RI churches reopening this weekend, some by RSVP only

Churches in Rhode Island are adapting to strict restrictions ahead of this weekend's reopening.

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WLNE) – Churches in Rhode Island are adapting to strict restrictions ahead of this weekend’s reopening.

At Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus Church in Pawtucket, services will be much different than normal, with no choir, reduced seating, and parishioners required to RSVP online before arriving.

“Normally we try to say, all are welcome, and we try to get as many people to come in as possible. Now we have to say no, only if you’re on the list,” said Father David Thurber who has led the church for nearly seven years.

Father Thurber said they’ve sanctioned off every other pew, as the state’s restriction of 25% of building capacity means only 87 people can be allowed to worship at each mass. That’s why it’s first come, first serve through RSVPing.

He said, while it will be different, the reopening of churches shows a sign of hope.

“It’s really an isolating thing, to be cooped up in your house. You struggle with loneliness and sadness and depression, a lot of fear and anxiety, so I think this green light gives a signal that everything’s going to be okay.”

Father Thurber added that there will be no holy water at the entrance, shared books and hymnals have been removed from pews, and services have been cut down from five every weekend to three, to allow for sanitization after each mass.

St. Teresa’s has a large congregation of 2,700 families, and their weekend services see a total of around 1,300 parishioners, Father Thurber said.

The first mass is set for Saturday night, and going forward, ushers will be at the door to check off names from the RSVP list.

“They’ll also make sure that every person has a face mask, hand sanitizer, if not we’ll have hand sanitizer at the door to give them, we’ll also have masks for those who forget,” said Father Thurber.

Even with all of the precautions in place, some are choosing to stay inside. That’s why Father Thurber will continue streaming his services online.

“My husband and I, we sit at home cause we’re both senior citizens, and I’m not ready to come back yet,” said Diane Vincent, a parishioner at St. Teresa’s. “Maybe after a few more weeks, we’ll feel better coming back, interacting with all our fellow parishioners, cause I do miss them.”

Vincent, who has attended the church her whole life, said she’ll continue to worship online. She said she was surprised when Governor Gina Raimondo gave faith leaders the green light to reopen on March 30.

“I was a little surprised because I thought she would keep them closed a little bit longer.”

She said her friends at the church feel the same way. As of Thursday, St. Teresa’s had just 30 people signed up for each weekend mass.

“I miss the comradery of everyone, but right now I’m not ready yet. It’s better to be safe than sorry because we don’t know.”

For those without internet access, the secretary at St. Teresa’s has been helping them RSVP through the phone. Click here for more information on their services.

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Pawtucket, Regional News, Rhode Island