Most of you are aware that our state issued a new 3-week health order intended to curb the rising number of COVID cases in Michigan. Our Elder and Minister Team took time over the past two days to read through this order, gather information and counsel, and seek the Lord on what this means for our church. If you would like to read the full order, you can find it here.
In light of this order and the current state of the pandemic we have decided to move all of our home groups and discipleship groups to online meeting spaces if they were not already. However, each week we will continue offering an in-person Sunday service with additional precautions.
For at least the next 3 weeks, the changes to our Sunday Service protocols are as follows:
- We are lowering our max capacity from 125 to 100 people.
- For seating within your pods, we are redefining social pods as the state has now defined them, to be no more than 10 people of 2 households. (Here is a helpful graphic from the state regarding social pods.)
- We are requiring those on stage (including pastors, worship leaders, emcees, and those giving a slice of life) to wear a mask at all times, even while speaking/singing.
- We will be asking those in attendance to leave the church building directly at the conclusion of the service to avoid congregating too closely or for too long inside.
We will reevaluate these protocols when the current 3-week order expires.
The reasons we are continuing to offer an in-person service are 3-fold. First, we want to continue to provide a space for corporate worship to those who are most isolated right now. We know that, for some of us, Sunday morning is our only opportunity for real interaction with another person in the course of the week. Secondly, we observed that the order is directed at higher risk environments where COVID transmissions are most likely to occur at this time (like high schools, restaurants, and holiday gatherings in private homes) and not toward environments where transmission has been low (like K-8 schools and hair salons, for example). Lastly, we have had no known cases or transmission of COVID at any of our Sunday services to this point, and we believe we can continue to offer a high degree of safety moving forward. For these reasons, we have decided to make use of the religious exemption afforded us in the current order and to continue offering our in-person worship services at this time.
Of course no amount of diligence and planning on our part can preclude all risk, so please continue to consult your own conscience and comply with all relevant safety protocols for the sake of those around you.
If you would like to connect more about this, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Elder and Minister Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a church, we dream of showing people Jesus, equipping for life, loving as Jesus loved, and living sent. These are not simply dreams for life before or after COVID. Life is happening now. So let’s continue to be courageous as we hold on to the love, power, and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He never changes, is always in control, and will always be with us!
Nik, Joel, Jay, Kyle, Gaia, Rick, Graig, and Erik
Elder and Minister Team of New Life
We, the Elder and Minister Team, wanted to reach out to you to give you an update about Sunday church service and a couple of changes we are making to our Covid safety guidelines. We are continually evaluating our Sunday gathering in this pandemic season and considering how we can make deliberate and careful changes that positively impact our church community while maintaining a high level of safety. We recently decided to make two changes:
- This change will go into effect immediately: Children of all ages are welcome to come to our Sunday church service. Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to originally not have the youngest children who could not wear a mask come to service. We have decided to amend that position and allow kids of all ages to attend now. We are still asking that people maintain 6 ft of social distancing throughout our service, and this will be especially important with the little ones who are unable to wear a mask. We are asking that children ages 2 and up who can safely wear a mask to continue to do so. All children will be asked to maintain social distancing and remain in their seat for the duration of service. We will have the fireplace room on the first floor remain a designated nursing room like it has been in the past.
- This change will go into effect for our church service on November 15th: We are going to no longer have assigned seats with a seating chart. Instead we will open every other row or every third row (determined by 6 ft of social distancing) and ask that different groups leave at least three seats open between them in the same row. When you arrive at service you may now choose where you’d like to sit with your group. We recognize some individuals or families have chosen to live life together during the pandemic and quarantine with one another and would like to sit together. With this seating change, the group size will be limited to the size of the auditorium rows that are unoccupied when you arrive. We will still have an RSVP because we are going to set our max attendance at the state recommended limit for auditoriums of 20% of your total capacity (which is about 125 people for us). The state of Michigan released guidelines about how theaters can operate safely, and we have been looking to implement these recommendations. (The 20% limit was recently increased to 30% if you have fixed seating, but we are going to stay with 20% for the time being to make sure we can maintain social distanced seating.) This change also allows us to move our RSVP deadline back to Saturday. You will still receive the RSVP link in the Bulletin on Mondays, and we will be sending a new reminder RSVP email later in the week which will also communicate how close we are to capacity.
We still have our other safety guidelines in place such as self-screening for symptoms prior to attending, wearing a mask for the duration of the service, asking the congregation to hum or whisper the worship songs, individual communion elements, etc. You can find a complete list of our safety guidelines here.
You may be asking why these changes now, especially in light of cases going up in our state. We believe our original reopening plans were very conservative in light of the information we had at that time. We have been evaluating our capacity to have a safe and vibrant church service. We have learned a lot since we have reopened, and we believe we have the capacity and ability to make these changes safely to allow for more of you to attend our service on a regular basis. There is tremendous value in being together as a church.
