Area religious communities are welcoming Gov. Charlie Baker’s phased reopening plan, which allows them to hold services inside their houses of worship immediately.
However, not all are rushing to welcome their congregations to come right away.
Houses of worship were closed two months ago due to gathering restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Under Baker’s four-phase reopening plan, churches, mosques and synagogues have to limit the number of people to 40 percent of their capacity, masks need to be worn by anyone over the age of 5 unless there’s a medical issue, and everyone who doesn’t live in the same home has to be seated at least 6 feet apart.
Plainville Baptist Church, which early in the lockdown embraced virtual, on-line services and later drive-in worship, welcomed Baker’s move.
In an email, Pastor David Meunier said Monday that “it is good to hear that the governor placed churches into the first phase of reopening.”
Meunier said the church leadership will be discussing plans for reopening in the coming days, but added, “I believe we are set right now on continuing to meet outdoors while the reopening phases are in effect to minimize exposure risk and lessen workload on volunteers for in-door meetings.”
Meunier said a May 10 drive-in service in the church parking lot drew some 80 to 100 worshipers, along with the the church’s livestream service. This past Sunday night, there was an evening service outdoors.
Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha of the Roman Catholic Fall River Diocese, which covers Catholic parishes in Bristol County, including Attleboro and North Attleboro, also sounded a note of caution.
After consulting with priests in the diocese, da Cunha said churches will open for Masses for the Feast of Pentecost, May 30 and 31.
Diocesan guidelines to assist in the planning for the resumption of public Masses will be provided to all parishes.
“The reopening for our parishes for public Masses is complex and requires careful planning and implementation,” said da Cunha. “What must be of paramount concern throughout this process of resuming public worship is the safety of our people, our priests, deacons and lay ministers.”
The bishop has reminded pastors that churches should be open for those who wish to visit for personal prayer and adoration. It is also permissible for priests to hear individual confessions of those who seek to receive the sacrament, observing the necessary safety measures.
The Archdiocese of Boston, which includes parishes in Norfolk County, said in a statement Monday that churches can resume celebrating Mass this Saturday, following the state’s guidelines.
However, the statement added, “Many, or even most, parishes may well need more time to prepare, and may choose Sunday, May 31...as the date for their reopening. Parishes should not resume Masses before they are ready, and the decision to delay the resumption of Masses until May 31 may very well be the best decision for a parish. No matter what the start date, no parish should have Mass unless they can do it safely, and in compliance with the guidelines.”
The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts had posted a statement last week that restrictions on in-person worship services — and which encouraged online services — would remain in place until July 1. As of Monday evening, that information on the church’s website had not been changed.