COVID-19 & Church Closure

Posted on March 12, 2020
by Stacey Simpson Duke

Dear church family,

In light of the increasingly urgent public health situation, we have made the difficult decision to suspend normal church operations for the next two weeks. This decision has been made not out of fear, but out of love for our community and in consideration of best practices for protecting public health. We intend to do our part to help our beloved congregation and community to slow the spread of disease and mitigate its effects in order to keep our healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

What does this mean? Effective immediately, our church building is closing for at least the next two weeks. We will continue to monitor recommendations from public health experts and will make informed decisions about what to do beyond that time.

  • We will move our Sunday worship services to an online format for March 15 and March 22. Please join us via our First Baptist Church Facebook page at 10:00am this Sunday and the following Sunday. For those church members who do not have internet access, we plan to put together a printed devotional resource.
  • All church gatherings in our church building will be cancelled through at least March 27, including:
    • choir rehearsal
    • Church School
    • ABWM
    • Wednesday Bible Study
    • the Gathering
    • the March 19th Coffee Break Concert
    • any and all board meetings
    • the March 22nd Executive Council meeting
  • All staff who are able to work remotely will do so. Staff will meet with each other electronically and via phone.
  • Our facilities will be closed to all outside groups through at least March 26, including 12-step groups and musical groups. The preschool has already cancelled school until after spring break.
    • Vespers will be suspended and guests will be redirected to Delonis for their Tuesday night meal.
    • The rotating shelter, which serves the most vulnerable in our community, will still be allowed use of our space. Many of the volunteers who had signed up to help with this ministry are in the category of individuals at higher risk of severe illness. The Delonis staff is planning to step in to help with this ministry. We will not plan on any of the volunteers who signed up to help unless we hear directly from you.

Additionally, we are cancelling the youth spring break trip to the Taizé Community in France. We hope to reschedule this for a later time.

How did we come to this decision? In recent days, we have been doing an enormous amount of reading and listening. We have listened to the wisdom of public health experts and epidemiologists, watched as other countries and communities have struggled with virus spread and overwhelmed healthcare systems, and taken note of how other congregations have responded. Earlier this week, our governor declared a state of emergency for the state of Michigan. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is recommending reducing in-person gatherings and activities and cancelling large gatherings (e.g., greater than 100 people in a shared space).

We have come to believe that we are at a decisive and critical moment, with the opportunity to respond proactively in an effort to keep our whole community safe. We believe we have a moral responsibility to do so.

How will we still be church if the building is closed and we aren’t gathering together? First and foremost, as members of the body of Christ, we are always the church together, whether we are gathered or scattered. This suspension of normal operations is temporary. Perhaps we can think of it as a new form of Lenten discipline for our congregation and community – a season of doing less and, perhaps, discovering new gifts in the midst of it. We let go of one form of our life together, trusting our future to the God of resurrection. Additionally, we maintain our concern for each other, and especially for the lonely and vulnerable among us. We encourage you to check in with each other via text, phone, email, video chat, and even “old-fashioned” mail. Let’s be creative, consistent, and persistent in reaching out to each other and reminding each other that we are connected, valued, and most of all, loved. Finally, if there are particular ways your church family can serve and support you, please let us know. We have church members who are already volunteering to help get groceries and/or supplies for those who need help with such. If you need that kind of assistance, we will get you connected to those volunteers (if you want to offer that kind of assistance, please let us know). And if there are other things you need help with, please let us know that, too.

Parents of youth and children: Your kids may be feeling anxious and confused by what they are hearing at school and seeing on social media. They may feel frightened about getting sick or about their loved ones getting sick, or they may feel invincible and not understand what the fuss is about, or they may not even really know what they are feeling or how to think about any of it. Please reach out to Xan or Stacey if you would like help in how to talk with your kids about this situation. Let them know that church activities are cancelled not because we are afraid that you or they are about to get severely ill, but because we are trying to do our part to protect our community.

In the meantime: Please take care of yourselves, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Follow all the recommendations for personal hygiene. Minimize being out in public, but try to get some fresh air when you can. Reach out to others in whatever ways you can, both to offer support and to seek support. Take the time to pray – for those who are sick; for those who are scared; for those who are economically impacted; for healthcare workers; for students whose studies (and much-anticipated competitions, performances, and events) have been disrupted; for the leaders of communities, congregations, countries, and healthcare systems; and for the church in all places. Be assured, too, of our prayers for you and for our community.

We will continue to monitor this public health situation and take into account recommendations for best community practices, and we will update the congregation as needed. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns.