The re-opening of our Cathedral: COVID-19 Period Church Attendance Guidelines

Dear Faithful,

We are pleased to announce that on Sunday, June 28, we reopened the doors of our Church to public services beginning with Soorp Badarak.

Auspicious as this news is for all of us, it is not unconditionally so. While we fervently wish it were possible to return truly and completely to normal, that day is not upon us yet. Until it is, we will have to live with the limitations imposed by our public health authorities and prudence.

Accordingly, we are publishing the following guidelines that will govern our religious and social life at St. Illuminator’s until further notice. The guidelines incorporate the guidance we have received from the Prelacy and from our State and City governments and reflect sensible precautions in a time of continuing concern.

If you wish to rejoin us in Church in person, please read and be prepared to abide by these guidelines. As we prepare to welcome you, we ask and are deeply grateful for your understanding and cooperation.

Generally and Before You Come to Church

  • Capacity.  Under current State and City government regulations we are limited to 25% of our usual capacity. This means we can accommodate only about 50 persons in the Sanctuary including altar servers, choir, organist and staff.
  • R.S.V.P.  We ask that you please let us know in advance if you intend to come to Church by calling or e-mailing the Church office by Noon the Saturday before you plan to attend (212-689-5880 or We will also need you to provide the names and telephone numbers of all who will attend. This is a Prelacy requirement. Reservations will be on a first come first served basis with preference given to families with Hokehankist requests. If we reach
    capacity in the Sanctuary we will accommodate congregants in our overflow space in Pashalian Hall where a live stream of Soop Badarak may be viewed.
  • Requiem, Prayer and Service Requests.  We ask that you please let us know about any Hokehankist or other special requests, including if you would like Der Hayr to remember any person is his prayers during Soorp Badarak, by calling or e-mailing the Church office by Noon the Saturday before.
  • Abstain from Coming If.  We ask that you please abstain from coming to Church and remain home if you are not feeling well and certainly if you are exhibiting the symptoms that are associated with COVID-19, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or a new loss of taste or smell, or if you have reason to believe that you have been exposed to the virus.
  • Take Your Condition into Consideration.  We ask that in all events you take your age, general health and any underlying medical conditions or other risk factors into consideration when deciding whether or not to come to Church.
  • While it pains us to have to do so, for now, we must implore our parishioners who are senior citizens or at high risk to remain at home and not subject themselves to the risks of exposure on public transportation to and from Church.
  • Remote Participation.  For those unable to attend Church in person we will live-stream the Sunday Divine Liturgy every week over our social media channels. We are happy to make special arrangements upon request to ensure our elderly or technologically limited parishioners are able to partake in services at a distance.
  • Other Sacraments.  Baptisms, weddings and funerals may be arranged by contacting Der Hayr who will work with families to determine when and how these sacraments will be administered.

All Public Spaces

  • Greeting. You will be greeted at the door by a Trustee or Church staff member who will direct you as appropriate. On days when demand for attendance is great, your name will be checked against the R.S.V.P. list. In any case we will ask all attendees to sign in with their name and telephone number.
  • Masks or Face Coverings.  We will insist that all persons wear a mask or face covering at all times while in the Church building, including during services. We will make exceptions for persons who for medical reasons are unable to wear a mask or to wear one continuously for long and for young children (0-2 no mask; 3-5 at parents’ discretion). As an added precaution we strongly encourage that you wear a mask during your commute to and from Church and in any case bring your own mask or face covering with you. We will have a reserve supply of disposable face masks on hand if needed.
  • Social Distancing.  We will require all persons to practice appropriate social distancing at all times while in the Church building. We also ask that you avoid congregating, generally.
  • Hand Sanitization.  We will require all person to sanitize their hands upon entering the Church building and encourage all to do so often at other times while present in Church. Hand sanitizing dispensers will be available at convenient locations in all public spaces including the Sanctuary.

