A message from Pastor Erik:
With Governor Baker allowing places of worship to open this week, I wanted to reach out to you and help you understand what that means for our congregation.
For now we will continue to operate under the directive from Bishop Fisher, NOT to have in-person worship at least through the end of June. After that date, we will be led by a thoughtful document created in consultation with highly regarded epidemiologists in the Commonwealth as a joint project by both Episcopal Diocesan offices in Massachusetts. Based in science, this path forward also uses the idea of “loving our neighbor” as it’s theological guiding principle.
While we are a Federated “Lutherpalian” congregation and our Lutheran side offers “suggestions” rather than “directives” those Lutheran suggestions from Bishop Hazelwood’s office match very closely with the Episcopal directives.
Under that directive and the reopening guide from the Episcopal Church, opening first requires that a number of public health benchmarks are first met in order to proceed. As I bring this to you on May 19th, we have not met those benchmarks in the Commonwealth as a whole or in Berkshire County. Once those benchmarks have been met which require sustained downturns in new cases, PPE supplies and significantly more available testing among others, we will potentially be given the green light in the Berkshire Deanery, to conditionally open using the Massachusetts Safety Standards for places of worship.
I do need to warn you however, that practically speaking for our particular sanctuary’s physical layout, those standards would allow us to only open three pews on each side of our sanctuary and each of those six pews could only be occupied by members of a single household to meet the physical distancing requirement.
There would continue to be no Eucharist in either kind, there would be no in person coffee hour, no sharing of the peace, and masks would need to be worn by everyone at all times.
Again, we have not yet even met the Public Health Benchmarks which might allow us to even consider that level of opening and frankly, when those Public Health Benchmarks are met, I am personally reluctant to believe, particularly without receiving the Sacrament, that the benefit of opening with that level of restrictions it will be worth the risk to you, the people I care very deeply about.
On a pastoral level, and as a priest who earned a biochemistry degree, studying the AIDS virus as it grew into a pandemic in the late 1980s, I do not see these latest Commonwealth permissions to reopen as wisdom based in science. Both my background in science and the principle of “Loving my neighbor” call me to lead our parish to err on the side of caution when it comes to reopening. I will gladly listen as you tell me down the road that “we could have opened earlier” rather than be forced to reflect at a graveside, that “we opened up too soon.” There are too many stories already from churches and pastors who are voicing that exact regret.
So for now we will continue to worship online only and I urge you, even with the easing of some restrictions to be cautious. The best practice remains for us to stay at home except when we must venture out for absolute essentials, continue practicing social distancing, wash your hands a bunch, wear a mask when you are out, tune into worship online, continue to love your neighbors by supporting our feeding ministries with our school families and seniors and continue to join me in Loving our Neighbors in this way.
Please join us for worship at 10:00 on either Facebook or YouTube (the link to YouTube is on our website).
You may download the bulletin below in order to follow along on Sunday.