Midweek Update

Dear friends in Christ,
I hope you’re getting to enjoy the very warm weather today! We have a number of things going on in the church this coming week that I’d like to highlight.

May Outdoor Worship

In addition to our 10am live-streamed services, we have outdoor worship every Sunday in May at 11:30. (Weather permitting.) Please try to register ahead, bring a chair, and wear a mask. You can register online or by contacting the church office.

For this Sunday, 5/2, our Cherub Choir will be singing outdoors and then stay with their parents for the remainder of the service as it’s a communion Sunday. There is still nursery care available. 

Here’s the link to register for Sunday 5/2.

You can register for Sunday 5/9 here.

Sunday School Volunteers Needed

We can’t have faith formation/Sunday school programming without help from all of you! Our Christian Education Coordinator, Valerie, is looking for volunteers to help teach Sunday School for May.

Providing Christian instruction for our children is one of the things we all promise whenever a child is baptized in our church, and it takes all of us to make it happen. To volunteer or get more information, contact Valerie: valeriebeard86@gmail.com

Church Clean Up: This Saturday May 1st

We start at 8am! Don’t forget a mask! Helpful tools to bring with you are: wheelbarrows, trailers, pickup trucks, rakes, shovels, pitchforks, loppers, pruners, and leaf blowers!

After Church Program 5/2: Seeds of Faith

We’ve received a donation of flower seeds, so after outdoor worship on 5/2 we’re going to have an event on the green to make pots and plant the seeds. See attached flyer for more information! (Thanks Katie P for the flyer!)

Mother’s Day Diaper Drive and Raffle

One of the difficult things for struggling families with young children is that diapers are expensive and not covered by many assistance programs. In the lead up to Mother’s Day, the Mission Board is collecting diapers. Those who bring those items will be entered into a raffle for a $50 gift certificate to 8 Fifty Restaurant. See attached flyer for details. (Thanks again Katie P!)

National Day of Prayer Service 5/6 @ 11am on the Green

Join the Rev. Tara Shepley from St. George’s, members of other churches in our community, and me for a brief time of prayer for our nation and community on Thursday 5/6 @ 11am. We’re going to be meeting on the Christmas tree side of the Green.

CDC Updates Guidance on Safe Activities for Vaccinated People

This week the CDC has released a bunch of new guidance on activities that are safe for vaccinated individuals. I attached the new chart they put out that compares risk levels of activities between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The good news is that church is an activity the CDC has determined is quite safe for vaccinated individuals. The less good news is it’s still a high risk activity for those who aren’t vaccinated. So, this is just a reminder that everyone getting vaccinated as soon as they are able is our quickest way back to resuming full church activities and more normal activities in the rest of our lives. Our church staff is all at various points in getting immunized, and we’re looking forward to better days ahead.

Pastoral Relations Committee

One of the things our church hasn’t had the past couple years is a Pastoral Relations committee to help support and navigate the relationship between the church and me, the pastor. We’ve recently gotten the committee up and running, and I’m grateful to Kent SW who has agreed to be chair. The other members of the committee are Michele F., Katie O, and John D. Thank you to Michele, Katie, and John for also agreeing to serve.

Video of Arms and Armor Demo

I forgot to highlight last week that we do have a video of Kent’s medieval arms and armor presentation available on our Youtube channel. You can watch it here:              https://youtu.be/SYYNTeZ0BHE           

I’ve also attached a picture of our own knight in shining armor for those who weren’t able to make it. (I found out from Kent’s presentation he’s actually dressed as a foot soldier.) Thanks Kent!

General Comments

Kent’s presentation the other week got me thinking about this part from Ephesians:

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:13

When this was written, the church was going through some difficult times, and they were quite literally a small group of people in a sea of people who believed different things and were sometimes even hostile to them. This letter is a word of encouragement for the church in the face of all those difficulties.

The church is told to dress for a spiritual battle, but what’s interesting is all the pieces of armor and weapons are given purposes opposite to waging war. People are being equipped to bring peace and justice rather than violence. It’s a bit like beating swords into plowshares. Things designed for war are instead going to bring justice and peace.

For us in this time, the piece of armor standing out to me is the belt of truth. Belts are important in that they hold everything together, and a shared understanding of truth is one of the things that holds society together and makes for a healthy society.

