Places of worship can now gather in person after pastors sign petition threatening federal lawsuit

Churches can now gather in person after a roughly two-month stretch that stopped Easter, Passover, even weddings and funerals.

WORCESTER — Churches can now gather in person after a roughly two-month stretch that stopped Easter, Passover, even weddings and funerals.

One of the pastors leading the fight in reopening did so by intentionally breaking Gov. Charlie Baker’s previous advisory.

“I just want to give praise and glory to God for getting us through the last 60-90 days,” said Adams Square Baptist Church Pastor Kris Casey to open up his service Sunday.

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He says he’s grateful he can continue doing what he’s been doing the last few weeks without fear.

“Am I going to get arrested? I have no idea,” he told Boston 25 in an exclusive interview.

During that interview, a car drove by honking in support about every 30 seconds. Casey says that support is what helped get Gov. Baker to include churches in phase 1 of his reopening plan.

“Taking away the opportunity for people to worship together was one of the worst of all of the decisions that we had to make,” said Baker as he made the announcement.

The decision to reopen was also tough but came after a nudge from hundreds of pastors signing this petition with some threatening a federal lawsuit.

“It’s against the governor, against the mayor, against the chief of police and against the city manager saying my First and Fourteenth Amendments were violated,” said Casey.

To reopen, churches must come up with a plan on how they’ll practice social distancing, facial coverings and hygiene protocols.

Other guidelines include: a limited 40 percent occupancy, modifying how plates are passed, stopping communal gatherings and keeping child care closed while allowing food pantries to continue.

The Archdiocese of Boston released a set of guidelines Monday that parishes must follow, in addition to the state’s reopening guidelines, before they can hold in-person services.

Casey says he has spent $10,000 on professional cleaning services while already going beyond all of these guidelines.

“What he acknowledged to us without say anything is you were doing it the right way and I want people to do it like you are,” said Casey. “When I get to heaven, I’m not going to have to answer to the governor, I’m not going to have to answer to the chief of police. I’m gonna have to answer to the Lord and I made a decision after much prayer and much fasting that this was the reasonable and responsible thing for me to do as a pastor of my church. Now it may not be someone else’s thing, but this is what God wanted me to do.”

Even though some may say Casey won the fight, he knows his fight is not over. “Right now I’m still facing a $300 fine a possible $500 fine and criminal charges for having church,” said Casey.

Places of worship allowed to reopen during Phase 1, but things will look different

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