More houses of worship shutter, NJ looking for ways to help
With an announcement Wednesday by the Archdiocese of Newark that all daily and Sunday Masses will be suspended until further notice, public gatherings are now on hold at every Catholic church in New Jersey.
Synagogues and other houses of worship across the Garden State are making similar moves to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
And as of Wednesday, these establishments have no idea when their doors will open again for congregations. The longer the wait, the heavier the burden.
"I indicated, initially, until April 3, but indications are that it might go further than that," said Bishop David O'Connell, of the Diocese of Trenton.
O'Connell said the member parishes are "already feeling the hit" of fewer contributions from the public. Should the mitigation measures last longer than originally expected, no gatherings will take place on April 12, Easter Sunday, one of the days on which parishioners are most active.
"We are an organization ... that is supported by the generosity of the faithful. When the faithful don't gather, they don't have the same opportunities to contribute," O'Connell added. "And that's going to have an effect on us, and a serious effect on us."
Parishes offer the public the opportunity to donate online.
Specific rules vary with each diocese, but Catholic leaders are generally allowing other church services, such as baptisms, funerals and weddings, to continue, with attendance limited to as few as 10 people in some parishes.
Bishops are encouraging parishes to remain open for private prayer.
Temple Shalom, in Aberdeen, doesn't expect to open its doors to the public until at least May 3.
"Our worship services on Friday night and Saturday morning are now being streamed either by Facebook Live or Zoom," said Rabbi Laurence Malinger. "I'm going to come here so there's familiarity on the screen. They'll see the sanctuary, they'll see the arch ... rather than my kitchen table."
Malinger said Temple Shalom can "ride out" the virus threat until July, when their fiscal year ends, without much of a challenge. He's more concerned now, he said, with the economic insecurity of his congregants — unlike church parishioners, members of a temple pay annual dues.
"We know come July 1, we might have to rethink how we do certain things because people might not have the ability to make payments," Malinger said.
During a Wednesday afternoon update on the prevalence of coronavirus in the state, Gov. Phil Murphy urged for 100% compliance among faith communities to cease gatherings of more than 50 people.
"Because of these actions, we know that many of our houses of worship at the same time are facing very real challenges, and we pledge to work with them to seek out creative ways to mitigate their pain and ensure their long term health," Murphy said.
During the same update, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said she hopes the state can set up some methods through which the residents of New Jersey, "the most charitable people to be found," can provide support to faith institutions.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.