Local faith leaders meet with advisory board to discuss religious institutions reopening in Mass.

BOSTON (WHDH) - The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and local faith leaders met with Gov. Charlie Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board Tuesday to discuss religious institutions reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Places of worship have not been able to hold in-person services due to Baker’s restriction of no more than 10 people allowed to gather at a time.

Last week, hundreds of religious leaders wrote a letter to Baker, urging him to classify places of worship as essential when the stay-at-home advisory ends on May 18.

“The infrastructure and services provided by faith communities and our institutions are part of the backbone of our Commonwealth,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “As we work with, place our trust in, and follow the guidance of our elected leadership, we are also telling them that faith institutions and our contributions will be essential to any successful re-opening and recovery for Massachusetts.”

On the call with the advisory board, they talked about the challenges they would face and the safety measures that would need to have in place to reopen.

“Until there is a vaccine or curative medicine, we will follow the more conservative recommendations from CDC, the Commonwealth, and the City of Boston, as well as our denominational and congregational policies,” stated Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Jamaica Plain. “Although we do not speak on behalf of all religious institutions in Massachusetts, we strongly encourage clergy to take utmost care in reopening so that we can continue to care for the people we love.”

Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, Secretary for Social Services and Healthcare of the Archdiocese of Boston, also stressed the value of full cooperation between religious communities and public officials.

“Our religious communities can sustain the essential ministries of prayer, service, and education in this complex moment of history,” he said. “We offer it as a duty we gladly fulfill and will continue to do so.”

One pastor in Worcester has been violating Baker’s order against large gatherings by holding in-person services. The city has since filed a criminal complaint against him.

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