July 16, 2021
“Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here, just as you are. When our doors open, they open to all, with no exceptions.” Whether you will be attending in-person worship this summer or later in the fall, or whether you will continue to find us online on Sunday mornings or whenever it suits your schedule, know that you are loved and welcomed here.
As the date for reopening our sanctuary to in-person worship approaches, the Reopening Task Force wishes to share a number of carefully considered details which hopefully will provide for a safe, peaceful, inclusive and inviting return for all. These modifications will be reconsidered throughout the next several weeks and months as the pandemic continues to ease its grip in our communities. All of these guidelines were developed in collaboration with the staff, boards of the church, the audio/visual team, feedback from the congregation, and Church Council. As always, your patience and generosity throughout this time has been much appreciated, and your thoughts and concerns continue to be welcome. Please reach out to anyone on the Task Force with any comments regarding the path forward.
- Masking: While there is considerable variation on a global and national level regarding guidance for this practice, the State of Vermont has been unequivocal about their recent recommendations. Our communities are highly vaccinated and the rate of viral transmission within them is very low. Our church will be following state guidelines which encourages those who are unvaccinated to wear masks. Masks are also welcome for those who feel called to do so for any other reason, whether that be in solidarity with the unvaccinated, out of an abundance of caution, or for personal preference. We will continue to monitor the recommendations of the State of Vermont and make changes to our practice as necessary.
- Ventilation: In a change from previous summers, there will not be fans providing additional circulation on the floor of the sanctuary. Rest assured, all operable windows will be open and the exhaust fans in the attic will be running before, during and after the service. They will not be seen, but they will be in action! As revealed by air quality testing earlier this spring, there will be an adequate number of air changes per hour in alignment with industry standards.
- Physical Distancing: For those who wish to remain physically distanced while worshiping in the sanctuary, the balcony and the first few rows on the west side of the pulpit will be blocked off for individuals or family units who prefer to have more space between them and other congregants. Please alert a Deacon if this appeals to you, or feel free to follow the signs indicating which rows are designated for that purpose.
- Greeters: There will be hand sanitizing stations at all entrances for your convenience. While there will be greeters stationed in the narthex, they will be instructed to greet everyone with open arms and a warm smile, not necessarily a handshake.
- Sharing of prayers and concerns: As in the past, there will be two microphones which the Deacons will hand to those wishing to share their prayers and concerns aloud. The microphone will be cleaned in between speakers. For those who feel more comfortable writing their prayers down for a pastor to read from the pulpit, there will be writing material available in the back of the sanctuary for that purpose. Please hand the prayer slip to a Deacon prior to the start of the service. In a change from previous practice, the prayers and concerns will be live streamed so that those who are worshipping with us online can more fully participate in the life of our church.
- Offering: There will be no change to the passing of the offering plate. The CDC has advised that there is no significant risk of getting the virus from surfaces, but there will be ample supplies of hand sanitizer available in the sanctuary for those wishing to practice hand hygiene.
- Communion: Bread for Communion will be distributed much like the juice has been distributed: separated into small cups for congregants to take off a passed plate. There will be no change to how the juice is distributed. A gluten-free option will continue to be available.
- Children and Youth: As always, all children and youth are welcome in the sanctuary for worship! For the remainder of the summer there will be no nursery care provided, but the nursery will be open for those needing to bring their young children downstairs. The service will still be audible in Fellowship Hall. Nursery care will begin again on Welcome Sunday, scheduled for September 12, 2021.
- Music: While Jessica Allen, Director of Music, is on her regularly scheduled summer leave and the choirs are on their summer breaks, music will be phased in gradually, with more special music being featured than communal singing. Instead of the usual four congregational hymns, singing will be limited to two hymns, one in the first half, and another in the second half of the service. More hymns will be added in over time.
- Fellowship Hour: With much gratitude for Jim and Margaret Eagan and the Fellowship Hour team, the congregation is invited to attend “Lemonade on the Lawn” following the summer services. This will happen downstairs by the Seymour Street entrance under the portico and on the grass. Chairs will be available for those that need or want to sit.
There will inevitably be some bumps in the road during this transition into the next chapter of our congregational life. May an abundance of grace and gentleness continue to grow among us as we bring our joy and our grief, our enthusiasm and our trepidation, and our ever-abiding love into the days ahead.
Judy Albright, Church Administrator; Jeff Ellison, Building Manager; John Evarts, Board of Trustees; Mark Gleason, Board of Trustees; Rev. Elizabeth Gleich; Leanna Maglienti, Board of Deacons, chair