On May 17 Governor Baker relaxed the shut-down order for specific businesses and gatherings in Massachusetts. Included among the entities that were granted permission for reopening (with certain restrictions) were houses of worship. Governors have the unenviable task of determining the right balance between public safety and economic sustainability. Churches, on the other hand, are guided by only one principle—the spiritual and physical wellbeing of the community. Just because we are permitted to re-open for in-person worship (with social distancing restrictions) does not mean that we should open.
The Safe Church Team, Moderator, Staff, and representatives of the Diaconate and Trustees have been meeting weekly by telephone or zoom to discern together, with the best information at our disposal, how to navigate this pandemic in a way that presents a minimal threat to worshippers and the community, especially those who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
In our prayerful discernment process we have looked for guidance and wisdom from the Southern New England Conference of the UCC, the Massachusetts Council of Churches (See the complete statements of both the SNEUCC and MCC in this edition of the Epistle) and the teaching of Jesus, who gave priority to the most vulnerable people in society. We will also be inviting input from church members to help us gauge the congregation’s readiness to begin phasing towards gathering in-person.
At this time, FCCW will delay moving towards in-person worship until at least the beginning of August. This date may be extended if warranted by the circumstances of the pandemic.
To quote the SNEUCC statement, “We entered it (pandemic) in chaos, we plan to move through it with intention. We’re not reopening. Because we never closed. We have engaged in ministry in new ways. We will move forward in new ways.”