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Releasing Congregations from Diocesan COVID-19 Restrictions: An Update from Bishop Shannon

Dear People of God in the Diocese of Vermont:

Earlier this week, Governor Scott announced that Vermont has become the first state in the country to vaccinate 80% of its population, and released our state from all COVID-19 restrictions. In keeping with this milestone of progress against the pandemic to which we have lost so many beloved children of God, I am also releasing congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont from diocesan COVID-19 restrictions and oversight.

Although our state’s excellent vaccine progress is cause for celebration, the pandemic is not yet behind us. I strongly recommend that you continue to keep precautions in place to help protect children not yet eligible to be vaccinated, those who are immunocompromised, those who cannot be vaccinated for other medical reasons, and those who have chosen not to be vaccinated. While your congregation may not have members known to meet those descriptions, our ministry of hospitality includes creating a safe space of welcome for all; members, visitors and newcomers may be vulnerable to the virus.

In particular, I recommend that you continue to require that masks be worn while singing, and that you forego the common cup at Communion. I also encourage congregations to continue online or hybrid worship, both for the sake of those who do not yet feel comfortable attending in person, and also for the sake of those who are homebound or isolated and have found online worship during the pandemic to be a source of new connection and comfort.

The Restart Team no longer requires congregations to submit plans for safe worship, but we ask that all congregations continue to plan their gatherings carefully and pay attention to news about the spread of worrisome virus variants and other pandemic issues that may require your response. If you have questions for the Restart Team about safe reopening, or about any concerns that might arise in the coming weeks, please email the Rev. Fred Moser, who has led the team’s work with great care and generosity for over a year.

Since March 2020, we have responded to the devastation of the pandemic with care for the most vulnerable people in our midst, with love for our neighbors, and with creativity and innovation that have helped keep our congregations connected online. None of us will emerge from this pandemic unchanged, and while I grieve those we have lost, I celebrate the resilience, generosity, and fortitude that you have shown during this extraordinarily difficult time. I give thanks to God for our ministry together and to you for your witness during these days.

Peace and blessings,

Bishop Shannon

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