Reopening Plans Announced

May 22, 2020
A message from Der Antranig:

STATEMENT ABOUT REOPENING

By now, most of you have heard the great news of Governor Baker’s Executive Order on May 18, 2020, by which places of worship will be able to open their doors to a limited amount of congregants. What you may not know is that there is a whole list of standards and suggestions of best practices that have to be met prior to reopening in order to ensure the health and safety of both those attending services and those performing them. At present we are doing our due diligence and carefully studying all of the state’s requirements for reopening the church. There are also rules in place for reopening the church office.

  1. CHURCH SERVICES: We are developing a comprehensive action plan to ensure that when the church opens, it will follow the orders put in place by the Governor. This includes a professional deep cleaning and sanitizing of the entire church before opening and continuing on a weekly basis to disinfect high traffic areas after each service; measuring and marking designated seating areas so as to comply with social distancing regulations, and determine and mark traffic patterns for entering and leaving the church.

As a preview of what to expect if you come to church physically during this phased reopening, please note the following.  Everyone must bring their own face mask and wear it while in church. Copious amounts of hand sanitizer will be available. Seating will only be allowed in designated areas and during the service, doors will be locked at a certain time after which no one will be allowed to enter the church.  Restroom usage will be limited to one person at a time.

For the time being, Holy Communion will not be distributed.

We strongly suggest that those who fall into the category of being among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 follow the state’s “Safer at Home” advisory for Phase I which states: People over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions – who are at high risk for COVID-19 – should continue to stay home except for essential errands such as going to the grocery store and to attend to healthcare needs.

Live-stream broadcasts will continue into the foreseeable future, even after reopening.

  1. CHURCH OFFICE: As part of the Phase I plan to reopen the state, Governor Baker is allowing offices to open under strict regulations that will protect both office personnel and the public. We will soon announce our reopening date. When the church office reopens, the following restrictions will be in place until Phase IV.
    1. Visitors must call ahead and make an appointment.
    2. Anyone entering must wear a face mask.
    3. Social distancing must be observed.
    4. No more than one visitor may be in the office at any one time.

We are hopeful and pray that our reopening process will go smoothly. In order for that to happen, we expect the cooperation of all our parishioners in complying with the above regulations. Out of an abundance of caution we have decided not to rush our reopening until we are sure we can do so safely. More details and updates on the progress of our reopening will be given on a weekly basis. 

We look forward to seeing you back in church once again. Until then, we pray that the Lord will keep you safe and healthy during these difficult times.

Prayerfully,

PASTOR AND BOARD OF TRUSTEES
St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church

***

April 10, 2020

A message from Der Antranig:

 

Dear Faithful.

I hope you are all well! According to the Federal Coronavirus Taskforce, the coming two weeks are going to be the worst so far in terms of numbers of new cases reported as well as deaths from the Coronavirus. Massachusetts is one of the states that has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, and according to Governor Baker, we should also be reaching our peak within the next week or so. I would also like to remind everyone that the highest concentration of the virus is here in Middlesex County. So be careful! I appeal to all of you to continue with patience to follow the national guidelines and do your part in helping to mitigate this terrible disease.

  1. CHURCH SERVICES AND SACRAMENTS: 
    1. I hope you have been enjoying ‘joining us’ for services online. We will continue to stream services this week including Friday evening Entombment, and Easter Badarak on Sunday morning. 
    2. After Easter, requiem prayers will again be offered as requested. To request Requiem Service, please call or email the church office. Those requesting Hokehankisd may view the service for their loved one via livestream on Sunday morning. Note that there is no  Hokehankisd on Easter Sunday.
    3. The sacrament of Baptism can only be performed in cases of extreme need and only in the presence of a small number of people.
    4. All Funerals must be private and performed in the presence of no more than 10 people.
  2. SOCIAL EVENTS AND PROGRAMS: All social events, fellowship hours, Elementary, Saturday and Sunday school classes remain CANCELED/POSTPONED until further notice.
  3. CHURCH OFFICE: In order to safeguard the health of our office staff, the office  is closed to the public.  You are still able to call the office  (617-924-75620 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM or send emails to request Hokehankisd or with any questions or concerns that you might have.  
  4. AID TO PARISHIONERS IN NEED: I want to remind everyone that the church stands ready to help any parishioners that are in need during this time.  We are working in conjunction with all our church and sister organizations in a united effort to help any parishioner in need.  Please contact the church office or myself if you or anyone you know is in need of food or medication or if you would like to join our team of volunteers 
  5. PASTORAL PRAYERS: Feel free to contact me at any time to request prayers or to light a candle on your behalf in church. You may make any such requests by calling the church office or by emailing me directly at Dhtony@aol.com.
  6. HEALING PRAYERS: Surpazan is compiling a list of members of our churches who are afflicted with COVID-19. The confidential list will be shared only among our Der Hayrs for the express purpose of praying for them in silent prayers during the Holy Badarak. If you know anyone who has contracted the virus and should be added to the list please email me directly.

