While we continue to respond to life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently limiting church-related in-person meetings.
For Sunday Worship, we are meeting at 10 am in both services. The Services in the large worship space are also broadcast via Zoom. You can learn more about joining via Zoom services on the Worship Resources Page.
Further updates regarding our COVID-19 Response can be found below:
COVID Team Update: 3/4/2022
At COS we have taken a cautious approach to our life together during the pandemic. Thank you all for your flexibility and tolerance as you have loved your neighbor so generously for 2 long years. COVID cases are declining and new CDC guidelines place our county in the medium-risk category. This Sunday, we plan to follow the new CDC guidelines and remove our church mask mandate. If you have a low risk of severe COVID disease, you are invited to be in worship and in the church building without a mask. Please feel free to continue to mask if you prefer. One exception is children’s programming. We ask that leaders of Children’s ministries for infants through 1st grade continue to mask while teaching. Staff and teachers in nursery, Little Lambs, Children’s Worship, and Sunday School through 1st grade are included in this exception.
With masks optional, eating and drinking together can begin again. Communion circles will resume with a shared cup and precut bread. Please don’t sing while in the communion circle to reduce aerosol and droplets landing on the elements. A roving council member will be available to deliver fully packaged communion elements to those choosing not to join the communion circle. Coffee will be offered after the service. We thank God for the opportunities opened up by the dramatic fall in COVID cases.
COVID Team Update: 2/9/2022
We continue to be so grateful for the love and care our congregation has shown to each other during this time of the pandemic. We appreciate your patience in persevering with worshipping virtually. The covid team met earlier this week and are delighted with the fall in covid transmission and feel confident that this trajectory will continue. With this in mind, the exec and covid teams feel confident inviting our congregation back to in-person worship this Sunday.
Here’s what you need to know about returning to in-person worship.
What will be new:
• This may be your first time back in the building after a long time … Just know you are not on your own … there are many people who are facing this reality.
• You do not need to sign up to attend the service.
• You might be surprised to find many new faces at worship. We are pleased that so many new families have signed up to worship with us during the pandemic. Please make an effort to get to know new people.
• For this moment, we will not be having coffee after the service, but we hope to have discussion activities in the coffee area. Please browse these tables and try to foster new connections and friendships.
• If this is your first time to in-person worship, please make yourself known to the council presider or one of the pastors.
What will stay the same:
• We encourage everyone to continue wearing masks if you are aged 2 and above.
• We encourage everyone to be mindful of social distancing. The rows of seats continue to be spaced out to allow for a greater sense of distance between people.
• For those who do not feel comfortable, there will always be a zoom option available to worship virtually.
What we hope to gradually recover:
• We will be singing throughout the service whilst fully masked. We hope this encourages fuller participation throughout the service.
• We hope to begin gradually moving towards communion circles. We will do this gradually to increase comfort levels. The worship team will advise on this and keep the congregation moving towards our end-goal of communion circles where the bread and common cup will be shared together.
During our time in Lent, we will be discussing Bonhoeffer’s book ‘Life Together’ to discern how we might live together as a Christian community enriching each other’s lives. He begins the book with the opening verse of Psalm 133 ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity’. May it be our prayer that through these loving communal practices we may cultivate true, authentic Christian community.
Previous COVID team update: 1/7/2022
The covid response team continues to regularly assess the spread of covid and the potential impact it might have on our worshipping community. We are grateful for the diligence of our congregation in adhering to mask mandates and social distancing to minimize risks for in-person worship. We are also grateful for those who have provided Zoom as an option for those who want to worship virtually.
This layered approach has enabled each worshipper to choose the best way to worship according to individual needs. However, in this new year, given the speed of community spread and the high positivity rate, the executive and covid teams are recommending the following plan:
- Zoom worship will now be the primary mode for worship in the coming weeks.
- In-person worship is still an option in the BES and SES space (children’s worship and little lambs will continue) for those who wish to be physically present. The previous requirements of masking and social distancing are still in place.
In summary, up until now, in-person worship has been the primary mode, with the offering of Zoom as the ‘opt-out’ option. This Sunday, Zoom will be the primary mode of worship with the offering of in-person worship being the ‘opt-in’ option.
What does this mean?
Given the high numbers currently, we want to give as much permission as we can to our congregation to stay safe, but also stay connected to worship. If you come to worship in the sanctuary, you might notice more cameras near the front of the worship space with the worship leaders focusing more on the camera. However, this should not inhibit meaningful participation.
We are grateful for your patience in making choices that continue to enable collective ways to love God but also love our neighbor. We pray this adjustment will provide opportunities for each congregational member to play their part in building up the body of Christ.
Previous Covid Team Update – 11/19/2021
On November 17, Michigan is reporting the most COVID cases per day of any state and has the highest daily average number of COVID cases that Michigan has ever recorded, 7,353 per day. As we gather together in groups, it is now very likely that people with active COVID infections will be present.
