Access to the Eucharist is one of the motivating factors for keeping churches open.

PORTLAND, Maine – The Diocese of Portland will continue to allow attendance at Mass, even though the state Council of Churches has urged all departments to go online in light of a recent spike in coronavirus cases .

“It’s not about sending care packages or Hallmark cards (although that’s certainly nice),” Jane Field, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, said in a Jan. 4 statement.

“To begin with, it is about making the difficult and necessary decision to return to online virtual worship services only and to refrain from in-person church gatherings during this killing wave. It is also about sending a clear message from the pulpit that getting vaccinated, boosted and wearing masks in public is a moral imperative for anyone who follows the commandment to love their neighbor,” she added.

In addition, says Field, churches should “offer [their] church building as a pop-up vaccination clinic site.

Field, a Presbyterian minister, served Presbyterian, Methodist, and Episcopal congregations throughout the Northeast. She served as a pastor at Faith Lutheran Church before becoming executive director of the Maine Council of Churches.

Going online, promoting vaccines and taking other action is “the best way for faith communities to help reduce the spread of COVID, which is the only way to provide effective and meaningful relief and support to tired hospitals. and overwhelmed and to their staff,” she said.

Maine hospitals are experiencing near-record levels of hospitalizations for Covid-19, with 380 people hospitalized. The Maine CDC reported 1,302 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday.

Maine has the third highest Covid-19 vaccination rate in the country, with 76.1% of its total population fully vaccinated.

The Maine Council of Churches is governed by a board of trustees and represents seven Protestant denominations in the state: Episcopal, Unitarian-Universalist, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran, and Quaker.

The Diocese of Portland left the Maine Council of Churches in 2018. The diocese left after the council changed its policy to release statements approved by majority vote, rather than the unanimous consent of the eight communities in the era.

Dave Guthro, spokesman for the diocese, told the Portland Press Herald that access to the Eucharist is one of the motivating factors for keeping churches open.

The diocese has recommended that everyone attending Mass in person wear masks, and some parishes are livestreaming Masses.

“The diocese has adhered to the (government) protocols and rules put in place and in many cases has applied even stricter safeguards in our churches to ensure the safety of parishioners and the wider community,” he said. he told the “Press Herald”.

There has been no outbreak of Covid-19 in any of Maine’s 141 Catholic churches.

“During the Christmas season, which runs until January 9, the vast majority of Catholics who attend Mass wear masks, which is great to see,” Guthro said.

“But not having daily and weekly access to the Eucharist, the very presence of Christ at Catholic Masses, would be a great hardship for thousands of Mainers,” he added. “It is also the responsibility of the Catholic Church to be open to the many healthcare workers and other first responders who need spiritual comfort and support at this incredibly difficult time in history.”

In an updated statement released Jan. 6, Field, the executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, apologized for what she called a “hasty, but heartfelt” earlier statement.

“The nuance, consultation and collaboration are gone – and I’m so sorry for how it has created confusion, tension or even conflict for clergy, congregations and the judiciary,” she said. declared.

“And…we have also received calls and emails from clergy and lay leaders letting us know that even if they have decided that returning to virtual worship services is not the right solution for their particular context , they are doing an incredible job of keeping their congregations and communities safe and letting our frontline healthcare workers know how much we care about supporting them in their heroic efforts,” Field added.


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