I hope and pray that as the Armenian saying goes: “Shaduh Kenats, Kichuh Menats” meaning that most of what we are experiencing with the Pandemic in our communities has taken place and we should be patient because there is just a little bit left to endure. As Jesus promised: “…the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13.

Remain safe and healthy.

Der Antranig Baljian

***
April 4, 2020
A reminder that church doors will be closed util May 4. Though services will take place, they will be so behind closed doors. You may make your plate offering donation online by clicking here.
If you would like a prayer/candle request, please email DHtony@aol.com.
Please tune in to Palm Sunday, Holy Week services, and Easter services live on our facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/soorpstepanos.
***
March 27
A Message from Der Hayr:
Dear Faithful Parishioners,
I know this is a stressful time for all of us. I pray that you are all safe and healthy, and please know that I am constantly praying for all of you and our entire parish.
This coming Sunday, March 29, we will again be live streaming our Morning Services and my sermon. Because of the new restrictions on gatherings, the church will not be open to anyone who is not actually participating in the service. I know that many of you desire to come and say a prayer and light a candle in church. This is a natural instinct based on our centuries-old spiritual traditions and the belief that prayer always triumphs over evil.
I hope that you not give up that sacred belief and tradition of prayer and lighting a candle, but please, please do so at home and know that your prayer counts just as much in God’s eyes. To Him it doesn’t really matter if your prayer comes from your church or your home, just as long as it comes from your heart.
In conjunction with instructions issued by the Prelacy and if nothing else changes, the plan right now is to live stream Holy Badarak on Palm Sunday; but as it stands now, with no more than a total of ten participants altogether.
I have been reaching out to the elderly to offer any help we might be able to provide, such as delivering groceries or medicines or other necessities. So far people have been okay, but if you would like to be included in the list of those who have already volunteered to help our seniors if needed, please let me know by email at Dhtony@aol.com. By the same token, if you know any of our senior citizens needing help, again please email me. I would also pray that some of you reach out on your own to those in our parish whom you know and who may be at greater risk.
The Church office remains closed to the public. Your calls however will be answered during regular work hours.
Lastly, His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan, our Prelate, has arranged for our Parish Priests to give a brief reflection every day at Noon. Each day will feature one of our clergy speaking to you from the heart in both Armenian and English with a message of hope and courage. The reflections will be posted to Facebook and Instagram, sent out by email and be available on the Prelacy’s website www.armenianprelacy.org.
As I said, I am constantly praying for your well-being. If you need extra prayer, or wish me to light a candle for you in church, please reach out to me by email.
God Bless you all!
Der Antranig
***
March 21
A Message from Der Hayr:
Dear faithful,
We thank you for being so patient in these times. Please know we are thinking about you, your families, and are praying for everyone’s well being.
We are making modifications in tomorrow’s church hours. Morning service will begin at 10:15am and live streamed on our Facebook page.
We understand the need to pray and understand the strong desire to light a candle, but strongly urge our parishioners, out of the abundance of caution, to pray from home. Please send any candle lighting or prayer requests to dhtony@aol.com and we will be sure to grant those requests.
We will continue to share updates as they arise. Please know the church is continuing to fulfill its mission of prayer and worship in these trying times.
Prayerfully,
Der Antranig

****

March 20
A Message from Der Hayr:
Dear faithful,
In accordance with His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, the guidance of His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy and in accordance with the Emergency Action Alert ordered by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, we would like to remind you all of the following:
Badarak will be performed behind closed doors on
Sunday, March 22, March 29, and April 5.
Those who wish to enter to church to light a candle will be able to so do from 10:00am-12:00pm but will not be able to access the pews for seating. A Board of Trustee member will be on hand to regulate this mandate.
We encourage everyone to remain safe and secure at home knowing that the church is continuing to fulfill its mission of prayer and worship on behalf of all of us.
Be sure to check our social media channels (Facebook and Instagram), website, and email blasts for as new information develops.
Prayerfully,
Der Antranig
***

 

A Message from Der Hayr:

March 17, 2020

Dear Parishioners,

It was just a few days ago that I wrote to all of you informing you of some precautions we are taking as a parish to ensure all of our parishioners are safe. With ongoing developments, keeping in line with state mandates, and after consultation with Anoushavan Surpazan and the message of His Holiness Aram I, the following will be immediately implemented:

