Community Values - A Few Things about Vermont
No billboards! In 1968, the Vermont General Assembly passed a law banning billboards. This act heralded a long-standing effort to preserve the state’s natural beauty, and helps Vermonters recognize the value of community life relative to life punctuated by competitive advertising. Traveling in Vermont is therefore a far different experience from what one encounters in its neighboring states—and elsewhere in the United States.
Fresh air: Vermont is famous for its outdoor recreation. There is a wide variety of ski facilities and resorts, which also offer year-round recreation: tennis, riding, biking, fishing, hiking, and other non-winter activities. The nearest downhill skiing area is Mount Mansfield, with the mountain resort town of Stowe approximately 1 hour away from St. James. Waterbury, the home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, is the gateway from Interstate 89 to Stowe. Cross-country ski trails are not difficult to find throughout the state. Both Stowe and Burlington have extensive bike paths that are open to walkers and joggers. Although Vermont is dominated to the west by Lake Champlain, there are many lakes and ponds throughout the state that offer additional outdoor recreation, predominantly boating, sailing, and swimming.
Eating well: Vermont has been at the forefront of a localvore and food entrepreneurship culture in recent years. Farm-to-table cuisine, however special, is not difficult to find statewide. A cooperative network of food growers, chefs, and diners helps keep the healthful-food culture at a high level, as does a long-standing tradition for food coops, all of which connect the Vermont food culture. In fact, the “Vermont Cheese Trail” is one of National Geographic’s 500 Drives of a Lifetime (“500 of the world’s most spectacular trips”). Several local cheese producers are active in the growing network of food entrepreneurs, sustainable farmers, and educational institutions, particularly in the northeastern section of Vermont—dubbed as an emerging “mecca for slow food.” Farmers markets are present in many towns throughout the summer, and Essex Junction hosts a winter farmers market.
Open doors: Although Vermont is not racially diverse, it strives to be an open, welcoming state. It allows undocumented and illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses and use them as pathway documents for employment, partly in recognition that some of our agriculture depends on seasonal jobs from these workers. Several cities are exploring Sanctuary status. This overwhelmingly white population has welcomed refugees from around the world, not without discussion and some dissent. Many businesses and academic institutions are making an effort to hire for greater diversity.
St. James’s Outreach Committee work has resulted in the parish’s hosting an influx of Sudanese men in the early 2000s, and helping refugees from other parts of Africa and the Balkan states assimilate into the United States and Vermont life. The church has been active in previous years to the needs of the local Refugee Resettlement Center. Elsewhere in Vermont, the Episcopal Church has been active in refugee resettlement (currently welcoming Syrian refugees); the Diocesan liaison for refugee resettlement has many contacts at St. James.
Open talent: St. James parishioners represent, in their professions and interests, a broad range of talent. Similar to the expanding local food movement in Vermont is a long history of high-quality art and traditional crafts. St. James has several parishioners who have made their livings in part or wholly through the arts. There are Vermont colleges with a significant long-term commitment to the arts: Bennington College, Marlboro College (particularly music) and the Breadloaf School at Middlebury College (writing). The Bread and Puppet Theater and Circus Smirkus, a comprehensive circus training and performance experience for young people, are both nationally known.
We also have parishioners working in (or retired from positions in) health services as nurses, physicians, caseworkers, and social service workers. Other parishioners at St. James represent the law, accounting, teaching, government, writing and editing, library science, retail sales, security, IT, engineering, and other technical professions.
The wide attention to agriculture, food, the arts, institutions of higher learning, and hospitality to tourists have made Vermont a relatively classless society, a supportive place for new, small, high-tech companies and individual careers, and also a place that attracts many who want to come for the high quality of life in a fairly relaxed place.