While places of worship have been allowed to reopen under Phase 1 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s four-part plan for Massachusetts, Church on the Hill won’t be holding on-site religious services any time too soon.
“We have a little, tiny chapel, and I’d hate for us to be responsible for getting someone sick,” said Rev. Kevin Baxter, pastor of the church at 140 Bowdoin St. “Some churches that are big can follow all the state requirements, but it’s really hard for us to maintain social distancing.”
Many members of the congregation are considered high-risk, making the choice to reopen that much more difficult, and that decision now lies with the church’s Governance Board, which meets on the third Wednesday of each month.
“If for some reason we do reopen, the earliest would be by late June or early July, but I’m doubtful that they’ll do that,” Rev. Baxter said. “People are hopeful now that we’ll be back in September, but there’s no decision yet.”
Rev. Baxter expects services at Church on the Hill would likely resume during Phase 3 when bars, casinos, gyms, museums and others in the entertainment and arts industries can reopen statewide.
“If people start eating in restaurants again, then we’d consider reopening,” he said.
Unlike the Catholic Church where Communion and other religious sacraments are considered essential and must be administered in person, Church on the Hill doesn’t consider in-person meetings essential. But this also means that Sunday School and Coffee Hours, which Rev. Baxter describes as the “community aspect of church,” are also now on hold.
“The community aspect is really important part of what it means to be a church,” Rev. Baxter said.
In the meantime, Rev. Baxter said Church on the Hill is actively engaging its congregation remotely via Zoom and by reaching out to members over the phone, and the church also donated around $100,000 last month to community groups to help with their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re actively contributing to other nonprofits that have their boots on the ground,” Rev. Baxter said.