David Aucoin: Rhode Island Churches Are Essential!
Our Churches are thankful for your leadership during this COVID 19 crisis. We have been publicly praying for both yourself as well as all our elected officials during our streaming services. You have been given unusually heavy responsibilities at this time and the Bible encourages us to pray for you and all those in authority.
As pastors and church leaders, we care deeply for the health and welfare of our congregations and our communities. We do recognize the dangers and uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, and have supported the extraordinary measures all of us are having to take. However, as you move to reopening, we want churches to be considered as ‘essential’ and included in phase 1 of reopening. Let me give you a few reasons why I think it would be prudent, beneficial and in the state’s best interest.
First, it is clear that Church and religion are essential under both our state and federal Constitutions. The free exercise of religion and the freedom of assembly are both prominently enshrined in the first amendment to the US Constitution. And, encouraging religion and dependence on ‘Almighty God’ is stated as a priority in the preamble to the Rhode Island Constitution and throughout the articles.
Secondly, we can work together. Churches most often have a great support system making it easier to meet needs. We are a community. Relationship with God and with others is what we are all about, especially in times of crisis, we are essential to the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of 10’s of 1,000’s of RI’ers. We shop for the elderly, the disabled and shut in’s. This week alone our church made 75 masks to pass out at no cost to seniors and in the case of an emergency there is always someone to call.
Thirdly, it costs the state nothing to allow and encourage churches to do what we do best, loving and helping people as Jesus teaches us. You cannot replace the care that takes place in our parishes, church services and Bible study groups with state agencies. We do many things the government cannot do and often better!
Governor Raimondo, church ‘IS’ essential for thousands of Rhode Islanders. The Word of God commands us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We have done our best to temporarily adapt to these extraordinary circumstances but with statistics slowly changing and reopening imminent, the reopening of our churches must be in the first stage. Most of our denominational affiliations have published strict guidelines to help us cooperate with state guidelines for physical distancing protocols, disinfecting and more. The U.S. Department of Justice said last week, “For many people of faith, exercising religion is essential, especially during a crisis.” We are asking you to trust us now and free us up.
It’s hard to even imagine a worship service with 5 people. Churches have been already thinking through and planning for reopening. Most churches have enough square footage to abide by social distancing and yet accommodate groups of 50 safely. The same would be true for weddings. There is almost never a greater demand for clergy involvement than ‘end of life’ situations. Right now pastors are not allowed to meet with people in the hospitals or nursing homes for prayer and counsel Father Taillon of Narragansett commented on behalf of the Diocese of Providence that 10 or less at a funeral is not sufficient to meet the needs of a grieving family. I agree emphatically and so would the majority of pastors I’ve spoken with. For funerals, MA is allowing 25 and CT 50 while RI is 10 or less.
It may have been an oversight, but during this crisis I’ve heard you thank many organizations but rarely the Churches where so much has been and is being done. We would very much like to have representation on your advisory board. Rhode Island will do better with the ‘Faith Community’ on your team.
Respectfully, on Behalf of the following RI Churches and Family Policy Alliance of RI, Rev. David Aucoin
YES, we say, “Churches are ESSENTIAL!”
- Jonathan Angell – North Kingstown AG – N. Kingstown
- Phil Curtis – Ministry Training Network / Exeter Chapel
- Dave Gadoury – Together/Love RI – Cranston
- Steve Boyce – Awakening/New Life – North Smithfield
- Kevin McKay – Grace Harbor – Providence
- Patrick Dochety – Full Gospel Businessmen – Providence
- Herson Gonzalez – Calvary Worship Center – Woonsocket
- Scott Asadorian – Deacon – Generation Church – S. Kingstown
- Herman Falu – Church of the Master – Providence
- Paul Hoffman – Evangelical Friends Church – Newport
- Keith Mlyniec – Harbor Church – No. Kingstown
- Dave Therrien – New Hope – Swansea
- Steve Shippee – Faith Fellowship Community Church – W. Greenwich
- Richard Leahey – Solid Rock AG – Cranston
- Travis Rymer – Grace Harbor – Providence
- Olivier Bala – Mt. Hope Baptist – Providence
- Joel Sedam – Mt. Hope – Bristol
- Bob Rosinski – King’s Grant Fellowship – Portsmouth
- John Wheeler – Stony Lane Baptist – North Kingstown
- Dave Aucoin – Abundant Life AG – Barrington/Swansea