This was shared with the congregation via email on March 25, 2021. The data has changed (worsened) and we have gotten past Easter. This is being posted to be transparent with our current worship guidelines and restrictions.
COVID numbers are on the rise in Michigan, and Allegan County, once again. This week the county’s risk level has risen to the “high risk” category as daily new cases has risen above 25 per 100K (27.2 as of 3/24) and the positive test rate has risen above 10% (11.4% as of 3/24). Both of those numbers put Allegan county in the high risk zone. This data is from this source.The State COVID data and risk grading puts our county at the highest risk level (E on their scale). You can see the data on the state dashboard here. You can also look at the Allegan County Data Report here.
To give some context for these numbers/rates/stats, the current statistics are comparable to where things were at the beginning of the major spike in December 2020 when we moved back to virtual worship and the state shut down again. You can go here for a news report about the increase that also tells of current hospitalization and age demographics.
With all of that going on, the Ad Board decided to hold an emergency meeting on 3/24 to discuss how we should proceed. This is where we landed:
First and foremost, we assure you that none of us want to close the church building again. We are committed to doing all we can to maintain in-person gathering as long as we can and as safely as we can.
- Clarification: this does not mean for sure that we will not move to virtual if we have to in the future, but for now, especially these coming Sundays being Holy Week, we are committed to trying all we can to make gathering in-person as safe as humanly possible so we can be together for Easter at all.
- We are hoping so much that we can at least stay in-person through Easter. The Ad Board will reassess our plan after Easter, or before if deemed necessary.
Second, we are making a few changes to how we come together on Sunday mornings to decrease risk and keep all in our church family as safe as possible. None of these changes should be very new to you all, but are instead more like tightening back to some of the things we had started to loosen up on. Below are the guidelines we decided on as a Board.
Third, a reminder that we are still sharing the Hopkins service over Zoom LIVE. If you are concerned about gathering in-person for any reason or coming to worship in-person is causing you more stress than spiritual growth, do not feel like you have to come to the building to worship. It is not the same online, but it will always equally be worship to God. You will not be alone on Zoom, we have consistently had at least 3-4 people on Zoom every week we have been meeting in-person.
In-Person Worship Guidelines:
- Masks are required. We have not had a problem with mask wearing, but if you invite someone to come for Easter, remind them to bring a mask. We have disposable ones to give to anyone who forgets, too!
- Hand Sanitizer will be inside the entry doors before the stairway, please use it on your way in and out of the Sanctuary.
- Social Distancing will be enforced. Even if you are vaccinated, please respect the 6ft recommended to help us all do our best.
- Windows will be open to increase air circulation. We will crank the heat as needed, but bring a jacket if you tend to run cold just in case.
- No singing. The science continues to show that singing and shouting are the strongest spreaders of COVID through the air. That makes singing one of the highest risk activities by a church, so we will be eliminating that risk for now.
- Children’s Church will continue. As has been the practice, we will continue to encourage the kids to follow safety guidelines as much as possible.
- Children’s Sermon will maintain Social Distance. Pastor Kelsey will guide the kids as they are invited up for where they will sit and encourage them to stay in family groups and she will keep proper distance.
- Continuing COVID-times norms of gathering for worship:
- Offering will be collected as you walk in or out of the church on the welcome table. Loose change offering will also be there.
- Pick up your bulletin on the welcome table.
- There will be no moving around for passing of the peace.
- Each family has an assigned “worship bag” with activities and supplies for their kids to play with during the service. There are extra bags for visitors.
- Please be cautious with mingling, try to do it outside if weather allows.