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Suspending Gatherings for Worship: A Message from Bishop Shannon

Dear People of God in the Diocese of Vermont,

The COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying across our diocese, forcing us to observe new restrictions on our life together. Today Governor Phil Scott banned indoor and outdoor gatherings—public or private—by members of more than one household. Accordingly, I am suspending indoor and outdoor gatherings for worship in our diocesan churches or on their properties beginning on Monday, November 16, and lasting until the governor’s order is lifted.

During this period, I would prefer that all congregations conduct worship using Zoom or some other videoconference program that does not require members of more than one household to be in the same place at the same time. However, congregations may continue to stream worship from their buildings as long as no more than four people who are already in regular contact with one another are involved.

Despite the restrictions on multi-family gatherings, the Restart Team and I believe—at this point—that if we make significant revisions to our initial plan, it will still be possible to offer physically-distanced Communion across the diocese on November 29, the First Sunday of Advent. We will put forth a new plan early next week after canvasing the congregations of the diocese regarding their participation. Please be on the lookout for that communication.

These new restrictions come at time when we are all suffering from pandemic fatigue, and I know that many of you will find them disheartening. Yet I ask you to accept them with good grace. As Christians we must commit ourselves to the common good and the welfare of the most vulnerable members of our community. Sometimes we serve God best by taking the simple steps the governor has outlined to slow the spread of a deadly disease.

I know that you will continue to find ways to serve the neediest people in our communities, and to provide pastoral care for those who struggle with the isolation that the pandemic has forced upon so many of us. Please continue to take whatever steps are necessary to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe. I am grateful for your steadfast faith and creativity in coping with the effects of this crisis. As always, you are in my prayers.

Peace and blessings,
Bishop Shannon

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