Wilmington Pastor Asks Governor That Churches Be Labeled ‘Essential’ & Be Included In First Reopening Phase

WILMINGTON, MA — Pastor Ronald Grimley of Wilmington’s Abundant Life Church signed on to a letter with 259 other Massachusetts faith leaders this week asking Governor Charlie Baker to reopen churches as part of the state’s first phase of reopening, which is set to start on Monday, May 18, 2020.

“When the phased reopening of our Commonwealth begins, the reopening of our churches must be in the first phase. It is upsetting that, unlikely roughly half the states across our nation, churches in Massachusetts were not deemed ‘essential’ at the outset, but this must come to an end,” reads the letter. “This is consistent with the federal guidelines for a phased reopening, where in phase one, ‘places of workshop can operate under strict physical distancing protocols’.”

The letter stressed that much like essential businesses, churches are also capable of following the CDC’s social distancing guidelines and taking the necessary precautions to keep its members safe during worship.

Pastors are “grieved” by the Governor’s decision to not allow churches to hold in-person services.

“We have seen how marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores, and abortion clinics have all been deemed ‘essential,’ but churches and other places of worship have not. We are grieved by this, but have been patient and peaceful,” reads the letter. “HOWEVER, church IS essential for us. Your order of March 23rd would forbid us from gathering together to worship God, but the word of God commands us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We have done our best to temporarily adapt to extraordinary circumstances, but this must not continue.”

The letter also argues that church is considered essential under both the state and federal Constitutions in the free exercise of religion and freedom of assembly. The U.S. Department of Justice’s comments last week which indicated it was unlawful to keep places of worship closed in Virginia was also cited in the letter.

The letter noted pastors were disappointed not to have any representation on the state’s Reopening Advisory Board despite having 8,000 churches and millions of worshipers in across the state.

Read the full letter HERE.

(NOTE: Cover photo from Abundant Life’s Facebook page.)

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