Our current plan for youth in Sunday School is to follow Kent County Health Department standards for school close contact notification. We continue to require mask-wearing during Sunday School and current health department guidelines ask fully masked close contacts to watch for symptoms and to only quarantine and test for COVID if symptoms develop.
For Sunday in-person worship, we are not required by the Kent County Health Department to contact trace so are not tracking where people are sitting or exactly who is attending church. As individuals, you are welcome to notify those worshipping near you if you test positive for COVID and develop COVID symptoms within 2 days of church attendance. Symptoms developing longer than 2 days after Sunday worship should not be a risk to those around you in worship.
Our current practices of masking and sitting 6 or more feet apart do reduce the risk of COVID transmission, but consider staying home from group gatherings in church and other locations if you are at high risk for severe COVID. Hospitals are overextended throughout the state. Vaccines are our best defense against hospitalization. If you get a COVID infection, reach out to your physician to see if you qualify for a monoclonal antibody infusion, our second line defense against hospitalization. Increase mask effectiveness by using KN95 or N95 masks to combat the extra infectious Delta variant. Stay home if you have cold symptoms and get tested for COVID.
Your elder, deacon and parish care partner are eager to offer prayer and support during the quarantines, physical illness and the anxieties of this season.
Previous COVID Team Update 10/29/2021
We’re writing to bless you for all you do to love and respect each other during this long-lived pandemic.
We are not your physician, though several of us are physicians. We are not CDC statisticians, though one of us is a professional statistician. We are just people who love you. And we love you from within the Reformed tradition, which takes scientific consensus seriously because all truth is God’s truth.
We know there are lots of reasons to hesitate about vaccination. Medical people may have broken our trust. It can feel risky to do this to our bodies. Some feel moral tensions about how the vaccines were developed.
We don’t exactly disagree with these perspectives, but we are persuaded that the element of truth in them is overwhelmed by other considerations. We are not alone in this conviction. The broad consensus, from the most secular scientist to the Pope, has come to the same conclusion.
Please, if you are feeling hesitant about vaccination, have a good conversation with a medical professional you can trust. Vaccination is free and easy to schedule at a pharmacy. Vaccination doesn’t affect your immigration status or eligibility for government programs. Over 100 million Americans of all sorts have been safely vaccinated, and the technology for even the mRNA vaccines has been around for over 30 years. The vaccine does not contain the coronavirus, and you cannot catch Covid-19 from the vaccination.
And getting the vaccine helps many, many others in addition to you. It’s natural to think the virus isn’t a big problem if your friends aren’t sick, but it’s hard to argue with 738,000 American deaths and 45,500,000 cases, many of which become long-haul burdens.
Consider joining us in hearing Martin Luther’s advice to a friend during a 1527 epidemic: “Take medicines that can help you. And act like a person who wants to help put out the burning city.”
COVID Team Update 8/23/2021
As we continue to monitor the Covid situation, particularly emerging information related to the Delta variant and the high positivity rate in Kent County, we have set the following protocols regarding worship in the COS building:
- We continue to limit capacity in the building. Sign up here for Sunday services. Please note that there is no sign up for the Basic English Service.
- For now, there will be no congregational singing.
- Masking is required for everyone over 2 years old.
- Communion will continue to be served using individual, prepackaged elements.
- Announcements following the services will be made by the council presider. If you have an announcement for the congregation, please give your announcement to the presider prior to the start of the service.
- The service in the large worship space will be broadcast via Zoom. Zoom links will be sent out via the email newsletter list prior to each Sunday
COVID Team Update 6/24/21
As we plan for indoor worship, the pandemic situation continues to change quickly. The following plans are initial and will be adjusted based on case rates, changing guidelines and our first few weeks of indoor worship experience. We eagerly look forward to gathering inside together while also considering how to best protect our most vulnerable worshippers.
Those who are feeling ill, are awaiting a COVID test result, have been exposed to COVID and are in the 14 day quarantine or have tested positive and are in 10 days of isolation should not come to in person worship. Temperature checks will only be conducted in nursery and the children’s programming. Vaccinated worshippers are encouraged to mask and unvaccinated worshippers age 2 and up are required to mask indoors. Physical distancing and 50% capacity is planned in worship areas. To facilitate this, please leave 2 seats between your household group and others. We will avoid using wind and brass instruments and will continue using single-serving communion elements. We will continue to use the responsive liturgy, but congregational singing will be limited to the doxology at the close of the service.
Resources used to guide these decisions include The Hymn Society, Sing! The Center for Congregational Song, The CDC Guidance for Large Gatherings, The CDC Guidance for Communities of Faith, The CDC Guidance for Institutes of Higher Education and communication with the Kent County Health Department.
