HINGHAM, Mass. — For the first time in weeks, places of worship in Massachusetts will be able to hold services this weekend. They had been closed in response to the state’s stay-at-home advisory due to the coronavirus. But even though they’ve been given the all-clear, it doesn’t mean all will reopen.
Some say they don’t feel it’s safe to do so. The pews inside St. John’s Church in Hingham are empty and will remain so until at least July.
"We will not be open for the foreseeable future," said Rev. Tim Schenck.
Even though the governor allowed houses of worship to reopen their doors under Phase 1 of his reopening plan, Reverend Schenck said he's keeping his doors shut.
"Churches are the worst environments right now from all that we know from the science," he said.
Churches can reopen, but they will have a host of restrictions. They include limiting occupancy of buildings to 40%, requiring people to six feet apart if they're not in the same family, and people still have to wear masks.
"The governor recommended opening windows, our 20-foot windows don’t open very gracefully, so I’m concerned about getting everyone in that contained space right now as we still are working our way through the virus," said Rev. Dr. Catherine Cullen of First Parish Church Duxbury.
Cullen is keeping her doors closed, too. She doesn't want to separate it into those who are vulnerable, like the elderly, and those who are less vulnerable.
It's important for her to keep her church together as it has been since 1632. Cullen will continue to take the cautious approach and Zoom her services, and will welcome everyone back when she feels it's safe to do so, just like Rev. Schenck in Hingham.
"The last thing I want to do is open up right now and be doing a bunch of funerals in a couple of months. It’s just not worth it,” Rev. Schenck said.
The state suggested that communal rituals, such as taking communion or handshaking, be modified. If possible, the state also suggested that services be held outdoors.
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