Fall River Diocese says it will take the next two weeks to ready churches for parishioners
They're taking extra time despite Governor Baker announcing houses of worship could reopen this week.
FALL RIVER, Mass. (WLNE) – With houses of worship open for business in Massachusetts as of this week, Reverend Thomas Washburn of Fall River says he was surprised they were even included in phase one of reopening, since phase one minimizes face to face interaction.
“It’s sort of the bread and butter of what we do,” said Washburn.
The news surprised Bishop da Cunha as well. He announced Monday the Fall River Diocese would be taking another two weeks to re-open. They will start services on May 30.
“I think we’d really be in a hurried state if we’re shooting for this weekend or sooner, so I’m grateful for the time,” said Washburn.
Washburn, who oversees three churches in Fall River, tells ABC 6 they simply need more time to work out the logistics of gathering to pray safely during a pandemic.
According to Father Tom, in accordance with state guidelines they plan to have hand sanitizer stations and cleanings between masses, but he says supplies have been hard to come by.
“For more than a month now, I have not been able to purchase disinfectant wipes,” said Washburn.
He says they’re also working out how to follow the 40 percent occupancy guideline.
“Who gets to come in for example? Is it just first come first serve? Will we do an online sign up so that we know how many people will be coming in?”
Another thing they’ll need – volunteers to keep count of people and disinfect between services. They’ll also have to change the way they handle the collection and how people receive communion.
“There’s a lot of physicality involved in being a community at prayer. And so it kind of feels awkward to us to have to limit that and change that,” said Washburn. “Overwhelmingly we just want to make sure that everyone is safe.”
Father Tom said he’s been in contact with parishioners via email to keep them updated throughout all of this.
One thing he keeps trying to reiterate is that even when they go back to worship, they will not be back to normal, and they’re working hard to make sure everyone can be as comfortable and safe as possible.