Coming back: when and how?

Our church is going to follow the general recommendations of the state of Michigan for gathering together. When the state says that it’s safe for a large group to gather indoors, we’ll be there, but not before. When will that happen? We don’t know yet.

We’re starting worship outdoors on Sunday, July 12, at 9:30 am. Because the spread of Covid-19 is still an essential concern, a lot of the things we do will feel unfamiliar. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Where? In Walker Park, near the library and the North Muskegon High School.
  • Please bring your own seating.
  • Besides street parking, there’s a  small parking lot available. Please leave that lot for people with mobility needs.
  • We strongly encourage the wearing of masks, and require keeping appropriate distances
  • There will be no children’s time, nursery, or children’s programming for now
  • Music will be recorded, allowing us to use the same music we’ve been including in our online services, by our own musicians
  • Prayer requests can be given in advance of the service by text or by phone or email. No prayer cards or passing microphones!
  • Donations can be given in a basket before and after the service
  • No coffee or refreshments

Why is it so different?

A traditional gathering in church with singing is one of the most dangerous activities possible for spreading corona-virus, much more dangerous than shopping or going to the doctor’s office. That is why our church will open for services after stores and restaurants and doctor’s offices are open, and after the pandemic is beginning to be under good control.

The pandemic has improved a lot in Michigan over the last few weeks, and there’s reason for optimism. But the good news of fewer cases and fewer deaths here is coming because we are staying the course of sheltering in place. Twenty one states have seen new spikes in cases and deaths after trying to get back to normal too quickly. (US News article)

Another reason for going slow is that we have many people who are at high risk because of their age, or underlying health issues such as COPD, asthma, heart disease, and more. We want to include as many people as possible when we do come together.

When we start being open to worshiping together in the building, we will take several steps to make it less dangerous for some time. These include:

  • no singing as a congregation
  • strong encouragement to wash and sanitize hands as we enter
  • strong encouragement/expectation to wear masks
  • vigorous cleaning before each worship
  • no bulletins or hymnals
  • no refreshments
  • spend some of our time outside, for social time, worship, or both
  • avoid sitting close to one another (except within families), or shaking hands or hugging
  • No children’s programs or nursery. Children stay with families through worship until schools are fully open.

Other likely changes include:

  • multiple smaller service times with advance sign-up to ensure a smaller crowd
  • communion with single serving, pre-packaged elements

We will also continue to offer online worship services, because they are an effective way to offer a worship opportunity for people who cannot or will not go out to join worship in person. And as you feel safe, please consider gathering with a group of friends or family to share with the online worship experience together.