Judy Albright and Jennifer H. Smith- Design and Publishing

Elizabeth Davis - Editor

May 2024

staying connected

Rev. Elizabeth Gleich

Embodied, synchronous, deep, and collective. These are adjectives that The Atlantic writer Derek Thompson uses to describe religious ritual in his article entitled “The True Cost of the Churchgoing Bust.” Relationship with organized religion, he writes, facilitates a connection to the divine, gives us a historical narrative of our identity, provides us with a set of rituals to organize the week and year, and embeds us in a community of families. And according to a new survey of 5,600 US adults by the Public Religion Research Institute, more than one-quarter of Americans now identity as atheists, agnostics, or religiously “unaffiliated.” This is the highest level of non-religiosity in the poll’s history. In 2021, membership in houses of worship fell below a majority for the first time on record.


From Thompson’s perspective, this is a problem, in that the connection to community and collective life has not been replaced by something else. It’s like if everyone stopped going to sit-down restaurants and never found another social activity to replace their dining out time. People would, and are, spending more time alone, and we’re all suffering for it.


While I read this analysis with some sadness because our church too, has seen worship attendance drop significantly in recent years, I read with more curiosity the ways that Thompson describes the benefits of religious affiliation. It motivated me to responded with the questions why? And what’s next?


Of course, I agree with his assessment that being a part of a religious body connects us to each other. That religious ritual grounds us in our body and helps us make meaning. No doubt! These are truths I hold in the core of my being; it’s why I go to work every day. We need each other, and I find “the other” in this faith community. Simultaneously, this church helps me see that my neighborhood is not just within the four walls of this church. It grounds and expands my sense of community. I find God in the relational connections people make with each other. I know I’m not the only member of this church who feels this way.


To some extent, we all experienced the loss of connection during Covid. But it appears that the forced isolation accelerated a trend of loneliness and disaffiliation that had started long before the pandemic.


When looking at these trends, I think it’s easy to do two things: 1) despair at the loss of our social connections generally, and 2) act smug about how we have what others don’t. Again, it leads me to ask why? Why aren’t people returning to places that once gave them, or their ancestors meaning? While this is a big question with many different answers, I do believe that the church has to do some self-reflection here. Have we played a part in turning people away? Sure, we have. Historically (and currently, in some cases), Christianity has inflicted all sorts of religious trauma on people. Unfortunately, we’ve given people very good reasons not to walk through our doors.


What about today, in 2024, at The Congregational Church of Middlebury? I’d like to think that we do a good job of hospitably welcoming people in. I believe that we mean it when we say, “No matter who you are, or where you are on this journey, you are welcome here.” We aren’t perfect, but we do our best to walk the walk.


Friends, I want to reverse this trend. I want to reverse this trend, not because I want to ensure my paycheck every month or because I think we have the antidote to the world’s problems. I want more people to find connection, to find meaning, to find one another around tables that are big enough for all, because the world needs it more than ever. I want people to come through our doors because I believe that community is worth finding and investing in. I believe God is incarnational—meaning God is found in the messiness of relationships and service and grief and joy. We are happier and healthier when we work together for the good of this world. It doesn’t take an Atlantic writer to tell us that.


These last few months, the Stewardship Team has invited our six Boards and Church Council to explore ways to become more connected to each other and grow our reach in the community. While this endeavor was motivated, in part, by a dip in pledges during our 2023 stewardship campaign, it is a question with a genuine desire to create more loving community in this place. As I’ve sat around the table during these conversations, I have heard some wonderful ideas. One thing, however, that so far I haven't heard is this: let’s work to invite our friends and neighbors to church! I know, we’re shy! We live in Vermont! We’re allergic to evangelism! We don’t want to pressure our friends to “find Jesus”! I get it, and I feel it too. Interestingly enough, however, personal invitation by someone you know is the MOST effective way of increasing church attendance. It makes sense, but it is a vulnerable thing to do. We have to ask ourselves if the benefits we receive from this place are worth sharing with others in this way. 


If we believe in the work we’re doing here, with God’s help, I gently, but enthusiastically, urge us to make this one of our communal efforts. Spread the word. Not for the sake of Salvation, or the annual budget, or so we can be the biggest game in town, but because the world needs stronger community, deeper love, wider tables.



I am so grateful to be a part of this place. I thank God for each of you every day.







Church Council held their monthly meeting on April 10, 2024. We reviewed the Treasurer's Report and listened to reports from both Pastor Andy and Pastor Elizabeth. Elizabeth noted that she is starting a book study group at the Residence this month. Andy noted that Table 21 received another donation and will start meeting again. They both reported on the many activities in the church in the past month. Andy gave an update on staffing, noting that we will soon start the search for a new Director of Children and Youth Ministries.

We reviewed the reports from all the Boards. Robert reminded us that the window project is starting this month.

Ian Phair presented a report from the Stewardship Committee which led into a good discussion about giving, and ways to help members feel connected to the church. Many suggestions were made by the chairs of our Boards who had discussed this topic in their meetings. We also had a good discussion about the special funds held by the church, as well as our endowment.

