IMPORTANT: In New Hampshire, Executive Order #40 remains in effect through May 31, 2020. Gatherings of more than 10 remain prohibited, even for religious purposes.
Many churches, pastors and lay members are asking when it will be safe to return to our buildings for in-person worship services. This is the right time to give an update on how these conversations are proceeding in New Hampshire.
On Wednesday, May 20, the NH Council of Churches participated in a Working Group alongside diverse leaders from the Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faiths. This Working Group was convened by state Senator Bob Giuda at the request of the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force.
The May 20 meeting was the result of three weeks of thoughtful, interfaith conversation that respected church-state boundaries. That meeting proposed guidelines for a safer return into our buildings for worship purposes.
Those guidelines now go to state public health officials to ensure they conform their requirements. After the guidelines are revised with public health comment, they will be sent to the Governor for consideration.
The Council does not know how or when public health officials or the Governor will act on these guidelines. They may move quickly, or they may not. But, you can rest assured that this process is actively underway. Many church members are anxious to know more: you can share with them that this is an active conversation that faith leaders are undertaking carefully and thoughtfully.
As these steps unfold, the Council will communicate with you so that your denominational bodies and your congregations can make good plans for the well-being of all. As these guidelines become public, consult with your denominational leaders to ensure that your congregation’s policies are in keeping with any requirements that they have, above and beyond state requirements.
In order to help your planning, the Council has collected the links below to the relevant denominational statements about returning to in-person worship in our buildings.
Yours in faith,
Rev. Jason Wells, Executive Director
- American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire
- Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, Following the Good Shepherd on the Path Ahead
- Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, An Update Regarding the Reopening of Our Churches
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, New England Synod, May 19 Letter from Bishop Hazelwood
- Presbyterian Church (USA), Presbytery of Northern New England, Webinar: Returning to the Buildling
- Religious Society of Friends, New England Yearly Meeting, Towards What We Can Become
- United Church of Christ, New Hampshire Conference, Decision Making Amid Covid-19 (A personal reflection)
- United Methodist Church, New England Conference, Re-entry Considerations and Guidelines
- Unitarian Universalist Association, New England Region, UUA Guidance on Gathering In-Person When COVID-19 Subsides