details for july 25 in-person worship

July 16, 2021


Beloved Church,


“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.


Respectfully submitted,

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

we will reopen on july 25!

July 11, 2021


Dear Church, 


Here is the update you’ve all been waiting for! As Vermont continues to make remarkable progress toward fully reopening (Step 4 in the Vermont Forward Plan), this Reopening Task Force is finally ready to declare a church reopening date as well. On July 25, 2021 at 10:00 a.m., worship will be held in-person inside our sanctuary, 498 days after our church doors were closed in response to the pandemic. This date was endorsed by Church Council at their June 9 meeting. 


Over the next 6 weeks, the Task Force and our partners will be carefully considering how exactly these first services will look. Precautions such as mask wearing may still be important and there may be modifications made for Communion, singing, and Fellowship Hour. The services will be live-streamed from the sanctuary for those unable to join us in-person.


Additionally, the protocol for small group meetings and gatherings inside the church facility will soon be updated. As soon as Governor Scott fully reopens the state, there will no longer be capacity limits in place, and masks will not be required for those who are fully vaccinated (but stay tuned for a decision about mask-wearing during worship). 


We are grateful for the patience and support of this congregation as we collectively make this important next step. Please continue to reach out to us with your thoughts and concerns during this time, either individually or by responding to the Church Reflection Questions sent out on Wednesday. As we move back into the church building, we thank God for being with us in all times and all places. 


Gratefully, 

The Reopening Task Force

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, task force chair


Reopening Update - Ventilation

June 22, 2021

 

 

As we approach reopening the Church and resuming Sunday services, the Trustees and Building Reopening Task Force have received and responded to several questions regarding ventilation in the Sanctuary. We wanted to take a moment to share our responses to the most frequently asked questions; 

 

What type of ventilation is available in the Sanctuary?; The Sanctuary has seven operable windows which provide some natural ventilation when there is a breeze outside, there are also two large exhaust fans in the attic which will pull fresh air into the Sanctuary and discharge it to the attic/outdoors. 

 

Can we open more windows to increase natural ventilation? Our windows are extremely old, many of them are painted shut, have broken/missing balances, and lack modern weatherstripping. Fixing the windows (likely by replacing them) will be a large and expensive project. The Trustees are working on a long-term plan, but we do not expect to have any additional operable windows prior to reopening. 

 

Do the exhaust fans in the attic still work? Yes, the exhaust fans were tested on April 26th to measure airflow and the results were encouraging. There was a concern that a louver which was blocked off when the addition was built would diminish the exhaust fan performance but that is not the case. The fans were tested with windows open as well as closed and they are delivering the full amount of airflow expected.

 

How much air do the exhaust fans move? With the windows closed, the exhaust fans move about 3,676 cubic feet per minute which means they can provide around 1.5 air changes per hour. This ceiling level extraction is in alignment with ASHRAE Guidelines and will provide the recommended pre-occupancy flush of 3 air changes in about 2 hours before each service or function. 

 

What is ASHRAE? The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, they are a professional association that publishes consensus standards for building design. The ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force has published a series of building guides including one for Communities of Faith. An infographic with links to all of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force resources can be found Here.

 

A Message about reopening

May 20, 2021

Dear Church,


The Reopening Task Force is indebted to many people and groups as plans to open the sanctuary for worship on Sunday mornings continue to move forward.  The Church Council, the Board of Deacons, the Board of Membership and Communications, the Board of Christian Development, church staff, and a fledgling audio visual team have been working diligently behind the scenes to provide opportunities for connection this summer and for a safe, peaceful, inclusive, and inviting return to the church sanctuary.  As encouraging news continues to be issued from the state regarding vaccination rates and as these multifaceted preparations bear fruit, a target date for resuming services in our sanctuary should be announced within the next few weeks.  

In the meantime, there are some “nuts and bolts” updates to share:

  1. The exhaust fans in the sanctuary were tested by the company that installed the heating and ventilation system in the addition and will allow flushing of the sanctuary prior to services as recommended by published guidance.  With the help of the Board of Trustees and church staff, there is a continuing effort to go above and beyond industry standards and to have as many windows as possible open in the sanctuary to improve air flow even further.  Many of them have been sealed for decades and this is no small task!

  2. Audio visual equipment that will enable live-streaming of the worship service from the sanctuary has been purchased and is being installed in the near future.  In partnership with the staff, Board of Deacons, and audio visual team, live-streaming on Sunday mornings will likely begin before the sanctuary is fully open as inevitable kinks are ironed out. There is a core team in place but more volunteers are always welcome. Please reach out to anyone on the Task Force if this effort calls to you.

  3. The previously shared document providing guidance for small groups wishing to use the church facilities has been updated to reflect the current guidance from the Vermont Forward Plan.  Practically speaking, this means that capacity limits for each room has doubled as of May 14 rather than June 1.  For the time being, guidelines for distancing and masking within the building remain unchanged.