Council approved all the recommendations from the Investment Committee, which have already been approved by the Board of Trustees, that authorized moving funds into Building Care and Maintenance (needed because of the window project), moving funds in the Associate Pastor Fund, and in the Community Supper Account. It was also made clear that the Investment Committee will oversee the investment management of the Special Funds.

Elizabeth presented the report on the Red Clover Children’s Center. She gave special thanks to Dan Brown for all his assistance on building projects, and to Alyssa Sinclair for all she has done for the center.

We had a short Executive Session before adjourning.

Respectfully submitted,

Nancy Foster, Clerk

  • Between annual meetings, the Church Council meets once a month to fulfill its responsibility to coordinate the church's programs and business. Council has the powers generally ascribed to a corporation's board of directors.

    The Church Council is composed of the following Church members:  Moderator, Clerk, Treasurer, Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, and the chairpersons of the six church boards. Also, there are three at-large members. One is elected every year and serves a 3 year term.

  • The basic life and work of the church is under the direction and supervision of church boards, which meet monthly at the All Boards Meeting and report to the Church Council. Members of these boards are elected from the membership of the church. 

Children & Youth

Eliana Cañas Parra

Dear Church,


I feel so grateful for the growth we’ve been experiencing in the past few months! We have many families with children in the nursery who have been coming to our church and are quickly becoming an important part of it. Because of this, Pastor Elizabeth and I will host a playdate and dinner for the families of our nursery kids. This event will take place on May 4 at 4:00 p.m. We are both very excited to connect with these families in a deeper way!


Church School

The kids, teachers, and I are starting to plan for Children and Youth Sunday on June 2. We know it is still a month away, but school break, Communion Sundays, and other holidays make May feel a little choppy. So, planning starts early! We are excited about what we are putting together. This month, the kids also worked on completing the Random Acts of Kindness challenge. Completing the challenge also meant collecting a gift card for creemees or frozen yogurt! If your child is close to completing it but not quite yet, just let me know, and I’ll have a prize for them!


Youth Groups

Junior Youth Group continues to work together and to deepen their relationships with each other over ice cream, board games, prayers, and candle lighting. We are planning to have a sleepover at the church this month. Stay tuned for more!


Senior Youth Group continues to show how important being of service is for them. This month, they are collecting donations for hygiene kits to donate to HOPE and Charter House. They are also getting ready for the Jo and Dave Cole Award ceremony on May 19 in which they will recognize two staff/faculty members of MUHS who have positively influenced the students’ lives.




Coffee and fellowship!

On Wednesday, May 1, Pastor Andy will host an informal gathering from 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. in the Carpenter Room. Join him for some treats, coffee and fellowship.

young family dinner and playdate

Calling all families with children 4 and under (plus any siblings)! Join Pastor Elizabeth and Eliana for a playdate and dinner on May 4th from 4:00-5:30 p.m. in Fellowship Hall. We want to get to know you and for you to get to know each other! Dinner is provided. RSVP to elizabeth@midducc.org.

Board of Mission & Social Concerns:

Flour power

Board of Missions and Social Concerns: FLOUR POWER month With the emergence of our awakening gardens, we honor Spring with FLOUR POWER! Any type of flour, sugar, corn meal, baking soda or powder, cocoa, cinnamon, oatmeal ... put on your baking hats. We hope you are enjoying our creative ways of making your purposeful shopping more fun. The staff at HOPE are having fun seeing what we will come up with next and are very grateful to the church for the commitment. Extra thanks to David Phelps for counting the 164 jars of nut butters that were collected--you all went purposefully nuts, thank you! And, many of those jars were able to be paired with jelly, jam, and Fluff as well--hurrah!

Community Supper help needed

Our Friday night Community Suppers continue to grow. We have a core group of volunteers who serve our guests. But we need more! The commitment is only about 2 hours on Friday night and as frequent or infrequent as you want. The work is not hard but so important: set tables, serve food, clean up afterwards. 

We believe it’s not only important to make sure our guests are fed but that they are greeted warmly, listened to, and given a place to make connections. We try to make sure they leave knowing that there is always a special place for them at the table. Interested? See Deb Farnham (802-233-1283) or Dottie Neuberger to get signed up. Thank you!

Men's and LAdies' Lunch

The Ladies’ Lunch on Thursday, May 16th at 11:30 am will be held at Route Seven South Sandwich Co. Please sign up to attend by Wednesday, May 15th at 12:00 pm so we can let Route 7 South know how many people to expect. Questions can be directed to Erika Garner at garnersvt@gmail.com

Sign up link

The Men's Lunch Bunch will be held at Rosie’s Restaurant on Thursday, May 16th at noon. If you plan to attend the lunch or have questions, please contact Mal Chase at patandmalchase@gmail.com.

green team announcements

The month of May brings us well into the season of Eastertide, and with it, an abundance of opportunities to rejoice in new life. While caring for creation is a year-round activity, the Green Team is offering multiple opportunities for engagement this month.

