CONCORD — On May 20, a plan was presented to the Governor and officials of the Division of Public Health of the Department of Health and Human Services for the "regathering for worship" in the various religions and denominations in New Hampshire.
This document was prepared by three people -- Neil Hubacker, Director of Strategic Alliances for New Hampshire Cornerstone; Senator Robert Giuda, representing several towns up north in Senate District 2; and State Representative Mark Pearson, representing four towns in south central Rockingham County. Rep. Pearson is also the Pastor of Trinity Church, Kingston.
After the initial document was finalized, it was presented to a group of faith leaders representing Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Buddhist, Moslem and Jewish groups plus the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches for scrutiny and revision.
The idea was to present a document that would be sufficiently narrow to ensure safe health practices in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, yet broad enough to adapt to the beliefs, practices and needs of all the religious groups in the State.
The title, "Regathering for Worship" was deliberately chosen over "Re-opening for Worship," for two reasons. First, the Governor did not close the churches. That would be a usurpation of power under both Federal and State constitutions. He was careful specifically to exempt religious organizations in one of his documents, provided safety protocols were followed.
In fact, many churches did remain open under those conditions.
Many Executive Orders have been modified as circumstances have changed and better precautions are now the new normal. When adopted. the document will outline ways in which religious organizations may conduct services for groups larger than 10, with wise health safety practices being followed.
No individual congregation or denominational group is required to re-open or continue to stay open but with larger attendance norms. Some religious leaders have said it would take them a few weeks to get protocols in place to accommodate safely a larger attendance.
As this article is being written, the document has just begun the review process by state officials. y the time you read this, perhaps an announcement has already been made. If not, it should be in the next few days.
If you have any questions, contact your church, synagogue, mosque or temple for details.