If you are comfortable, we would love for you to attend our church service in person! We deeply want each person in our church to feel welcome to attend and be together. We are called by God to gather together as His church body and worship and connect with one another. Some of you may have felt like you don’t want to take a seat away from someone else or a newcomer, but we have space and would love for each person in our church to come and attend our service even if that means not every person can attend weekly. And we recognize there are a number of health and personal reasons why some of you will continue to join through the livestream, which we bless.
If there are things we can do to make you more comfortable attending or if you have any questions, concerns, or feedback, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Elder and Minister Team at email@example.com.
Erik, Gaia, Graig, Jay, Joel, Kyle, Nik, and Rick
Elder and Minister Team
Our Elder and Minister Team has been reviewing our reopening procedures now that we have resumed in person services for two months. Though it is different and many of you are still joining over the live stream, it has been really great being able to regather in person and worship the Lord together! We believe our safety policies and procedures are robust and have helped us to reopen responsibly. We have also found these past couple of months as incredibly informative and we have really appreciated the feedback that many of you have shared with us. After reviewing all the policies we have decided to make a few adjustments.
Originally, we were not providing communion elements for in person services. We have just started to try using individually wrapped communion wafers and cups and believe these can be safely administered and taken while briefly lowering one’s mask during the communion portion of the service. We ask that you use some hand sanitizer before taking your communion cup when you arrive, hold on to it until it is time, then remove the elements from their packaging, lower your mask to receive them, and replace your mask. After service, there will be a trash receptacle for everyone to dispose of the packaging. Please note we have not been able to find a distributor of these individually packaged elements that provides a gluten-free wafer, if this affects you, please only drink the provided juice.
Another safety protocol we had in place originally is only having individuals sit with people who they live with as part of their household and practice socially distanced sitting with everyone else. We recognize these are challenging times and that presence and experiencing the church service together are so important. And we recognize that many of you, especially if you are living on your own, may have formed a “pod,” a small group of less than 10 people who you are choosing to share more of life with and not socially distance from as strictly. We are adjusting this safety protocol to allow you to sit in service with people who are part of your pod. We are going to limit these groups to a max of 6 for the time being to allow for socially distanced seating arrangements. An example of this might be the people you drive to a church service with, though you may not live with them, now you all can sit together during the service.
Lastly, previously we were not allowing any live worship song leading in person, all of the musical worship was pre-recorded. We recognize that much of the research shows that singing is a higher-risk activity so we are still asking those in the congregation to hum or whisper the song lyrics. After much consideration, we have decided to allow live worship song leading with one or two worship leaders singing if they are able to sing with a mask or if they are able to take a COVID test earlier that week and receive a negative test result. If that is the case, that worship leader will practice enhanced social distancing between when their test was taken and the Sunday they are leading worship singing. The rest of the worship band will wear masks on stage and for the duration of the service. For some of you, this may cause extra concern, and we understand that and are adding an option on the RSVP to request the back of our auditorium or the balcony if you’d prefer.
We would welcome any questions you have or thoughts or conversations to talk more, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we’d like to ask for your continued patience through this process. We love you, we are brothers and sisters in this incredibly challenging season together. Please continue to pray for our church and for wisdom moving forward.
The Elder and Minister Team (Erik, Gaia, Graig, Jay, Joel, Kyle, Nik, & Rick)
We, the Elder and Minister Team (EMT), have exciting news for you: we are ready to begin having in person Sunday services starting on August 9th! Due to the reality of the global pandemic season we are all in, these services will involve social-distancing and a number of safety precautions. Some of you may feel like these precautions are not enough and will continue to participate in our Sunday service through our livestream (which we will continue) and others may feel like there are too many precautions. It’s not hard for us to see where people are coming from on both sides of that spectrum. Before we get into those details though, we’d love to share a passage with you:
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion. It cannot be shaken; it remains forever. The mountains surround Jerusalem and the Lord. surrounds his people, both now and forevermore.” -Psalm 125:1-2
The people of God have been through many hardships throughout millenia, famines, sickness, slavery, the Exodus, wilderness, war, the destruction of Jerusalem, and exile. Yet there one contrast through it all was Yahweh God. He always stands firm and surrounds His people, just as He does so now with us. Our God is way bigger than a global pandemic and His plans for us as His people and as His church are good. Let us continue to place our trust in Him, amen!? We will exercise the wisdom and caution that He gives, but above all let us place our deepest trust in Him, which keeps us from being shaken!
Turning to the details, we first off want to thank our Reopening Team (which has recently been renamed to the COVID Operations Team) for their hard work in researching the latest updates regarding the virus and safety protocols. Thank you Steveie King, Jessica Branski, Jahred Rapin, and Kara LaFleur for your hard and heroic work! If you have any questions regarding reopening or any of these details please email email@example.com which will be received by a subset of that team and an EMT member.
Masks and Social Distancing: You will be asked to wear a mask and practice 6 ft of social distancing from anyone you don’t live with (even if you don’t distance from them outside of church) while on church property.
Before leaving home for Sunday service please:
- Use the restroom
- Take your temperature
- Bring a mask
- Bring a bottle of water or a cup of coffee to enjoy (The drinking fountain will be disabled.) Please do not bring any food to the service.
