Covid-19 Resources

Since June 2020, our doors to the faithful have open, although in limited numbers with the safety of our parishioners in mind. Below are a number of resources should you have any questions about church operations or attending in person.

*Update: August 25*

In accordance with the Town of Watertown, an indoor mask mandate is in effect until further notice. All those attending Church will need to wear a face covering.

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New Guidance on Full Reopening
as of May 29, 2020

On May 29, 2021 all restrictions on Places of Worship, including capacity limitations, social distancing restrictions, the mask mandate and pre-registration/record keeping, will be lifted. Masks are no longer required for vaccinated people in the State of Massachusetts.  The State does advise that non-vaccinated people continue to wear masks

The Pastor and Boards of Trustees will not be policing the population.  Every parishioner and every family will be expected to make a sound, reasonable decision about when they are ready to take off their masks and be near other people.  No one will be expected to ask people whether or not they have been vaccinated.

What this means:
– Parishioners will no longer need to pre-register to attend Sunday Services
– Parishioners will no longer need to have their temperature taken
– No need for ushering to pews*
– No need for Social Distancing*

All candle lighting station will be open, and bibles and liturgy books will be available in the pews.

*Separate seating for those who are not vaccinated or feel uncomfortable being close to others, where people can be socially distanced from each other. (ushering would be required)

Liturgical Processes

Current liturgical practices will remain the same as all states and cities where our parishes are do not have the same reopening schedule. New guidance will be given after all churches are allowed to fully open.

During the Badarak:- Tapor (procession) will take place, though altar servers will be masked
– Kiss of Peace – current offering remains the same
– Communion- remains the same

Live streaming
To encourage the faithful to return to Church, a modified live streaming schedule will be announced in June.

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Read our Reopening Guidelines

Please read reopening guidelines here – English
Please read reopening guidelines here – Armenian 

Church Attendance – Reservations Required

Online or telephone sign-up is required so we can monitor the number of people in church, so as not to exceed the maximum we are allowed for social distancing and occupancy requirements.

Please click here to fill out a form for regular Sunday in-person attendance.

Message from the Pastor

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

Social Distancing

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.

On-line/Telephone Sign-up

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.

Holy Badarak

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

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.

Candle Lighting

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.

Requiem Services

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.

Dismissal

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.

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