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


June Church Matters

From the Pastor: Be gentle with one another...

Rev. Elizabeth Gleich


Dear Church! 


Hope is in the air! Flowers are blooming, vaccine numbers are increasing, COVID infections declining, and restrictions are loosening. So many of us have been able to breathe sighs of relief after receiving our first or second vaccine shots. I forgot how much I love to hug people! It's been wonderful to visit with many of you in your homes after a year of doing pastoral care over the phone or on Zoom. I've missed being your pastor in this way. 


There's a lot to be grateful for these days. But do you also sometimes feel... weird? 



Read newsletter...

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