By Madhava Smullen

After months under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some ISKCON temples around the world are gradually starting to reopen in phases, with safety restrictions in place according to their local government recommendations. 

ISKCON of Philadelphia, USA:

After being closed to the public since March 22nd, the ISKCON temple in Mount Airy, Philadelphia reopened on June 6th for Darshan only during limited hours. The move took place several days after the Governor of Pennsylvania declared that Philadelphia had entered into the “Yellow” phase.

Guests can attend the temple for Darshan from 6:30 to 8:00pm Monday to Saturday, and from 11:30am to 12:30pm and 5:45 to 7:15pm on Sunday. Everyone must have their temperature taken using a no-touch thermometer, and must bring and wear their own masks, use hand sanitizer, and sign in before entering. To ensure that social distancing is practiced, only four people at a time, or one whole family, are allowed into the temple room. As recommended by several devotee doctors, obeisances must be offered in a standing position.

Caranamrita is served in disposable cups, and boxed maha sweets are available for guests. Sunday Feast prasadam is also distributed, take-out style, every Sunday evening via curbside pickups.  

Meanwhile other activities continue online, including a daily morning Bhagavatam class and some evening classes over Zoom, daily Deity Darshan on social media, and over-the-phone book distribution. 

“Many in the community were patiently and eagerly awaiting the chance to see the Lord’s Deity form, and during opening weekend we had a good turnout,” says vice president Dronacharya Das. “At the same time, there are some devotees and guests that choose not to come out, and are waiting until they feel the situation is safer for them.”

As far as the future is concerned, he says, “If all goes well, the green phase will likely come within a month of the yellow phase. At that time, we will evaluate opening up the temple for morning and evening programs at a limited capacity, based on government guidelines. In order to manage the number of people attending temple programs, we will likely adopt an RSVP system.”

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