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Orthodox Church joins ban on large gatherings


The call and response of the hymns reverberated throughout the church on Wednesday evening, icons gently peering down from the walls on the priest in his shining brocade robes of purple and gold, just as it has for more than a thousand years. The only difference this day was that the church in East Meadow was empty, and the priest, V. Rev. Martin Kraus, was joined only by his wife, Matushka Dennise Kraus, who took the part of the choir in the service.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, which serves all of southeast Nassau County, including Seaford and Wantagh, fell silent as a community after its last public liturgy on Sunday, as New York’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 was extended to religious organizations. The Orthodox Church was the last major denomination to cease holding public services.

“I’d rather die than not have Communion,” parishioner and Desert Storm veteran Scott Cackett muttered grimly as he waited in line to receive the sacrament.

The parish was directed by Archbishop Michael (Dahulich), head of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, and Metropolitan Tikhon (Mollard), archbishop of Washington, D.D. and primate of the Orthodox Church in America, to obey all civil authorities in deciding its course in the coming weeks.

“I’m grateful we’re already streaming our liturgy, that we already have all the equipment in place,” Fr. Martin said. “A lot of churches are having to learn this now, but we already have a few years’ experience.”

In the coming weeks, Kraus said he would continue the regular round of services as completely as possible. His wife will continue to fill the roll of canonarch, or master of ceremonies, and choir combined.

The choir in the Orthodox Church has a much fuller role than in most other churches, acting as a partner in the drama of the church’s liturgical celebrations.

Last week, Fr. Martin asked the church’s choir director, Dr. Nicholas Reeves, to self-isolate as a preventive measure, so that Reeves would be healthy for the demanding Holy Week rites. Now, it is uncertain how the church will celebrate Pascha, as Easter is known, which falls on April 19.