Houses of worship take different paths toward reopening – Wicked Local Canton

Posted By on July 31, 2020

Houses of worship are continuing to evolve in their offerings for worship services and programming since Phase 2 of Gov. Charlie Bakers reopening plan that allows them to open their doors.

State guidelines for in-person gatherings as well as congregants preferring to stick with online services have created a challenge and a balancing act for houses of worship trying to meet the needs of all their members.

Prior to reopening, only worship leaders and the technical crew were allowed inside the Faith Baptist Church of Stoughton, according to church clerk Elaine Weischedel. Now, with pews roped and taped off to meet social distance guidelines and attendees required to wear masks, congregants enter through one door and are shown to their seat for the worship service time.

We have not had to use a registration process yet, Weischedel stated. Our congregation is relatively small. Since we are not able to offer nursery care or junior church, families with young children are not coming to the building. Many of our older folk are staying home as well and watching the live-stream service.

The church youth group meets via Zoom, and the weekly prayer meeting is held on Zoom as well as a telephone conference call. Recently, families also were able to participate in a virtual Vacation Bible School program.

Supplies were delivered to the families involved (craft materials, Bible lesson papers, etc.) and there (was) a live-stream skit and Bible story each night, Weischedel said. Only the presenters (were) in the building for that.

Brookville Church in Holbrook now offers both in-person programming and online services, according to Rev. Shawn Keener.

A weekly Thursday night hour-long in-person program began again July 9, following all CDC guidelines - including 6-foot distancing, masks and sanitizer. Electrostatic fogging occurs between events for cleaning.

We only set up chairs for 55 people, and we have lanes of travel marked, Keener stated. We had 17 people; pre-covid it was about 100.

Keener said there currently are no childrens programs. Beginning in August or September, he hopes to open Sunday morning in-person services as well, depending on what Baker does.

Shaloh House Chabad in Stoughton started offering in-person, outdoor services about six weeks ago on Saturday mornings from 10:30-11:45 a.m. Masks, distance guidelines and limits on the number of attendees were implemented, with about 10-12 people. For the synagogue, the only option for a Sabbath service would be in-person as Jewish law does not allow for electricity to be used on Friday night or Saturday, so a Zoom service would not be allowed.

(July 18) we moved indoors with the same restrictions, Rabbi Mendel Gurkow stated. We also have a service on Zoom on Sunday mornings."

After the pandemic began, Shaloh House switched its weekly Thursday evening adult class from in-person to online.

It also started another daily program for both inspiration and to to keep the community intact.

For the purpose of keeping the community together (from) the very start, we started a daily `Huddle' online, a 15 minute meeting with words of inspiration, prayer and blessing for those sick, Gurkow said. And that is still ongoing on a daily basis.

The Shaloh House pre-school reopened on June 29 with limited hours, staff and an enrollment of 15 rather than the typical 40. Gurkow said things are working well after adjusting to the restrictions, and he expects the number of students returning to increase in September.

He said the Chabad also mobilized a food distribution system for members and, before Jewish holidays, distributes hundreds of holiday packets to share the holiday spirit as people stayed at home.

For us, after excluding all those who are older, vulnerable or choose not to come, we are left with 10-12 who (do) come, Gurkow said. Even after we moved indoors we had the same number and that works well; the larger the crowd, the harder it is to have control.

At the Tabernacle of Praise in Randolph, Pastor Stella Bynoe said the group has decided not to reopen yet and is still uploading services to YouTube.

Were only doing the worship team and pastor in the building to do the recording, Bynoe said. We havent set a date to reopen.

While it could accommodate people with the social distancing protocols set by the state, Bynoe said it wanted to be able to include more people when it opens, so it continues to work on its space arrangements to make sure they can do that.

In the meantime, a worship video is aired on Sundays at 10 a.m. when members are invited to watch the service together.

We chat with each other during the airing, Bynoe said. After that we do a connection call where all members can get in and update us on whats going on and we can update them. We usually have about 50 people on that call (but) it varies.

The congregation was preparing for a recent second outdoor service in the church parking lot, with chairs and cars spread out to maintain social distance guidelines. The first one seemed to work out.

We had about 120 people (on July 5), Bynoe said. We had speakers so it was loud enough for everyone to hear. Were not doing it every Sunday.

Rabbi Leonard Gordon said Bnai Tikvah in Canton has been doing almost all programming on Zoom.

Nightly services, one or two services for Sabbaths and holidays, classes on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday as well as a spotlight on the congregation to share talents and interests with each other on Thursday night has kept the group connected and busy.

On Sunday we have a special program for young families (where) I do some story readings, Gordon said. Were beginning to look for opportunities for people to see each other in person.

He said one of the biggest challenges is supporting young families.

Families are so stressed, Gordon said. We are thinking of starting, in September perhaps, some short programs after 8 p.m. so one of the two parents can join us. Its really hard to find that magic hour.

Gordon said there is no target date to reopen the building, partly because many in the congregation are over 65 and also because of renovations he said need to take place.

We have very detailed plans to clean the building thoroughly before we reopen and we are putting in a new ventilation system, Gordon said. We discovered a lot of our rooms including the sanctuary are poorly ventilated and we werent getting fresh air.

Gordon wonders what the new normal will look like and if synagogues like his will continue to offer online options. Pre-COVID, he said about 12 people would come to the synagogue, but now 35-45 are tuning in online.

It clearly makes it easier for a lot of people, Gordon said. The only thing we dont want is to reduce the number of people that come to the synagogue.

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Houses of worship take different paths toward reopening - Wicked Local Canton

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