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Updates from the Diocesan Restart Team: In-Person Outdoor Worship

As the weather begins to warm and as Vermont state guidelines permit, in-person outdoor worship under Phase 3 directions may resume after May 1 according to the provisions that follow. 

Inasmuch as current Vermont state guidelines are closely tied to the anticipated rate of vaccinations in the state, parishes should be aware that changes in both state and diocesan guidelines remain possible if the vaccination rate or other factors (e.g., infection levels) change. Parishes are also reminded that some aspects of our diocesan guidelines remain more cautious than state guidelines, out of our continuing love and care for everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us. 

  • The Restart Team encourages congregations that already have an approved Phase 3 plan from last summer/fall to review their plans at this time, so they will be ready to put in-person outdoor worship back into practice if they wish. We recognize that some parishes may choose not to hold such services.
  • Parishes should be sure they have Designated Health Officers (DHOs) with completed VOSHA certificates in place.
  • For congregations that did not seek approval for Phase 3, a plan that follows these guidelines must be approved by the Restart Team before outdoor worship may take place. Please review the guidelines and submit a proposal if you do not have an approved Phase 3 plan and your congregation wishes to begin in-person outdoor worship.
  • Both the vestry or bishop’s committee and clergy must be in agreement that they are ready to hold in-person outdoor worship before doing so, and it may only take place with the consent of the clergy. Congregations without clergy must have consent of the senior wardens in charge or the vestry/bishop’s committee.
  • For in-person outdoor worship, attendance of up to 300 persons is permitted to the extent space allows, and with the following conditions: Ten feet of social distance must be maintained the whole time between unvaccinated persons/household units (100 sq. ft. per person/household unit). Six feet of distance is required between each vaccinated person or pod of vaccinated individuals. Everyone must remain masked continuously the whole time; both nose and mouth must remain covered with a well-fitted mask. Designated Health Officers (DHOs) must be present and familiar with their responsibilities. At least one DHO for every 15 attendees must be present.
  • We remind everyone that under our Phase 3 guidelines there is no singing and no food or “coffee hour.”
  • Except for the Day of Pentecost, May 23, there is no Communion. The Restart Team will issue further guidance for outdoor Communion in advance of May 23. Otherwise, Communion for virtual services on May 23 may follow the same protocol as recently used on Easter.
  • Recognizing that indoor services may become possible as conditions improve, the Restart Team encourages congregations to begin thinking about elements they should incorporate into plans for indoor services. The Restart Team will provide specific guidelines and questions to be answered in a future communication.
  • The Restart Team encourages congregational leaders to consider prayerfully whether or not they should open for in-person services – whether outside or indoors – before all members of their communities for whom a vaccine is available, including their clergy, have had the opportunity to become fully vaccinated.* We are thankful to have a number of younger clergy in our diocese, and are sensitive to the fact that many of them, as well as many laypeople, will not have had time to become fully vaccinated until well after May 1.

*“Fully vaccinated” means a person is at least two weeks beyond their final vaccination shot. 

The Restart Team is available to answer any questions or concerns about in-person outdoor worship. Please email the team’s convener, the Rev. Fred Moser. Thank you to all who have done so much to show our love and respect to God and each other by keeping everyone safe throughout the pandemic. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. 

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