“New occasions teach new duties,” James Russell Lowell declared in a poem from which was drawn a familiar hymn, “Once to Every Man and Nation.” That sentiment is providing a soundtrack for houses of worship as they try to maintain traditions and adopt new ones in the midst of a pandemic.
Starting this Sunday, the Provincetown United Methodist Church will offer a drive-in service. All are welcome to park at the church, tune in to its newly purchased FM transmitter, and “sing their hearts out if they want” without leaving their vehicles, said the Rev. Donnie Anderson. A pianist will play live music, and some socially distanced chairs will be set up as well.
Singing is a big part of worship at Grace Chapel Assembly of God in South Wellfleet, which is busy sanitizing the church and setting up one-way-in, one-way-out routes in hopes of opening this weekend. Pastor Frank Alexander has been attending virtual meetings with clergy colleagues organized by Morgan Clark, Provincetown’s director of health and environment.
“She brought up that singing is not a good thing to do” at this time, Alexander said. “We project a lot of germs. I never would have thought about that. I’m going to use my Alexa and play some songs on there we’re accustomed to. Those are the kinds of things we’re learning along the way. We’re not too quick to get rid of the old traditional things embedded way down deep inside our heart. We’re looking to hold on to them and be open to making adjustments going along.”
When Roman Catholics attend Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown and Our Lady of Lourdes in Wellfleet on May 30 and 31, they’ll receive Communion as they leave the church. Two of every three pews are being blocked off, and all parishioners will be required to wear masks. The elderly are strongly encouraged to watch televised services at home.
The Chapel on the Pond in Truro will reopen Sunday as well, at 40-percent capacity, to comply with state guidelines. Masks are required. The church also has a large outdoor area, so in nice weather services may be held outside.
Am HaYam Havurah, the Lower and Outer Cape Jewish fellowship, usually meets at the Federated Church in Orleans, which is closed. Shabbat services are being held on Zoom on the first and third Fridays of the month, and Torah study sessions and other group meetings will be available on that platform as well.
Nauset Fellowship UU, a lay-led Unitarian congregation that meets at the Chapel in the Pines in Eastham, moved its typical Sunday program to Zoom last month.
“Members have stepped out of their comfort zones to learn the platform and we’ve been joined by friends from other parts of the country,” wrote President Laura Roskos. Recent programs “have stayed on themes related to the pandemic: looking closely at Arundati Roy’s ‘Pandemic is a Portal’ essay, digging deep into the racial disparities of the disease’s manifestation, envisioning a post-pandemic Cape economy.”
The fellowship hopes to add a virtual “coffee half-hour” of socializing before formal programs and is likely to continue with online gatherings through June and beyond as current guidelines don’t allow communal events pre- or post-service. The membership is talking about ways to reopen the chapel but concerned about the costs of sanitizing it.
Sunday services on YouTube and coffee hours on Zoom “have been a lot of fun,” said the Rev. Kate Wilkinson of the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House of Provincetown. “As for re-opening, we are following the guidance of the denomination and not the state. The recommendation they have made is not to have in-person services for a year. We do make our own decision, and I can’t imagine opening this summer. We care first and foremost about keeping people safe.”
Across town at St. Mary of the Harbor Episcopal Church, the Rev. Terry Pannell said services are being posted online every Wednesday and Sunday. The church building won’t reopen until after July 1, and when it does, face masks will be mandatory.
The Chapel of St. James the Fisherman, in Wellfleet, will not offer services this summer, but the grounds will be available for prayer and reflection. The church will continue its outreach grants to local social service agencies.
The ministers of the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ are recommending churches stay closed through September, and the church council of Wellfleet’s First Congregational Church agrees. “We will continue to operate remotely, as we have been doing since March,” Moderator Dianne Eib wrote to the congregation.
Next door at Wellfleet United Methodist, “we are getting together through Zoom, email, snail mail, and telephone calls,” wrote Pastor Seiglinde Rogers. A reopening task force, similar to First Congregational’s reopening committee, is looking at next steps.
“Folks are grieving not being able to gather in person,” Rogers wrote. “Some have an expectation that things will return to what has been prior to Covid-19. I sense we are learning a new way and we will go forward changed by the multifaceted levels and reaches of the pandemic. We will not return to what has been.” Molly Newman contributed to this article
Attempts by the Independent to contact Eastham United Methodist Church, and Nauset Baptist Church and Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, also in Eastham, were not successful.