Worcester Church Holds Regular Service – Believed To Be First in Massachusetts Since Governor’s Ban

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/04/26/worcester-church-holds-regular-service-believed-to-be-first-in-massachusetts-since-governors-ban/

Pastor Kris Casey preached to a live audience for the first time in more than a month on Sunday morning.

The pastor and about 20 people gathered at Adams Square Baptist Church in Worcester on Sunday at 11 a.m. for a service that lasted about 75 minutes.

It is believed to be the first religious service inside a building for more than 10 people since Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker banned such gatherings by executive order on March 23 because of the coronavirus emergency. The governor’s order mentions “faith-based events” as among the activities restricted.

Pastor Casey wrote an open letter on Wednesday, April 22 to Governor Baker announcing his intent to hold a regular church service, sending copies to Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty and Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent. The pastor noted in the letter that the federal and state constitutions explicitly protect freedom of religion, and he questioned how government officials can justify allowing liquor stores to remain open but not churches.

Casey told New Boston Post the mayor’s office acknowledged receiving the letter, and that no authorities told him not to go ahead with the service.

When Pastor Casey first spoke during the service, he quickly noted how thankful he is to live in a country with freedom of religion protected by the U.S. Constitution.

“Our Founding Fathers knew how precious a thing this would be,” Casey said during his sermon Sunday, April 26. “Lord we thank you that we have the ability to worship you in spirit and in truth. Thank you for the protections we have in America that do not exist in other countries around the world.”

From there, Pastor Casey shifted, saying the focus of the service would not be politics or the police.

Before the service, some observers had concerns that Pastor Casey would be arrested because nearly all gatherings of 10 or more people are still banned in the Bay State. However, no police came and the service tool place without interruption.

Pastor Casey told the church attendees that this difficult time of disease and distancing offers people an opportunity to reset and reflect on what greater purpose God has for them. He also spoke about how being a good Christian requires self-sacrifice and not always doing what is most popular among peers.

“I would rather upset your feelings than upset my God,” he said.

After the service, Casey told New Boston Post that the last five weeks of doing a livestream church service on Sundays and Wednesdays had not been the same as doing one with in-person attendees.

“It’s tough preaching to an empty auditorium,” he said. “My wife did a good thing. She had everyone’s pictures up in the pews, so it was good to see faces. But when you’re preaching, you’re not preaching for yourself, you’re not preaching for the people, you’re preaching for the glory of God. It makes it a lot easier to look around, see those faces and you know people are making contact with what you’re saying.”

“These are difficult times, but God is still in control,” he added. “People forget that and get too focused on the things around them instead of what’s above them — and that’s God. It’s good to have a recalibration of our daily walk with him and give him the glory and to worship in spirit and truth the way he wants us to. The people who didn’t come today, we understand they’re nervous, but God’s always in control. It’s good to be around God’s people again and worship collectively and trust that God is going to protect us and give us wisdom to do what we need to do.”

The church took precautions to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading. Once people entered the church, they were offered hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks. Volunteers checked everyone’s temperature to make sure they did not have a fever, a symptom in some coronavirus cases. And on the door outside the church, there was a sign that read “No physical contact requested” so that people would not shake hands.

“I feel like we can practice enough social distancing and precautions where we wouldn’t be spreading the virus any more than you would be going to Walmart or any of the stores,” a woman named Kristy, who traveled from Buffalo, New York and helped take temperatures at the door, told New Boston Post following the service.

“I think we practiced enough social distancing,” she added. “Everyone’s intentions here are good. There’s no malicious intentions here. I don’t think anyone is out here to spread the virus. We’re aware of the realness of it and we’re doing our best to work together here.”

Others who attended the service, including Shawn Glavin, who live-streamed it so people at home could watch, and Rachael Casey, who is married to the pastor, also saw the service as positive and necessary.

“It’s a great feeling just to be here,” Glavin told New Boston Post. “I’ve been here the last five weeks with Pastor, but it’s different. You feel the fellowship. You feel the connection. You feel the joy. I love it. It’s good to be back. Praise God for this church, and praise God that we’re able to do this.”

The service was also carried through livestreaming online.

In-person attendance was down. The church normally draws about 100 people on a Sunday morning, the pastor said.

“I think a lot of people are afraid,” Rachael Casey said. “The body of Christ can meet anywhere, and that’s the wonderful thing about having Christ in us. However, there’s something special about being able to meet together as a group to worship the Lord. I think we need that camaraderie, and today was very special because of that. We’re so blessed that everyone came out today. God is good.”

Pastor Casey told New Boston Post the next church service will take place Wednesday, April 29.


Church-goers were told to keep social distance and to avoid physical contact. Photo by Tom Joyce for New Boston Post.

Hand sanitizer and other disinfectants were available inside the church. All church-goers also had their temperature taken at the entrance. Photo by Tom Joyce for New Boston Post.