Communication about Sunday Services – from the Council
We give thanks for how far the Lord has brought us this year. Gradually, we are beginning to envision a return to worship in person and indoors and have been so grateful for your patience, your feedback, and your support in staying together to cultivate a safe environment for all.
We are encouraged by the good news of dropping positivity rates, which the covid response team has been following closely as an indicator of minimizing risk during our worship gatherings. We are also encouraged by an increasing number of our own congregation getting vaccinated.
The worship team has been monitoring closely how the move to in-person/outdoor worship has been received by the congregation. We are grateful to see many familiar faces in our back patio as we gather on Sunday mornings together. Yet we are also aware that the Summer heat and uneven grassy ground provide accessibility challenges.
Therefore, the staff alongside the covid response team have been discerning carefully next steps to phase our worship back to indoors.
We propose that by July 4th we will try to transition back to indoor worship in the sanctuary. This will happen initially at 50% capacity of our worship space and therefore signup will occur via Eventbrite. The capacity will continue to be carefully monitored. We hope to continue our zoom worship alongside in person indoor worship to enable everyone to have full access to our worship services.
Moving indoors will involve a return to masking during gathered worship. Masks are required for all worshippers, vaccinated or not.
The staff and covid response team have carefully examined the data regarding risks pertaining to indoor singing. At this time, we believe the risk was too great given the unknown percentage of people vaccinated and exact numbers of immune-compromised individuals.
Therefore, while music will be present in worship, it will function in a limited capacity out of an abundance of caution. Whilst we know this may be disappointing to some, and it functions as an ongoing recognition that we are still operating under restricted circumstances, we give thanks to God for how far we have come in bearing patiently with each other and encouraging each other to meet faithfully together in the fellowship of believers.
At our recent council meeting, our devotion was based on Jude 20-21 and we share it as an encouragement to focus on the love of Christ for He who keeps us is faithful:
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Covid Team update: We celebrate plans to meet in person starting Pentecost Sunday. We ask worshippers to wear masks on Sunday. The new CDC Guidelines reducing mask use are encouraging but may not be the best advice for Kent County which currently is at 9.5% test positivity. We long to keep our most vulnerable members safe and comfortable. As our cases, deaths and percent positivity improve and we gain experience with Sunday morning gatherings, we will reassess the outdoor masking plan.
COS friends, we look forward to seeing many of you on Pentecost Sunday and throughout the summer. We can testify that our Good Shepherd has been with us through the wilderness of this pandemic. And we look forward in faith and hope that God will continue to shepherd us every step of the way.
In this video we offer some insight into what has been driving some of the decisions around in-person worship, what to expect come Pentecost Sunday (May 23), and ways we sense God leading this community of faith.
Many of you will be wondering what the future pattern of worship will be given that outdoor worship seems possible. We have valued your patience in staying with us even when zoom worship has not provided the opportunity for fully embodied worship as a church community. Yet, this past year has provided some rich and important learning for how we might worship together in ways that include those on the margins and enables greater diversity of voices and cultures. We have enjoyed the growth of a bilingual service that will continue to take shape as we move to in-person worship with a view to including other languages. We have enjoyed seeing new members on our screens and joining our mailing lists. We have also enjoyed the participation of friends from across the world through our zoom services.
The council and worship team continue to seek advice from the covid response team as well as assess how to encourage as much participation in our worship services whilst being cognizant of safety. Unfortunately, the covid numbers at this time continue to be a cause for concern with 16.5% of tests conducted coming back positive for COVID, 70 new cases per day per 100,000 people and 402 new cases per day on average the last 7 days in Kent County. By comparison, when we closed the COS building to all gatherings on November 5 based on Health Department orders, positivity was 11% and we had 57 new cases per day per 100,000 people.
Therefore, considering the many factors involved, it is our hope to aim to move to outdoor worship by Pentecost Sunday. The worship team by then will have made necessary adjustments to provide a synchronous zoom option alongside the outdoor option.
In the meantime, we invite you to consider joining us for our Wednesday evening Taize style prayer service within the sanctuary that has a maximum of 25 participants. This number is set to comply with current Michigan Health Department orders for nonresidential indoor gatherings.
We do hope that you will continue to hold our church community in prayer as we live out our baptismal identity of dearly loved children of God as we move gradually but in solidarity with each other towards in-person worship.
The Covid Team recommends opening the church building according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services updated epidemic orders dated March 5 which allow for nonresidential gatherings of up to 25 people inside and 300 outside. Although gathering indoors is not without risk, consistent masking, keeping a distance of 6 feet or more between people and good ventilation will be used to reduce the risk of Covid transmission. We don’t currently recommend a return to indoor worship but are closely watching variant spread, case numbers and vaccination rates in our area hoping that we avoid a variant-driven surge. Please continue to mask and be cautious regarding gathering together and get a vaccine when it is available to you!