  1. CHURCH SERVICES: Due to the Governor’s updated Emergency Action Order of March 13, 2020, prohibiting public gatherings of more than 25 people, including “faith-based activities” and after confirming with the Governor’s office, the following steps will be taken:
    • Sunday Services for March 22 and 29 have been cancelled, but church will be open for those who wish to come individually and light candles or say prayers.
    • We will postpone the visit of Anoushavan Surpazan and cancel public Badarak for Palm Sunday since it falls within the period of the ban.
    • A decision about Holy Week and Easter will be forthcoming after consultations with Surpazan and the Religious Council and depending on the standing of the State of Emergency in Massachusetts at that time.
    • Wednesday Lenten Services be canceled for the public.
  2. CHURCH OFFICE: Because there will be no Requiems performed during the ban and no programs to publish, and due to the critical nature of social distancing, the following procedures will be in effect:
    • The Church office remains closed to visitors during the weeks in question, however, if you have any questions or concerns please call the office and your call will be answered.
  3. SACRAMENTS & FUNERALS
    • Funerals will be performed normally, provided there are less than 25 people in attendance.
    • There are no Weddings or Christenings scheduled for this period.
  4. PARISH OUTREACH/CONTACT AND COMMUNICATION: In this extremely difficult time, it is important we try to help others, especially the elderly and those facing hardships, even if it’s a simple a phone call checking in on them.
    • Please check on church friends and neighbors
    • Call the church to request assistance if you are elderly or in need of nonmedical emergency assistance.
    • Find some volunteers to help reach out if anyone does require aid.
  5. HOSPITAL AND HOME VISITATION PROTOCOLS: Being in a group that is most vulnerable for coronavirus infection, the visitation protocol will be as follows:
    • I will visit the hospital anytime someone calls and needs me to pray over a family member, using all the precautions provided by the hospital setting.
    • I will visit anyone in critical condition at home to administer the Sacrament of the Sick.
    • General visits to parish members will be limited to telephone conversations unless there is a clear and present need to meet personally.
    • Visits to the nursing home may be affected in light of Governor Baker’s latest Emergency Action orders, which totally prohibits outside visitors.

I pray for the health and well-being of each of you during this very frightening time. Use common sense and keep strong in your faith,

Prayerfully,
Der Antranig Baljian
Pastor

 

***

A Message from Der Hayr:
March 12, 2020
Dear Parishioners,
In light of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic and the declared state of emergency in Massachusetts, I am writing to reassure you that the health and well-being of our church community is our highest priority. For this reason I, along with the Board of Trustees wish you to know the following:
  1. Being the Lenten Season, the parts of the Divine Liturgy which would normally entail direct contact (i.e. Holy Communion; Kiss of Peace and kissing of the Bible) are not performed for the duration of Lent. Further information about the post Lenten period will be forthcoming.
  2. We urge you to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control:
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people at higher risk of getting very sick such as the elderly and those who have an underlying medical condition.
  • Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash and Immediately wash your hands. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
In addition to the above, His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan, our Prelate is working with both the Religious and Lay members of the Executive Council of the Prelacy and in consultation with the pastors of our various parishes, to formulate an action plan in our churches for after the Lenten season is finished.
In the meantime, the Board of Trustees will make sure the sanctuary is clean and disinfected every week and that hand sanitizer is available during services. Sunday morning Badarak and Wednesday evening Lenten services will continue through the end of Lent. At this time, St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary continues to operate. Saturday and Sunday Schools are closed this weekend. If there are any changes, we will advise our parents.
The Board of Trustees has also decided that all after-church fellowship/coffee hours and bake sales are suspended until further notice. This Friday’s couple’s event, Sunday School Bible Foods Coffee Hour, and Sunday’s Salt and Light kick-off event have been cancelled. The Evening of Fellowship with the Prelate scheduled for April 4 is postponed.
It is our goal that all of our faithful parishioners who attend services and worship in our church will feel comfortable and not fearful or uneasy. If you feel uncomfortable coming to church, please rest assured that we totally understand if you decide to stay home.
Also, if you have recently traveled to high risk countries (namely China, Iran, Italy and South Korea) or have come into contact with someone who may be infected with COVID-19, you should stay home for at least two weeks to ensure that you have not been infected.
Please know that we all need to weather this crisis together as a community of faith, without fear or anxiety, trusting in Almighty God to protect us from all mishap.
As we often pray:
“Guardian and hope of the faithful, Christ our God, preserve, protect and bless all your faithful people under the shadow of your holy and glorious Cross in peace. Save us from visible and invisible enemies and make us worthy to glorify you with thanksgiving, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen”
Prayerfully,
Fr. Antranig Baljian
Pastor

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