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What Worcester Mayor, City Manager Said About Worcester Pastor’s Church Services on Monday, April 27

May 2, 2020

Editor’s Note:  On Sunday, April 26, Pastor Kris Casey led a church service at Adams Square Baptist Church in Worcester, Massachusetts that drew, by his own count, 56 people — well more than the limit of 10 set by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in an executive order of March 23. The order applies to most public gatherings, including what it calls “faith-based events.” It is intended to try to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The church took precautions, including taking the temperature of everybody at the entrance; offering hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves; requiring social distancing; and prohibiting physical contact.

But Worcester city officials the next day informed Pastor Casey that he had violated the governor’s order and ordered him not to do it again. The city manager had a letter hand delivered to the pastor by the city’s police chief.

What follows is a complete transcript of the remarks made by Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty and Worcester city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. during a coronavirus press conference on Monday, April 27, 2020. Each official also addressed other matters pertaining to coronavirus during the press conference, not mentioned here. Images of the city manager’s letter appear at the bottom of this item.

Mayor Petty spoke first. His remarks run from 00:05 to 1:01 on a video of the press conference on the city of Worcester’s web site.

 

Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty:

 

I know the manager’s going to say something later. But I want to make a statement that I’m deeply disappointed and dismayed that Pastor Kristopher Casey chose to violate the orders of the governor and city manager, and chose to endanger his parishioners and the city as a whole by holding services.

Across Massachusetts, men and women of faith have chosen to follow the best medical advice of professionals and conduct worship services virtually. This is a time when we all must make the sacrifices for the good of our neighbors.

You know, if you saw the Telegram yesterday, in the obituary section I think there had to be six to eight pages. And last week, I think the Globe had close to 15 pages.

I miss going to church myself. I regularly attend with my family. But to put the elderly, the most vulnerable, people who could catch the COVID-19 because they have underlying issues, put them in that position, I don’t think well serves the community.

 

Worcester city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. spoke later. His remarks run from 7:05 to 11:15 on a video of the press conference on the city of Worcester’s web site.

 

Worcester city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr.:

 

I do want to just pick up on what the mayor mentioned. We were made aware yesterday that the pastor at Adams Square Baptist Church in Worcester on Lincoln Street had conducted his religious services, and by his own report had 56 individuals at that church.

And, when we became aware of this we had the police go down, take a look. I think that they arrived after the services were conducted, so there was no one to speak to.

I sent a letter today to the pastor and I had it hand delivered to him by the chief of police, which he did this afternoon, where the chief reminded him of the order and of his need to comply with the order, and was told that the pastor does not intend to comply with the order, and is intending to have a religious service of some kind on Wednesday of this week.

This is really unfortunate, that one faith-based group would choose to not follow the governor’s order, as every other faith-based group in the city of Worcester and every social organization and every business – all of the rest of the community have made so much sacrifice to comply with the order because they understand that we’re in this together. This is a public health emergency. These orders are put in place to help protect all of us, prevent the further spread of this disease.

We’re in the surge of this disease here in the city of Worcester. And now is not the time to step back from complying with the order. Now is the time for us to continue to comply with these orders, and help us get on the other side of this surge, and hopefully get to a place where we can ultimately see the reduction of these restrictions.

But it’s not going to happen if people decide that they’re not going to comply any longer. It is not optional. It is an order that the governor has issued that applies to every faith equally. It doesn’t single out one particular faith. It doesn’t single out faith-based institutions and not business organizations, or social organizations. It applies equally to everyone. And we’re in this together and we’re making good progress. We’re not seeing the numbers that we might have otherwise seen had these restrictions not been put in place.

So it really is important for all of us to do what we can, because the consequences may not only be for your parishioners, but they may be for the wider community – for other vulnerable people in our community. And it sets back the progress that we’re making by all of us doing our part, in complying with these social distancing orders that the governor has laid down.

So, I am hopeful that the pastor reconsiders. I’m hopeful that his parishioners reconsider. As the mayor mentioned:  Many faith groups and other organizations have gotten very creative about ways to stay connected, to practice their faith – whether it be through online means, or Zoom calls, people have become very creative with their ways of connecting and finding fellowship with each other but still respecting and adhering to the order to maintain social distance.

So I’m hopeful that thoughtful reflection on, you know, doing the right thing in complying with this order will take place with this particular organization. But this order is in all of our best interests – the entire community’s, and the most vulnerable in our community. So we’re hopeful that he will comply with that, and not conduct any services with 10 or more people on Wednesday.

 

Letter from Worcester city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. to Pastor Kristopher D. Casey, dated April 27, 2020:

 

 

 

Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty during a coronavirus press conference on Monday, April 27, 2020

Worcester city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. during a coronavirus press conference on Monday, April 27, 2020

 

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