As we look ahead to a hopefully brighter 2021 than 2020, we can’t forget that belt of truth. Truth is sometimes uncomfortable or not what we want, but speaking the truth about reality and knowing the truth are essential. If we don’t recognize truth (e.g. the truth about racial injustice existing, the truth about science, etc.) we won’t be able to move forward and find peace. So, don’t forget that belt of truth when preparing to face the problems of each day.
Peace,
Katrina

Midweek update

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope you’re all doing well. Please see Jeanine’s update for more information about things going on in the church.

Outdoor worship has been popular during good weather, and we’re gearing up to launch indoor worship soon.

Outdoor Worship Continuing Through May

Church Council met last night, and we are going to continue with outdoor worship for May. So, we’ll continue to have outdoor services at 11:30 in addition to our 10am livestream service on Youtube (www.youtube.com/c/middleburycongregationalchurch).

Outdoor worship this Sunday 4/25: Right now the weather looks poor for this Sunday, but I’m going to wait a few more days to see if things improve any. I will make the call on Saturday at the latest. 

Link to Register for 4/25 here: https://forms.gle/C45tZXwRZoCkLvZ76

Link to Register for 5/2 here: https://forms.gle/SUbFZLoe9q92SVpo9

General Comments Regarding Reopening 

For more information on where things stand with reopening, I’ve attached the update that will be going into Church Life. I want to provide some general background information on reopening beyond the information in the attached update as I know some people are anxious to return to indoor services.

In terms of decision-making regarding reopening, we’ve had a Reopening Committee, the Deacons, Church Council, and staff all involved in these decisions. That’s somewhere around 20+ people who have been involved and signed off on various plans.

As noted in the report, the past number of weeks we’ve been revising our procedures and preparing for a return to indoor worship. These decisions have involved reviewing the state rules, CDC and state public health department recommendations, the advice of our denomination, and the recommendations of our insurance company. 

The two conditions that have been approved by our church leadership for resuming indoor worship as of the Church Council meeting last night are:

1) Our staff with Sunday morning responsibilities be fully immunized. Our local health department did not put clergy or church staff in a preferred vaccination category, so none of our younger staff, including me, are fully immunized at this time. 

2) Our town of Middlebury not be classified as red by the state public health department for two consecutive weeks. The link to the chart showing rates of infection and alert categories for the state can be found here: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Data-Tracker

The public health department recommends no indoor gatherings when a town is classified as red, and our town has been continuously red since November. We have been following that advice from the public health department along with that same advice from our denomination. 

Additionally, our sexton is currently on leave and has been for some weeks, so we are in the process of securing cleaning arrangements. We obviously cannot resume indoor activities without regular cleaning in place. The building has undergone a lot of renovation during this past year, and there is a fair amount of additional organizing work that needs to be done to shift things back to where they go for regular indoor activity. Both of these things are being worked on.

Our socially distanced capacity limit indoors is 70 people. Had we been inside on Easter instead of outdoors, we would have needed to turn away 24 people. 

From a moral and theological standpoint, the value we have put the most emphasis on is loving our neighbors; that has led to us putting the safety of our members, staff, and wider community as our first priority. Churches have consistently throughout the pandemic been major vectors of COVID spread.

Weighing all of those factors, our church leadership has decided on continuing with outdoor worship the month of May to give us time to prepare the building, allow staff the opportunity to be immunized, and hopefully allow for a decrease in cases in our community as more people are immunized. Being outdoors at this time also allows us greater capacity than indoors so we don’t have to turn people away. We are very much working towards indoor worship, and I do not have an exact date yet, but I certainly have hope for the coming months. 

I realize other churches have made other decisions and weighed factors differently than we have. I know not everyone agrees with the course of action our church has taken throughout this time. I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I truly want nothing more than for church to be as it was before the pandemic with singing, socializing, and eating.

I absolutely adore church. It’s why I am a pastor. I miss it and seeing all of you desperately. All the leaders of our church who have participated in our decisions during this time miss church desperately. We have made the decisions we feel are right for our church as best we can given the information we have. This has been and is a heavy responsibility, and I’m very grateful for the faithful work of all of our church leaders during this pandemic, which isn’t a situation any of us has ever been through before. 

As we look towards the future, these words of blessing from the apostle Paul are on my heart: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

In Christ,
Katrina

In shining armor

One of the best parts of being in a faith community is getting to know your friends and neighbors. Longtime member Kent Sullivan-Wiley has been fascinated by the Middle Ages since his childhood in Europe, and is part of a historic re-enactment group focusing on the late 15th century.

