WOLFEBORO — As of Tuesday, 25 people associated with a "super-spreader" event at Calvary Wolfeboro Church had tested positive for COVID-19, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services announced.
In a press release Tuesday, DHHS said it is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 associated with Calvary Wolfeboro church, located at 43 Mill St.
"Individuals may have been exposed if attending the 9 and 11:30 a.m. services on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020," said DHHS. "To date, 25 persons with COVID-19 have been identified with connections to the church community."
The church's senior pastor, Justin Marbury, told the Sun on Tuesday that church members started feeling ill the week of Nov. 1, and the first confirmed case was on Nov. 4.
"Thank God, all people in our church who were affected are recovering, have recovered or never had any symptoms to begin with," said Marbury by email.
"We want the community to know that as soon as the first person tested positive, we took decisive action. We immediately contacted everyone who is in our email distribution (240 email addresses) and alerted them to the positive cases that may have been contracted in the previous weekend services, Nov. 1st," he said.
"Anyone who tested positive self-quarantined. We also immediately canceled in-person weekend services. Furthermore, we want Wolfeboro and the surrounding communities to know that we are taking seriously the recommendations of the state of NH regarding church gatherings."
Prior to Nov. 1, they had indoor services on two prior weekends. He said those services were conducted at well below 50 percent capacity, and they had divided their congregation into two services. They also practiced social distancing between family units and mandated that all staff and leaders wear masks unless seated and socially distanced. They also recommended and provided masks to church attendees.
Marbury said all summer and into the fall, "we gathered outdoors in and around a large high-top circus tent. It was only once the temperatures dropped below the 50s that we decided that we needed to move indoors.
"Once we moved inside, we broke up the services into two groups, and many of our summer attendees left for the season, so these gatherings were about 50 in each service. These services were carried out according to the recommendations of the state of NH and our attendance was well below the recommended 50 percent capacity for a place of assembly," he said.
"All staff and leadership wore masks, and masks were recommended and made available to all who attended."
Apparently in the spring, the church had canceled services.
An April 3 update says that the church canceled all large gatherings and had moved small gatherings into an online format until at least May 4.
According to its website, the church dates back seven years.
"Calvary Wolfeboro was planted by God in Wolfeboro, NH, on July 6th, 2013, in the home of the Thomassian family. By September of that same year our gathering had grown too large for their home. That precipitated our first move to the Brookwoods Conference Center where we worshipped and grew as a church throughout the fall, winter, and spring of 2014. Then, in June of 2014, we made our second move. This time to 43 Mill Street in downtown Wolfeboro where the church has gathered ever since.
"Beginning as an informal gathering of believers in Christ, we didn't have a name or any formal structure until over a year after our inception. The name we now bear (Calvary Wolfeboro) comes from the fellowship of churches we are a part of — Calvary Chapel. This group of churches (CCA-Calvary Chapel Association) began in the late 1960s as part of the revival in southern California that would eventually be called "the Jesus movement." Chuck Smith was the pastor of the first Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California where mobs of young people came seeking Christ. One of those young people was Skip Heitzig who eventually became a pastor and was sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico to plant a church. That church, Calvary Albuquerque, is the church out of which our founding pastor was raised up and sent to Wolfeboro."
The church is now streaming services online. "This will be the case for at least Sunday, Nov. 22, and Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26," Marbury said. "We are reassessing our processes and service protocols at this time."
For more, go to calvarywolfeboro.org.