We have had quite an unexpectedly arduous journey through these uncharted waters of pandemic. As in any journey, we have had to adjust and make changes enroute and continue to do so as we hopefully approach the end of this world-wide tragedy. As in any difficult journey we have learned quite a bit about our community: our values, our principles, and the level of support from our members. Ironically, our church has done quite well, exceeded expectations in every aspect of ministry: worship attendance, capital improvements, yearly pledges and special gifts, community outreach and member support. I find this truth to be pretty gospelish in nature: life in the midst of death, joy in the midst of difficulty, freedom in the midst of commitment and abundance in the midst of generosity.
Recently, our brave little state has reached the 80% vaccination rate and as promised, Gov. Phil Scott has lifted the mask requirement and many of the health safety protocols. Since this is America, some folks have celebrated and returned to normal while others remain cautious and continue to wear their masks and retain some of the protocols. Hospitals, schools, governments buildings and restaurants have also responded differently with some still requiring masks and others feeling finally free from the restraints. Likewise, churches have also exercised their freedom of choice by having the same diversity in the way they have begun to re-open their doors. Some are not worshipping until September, others require vaccination cards for entrance, others require masks, some are worshipping outside only, and some are letting both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in with or without masks. Americans, New Englanders, and Congregationalists like their freedom!
First Congregational Church of Essex Junction will again slowly ease some of our protocol requirements. Starting July 4th, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are free to come to worship where we will still sit in every other pew but will sing, have congregational responses, listen to live music, and enjoy some fellowship time with coffee after church. We encourage children and adults who have not been vaccinated or with underlying health conditions or simply a bit more cautious to continue to wear their masks. This easing of protocols will be true for group and committee meetings as well.
However, due to the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus, if the situation in Vermont changes, then we will adapt this new policy to meet the threat and adhere to what the scientists and the Vermont Department of Health say. Thank you all for honoring the cautious way we have approached this situation in the hopes of keeping our members safe. And thank you for continuing to make First Church a great place to conduct ministry, connect with friends and reach out to make the world a better place.
Rev. Mark Mendes, Senior Pastor
on behalf of Church Council