June 8, 2020
A message from Der Antranig (Click here to read the statement below in Armenian):
STATEMENT ON REOPENING THE CHURCH
Dear and Beloved Faithful Parishioners:
By now you have heard that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has allowed churches in the Commonwealth to reopen their doors to the faithful. The church Board of Trustees has appointed a task force which has been working for the past weeks to have everything in place for safe and meaningful return to church. I must warn you that many restrictions have been placed upon us by the government as well as by the Church; so that when and if you decide to attend services, you will notice many visible differences in the way the church will operate. I wish to enumerate these.
HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS
The Governor is allowing churches to open at 40% of their official capacity. It is required that congregants who do not live in the same household be distanced from each other by at least six feet. Members of the same immediate household are permitted to sit together and less than six feet apart. Sitting areas for individuals and families will be designated and clearly marked. The number of attendees must be closely monitored by the Trustees to insure compliance. Board members will escort each individual or family to their seat. They will direct the movements of people entering and leaving church and during the offering of Holy Communion.
It is required that all attendees (over five years of age) and staff must wear face coverings at all times while they are in the church, and entry may be refused to those who refuse to wear a face covering. It is requested that each person bring a face covering from home.
In order to ensure that the above rules will be adhered to, the Commonwealth has issued a strong advisory to have those who wish to attend sign up beforehand either online or by telephone in order to monitor the number of people in church so as not to exceed the maximum. Registration must be completed by Friday before 3:00 PM.
Health and Hygiene Protocols
Everyone entering into church will have their temperature scanned. It is strongly recommended that if you do not feel well or have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for the virus or are over age 65 and/or have underlying health problems, you should stay home.
The guidelines provided by the state suggest that windows and doors should be opened, weather permitting, to allow for ventilation and airflow. If it is a chilly day, you may wish to bring a sweater or light jacket. If it is a hot day, the air conditioning will be on.
All parishioners will have access to handwashing facilities as well as copious amounts of alcohol based hand sanitizer available in different locations throughout the church.
The church has undergone a complete, professional, deep cleaning and disinfection and will be cleaned and sanitized between every service as per the Governor’s orders.
Social Gatherings and Contact Limitations
At this time all forms of communal gatherings outside of worship services such as coffee hours and other dinners or social are strictly prohibited.
In order to limit exposure, there will be no plate collection. A collection box will be placed in the Pangal in the front of the church where you may place your plate donations. You are also encouraged to donate online or send a check. Dry Maas pre-packaged under sanitized conditions will be available for those who wish to take it home to a loved one. Communion will be given as described below.
LITURGY AND WORSHIP
At this time, I would like to explain some of the temporary adjustments to our traditional Badarak which have been implemented and continue to be followed to afford all of us better and healthier participation by conforming to current healthcare guidelines. These measures are being implemented for the health and safety of the clergy, choir and deacons as well as the laity, and as circumstances change will be adjusted accordingly.
The Badarak will commence with the “Hayr mer” “Our Father,” followed by the opening of the curtain and the proclamation: “Orhnyal Takavorootyoonun Hor yev Vortvoh yev Hokvoon Srpoh” “Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit etc.”
Kiss of Peace
As the deacon invites us to share the Kiss of Peace, the priest shall turn to greet the congregation, saying “Krisdos i mech mer haydnetsav” “Christ is revealed in our midst”. The people shall remain in their places, without approaching others, and shall reply “Orhnyal eh Haydnootyoonun Krisdosi” “Blessed is the Revelation of Christ.” The choir will then sing the hymn “Krisdos i mech.”
Holy Communion will be administered in our church according to the suggestion of our Prelate, who has written: “As all of you know, in the Armenian Tradition, Holy Communion is administered by the clean hand of the priest, and is placed directly into the mouth of the faithful. We fully appreciate that some of our parishioners may be hesitant to approach for Holy Communion. We extend our full love and embrace to you, and welcome you in all sincerity. We Armenians believe that Holy Communion is the real, living and life-giving Holy Body and venerable Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is distributed in faith, in hope, and in love, and we especially reassure you that it is distributed in accordance with all of the precautions as required by governing laws. We pray that you will resume your participation in Holy Communion.
“However, for the time being, the Prelacy shall remain cautious and careful in the manner in which Holy Communion is administered to our faithful. As a current adjustment, Holy Communion will be placed into the palm of the hand of the individual. We ask that the person then turn to the left and proceed to the marked area, transfer the Holy Communion directly into the mouth and then sanitize their hands. All who receive are encouraged to please exercise every care, and to respectfully keep their hands clean before and after partaking of Holy Communion.”
Also those waiting to receive Holy Communion should follow the guidance of the Board of Trustees, who will insure that proper distancing is maintained.
If you wish to light a candle in prayer in church, you are asked to be patient since candle lighting will be allowed at only two locations in order to minimize unnecessary traffic. In order to maintain safe distancing, only one person at a time will be allowed at each station, with one person waiting. Sanitized candles will be available from the Pangal table.
Der Hayr will continue lighting virtual candles for those who are not able to come to church.
At the end of the Badarak, Hokehankisd (Requiem Service) will be performed for the souls of those whose names have been provided ahead of time to the church office. During church services there will be absolutely no access to the Trustee office in the entrance foyer of the church. To maintain contact protocols, there will be no ability to make change at the plate so if you wish to give a donation or light a candle, please make sure you have with you the exact amount you wish to donate.
For the time being, the tradition of kissing the Holy Gospel will be suspended. As mentioned above, packages of “maas” will be available at the door of the church for the faithful to take home to those who were not able to attend services. In the current environment, we ask that people respect social distancing and avoid congregating in the foyer. Again, under current rules, the traditional coffee hour following services is postponed.
May the Lord bless you all.
Rev. Fr. Antranig Baljian, Pastor
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.