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:
- 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,
The Council of First Christian Reformed Church of Detroit
Dear First Church Community,
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift across the country, church members are asking, “When will we ‘re-open’ church?” Your Council and staff have been engaged in serious deliberation about this question. We wish to assure you that plans are underway. And we invite you into the deliberation process.
Rather than ask, “When will we ‘re-open’ church”, we’re asking when and how First Church will reconvene in-person activity. After all, church never closed. Jesus says, Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with you. The church is not a building or activity. The church is us, and we haven’t stopped working hard at being the church.
As restless as we are to gather for large-group worship, this is not where Council plans to restart in-person activities. If we follow current guidance on large group activities, it will be difficult to “do church” in a way that is familiar or even practical. Throughout history the church has thrived at times and places in which church gatherings were limited to small groups. As we face ongoing restrictions and safety concerns, we are invited to revisit an underused practice of the early church: in-home fellowship, discipleship and worship.
Council has decided to postpone large-group worship services until state restrictions have eased significantly and the risk of contagion has been demonstrably reduced. This decision has not been made lightly, and is guided by three questions:
- What guidelines and restrictions would need to be observed for large-group worship to meet current health and safety guidelines?
The following regulations would need to be followed:
- Six feet of distance between attendees (not from the same household) at all times (i.e., parking, entering, exiting, using restrooms, and sitting in the sanctuary).
- Face masks worn by all attendees at all times.
- No congregational singing or speaking in the worship space.
- No eating or drinking before, during or after worship gatherings.
- What logistics would be involved in making large-group worship not only possible, but safe?
Logistical considerations include, but are not limited to:
- Deciding on a safe allowable number of attendees per service;
- Organizing a system for scheduling services with attendance lists;
- Arranging and enforcing a system for admission and traffic flow that ensures safe distance between attendees at points of entry and exit;
- Sanitizing surfaces in the sanctuary, gathering space and restrooms before and after each gathering;
- Requiring staff (Pastor, Worship Coordinator, A/V Technician) to serve at multiple services, exposing them to many people in a confined space over a limited period of time;
- Recruiting and scheduling volunteers to help clean, greet and enforce distancing guidelines at every service.
- Who will be left out of large-group gatherings while COVID restrictions are in place?
The following members of our congregation would not (or should not) attend, based on current safety guidelines:
- Children of all ages;
- Those age 70 and over;
- Those with other medical conditions or compromised immune systems;
- Healthcare workers and first responders.
Taken together, these considerations have led Council to conclude that, based on current guidance, large-group worship will not only be prohibitively difficult to manage; it will be painfully exclusive to too many of our members; and practically unlike the congregational worship we know and love. We recognize that what is most difficult about this situation is that we do not know when it will be safe to begin worshiping in large groups again. Your Council will continue to rely on the most current information regarding the spread of COVID-19, as well as the guidance of lawmakers and healthcare professionals. And we will continue to provide the best resources available for in-home worship and study.
That said, Council does look forward to reconvening in-person activity. Now that Stay-At-Home orders have been lifted, Council and staff will collaborate with interested congregants to initiate the following:
Organized in-home fellowship events. Congregants are encouraged to invite others to share a meal together.
Small group in-home worship. Congregants are encouraged to begin attending virtual worship services with others. Pastor Ben will provide sermon discussion questions for gatherings.
Resumed guided Bible study. Pastor Ben is prepared to host weekly Bible study sessions in locations that allow for safe distance. Congregants are also encouraged to start their own groups.
Outdoor social events. These may be formally organized and promoted by the church, or informally convened by congregants.
None of us are happy with the impact COVID-19 has had, and will continue to have, on the life of our congregation. But as the Body of Christ, we have confidence that our Lord will provide all means necessary to strengthen our fellowship and build us up. He is faithful. We pray that He finds us faithful during this season of adversity.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Your Church Council