I am delighted to share that we are planning to resume our indoor in-person services beginning on April 18th. After many months of faithfully adhering to precautions intended to minimize the spread of COVID-19, recent trends indicate that we can now safely gather indoors while adhering to best practices intended to protect our shared health, including a maximum attendance of 40 persons. (Specific details regarding the precautions and the rationale behind this decision is included below.) I look forward to being physically present with one another in worship once again!
Even after resuming in-person attendance, we will continue live-streaming all our worship services. While the past year has brought its share of challenges, we have nevertheless been blessed to see our worshipping community grow and include many who aren’t otherwise able to worship with us! Thanks to our recent change in internet providers, we have the capability to stream synchronously from the sanctuary and will all share in the same worship, whether online or in-person. We are enriched by every person who chooses to worship with us and will continue exploring ways to build on and strengthen our online worship presence.
In addition, we are making three changes to our building use precautions in accordance with the increased ability to safely meet indoors:
- We will resume our regular office hours of 10am-2pm on Tuesday through Thursday, beginning this week on March 9th.
- The maximum occupancy of the fellowship hall is being increased to 25 for adult groups effective immediately while maintaining our previous precautions (see below).
- We will resume indoor activities for children and youth beginning on April 26th while adhering to all precautions in place at that time.
I cannot say enough for the flexibility and fortitude that this congregation has exhibited as we have persisted in ministry over this past year. While we might all hope for simpler times ahead, this experience has taught me that we can weather whatever the future might hold. As David wrote once in a psalm, the ones who have God as their rock and salvation “shall never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2). I am glad to walk with you as we put our trust in the One who never leads us astray.
What public health indicators were used to make the in-person worship and building use decisions?
Our primary guideline has been the statewide restrictions set by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which were relaxed last week and now allow for a maximum attendance of 25 persons at non-residential gatherings (full guidelines here, capacity infographic here). Additionally at a local level, Washtenaw County has seen a decrease in positive tests and daily case levels and was recently graduated from an “E” to a “D” risk level on the state’s safe start dashboard. As before, we will continue monitoring public health data and adjust our response as necessary to best care for the health of our community.
What precautions are being followed for indoor in-person gatherings?
We will continue adhering to all previously maintained precautions including the use of pre-screening questions, wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing of six feet, and thorough cleaning practices. A detailed description of all the church’s COVID-19 precautions can be read on our website at any time.
What precautions will be followed at indoor in-person worship services?
As previously planned, all in-person services will adhere to basic and worship-specific transmission precautions including wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, refraining from congregational singing, and limiting shared surfaces such as offering plates and hymnals. Additionally, to best maintain physical distancing, attendance will be limited to 40 persons with the seating arrangement clearly designated on the pews. The attendance limit will be maintained by registering the attendance for each service ahead of time, whether through an online form or by contacting the church office.
Are there any differences in precautions for those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination?
In accordance with CDC guidelines, all precautions including masking and social distancing will remain in place for everyone as it is still unknown whether vaccinated persons can contribute to viral spread.
Why is the return to in-person worship set for after Easter?
While I wished to see this year’s Easter worship unimpacted by COVID-19, it quickly became clear in conversation that an indoor service would actually prove more disruptive to our celebration of Christ’s resurrection. As one of the most highly attended services of the year, the limits on attendance would severely limit our ability to welcome visitors and could even lead to turning unexpected guests away at the doors. By scheduling the return to indoor services for April 18th, we can plan not only an exciting Easter live-stream worship but also an outdoor Easter Egg hunt and communion service that can accommodate everyone who wants to worship with us. I am looking forward to celebrating Easter with you and will share the full details when they are finalized!
Will all children and youth activities begin meeting in-person immediately following April 26th?
While these guidelines allow for in-person children and youth activities to begin, some may yet remain virtual or on hold for any number of reasons. Timelines for specific programs and activities will be communicated as they are set.