The Rev. Chris O’Connor, pastor of Saint John the Evangelist Church on Winthrop Street, said he is “overjoyed” at Governor Charlie Baker’s decision to reopen churches across the state following a closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been taking walks through the neighborhood pretty regularly and people are just eager to get back and I’m eager to have them back,” said the Rev. O’Connor. “We are a faith community and you worship together as a community and praise God together as a community and now we’re going to back together.”
The Rev. O’Connor will conduct the first Mass at the church this Saturday at 4 p.m.
“We have all sorts of procedures and guidelines from the Archdiocese and I have a great team working with me – we will have benches marked off, hand sanitizers, signs regarding face masks, so we are really moving ahead,” said the church’s spiritual leader.
He noted that the church at its capacity seats 750 people. “We’re planning on about 300 attendees at our first Mass,” said the Rev. O’Connor.
To accommodate other parishioners on Saturday, the church has scheduled an additional Mass at 5:15 p.m. On Sunday, there will be Masses at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and 12 p.m. (noon).
“It will be as streamlined a Mass as possible because we have to sterilize the church between each Mass,” said the Rev. O’Connor, adding that each Mass will be approximately 35-40 minutes long.
The Rev. O’Connor, who has been pastor at St. John for one year, will be delivering a sermon at each Mass. His message: “In Jesus We Trust.”
“A coronavirus is a very sad thing and we’re going to be praying for all of those people who have been ill and the caregivers,” said the Rev. O’Connor.
The church leader expressed his gratitude to Police Chief Terence Delehanty for helping to coordinate the reopening of the church. “The Winthrop Police have been phenomenal in helping us get opened in terms of procedures and practices,” said the Rev. O’Connor. “I can’t thank Chief Delehanty enough.”
The Rev. O’Connor said he has heard from some parishioners who have told him they have some anxiety about returning to church because of their health conditions.
“What they’ll be doing is watching the livestream broadcast on Sunday at 8 a.m.,” said the Rev. O’Connor.
The Rev. Walter Connelly, pastor at Saint John’s Episcopal Church on Bowdoin Street, said the church will not resume in-person services until July 1.
“Even though the Governor has permitted worship to return, we have to follow the Bishop Alan Bates’ (of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts) directives and he has set July 1 as the moving target,” said the Rev. Connelly.
The Rev. Thomas DiLorenzo of Holy Rosary Church said Wednesday that no schedule has been announced for the resumption of services.
An attempt to reach officials at Temple Tifereth Israel, a Jewish house of worship on Veterans Road, was unsuccessful.