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Churches adapt to changes brought about from COVID-19 closures

By Max

In the wake of new guidelines limiting crowds to 25 people or less, houses of worship in North Attleborough are coming up with new ways to ensure services can continue.

At Oldtown Church, Rev. Kelly Thibeault is finding that the wide range of ages in the church mean that some methods won’t work as well as others. When she spoke to the Reporter on Wednesday, Thibeault was preparing for an online confirmation class. This works with younger members of the church, though not so much with the older ones.

Many of the elderly members don’t have email or online access,” she said. “My fear is they’re going to feel isolated and we need to make sure people are calling one another.”

Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha suspended the celebration of Masses and other liturgical services in the Diocese of Fall River effective Tuesday, March 17, and continuing until further notice. This includes Masses of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. A dispensation has been issued from the obligation to attend Mass during this time to all Catholics of the Diocese.

In the past, when a snowstorm caused services to be canceled, Thibeault would e-mail her sermon, along with a prayer and links to music. This was done last Sunday when she learned of the new guidelines. Moving forward, she plans to record a sermon for the church’s Facebook page and web site. She said one issue among the congregation is that it’s unknown exactly when this is going to end.

If we knew this was for a month, you could get ready for that,” said Thibeault.

Pastor Stephen Trimble of First Baptist Church said a regular service was held last Sunday. For the next two weeks however, they’ll be suspended out of concern for the older members. He and his staff keep in touch with people through e-mails and phone calls and will be thoroughly cleaning the church in the meantime. Meals are being prepared for those members of the church in need for them to pick up.

I reach out to people, especially the older ones,” said Trimble. “Everyone seems to be doing just fine.”

In a letter posted to the parish web site on March 16, Reverend Rodney Eric Thibault of Transfiguration of the Lord Parish wrote that since this decision was made, none of the staff—including the one who came into contact with the individual who had tested positive—have shown any symptoms whatsoever. The staff member came into contact with this person on March 9 and came into work the following day. The parish office will remain closed until March 24.

In advance, I would like to apologize for any and all inconveniences this will undoubtedly cause,” wrote Rev. Thibault. “Since both Father Jack Schrader and I are quarantined, we will be unable to celebrate Sunday Masses the weekend of March 21/22.”

A daily Mass livestream is planned and more information can be found on the parish’s Facebook page.

Upcoming services such as Easter Sunday, weddings, and funerals will also need to be addressed. Thibeault said that she is working with a family who may opt for a small graveside service and then hold another once the limitations have been lifted. One lesson that this time is providing is a chance for the church to try new things, such as online classes and sermons posted to the site. Sometimes people can’t attend due to normal, everday issues, and in the future, Thibeault said what has been tried now may be used again.

I get calls and text from people all day long asking how they can help, that’s the most amazing thing to me, everyone wants to see how they can make it better,” she said. “I love it.”

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