Upon Entering

  • Weekly Bulletins.  Weekly bulletins will be available on the Trustee table when entering the Church.
  • Requiem Service Cards.  While we strongly encourage you to please let us know about any Hokenahkist or other special requests in advance, we will not decline requiem requests for anyone who was unable to call or e-mail the Church in advance and who requests that a name be added.
  • Donations.  Donations to the Church whether general or for stewardship, candles or requiems may be placed in the donation plate on the Trustees’ table in the lobby. In addition, the Trustees will walk collection plates around during Soorp Badarak as explained below. All donations other than general ones or those for candles should be placed in an envelope and clearly marked with the donor’s name and phone number and the purpose of the donation.

In the Sanctuary

  • Candles.  All congregants will be welcome to light candles in the usual manner, but we ask all persons to maintain appropriate social distance while doing so and not to congregate near the altars.
  • Seating.  Seating will be permitted only in every other pew and in each pew only at spots designated. Families or persons who reside together will be permitted to sit together in a pew. All others must sit alone at a designated spot.
  • Pew Books.  Pew books will be available to be used as always, but a pew book lifted from the holder should not be returned to the holder but instead left on the pew to indicate that it has been used.

During Soorp Badarak

  • Voghchooyn.  The Voghchooyn will be delivered from the altar with those in attendance responding in unison from their places.
  • Singing. We ask that congregants who wish to sing during Soorp Badarak do so only by mouthing the words or in a whisper.
  • Collection Plates.  Collection plates will be circulated during Soorp Badarak as usual, but rather than being passed from congregant to congregant, the plates will be walked around by the Trustees, who will of course be wearing masks or face coverings.
  • Holy Communion.  Communion will be offered to all congregants who wish to receive the sacrament. However, sensible precautions will be observed. Only Der Hayr will handle the Gifts (the bread and wine) and the Chalice during Soorp Badarak and will have thoroughly sanitized his hands before preparing the Gifts.
  • At this time, we strongly encourage our faithful to receive Communion in the palm of their hand rather than in the traditional manner, as follows:
    – When approaching the Altar, congregants will keep their masks or face coverings in place and maintain proper social distance.
    – Congregants will sanitize their hands as they cross into the Chancel and
    otherwise keep their face coverings on.
    – When a congregant’s turn comes up, Der Hayr will place the Communion on the palm of the congregant’s right hand.
    – After receiving Communion, congregants will move away from the Altar towards the Baptismal Font, undo their face coverings long enough to consume the sacrament and then re-cover their faces.
    – Congregants will sanitize their hands once more as they depart from the Chancel and return to their seats.
    – Der Hayr will sanitize his hands after administering the sacrament to each congregant.
  • We will of course respect and honor the wishes of all congregants with respect to how they choose to receive Communion. Congregants who have their hearts set on receiving Communion in the traditional manner will do so by adhering to the same procedure above except that when their turn comes up they will undo their face coverings long enough to receive the sacrament and then re-cover their faces immediately and sanitize their hands on their way out of the Chancel.              
  • Head Coverings for Women.  We strongly encourage women to bring their own head covering for receiving Holy Communion, as we will not be offering head coverings until further notice.

After Soorp Badarak

  • Kissing of the Gospel.  The Gospel will not be presented for the faithful to kiss at the conclusion of Soorp Badarak.
  • Mas.  Mas will be available in pre-packaged form, as usual.
  • Fellowship.  Regrettably, there will be no fellowship hour until further notice. Rather, all congregants will be encouraged to take their leave of the Church building immediately after the conclusion of Soorp Badarak, maintaining appropriate social distance while doing so and without congregating in the lobby or by the door.
  • Parking Validations. A Trustee or Church staff member will be available to stamp parking validations.

We look forward to welcoming you back to St. Illuminator’s in person, as you feel comfortable in rejoining us that way, even if for now we will be smiling and greeting one another from behind stylish but sensible face coverings. 

Prayerfully and Sincerely,                                                                                                                        

Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian and the Board of Trustees