- Self screen: Have you felt sick this week? Do you have a temperature over 100.4 F? Have you had contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19? If you answered yes to any of these questions, please stay home and join us through the live stream service.
Arrival: due to the changes we are making in our service we ask that you plan to arrive between 9:30 and 9:45 to allow for plenty of time to check in.
Parking: Please enter through Angell Elementary’s driveway. Parking volunteers will meet you at the parking lot and ask you a few questions before directing you to a spot. Depending on how you answer the screening questions, we may give you a thermometer that you can keep and ask you to take your own temperature (if you are in need of a thermometer for home, please don’t hesitate to ask!)
Entering the building: Entering the building: Please put on your mask before you get out of your car (there will be a sign in the parking lot to remind you) and leave it on the entire time you are on church property. Enter through the side door where you will be greeted.
Check in: Greeters will welcome you to church and mark off your name on the attendance sheet. You may need to wait in line to check in at the side door. We have placed stickers on the sidewalk to help you socially distance while you wait. Greeters will direct you to your assigned seat. Please then find your seat and sit down.
Service: You made it! You’re going to attend church service in person! Please remain in/at your seat for the entire service. We will not have live in-person singing during musical worship for the time being because singing is a high-risk activity. You may hum or whisper the lyrics during musical worship.
Restrooms: The restrooms on the main floor are available for use, but please try to avoid using them if possible (go before/after church service at home). If you must use a restroom, follow the signage posted about using a disinfecting wipe to clean surfaces before you leave the restroom.
After service: At the close of worship, you will be directed to leave the auditorium and proceed directly out the front door to the lawn. You are welcome to socialize and hang out for as long as you’d like! As previously mentioned, you must wear your mask the entire time you are at New Life. This includes on the front lawn even while you are social distancing.
NLKids: The landscape of children’s ministry looks very different right now, but our mission to guide kids of all ages to come alive to the adventure of knowing and following Jesus as their highest joy and greatest love is unchanging. In order to maintain a safe environment for our children, New Life Kids will not be offering any in person Sunday school classes during August or September. The New Life Kids Director and New Life Kids Advisory Team will continue to monitor this closely and provide another update for October. Weekly Sunday school online will continue to take place on the New Life Kids Facebook Group. As kids begin attending in-person services with their families on Sunday mornings, Melissa Mashner will provide material for children. We love seeing kids take next steps with Jesus and we are also here to equip you as a parent as you disciple your child at home, engage in challenging late night conversations, and navigate difficult questions. For more resources please visit our Parent Resources page at https://www.newlifea2.org/parent-resources.
Children Attending Service: For the time being and for their safety, we ask that all children be pre-school age or older, be able to stay in their seat for the duration of the service, and follow the requirements listed above.
COVID Cases: In the event that you, or someone from your household, were to test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of this service or be in direct contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 before you attended service, please contact Pastor Joel VanderSchel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your information will be kept confidential between Betsy Huebner (representing NLC human resources) and Joel. Any information you share will be de-identified/kept anonymous.
You can help create a smooth transition back to in-person church services in a few ways:
- Please wear your mask the entire time you are on NLC property.
- Please maintain 6 feet of distance between you and anyone who is not in your household
- Please be patient and flexible. We’re trying something new, and we’re all going to be learning how to do this together.
- Help create a culture of kind, respectful, neighborly attitudes at church in the pandemic era. Gently remind others if they come within 6 feet of you or if they have taken off their mask and haven’t put it back on. If it makes more sense for you to promote proper social distancing by moving away from someone, please do so. When someone reminds you to do one of these things, thank them for caring enough to help you put these new behaviors into practice.
In order to maintain social distancing, we will have less capacity in our church auditorium for the time being. In order to allow everyone who wants to attend service equal opportunity to do so, we will send out a RSVP each Monday in the Bulletin. We are anticipating more people wanting to attend each service than we can safely accommodate. There is a question on the form asking the date of the next service you will be able to attend. Those we don’t have space for in a given week will be given priority for the next week they are able to attend. All RSVPs for the current week are due the Thursday before service.If we have space for you at service you will receive an email on Thursday with all the details you could ever want regarding service. If we do not have space for you we will get back to you before Thursday and work toward getting you registered to attend the next service you are available to attend.
For those who do not receive our bulletin, are new to our church, or just want to check New Life out, please use this form to request to attend a service. We will also have a handful of seats reserved for new guests who walk up on a Sunday morning.
We know this is a lot to take in, and for a season, it’s going to feel very different from what we’re used to on a Sunday morning. It’s very understandable to grieve that. And we also believe it will be incredibly beautiful and good to begin meeting together in person again and worshipping the Lord with another! We would love to ask you to be patient with us and with one another as we work through this process. We believe we are going to learn a lot over time, there will be new information or developments about the pandemic, and we may need to adjust a number of things over time. We also welcome your feedback, you are welcome to send it to our Elder and Minister Team at email@example.com and/or to our CoVID Operations Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lastly, we’d love to ask you to please continue to cover our church and community in prayer!
The Elder and Minister Team (Erik, Gaia, Graig, Jay, Joel, Kyle, Nik, & Rick)