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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Visitors must call ahead and make an appointment.
- Anyone entering must wear a face mask.
- Social distancing must be observed.
- 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.
PASTOR AND BOARD OF TRUSTEES
St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church
A message from Der Antranig:
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.
- CHURCH SERVICES AND SACRAMENTS:
- 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.
- 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.
- The sacrament of Baptism can only be performed in cases of extreme need and only in the presence of a small number of people.
- All Funerals must be private and performed in the presence of no more than 10 people.
- SOCIAL EVENTS AND PROGRAMS: All social events, fellowship hours, Elementary, Saturday and Sunday school classes remain CANCELED/POSTPONED until further notice.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
A Message from Der Hayr:
March 17, 2020
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
Der Antranig Baljian
- 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.
- 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.