Some Vermont churches reopen under new guidelines

Published: May. 24, 2020 at 4:54 PM EDT
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It’s the first Sunday that houses of worship across Vermont have been allowed to reopen, two months after closing under Gov.Phil Scott’s stay-at-home order. Some reopened under the new guidelines, others remained closed.

Prayer and song filled the Faith Baptist Church sanctuary in Winooski Sunday morning.

“It feels wonderful to be back in church. We missed seeing everybody," said Dave Roy, a member of the congregation.

“I was happy to hear it on the news. I screamed when I heard it on the news," said Lana Duqette, another congregation member.

Fifteen of the congregation's average 50 members showed up on Sunday. Complying with physical distancing guidelines, they spread out in the pews and while praying at the altar. Although in-person fellowship looks a little different now, many were eager to get back to it.

“The hardest part of being away from church family is the connection. We’re very close. These are my sisters and brothers in Christ," said Karen Bushey, a church member.

“Being able to actually talk and see people -- one of the things about being a Christian that’s great is being able to encourage everybody and look people in the eyes and things and you can’t do that remotely," Roy said.

As some houses of worship are opening back up, others remain closed.

Rabbi Jan Salzman of the Ruach Hamaqom Synagogue in Burlington says her congregation is waiting for a coronavirus vaccine before restarting in-person teaching.

“Each of us is responsible for each other and the idea that we could open up and let someone come in and end up infecting other people -- it just doesn’t seem right," she said.

Rabbi Salzman believes you don’t necessarily need a house to worship.

“We are very excited in some ways about having this opportunity to reimagine what is a synagogue? What is a church? What is a spiritual community going forward, if we’re not coming together," she said.

Burington Bishop Christopher Coyne says Catholic churches expect to open on June 1-- an announcement is expected this week. According to a statement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, a church reopening committee is working on a safe path forward.

"A church reopening planning committee comprised of parishioners, medical professionals, pastors and diocesan leadership has been meeting over the last several weeks to prepare church reopening protocols. Our churches will open for the celebration of Mass and the other sacraments once protocols are finalized and implemented and we are confident that our parishes are prepared to safely open according to the CDC and Vermont Department of Health guidelines."

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