People allowed to worship in person, with some adjustments under governor’s new plan

BOSTON (WHDH) - Churches and synagogues have been given the green light to resume services with strong restrictions under Phase 1 of Massachusetts’ four-phased plan to a “New Normal,” Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday.

Places of worship can begin to reopen May 18 and must comply with mandatory safety standards and recommended best practices in social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting, Baker explained.

“The guidance developed on this was very particular and very clear,” Baker said.

Every faith leader who spoke with 7NEWS said that while they are encouraged by the news, they have no plans in place to reopen any time soon for the safety of their congregations.

“We know that there are amazing scientists working on it. There are amazing companies and groups and international cooperation and I think that is extreme holy work,” Rabbi Elaine Zecher said. “But I also what us to be aware, there is no vaccine. So, just because we gather people it doesn’t mean that people are necessarily safe.”

The Archdiocese of Boston released additional guidance to their parishes telling them they can open as early at May 23 but encouraged them to hold off until the Feast of the Pentecost on May 31.

Parishes can only open if they are given express permission.

“Many, or even most, parishes may well need more time to prepare, and may choose Sunday, May 31 (the Feast of Pentecost), as the date for their reopening. Parishes should not resume Masses before they are ready, and the decision to delay the resumption of Masses until May 31 may very well be the best decision for a parish. No matter what the start date, no parish should have Mass unless they can do it safely, and in compliance with the guidelines,” the letter read.

Worcester Imam Asif Hirani said he is feeling the same way. Even as his faithful prepare to celebrate the end of Ramadan this week.

“We have to be extremely cautious, not only for ourselves. We are not selfish, we are concerned about our neighbors, we are concerned about our fellow Americans,” Hirani said.

Faith leaders say they will continue to offer remote services as they plan how and when they will open their doors.

Click here for more coronavirus coverage

(Copyright (c) 2020 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)