September 30, 2020
Dear People of God in the Diocese of Vermont,
We hope that you and your congregation are staying safe and healthy as we move into fall. The Restart Team is busy reviewing plans for re-opening our parish offices and for outdoor, in-person worship. All the members of the team are grateful for the thoughtful and careful efforts you are making in this regard. Our highest priority is to ensure that we embody the love of Christ in taking care of each other, especially the most vulnerable, and we thank you for joining us in this mission.
Because of the good work that has gone on throughout the diocese, the Restart Team has made a change in our Phase 3 guidelines, and there are now guidelines for Holy Baptism included in the updated reopening guidelines. The Phase 3 changes include:
Phase 3, outdoor, in-person worship: up to 50 participants can attend, as long as space allows for appropriate 8 to 10 feet of physical distance between individuals or family groups. There should be at least one health officer for every 15 people in attendance, with 3 for up to 50 attendees. Also, if available, worshippers can attend in cars parked near the outdoor space as long as they remain in the vehicle. Also, please remember to keep a good list with dates, times, names and phone numbers for all those attending each service so that contact tracing can be carried out by the Department of Health if needed.
These guidelines are based on the Vermont Department of Health recommendations for religious organizations, which state:
“Religious facilities and places of worship may resume operations subject to the mandatory health and safety guidance contained in the Phased Restart Work Safe Guidance and:
- Outdoor, drive-in, and remote services remain the preferred method of operation.
- Organizations may allow 50 percent of fire safety occupancy or 1 person per 100 square feet.
- Physical distancing between household/family units should be observed.
- Facial coverings are required.
- All participants must practice physical distancing.
We ask faith leaders to help members of their congregations understand the dangers of COVID-19 and educate congregants of current CDC and Vermont Department of Health guidance.” Please accept our thanks and know of our prayers for all our congregations and clergy in the Diocese of Vermont during this pandemic. The Restart Team has received and continues to welcome quite a few queries about innovative and safe ways to use our indoor buildings and grounds. The Restart Team has been able to work with parishes to adjust proposals where it is necessary and has approved these proposals.
Through your faithful compliance, we are keeping our members safe and serving as an example of responsible action for our entire community. Together we are following the best advice of our public health experts to minimize the ravages of the pandemic. We have learned from the scientists that half of transmissions come from asymptomatic people. This is the reason for our extreme caution, as children go back to school and our range of contacts becomes more diverse. Our caution has kept our numbers down. Of course, no one knows what the uncertainties of the future we face will bring, but with patience, faithful action and a spirit of mutual love, we will all get through this together.
Please feel free to reach out to the members of the Restart Team if you have any questions, need for clarification or any other thoughts or comments. Meanwhile, enjoy the coming fall season in our lovely Vermont, and may God bless you and your loved ones.
The Restart Team of the Diocese of Vermont
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown
Canon Lynn Bates
Dr. Anne Guillot
The Rev. Dr. Earl Kooperkamp
The Rev. Dr. Fred Moser
The Rev. Amy Spagna
The Rev. Rob Spainhour
The Rev. Bob Wilson