  4. The Board of Deacons and the Board of Membership and Communications have organized a number of outdoor opportunities for fellowship this summer.  There will be time to reflect during the more intimate gatherings on how the pandemic has impacted the congregation, for better or for worse, and what people are hoping for in the future.  An opportunity to respond to these questions will also be available for those not able to participate at these outdoor in-person gatherings.  Please stay tuned for more details.

Throughout our deliberations, the Task Force has been prayerfully considering the words that are spoken from the pulpit every week at the beginning of worship: “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.”  In these in-between times, while the pandemic is easing but not yet gone, we have been deliberating how these words will be put into action within our multigenerational congregation.  We are hearing the call to be a welcoming sanctuary to our youngest members who cannot (yet) be vaccinated, to those who have been vaccinated for months, to those that may choose not to or cannot be vaccinated, and to everyone in between. Our top priority throughout this pandemic has been to protect the most vulnerable, as we believe the Gospel teaches us. 


We know that there is a great deal of diversity of opinion within the congregation regarding the return to in-person worship.  We encourage you to continue to be patient with us and church leadership, but we also hope you will reach out to us with your thoughts and concerns.   It is our hope that while the congregation is not of one opinion on this matter, we can still be one church in the spirit of Christian love as this process unfolds.  May we approach the summer before us “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2).


Respectfully submitted,

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, task force chair


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A Message About Reopening
May 3, 2021


Dear Church, 


Grace and peace to you! In this ever changing landscape, we write to share the general backdrop of what is happening at church in these next few months. Our boards and committees have been working to plan meaningful and safe outdoor gatherings for this summer, and our Task Force on Reopening is actively deliberating about how to carefully and inclusively reopen our church building for both small group meetings and gatherings and eventually, in-person worship.


While the vaccination rates in Vermont are steadily climbing, and the rates of COVID infection are decreasing, we are focused on keeping our community safe while providing meaningful opportunities to gather as a faith community. Starting in June, we will offer a number of opportunities to gather outside – on porches, lawns, and decks – to have times of fellowship, conversation, and worship. At many of these gatherings, there will be space to visit and discuss what it means to be a church in a post-COVID world. We have all been through so much these last 14 months. We need time to reintegrate ourselves into this emerging reality and to reflect on what we’ve lost. We thank the Board of Membership and Communications and the Board of Deacons for their efforts in planning these events. Stay tuned for specifics in the next couple of weeks!


As you know, we have an able and dedicated Task Force on Reopening. This group was deputized by Church Council to strategize how we might safely reopen our church building. The Task Force will check in regularly with Council, and their updates to the broader church will come at regular intervals, as well. As you might imagine, their deliberations are shaped by the evolving recommendations coming from the CDC, as well as from Governor Scott and the Vermont Forward Implementation plan. We are immensely grateful to members of the Task Force for the time and effort they are committing to this effort. As a reminder, those serving on the Task Force include Judy Albright, Mark Gleason, John Evarts, Jeff Ellison, and Leanna Maglienti, as well as Pastor Elizabeth. 


We are pleased to share with you the guidance the Task Force has developed for opening the church to groups. (see link below) If you have questions or concerns, please direct these to us and to Leanna Maglienti, Task Force chair.


We invite your prayers as we all continue to listen to God’s call on how to faithfully “be the church” in this unique time and place. 



Peace, 

Pastor Elizabeth Gleich

Katy Smith Abbott, Moderator


Task Force on Reopening Guidance for groups wishing to use the Facilities

Re-Opening Task Force

APRIL 22, 2021


We are pleased to announce that in response to Governor Scott’s recent roadmap to re-opening the State of Vermont, the Vermont Forward plan, our own Re-Opening Task Force is actively developing a similar roadmap for re-opening the church and resuming services. This means, we plan to reopen in stages, starting with small groups.


The primary goals we have are to provide a safe, peaceful, inclusive, and inviting environment for our congregation,  church staff, and members of the community who use our facilities. While we will work to accomplish this and re-open as quickly as practical, we are also mindful that there are many perspectives and opinions of what this might look like and many variables which are simply beyond our control. 


There are many details to work out with updated procedures, safety protocols, and building adjustments, all while confirming actual progress with COVID-19 vaccinations and sustained trends of declining cases.


Our immediate concern is revising the building use protocol that determines how staff and other groups will be able to use our building this spring.  On a parallel track we are evaluating and improving ventilation in the Sanctuary and preparing our audio visual needs to live-stream services.


We hope to open our building for worship later in the summer, but the exact timeframe has yet to be determined. Outdoor services will likely start as soon as next month. We fully expect to engage the congregation in conversations this spring and early summer as we gather in community, outdoors and online, in considering how the past year has changed us and how we will move forward, together.


