COVID-19 Updates

July 1, 2021

Dear First Church Community,

Over the past year and a half we’ve had to make many adjustments to the ways we worship and interact as a congregation. One constant has been your faithfulness, patience and grace. As your appointed leaders we deeply appreciate the ways you have adapted to every change and remained committed to life and ministry at First.

As a church we continue to adjust to changes in our communities’ and state’s COVID protocols. With this in mind, Council has decided to institute the following, effective Sunday, July 4:

  • Face masks will no longer be required for public church activities (i.e., Sunday morning worship, Bible studies, committee meetings).
  • Registration will no longer be required for worship services, and attendance caps will be lifted.

For the summer months we will continue to:

  • Collect offerings in the box at the back of the sanctuary.
  • Celebrate communion using prepackaged elements that attendees will pick up on their way into worship.
  • Provide distanced seating for those exercising extra caution at in-person events.

Livestreaming will be maintained as a permanent, at-home worship option for all First Church members.

We recognize that the general easing of COVID restrictions has felt abrupt and produced additional stress and anxiety for many. We affirm anyone’s decision to continue worshiping from home, wearing face masks at church events, and maintaining physical distance while at church. We urge everyone to be sensitive and respectful of the needs and boundaries of those exercising additional caution during in-person activities.

For those who plan to continue worshiping from home:
Your church leaders wish to do everything we can to keep you connected to community at First. Count on hearing regularly from your Care Circle elders. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of Council or Pastor Ben – we want to hear from you. Help us find ways of ministering to you effectively. If you have, during COVID, felt isolated from or neglected by your church family, please let us know. We are all members of one body.

A note regarding congregational singing:
Since our return to in-person services in September, we have exercised particular caution in the area of congregational singing. Based on updated guidelines, the practices of neighboring Christian Reformed congregations, and low local infection rates, Council has made the decision to bless worship participants to sing in worship as they feel led. Please note that for the summer, services will continue to be formatted and led the way they have over the past several months as we slowly reintroduce pre-COVID practices.

In Christ,

Your Church Council

May 26, 2021

Please continue to register for worship services here.

In response to the latest health and safety guidelines from the CDC and State of Michigan, the Council at First has adopted the following practices for indoor, in-person church gatherings.

Small-Group Gatherings:

  • Fully Vaccinated participants will no longer be required to wear masks.

Worship Services:

  • Fully Vaccinated participants will no longer be required to wear masks once seated in the sanctuary.
  • We ask that all participants wear masks while entering, exiting and moving around the church building.
  • Distanced seating will continue to be provided in the sanctuary.
  • One of our three seating sections will be designated “masks required”. This is to provide a reduced-stress environment for those who are unvaccinated, are accompanying unvaccinated children, or are exercising extra caution.
  • Our two remaining seating sections will be “mask-optional”. Participants may wear a mask while seated in these sections, but all who wish to remove their masks in these sections are welcome to do so.
  • When you arrive for worship, your usher will ask whether you prefer “mask required” or “mask-optional” seating.

In a spirit of love and care for those who are unable to be vaccinated, who are immunocompromised, or who live or work with immunocompromised individuals, we will require those who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks while inside the church building.

October 29, 2020

First Church Community,

In-person worship services resumed September 13, 2020. It has been a joy to see familiar friends and new visitors gather for services. We are grateful for hard-working staff and volunteers who have made in-person worship possible. And we are encouraged by the spirit of fellowship and care demonstrated by all those who have participated in services this fall. At the same time, we affirm those who  continue to worship at home and will keep working to provide the most accessible and inclusive online worship experience we can.

When Council developed an implementation plan for in-person worship, we published a list of required practices (see the announcement below, dated August 27, 2020). Council also made recommendations regarding those who might be at greater risk of severe illness if exposed to COVID-19. An unintended consequence of these recommendations was that some members of our worshiping community felt unwelcome to return to in-person worship. Council regrets having communicated in a way that made anyone feel excluded. We invite all members to use personal discretion when considering whether to attend in-person services, and welcome all who desire to attend. We currently have the capacity to accommodate a total of 75 attendees per service (including our overflow in the gathering space). We ask that you continue to use our weekly RSVP system to let us know you are coming. And we look forward to continuing to worship together, whether in person or at home.

In Christ,

Your Church Council

August 27, 2020

First Church Community,

We are grateful for your support, encouragement and patience during this time of shifting restrictions and physical distancing. We have seen many areas of growth in our life as a congregation and remain hopeful and excited about the future of our ministry together. We recognize the deep desire of many members to resume in-person events – particularly weekly worship – and we share your longing for church activity to begin to feel “normal” again. While we can agree that it may be months before any aspect of life feels normal, we have arrived at a schedule and plan for resuming in-person worship. We have the responsibility of balancing two priorities: the worship and fellowship needs of our congregation; and the health and safety of our community. Our COVID-19 Advisory Committee has helped navigate state regulations and CDC recommendations. Based on their guidance, we have decided:

  • In-person worship will resume Sunday, September 13 (the Sunday after Labor Day).
  • Service attendance will be limited to 15% of sanctuary capacity (per State of Michigan executive order). We will seat 45 attendees in the sanctuary and an additional 15 in the gathering space.
  • On-line worship services will continue to be offered indefinitely and will adhere to the schedule and quality to which we have become accustomed.

PLEASE NOTE: This plan is subject to any change in local COVID-19 case numbers and state/county regulations.  

For in-person worship,

We will provide:

  • Readily-available hand sanitizer.
  • Single-use masks as needed.
  • Guidance and markers to maintain physical distance.

We will require:

  • That all attendees wear masks for the entire time that they are indoors (Note: The preacher and lead vocalists will remove their masks to speak or sing. Otherwise, leaders and instrumentalists will also wear masks while indoors). 
  • That attendees refrain from speaking loudly or singing while indoors.
  • That attendees maintain a minimum of 6 feet of distance from anyone outside their family unit.
  • That attendees observe best practices regarding hand cleanliness.

We will not:

  • Serve/consume food or beverages inside the church building.
  • Hold communion in-person.
  • Pass the collection plate (an offering deposit box will be positioned in the sanctuary).
  • Provide in-building childcare or children’s programming.

We will recommend:

That those with any high-risk factors for COVID-19 infection refrain from in-person worship or other large-group church events. Per CDC guidelines, these include:

  • 70 years of age and older.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, any respiratory or circulatory condition).
  • Compromised immune system (either self or household member).

We will need:

Volunteers, specifically:

  • Greeters and ushers to assist in seating and maintaining physical distance.
  • Cleaners to wipe surfaces, remove trash and return equipment and furniture to storage.

We will also need patience and grace. These new practices will require extra effort and adjustment from all of us. Our adapted approach to in-person worship will feel unfamiliar, especially in the beginning. We ask that you respect the concerns and sensitivities of fellow members. Everyone must decide whether in-person worship is right for themselves or their households at this time. We urge you to find ways of connecting with fellow members outside of large-group events (especially those unable to attend in-person worship services) and to take advantage of other opportunities to grow in your faith.

Yours in Christ,

Your Church Council