He showed us the behind-the-scenes suiting up of a foot soldier during a presentation after outdoor worship on April 18. Photos and video by Katrina Manzi.

Midweek Update: Easter 3

Dear friends in Christ,
I hope you’re getting a chance to enjoy the lovely weather today before we have another couple days of cold weather. As we get properly into spring, there are a number of things going on in the life of the church:

Outdoor Worship All Sundays in April @11:30am
In addition to our 10am livestream service on our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/c/middleburycongregationalchurch ), we are having outdoor services at 11:30 in the parsonage backyard along with outdoor Sunday school and Nursery Care. (Parsonage yard is right near the church parking lot.)

Please try to register ahead, bring a chair, and wear a mask. It would be extremely helpful for the church office if everyone registered by Friday so an accurate list can be printed out while Jeanine is in the office. If you forget, we can of course check you in on the day. You can register through contacting the church office or online.
Here’s the link to register for this Sunday, 4/18: https://forms.gle/XyzzpZm7Ek8TPeHJ8
Here’s the link to register for next Sunday 4/25: https://forms.gle/oMykmW4S3addDgzj6

The Swords and Armor demonstration will shine this weekend, April 18, as a rain date from the 11th.

After Church Program 4/18: Arms and Armor
Now that we’ve got a weekend with a clear forecast, Kent’s demonstration on arms and armor has been rescheduled for this Sunday, 4/18 after the outdoor service. Feel free to bring a picnic lunch! There’s going to be fun for children and adults alike!

After Church Program 4/25: Seeds of Faith
We’ve received a donation of flower seeds, so after outdoor worship on 4/25 we’re going to have an event on the green to make pots and plant the seeds. See attached flyer for more information! (Thanks Katie P for the flyer!)

Mother’s Day Diaper Drive and Raffle
One of the difficult things for struggling families with young children is that diapers are expensive and not covered by many assistance programs. In the lead up to Mother’s Day, the Mission Board is collecting diapers. Those who bring those items will be entered into a raffle for a $50 8 Fifty Restaurant gift certificate. See attached flyer for details. (Thanks again Katie P!)

Spring Clean Up: 5/1
Now that spring is here, it’s time for out church spring clean up! It’s scheduled for Saturday 5/1 starting at 8am. See attached flyer by Jeanine for info on what to bring. The rain date is the following Saturday, 5/8.

General Comments
This week I wanted to highlight the work Chris and John D have been doing to upgrade the church audio tech for our livestream services. I’ve attached a picture of some of the work in progress. Over the past number of weeks, they’ve been installing equipment that enables us to mix audio live so we have more consistent volume and fuller sound, have a mix for how it sounds in the meetinghouse versus over the livestream, and we now also have monitors for Dave so he can hear the person he’s accompanying when he’s playing organ. In addition to John operating the camera, Chris has been mixing our sound live the past number of weeks. So, thank you to Chris and John for enabling us to make a joyful noise to the Lord that sounds much better!

Peace,
Katrina

Behind the scenes as our audio equipment gets an upgrade by Chris and John DiCorpo.

Sanctuary reopens May 30!

The Church is continuing in-person outdoor worship in May and plans to reopen for INDOOR worship for our 10am service on May 30. Meanwhile, outdoor services are offered at 11:30 a.m. Sundays, weather permitting. Contact the church office or register online.

Wear a mask, bring a chair, and register ahead. There will be outdoor Sunday school and nursery care. (Parsonage yard is right next to church parking lot)

We live-stream our Sunday services at 10:00 a.m. on YouTube, where you can also see our previous services. You may access the live stream here.

Smaller group meetings and community programs are resuming under pandemic restrictions. Organizers should register with the Church office and are required to follow our health and safety guidelines.

Second Sunday of Easter

The rain held off this morning so we were able to have outdoor worship in addition to online worship! You can view our livestream YouTube service for this second Sunday of Easter here.

Download our Bulletin and Congregational Crier and follow along at the links below.

Spring is celebrating its own resurrection, too, bringing us back to outdoor worship. The forsythia welcomed us as we returned to our quieter lawn behind the Parsonage. Here are some scenes from outdoor worship plus the view as the fog began to burn off.