We will continue to provide regular updates and details as these plans evolve. You can find these updates in church-wide emails and on our website.


If you have any questions or concerns that you would like to share with the Re-Opening Task Force, please reach out to Judy Albright at office@midducc.org



Re-Opening Task Force:

Leanna Maglienti, Chair; Judy Albright; Jeff Ellison; John Evarts; Mark Gleason; Rev. Elizabeth Gleich

January 7, 2021

Dear Church,

 

Peace be with you.

 

Some days run from one end of the emotional field to the other. The Day of Epiphany 2021 was one of those days. 

 

Early yesterday morning, we heard the news of Rev. Raphael Warnock’s election to the United States Senate. Given the demonstrable injustice of racism in our country’s past and present, this news bore special significance. Rev. Warnock was born four years after the Voting Rights Act. He grew up poor in a large, church-going family in Savannah’s public housing. Rev. Warnock also went on to earn a Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary (NY) and was called to lead Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta — the youngest senior pastor in that church’s distinguished history. And, yesterday morning, more history was made: Rev. Warnock will be Georgia’s first Black senator and the first Black Democratic senator from the South. That gives me hope. 

 

The rest of the day was really hard to watch. 

 

I don’t need to recount yesterday’s appalling events at the Capitol. I simply want you to know that I am praying with you for our country. I trust we will survive these deep wounds of division, with God’s help. And I believe this healing includes an unbending will to love — to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love our enemies, too. Love of all and justice for all is how this story ends, and it’s our work to do everything in our power to get there together. 

 

God bless us all.

 

With faith, hope, and love,

Andy

June 3, 2020

Beloved Church: 


We echo so many in saying that we, your church leadership, denounce and condemn the forces of violence and systems of oppression that continually lead to the suffering and death of our Black and Brown siblings in this country. We are heartbroken and angry at the murder of George Floyd in South Minneapolis, and we say his name and remember his life ended too soon by a system designed to oppress him. George Floyd, beloved child of God. There are other names, too, of course: Breonna Taylor, beloved child of God. Ahmaud Arbery, beloved child of God. The list goes on.


These past couple of weeks have further illuminated a long-standing tradition in white America: we have not listened to the communities of color around us. We have not advocated for their flourishing. We have not interrogated our own internal biases and have not repented for the ways that we are complicit in racist systems of oppression. We know this is ongoing, never finished work, and we certainly have work to do. 


During this week in which our own sacred text has been used to justify violence in the name of law and order, we must remember that peace is not the absence of conflict or protest. Peace is active justice. Peace is a just order. As such, we are in solidarity with communities justifiably crying out for justice, and we join them in this cry. As Christians, we believe in a God who is on the side of those on the margins, and this is where we must go, too. 


And so, what can we do? 


We can give. As people who live in the whitest state in the nation, we must start by acknowledging our privilege. One of the ways we exercise our privilege is by sharing our financial resources. This week, we invite you to consider giving to these organizations:


Spectrum Youth and Family Services. Based in Burlington, Spectrum provides services to at-risk youth, including LGBTQ youth and youth of color in Vermont. They provide shelter, skills programs, and prevention and intervention around substance abuse and mental health issues.  You can donate here: https://donate.spectrumvt.org/donation.


Rutland Area NAACP. The Rutland Area branch of the NAACP is dedicated to the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminating race-based discrimination in Vermont. You can donate here: https://naacprutland.org/about/become-a-member/.


Racial Justice Program - Peace & Justice Center. Based in Burlington, the Peace and Justice Center’s Racial Justice Programs seek to spread awareness about the inequity people of color face in Vermont and to build understanding and collaborations to undo racism. There is a focus on helping those who experience white privilege meaningfully engage in racial justice work. You can donate here: https://www.pjcvt.org/become-a-member/.



We can pray. Let us pray for an end to racism and all forms of oppression in this state and country. We can ask God to surround George Floyd’s family with a peace that surpasses all understanding. We can hold up all communities of color with love and light. 


We can learn. We encourage everyone to share anti-racist resources. 

A few useful ones include these two for children and young adults: 

https://thebrownbookshelf.com/2020/06/02/kidlit-rally-for-black-lives and https://socialjusticebooks.org/booklists/

and this general list of resources for people of all ages: 

https://padlet.com/nicolethelibrarian/nbasekqoazt336co

  

Additionally, church member Tara Affolter, Professor of Education Studies at Middlebury College, and member of our Board of Missions and Social Concerns, has graciously offered to share her expertise in anti-racism work with us. Stay tuned for more information. 


We can act. We can use our voices and our bodies to create change. As a church, let us commit to living out our faith in real and tangible ways… a faith that is committed to the flourishing of all, especially those most vulnerable. 

 

Black Lives Matter. 


Grace and Peace,


Andy Nagy-Benson

Elizabeth Gleich

Katy Smith Abbot