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As states reopen, some churches are in no rush to resume in-person worship

As states reopen, some churches are in no rush to resume in-person worship

As Governor Baker offered guidelines for churches and places of worship to reopen in Massachusetts yesterday, the Reverend Tim Schenck said in an interview with MassLive that he is not willing to let his congregants serve as the “proverbial canaries in the coal mine”.

New guidelines for places of worship in Massachusetts have been released but some religious leaders are erring on the side of caution until the pandemic is better controlled.

The Rev. Tim Schenck at the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham told MassLive that regardless of the state’s advisory, his church will continue to conduct services online.

“I’m not going to turn my parishioners into, you know, proverbial canaries in the coal mine. It’s just not worth it,” said Schenck. “We have a group that’s monitoring all of this. We’re looking at state guidelines were looking at diocesan guidelines and we’re looking at what’s best.”

Schenck has been proactive in setting up a task force to discuss what a reopening will be like not only for his church but the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Schenck told MassLive that Bishop Alan M. Gates of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts said that there will be no in-person worship for their congregations before July 1.

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As churches across the country consider whose timelines to follow when it comes to opening back up, many Episcopal dioceses are practicing caution even where state authorities offer permission to gather. And even when they do come back, these canaries may not be singing for a while yet.

Featured image: Canary – Project Gutenberg eBook 11921


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Helen Kromm

I’ve come to believe that all of these discussions about re-openings are a moot point. Absent from all of these discussions are the intentions of individual parishioners. Bishops and clergy seem to view this as a top down proposition, and to me, and from what I can see, that’s exactly backwards.

The reality of the situation is this. You can open the churches, but if no one shows up then the re-opening is pointless. The church that I attend (like many of our churches) is populated by predominately older Americans. Most of them have concluded that they aren’t returning to the pews until an effective vaccine is created and distributed.

That’s an attitude that goes beyond church attendance. Many Americans have concluded that they aren’t going to attend any group events, dine in any restaurants, or fly until a vaccine is available. A recent survey indicates that fully seventy-three percent of all Americans feel it’s unsafe to attend a sit down restaurant now regardless of any precautions that are taken.

It doesn’t matter what is declared to be re-opened, and that includes our places of worship. Many people- perhaps a majority, have decided that they aren’t attending under any circumstances for the foreseeable future. 

B. D. Howes

I respect Tim’s great sense of humor but not so much his public health expertise.

Helen Kromm

Seriously? You came to these boards espousing the medical advice of Drew Pinsky, and now you come here today to criticize Father Tim?

Even Pinsky had to step up and apologize for his outrageous and wholly flawed statements.

James Pratt

Neither I nor my wardens are public health experts, nor do we claim to be. What we do know is that (1) a majority of our regular attendees are elderly and therefore part of the high risk population (2) keeping everyone (except members of the same household) at least 6 feet from one another will reduce the capacity of our church substantially below the average attendance at our principal service (3) it will be difficult to prevent people from shaking hands, hugging and getting close to one another and (4) our music is a big draw, and members are not going to like services without singing. Therefore, regardless of when our province and our bishop tell us we can open, we are not going rushing back into the building. At most, we may resume the 8:00 mass, which would require minimal modifications, while continuing online at 10:00.

Eric Bonetti

Very glad that your parish is taking a sensible approach to COVID-19. I also note that Christ Church Georgetown took multiple steps to ensure safety, and yet wound up with the entire parish in lockdown. This sort of situation, with the potential to disrupt hundreds, if not thousands, is not in any way helpful to the church.

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