The following update from Canon to the Ordinary Bill Parnell was e-mailed to clergy, wardens and treasurers on June 10:
As businesses and public spaces are beginning to open in Massachusetts, we know you are anxious about what the lessening of restrictions will mean for our congregations and related organizations. On May 18, we distributed A Journey By Stages (available in English here and Spanish here), a document designed to provide guidance and resources for gathering, serving and growing during the time of pandemic.
We have recruited a group of “regathering shepherds” who will be meeting early next week to be equipped to support congregational regathering teams. An announcement about how to request support from a regathering shepherd and how to request permission to move to Stage Two will be distributed next week.
We trust that many of you have formed regathering teams in your congregations and have begun conversations about what this may mean in your particular context. It is our expectation that every congregation and organization will give careful thought to what is required to gather in person safely, reopen offices and serve well those who are in need. We want to emphasize that no congregation is under pressure to move from Stage One to Stage Two. In fact, we urge you to give careful thought to your congregation’s capacity to observe the restrictions of Stage Two, provide support for those who are safer at home and continue to reach out to the many who are joining us through live-streamed services, online study groups and virtual coffee hours, podcasts, music offerings and more.
To provide support to you, and to be accountable to one another, several efforts are underway:
• As mentioned above, our “regathering shepherds” will be meeting early next week to be equipped to support congregational regathering teams. An announcement about how to request support from a regathering shepherd and how to request permission to move to Stage Two will be distributed next week.
• A Zoom conference with representatives of Church Insurance Company will take place on Wednesday, June 17, 4:00-5:00 p.m. (link to join e-mailed to clergy, wardens and treasurers). This Zoom conference is for Church Insurance policy holders. Churches insured by other companies are urged to contact their insurance agent directly.
• A Zoom conference for churches that have rental agreements or make space available to community or recovery groups will take place on Tuesday, June 23, 3:00-4:00 p.m. (link to join e-mailed to clergy, wardens and treasurers).
• A Zoom conference for churches that have church-operated businesses, e.g. preschools and thrift shops, will take place on Tuesday, June 23, 4:30-5:30 p.m. (link to join e-mailed to clergy, wardens and treasurers).
PPP Flexibility Act
On June 5, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (the “PPPFA”) was signed into law. The PPPFA – as its name suggests – offers greater flexibility for employers receiving loans under the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) by extending timeframes, expanding exemptions and modifying other PPP terms affecting potential loan forgiveness and repayment. Key provisions of the PPPFA are:
• Extended “Covered Period” for using loan proceeds
• Reduced percentage of loan to be spent on payroll for forgiveness
• Expanded exemptions from loan forgiveness requirements
• Five-year repayment period for new loans
• Extension of loan deferral period
Specific directions from the Small Business Administration for the PPPFA is to be forthcoming and guidance from legal experts is still being developed. We will continue to provide updated information regarding applications for PPP loans and grant conversion as it becomes available.
Beware of scammers
A number of people in our diocese recently have received e-mails from scammers that, at first glance, appear to be from one of our bishops or clergy. Please be alert and double check the sender’s e-mail address before you respond or open any attachments. For example, if you receive an e-mail from one of our bishops or diocesan staff, make sure the sender’s e-mail is a diomass.org address, or, if from one of our parish clergy, that the sender’s e-mail address conforms to your congregation’s e-mail account. Many of these scam e-mails are bogus gift card requests or requests for emergency assistance. Please be on guard.
Remember masks and physical distancing
One additional reminder: As many of us feel called to participate in peaceful protests and public actions against racial injustice and violence, it is important that we remember to wear masks and maintain physical distance in order to minimize risk of spreading the coronavirus that is still in our midst.