an earlier date is indicated, this will be communicated promptly.
The Cathedral will continue to develop and produce digital content through the remainder of 2020, with more details on next year’s programming currently under discussion. Plans are also underway to explore safe options for live streaming from the Cathedral interior, as possible.
“A primary concern is the health and safety of our community,” said the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III, Dean of the Cathedral. “It has become clear that, for the time being, large gatherings must be suspended until we can come together in physical safety once again.”
“While the Cathedral deeply regrets having to make the painful decision to cancel in-person events and services, we had no choice,” the Dean said. “Our decision to make this announcement at this time has been strongly informed by New York State government regulations, the situation that is taking place throughout the country and the advice of medical experts. Another part of the decision was recognition of the months of prior planning required for major services and events, including those with large audiences of 1000+ people.”
The Rev. Canon Patrick Malloy, Sub-Dean of the Cathedral, added, “Some churches said their faith demanded that they gather for public worship even before the scientists thought it was wise. Our own faith is what convinces us to be cautious about gathering. Jesus says that love of neighbor is the highest human calling, second only to love of God. We have decided to delay because we do not want to endanger the neighbors Jesus tells us to love.”
The Dean continued, “These times are challenging for all of us in this city and our nation. This Cathedral has faced many challenging times before: two World Wars, the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, hurricanes, periods of civil unrest. This Cathedral will be here when the worst has passed and when people can safely come together again. In the meantime, know that the Cathedral is here for you in spirit and prayer. I hope you will come to visit the Cathedral in the coming days, and pray and meditate until we can once again gather in safety in this sacred space.”
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. It is chartered as a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership.
People from many faiths and communities worship together in services held more than 30 times a week; the soup kitchen serves roughly 25,000 meals annually; social service outreach has an increasingly varied roster of programs; the distinguished Cathedral School prepares young students to be future leaders; Advancing the Community of Tomorrow, the renowned preschool, afterschool and summer program, offers diverse educational and nurturing experiences; the outstanding Textile Conservation Lab preserves world treasures; concerts, exhibitions, performances and civic gatherings allow conversation, celebration, reflection and remembrance—such is the joyfully busy life of this beloved and venerated Cathedral.