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 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.”