In response to our colleague in Worcester disregarding the ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people and holding services, I joined dozens of my Worcester Interfaith colleagues in signing this letter in support of current policy. The letter became more relevant over the weekend as colleagues across the Commonwealth signed a letter urging Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to ease restrictions on churches.  Our letter … 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

As faith leaders, we write to state unequivocally that any public health-informed prohibition of in-person worship gatherings is not a violation of our freedom to exercise our religious beliefs. We believe such directives are aligned with the core tenets of our faith to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

To be clear, we believe we are still free to worship, we have not been disbanded because of our beliefs, and we have not been coerced into practicing a different religious tradition. We still worship together in our communities of faith, only we do so online or in a manner that is consistent with the intent of the temporary directives issued by state and local authorities. While it may be tempting to interpret these temporary directives to mean that churches are nonessential, the reality is that the Holy is omnipresent. The Divine has never been confined by governments, pandemics, or wars; and in our experience, our services during this time of personal distancing have borne witness to the ways God still transcends time, space and any restrictions.

This is the greatest hope of our common faith: that in the face of extraordinary adversity, the Divine Essence will surprise us yet again, raising our spirits and inspiring us to imagine the ways we can join the Holy’s generative activity in the world. Right now, we plainly see the Divine at work through our scientists, public health officials and government leaders. We continue to join them in their brave calls for us to care for one another by avoiding large gatherings (even in-person worship services) and practicing physical distancing. This may seem counter-intuitive — paradoxical, even — but we believe it to be one of the most faithful ways to model love during this pandemic. We resist the temptation to elevate ourselves, our congregations, or our beliefs above the well-being of any one of the Divine’s children.

Therefore, we call on all faith communities to respect the governor’s, local administrations’ and healthcare institutions’ efforts to protect members of our communities from COVID-19. We affirm that this crisis requires cooperation among civil authorities, local agencies and faith-based communities. We ask all faith communities to continue to abide by requests to pause large group gatherings and protect each other by wearing masks in public.

We love the people in our congregations and the communities we serve, and we long for the days we will reunite in person. In the meantime, we want our neighbors to know that we are abiding by current public health directives because we are all in this together.


Rev. Brent Newberry, Minister
First Baptist Church of Worcester

Rev. Aaron R. Payson, Minister
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester

Rabbi Aviva Fellman
Congregation Beth Israel

Rev. Nathan Pipho, Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester

Rev. Jose A. Encarnacion
Christian Community Church

Rev. Kenneth Mantler, Pastor
Epworth United Methodist Church

Rev. Mark A. Nilson, Pastor
Salem Covenant Church

Rev. Nancy Elder-Wilfrid, Pastor
United Congregational Church, UCC

Thiago Vieira, Pastor
Jesus Life Center United Methodist Church

Rabbi Valerie Cohen
Temple Emanuel Sinai

Rev. Bibiche Zagabe-Ndiku, Pastor
Green Pastures Church

The Rev. Andrew H. Borden, Pastor
Grace Ministries, ELCA: Zion & Bethel Lutheran

Rev. Dr. Kevin Downer, Interim Pastor
Greendale People’s Church

Rev. Sarah C. Stewart, Minister
First Unitarian Church of Worcester

Rev. David J. Miller, Minister Emeritus
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester

Rev. Jose R. Perez, Pastor
Rock of Salvation Church of Worcester

Rev. Cheryl Leshay, Community Minister
for Campus Ministry & Hospital Chaplaincy
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester

The Rev. Fr. Dave Woessner, Rector
St. Michaels-on-the-Heights Episcopal Church

Rev. Melissa Myozen Blacker, Resident priest
Boundless Way Zen Temple

Rev. Natalie Webb, Associate Pastor
The First Baptist Church of Worcester

Sister Michele Jacques
Marie Anne Center at Saint Bernard Church

Imam Asif Hirani
Worcester Islamic Center

The Rev. Dr. John McGinty, Rector
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Worcester

The Rev. Meredyth Ward, Urban Missioner
Episcopal Diocese of Westtern Mass.

Steven Barrett, Pastor
Christ the Rock Fellowship C&MA Church

The Very Rev. Aileen E. DiBenedetto, Rector
Christ Episcopal Church Rochdale; Dean of Worcester Corridor

Rev. Shandirai Mawokomatanda, Minister
Wesley United Methodist Church

The Rev. Canon Richard M. Simpson
Canon to the Ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of WMA

Rev. John Edgar Freeman, Priest in Charge
Trinity Episcopal Church, Shrewsbury

Rev. Robin Bartlett, Senior Pastor
The First Church in Sterling

Bishop John G. Innis (Retired)
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. Esau Vance, Elder
Mt. Olive Pentecostal Church, Worcester

Rev. Timothy E. Hanley
Oakham Congregational Church

The Rev Dr William C. Bergmann, Interim Priest
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Leominster

The Rev. Judith Lee
Trinity Episcopal Church, Milford

Lydia Yanis de Simoneau, Chaplain
Worcester Seventh-day Adventist Church