Dear People of God in the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont:
As the seasons change and as our church year comes to an end, it is now the time, even during the pandemic, when we can safely end our fast from Holy Communion. On the First Sunday of Advent, November 29, we will begin a new church year. We invite all parishes in the Diocese of Vermont who are approved for Phase 2 and Phase 3 opening; and that are willing and able and desire to do so – to join in a celebration of the new season and to give our thanks to God in a physically distant and safely managed service of Holy Communion on November 29.
This service, as you will see from the guidelines that are attached, will need a good deal of planning and much thoughtful intentionality to be celebrated in a manner that will keep all participants as safe as possible. We encourage congregations to use this opportunity to work together in their planning and celebration so that we include as many people as possible. The members of the Restart Team are very impressed and grateful for the careful, creative and healthy practices that our parishes are using throughout the Diocese. It is in this spirit that the Restart Team hopes we can take this next step together.
In our celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist, we give God thanks together for the blessings of our lives. In community we gather together to remember God’s mercy and love given to us in our Savior Jesus Christ; and we ask to be strengthened for service in the Name of the Risen Christ. As a diocese, together we have initiated a fast from Holy Communion until we can all participate safely. Since the people of Vermont have maintained healthy practices and kept COVID-19 infection rates low, and our churches have served as leaders in our communities in this regard as well, we feel confident that we can join together to celebrate the Sacrament in a limited way to express our thanks to God and each other. Additionally, celebration of Holy Eucharist will inform how we move forward together during this pandemic.
Since the Holy Eucharist is an action of the community, the expectation is that parishioners will participate in the entire service (the Liturgy of the Word, The Great Thanksgiving, and the Holy Eucharist).
The celebration of Holy Communion in the midst of a pandemic will, of course, necessitate many changes to be safe and healthy. Unless you choose to conduct the entire service outdoors, this will be a “hybrid” service, taking place online and with a physically distant administration of the sacrament. We believe a hybrid or entirely outdoor model is a “best practice” that will help us show our love for Christ and our care for others in that love of Christ. This means we will follow God’s leading us to engage in new ways of being the Church in this time. It is our hope that in celebrating Holy Communion together once more, each one of us may come to a new appreciation of an inward and spiritual grace through the sacrament in this new season.
This is an experiment in how we may celebrate Communion going forward in this pandemic, and permission is currently given to celebrate Communion only on November 29. After we have done so, we will seek your feedback about its successes and failures so that we can change and improve. We feel this opportunity is called for at this time and still will maintain a high level of safety. With the current increase in case numbers here and across the country we do not foresee safe return to indoor worship in the near future. However, parishes have applied for and practiced the requirements of Phases 2 and 3 safely, and this experiment falls within those protocols.
Again, there is not a requirement for any individual or parish to participate. This is, however, an opportunity for parishes to collaborate with each other, and for parishes to open their arms to others outside of their own parish so that all who desire to do so may participate.
Please be assured of our prayers and our deep appreciation for all that you have done and are doing during these unprecedented times. If you have any questions or concerns, or any other issues that need attention in this regard, please feel free to contact the Restart Team via email to Dr. Ann Guillot or via email to the Rev. Fred Moser. May God bless you and the people of your congregations and may the presence of Christ as we celebrate our Holy Communion together strengthen and nourish us during the difficult times we face.
The Restart Team of the Diocese of Vermont
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown
The Rev. Dr. Fred Moser
The Rev. Amy Spagna
Dr. Anne Guillot
Canon Lynn Bates
The Rev. Bob Wilson
The Rev. Rob Spainhour
The Rev. Dr. Earl Kooperkamp