Highlights in May:

Green Up Day is Saturday, May 4 and the Green Team is combining efforts with the youth groups this year. All are welcome to join in the effort! We’ll meet at 10:00 a.m. that morning on the front steps of the church. Bags will be provided, and we will fan out in the downtown area, cleaning up a portion of the banks of Otter Creek, the Marble Works, and the Town Green. This is the 54th year of this annual state-wide event, and participating in your own town or neighborhood is also encouraged.

Our next Green Team meeting is Tuesday, May 14 at 7:00 p.m. via Zoom. New members are always welcome! Contact sureidstjohn@gmail.com or leanna_maglienti@yahoo.com if you would like to be involved or learn more about our work.

Our fourth annual Seedling Giveaway is Sunday, May 26, and church members will be invited to take home a seedling after church to grow over the summer (while supplies last). Our enthusiastic growers have a variety of veggies and herbs to choose from and will also be donating seedlings to CVOEO for their clients again this year.

Red clover children center

Substitute teachers needed:

Red Clover Children's Center is seeking substitute teachers to work for a minimum of 3 hours and at most 8 hours on an as-needed basis. Substitutes will work with Red Clover teachers in infant and toddler rooms, and will need to complete onboarding training and background checks. Substitutes will be paid $17/hour. To learn more or apply, please contact Tessa Dearborn (Red Clover Children's Center Executive Director) at: tessa@redcloverchildren.org

Nursery Help Needed!

Have you noticed?  The nursery has been full of babies and little tots on Sunday mornings this spring! If you are as excited as we are about the recent increase of young families in our congregation, and you would like it to continue, please consider helping in the nursery. 

The nursery is staffed by two (paid) youth workers and two adult volunteers. We need to expand our volunteer pool to accommodate the wonderful addition of little ones we are enjoying. If you are at least 18 years old and available to be in the nursery during worship once every 4–6 weeks, please contact Robin Bentley on the Board of Christian Development at rbentley05@gmail.com

senior high youth group service project

Through April and May, the Senior High Youth Group is collecting needed hygiene items for Charter House and HOPE! Please bring the following items to church, starting on April 21: 

Small containers of toothpaste


Finger nail polish



Finger nail clippers

Individual washcloths



Thank you for helping our neighbors!

Doing Spring Cleaning? 

Wondering where you can donate your goods? How about Neat Repeats? They are located at 1428 Rte. 7 South. Please tell them that your donations are for the Middlebury Congregational Church, #45. We will receive HALF of whatever they sell it for, the other half goes to help the community. It's a win-win situation!

Are you interested in the church’s finances?

Each year in January you have an opportunity to see, read, and (try to) understand our church’s financial status as summarized in our Annual Report. If you think this statement is too involved, too long, or too confusing, then, in this issue of Church Matters, I am giving you a chance of a lifetime: an opportunity to see, read, and understand the financial statement included in this issue.


So, take a look at the attached final report for the year 1923 or 1924. The financial report for the year ending December 31, 1923 (or 1924) was typeset on a page that was 12" by 18" and was printed in two vertical columns. Take a few minutes and see if you can find any similarities between this report and our current annual reports.


Historian, Malcolm W. Chase


Next month, we’ll struggle with our past congregational singing…





  • may Birthdays

    • to view birthdays for any month of the year SIGN IN to our online directory.
    • Click on Calendar in the upper left of the screen.

    Paige Russell                May 1

    Alison Dickinson           May 2

    Alyssa Sinclair               May 2

    Lucas Nelson                May 3

    Felix Poduschnick         May 4

    John Harrell                   May 5

    Nancy Jakiela                May 6

    Jim Foster                     May 7

    Caleb Bilodeau              May 8

    Alex Marshall                May 9

    Nate Marshall                May 9

    Andy Nagy-Benson        May 10

    Mary Ann Eastman        May 13

    Bob Foster                    May 13

    Lois Kaufmann              May 13

    Elliott Munn                   May 13

    Bob Champlin               May 14

    David Preble                 May 14

    Cathy Molloy                May 16

    Mary Williams                May 16

    Nancy Foster                May 17

    Stacia Greene               May 17

    Jackson Kubacki           May 18

    Tim Williams                 May 19

    Holly Puterbaugh           May 20

    Galen Fastie                 May 21

    Irene Barna                   May 22

    Eliana Canas Parra        May 22

    Michael Durst                May 23

    Elizabeth Gleich            May 24

    Lucy Poduschnick         May 24

    Buz Brumbaugh            May 25

    Aiden Cole                    May 25

    Ethan Roy                    May 25

    Ron Rucker                   May 25

    Sara Rose Ruffa           May 26

    Nancy Adams               May 27

    Barbara Kent                 May 29

    Ginny Heidke                May 31



  • May Anniversaries

    Mark & Shannon Gleason                                  May 4

    Donald & Leanna Maglienti                                May 8

    Glenna Emilo                                                    May 15

    Andy & Gwen Nagy-Benson                               May 17

    Jim & Dorothy Douglas                                      May 24

    Diana Davidson                                                May 25

    Robert & Nancy Foster                                      May 25

    Peter & Margaret Carothers                                May 30

    Hugh & Candy McLaughlin                                 May 31