COVID Team Update – 11/13/20
An Update From the COVID Response Team:
We are deeply concerned about COVID trends in our community. In Grand Rapids, the percent of COVID tests that are positive is now greater than 10%, more than double what we were seeing this summer. The number of cases is rapidly rising, and our hospitals are nearly at capacity. At COS, we have made the difficult decision to suspend all in-person small group activities. We will gradually resume these meetings and activities once the trends in cases and hospitalizations are reversed. As church members and health care providers, we covet your ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID 19 by following recommended practices including wearing a mask and maintaining 6 feet of distance when gathering with others and minimizing the size and frequency of indoor gatherings. We look forward to resuming in-person activities at COS, in a stepwise fashion, once these trends in cases and hospitalizations are reversed. We solicit your prayers as we, together, navigate these challenging and changing times.
Covid Team Update 11/5/20
This Monday, the COS COVID Team advised ESL, Bible studies and other small groups to move to online formats and has closed the building to group gatherings.
COVID cases continue to rise; last week the Kent County 7 day rolling average of percent of tests administered that are positive was 7.7% and as of Wednesday, 11/4/20, it is 10.9%. The number of new active cases was 35/100,000 and is now 57/100,000. The Kent County Health Department does not have enough contact tracers currently to follow every positive case. In an interview last week, an Epidemiologist at the Health Department said their tracing capacity is 160 cases a day; we had 463 new cases 11/4/20.
Let us trust in God and vigorously adhere to the things we know limit virus spread. Avoid gathering inside with others. If it is necessary then open windows, wear a mask, limit time together and stay 6 or more feet apart. Wear a mask in all public spaces where others are present, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.
Rhonda Mejeur, coordinating member, COS COVID Team
October 29, 2020
Covid Team Update
The Covid Team is in frequent communication with staff, council and each other. We are watching Kent County COVID case numbers increase very rapidly over the past few weeks. Our 7 day rolling average of percent of tests administered that are positive is 7.7% as of Wednesday and the number of new active cases is 35/100,000. These are unprecedented numbers. Limit gatherings. If you meet with people you do not live with, wear a mask, stay 6 or more feet apart, meet outside if possible. Wash your hands every time you touch your face, your mask, objects others touch.
Though we long for in person worship, this is not the time to do so. Indoor programming for children is starting up soon and consistent masking, physical distance and symptom screening are planned. We will comply with the new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Epidemic Order dated October 29 regarding limits on attendance at non-residential venues. This order requires indoor gatherings be limited to 50 people and 20 people or less per 1000 square feet, face masks are also required. ESL and Bible Study groups continue to meet in the building with a 10 person per room maximum. As you considering attending group programs at church, please assess your family and close contacts’ risk for severe illness when choosing whether to participate.
Things are changing fast in our county and state and we are closely monitoring this. Our team plans to continue to comply with local, state and federal orders and guidelines regarding the ongoing pandemic. There is no guidebook or precedent for managing COVID as we enter our first Winter of this pandemic. Let us unite in praying for God’s mercy and wisdom with full confidence in God’s abiding love.
Rhonda Mejeur, coordinating member COS COVID Team
Previous Update: October 2, 2020
The COS COVID response team realizes that as the colder weather sets in, there will be more requests to meet inside the building. We are aware that the Michigan Governor is loosening restrictions, but also realize that not much has changed about the risks related to contracting COVID. We are following the guidelines for indoor activities – for small groups that begin meeting inside the church, there will be temperature checks and a brief health survey, mask-wearing, no eating or drinking, and physical distancing. We thank everyone for their ongoing patience and prayers for wisdom.
The worship team, working in partnership with the COVID response team, hopes to continue outdoor Sunday evening worship for the month of October (weather permitting) and also to begin live-streaming worship from the sanctuary using a small worship team whilst utilizing the zoom worship platform.
Update: August 29, 2020
News Story: Training Manual Has Global Impact
Update: July 10, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Jesus Christ at COS,
The COS COVID Response Team has been discerning what God’s word says about how to love our neighbor during such a time as this, and we have been reviewing the best medical information and practices to keep our congregation and community healthy and safe. Based on the MI Safe Start plan and the Federal CDC guidelines, we advise
…that COS continue Zoom worship services and other virtual meetings, suspending large gatherings inside the building. (Individuals and households may choose to gather physically in small groups, subject to executive order limits on gatherings and the guidelines below, at their discretion.)
- As of July 4 the risk factors in the Grand Rapids region are considered “high” after 3 weeks of increased cases. The disease is still a threat even as various sectors of the economy and community re-open.
- The church is a physical building, but the Body of Christ exists outside of a brick and mortar structure.
- Loving our neighbors includes protecting them from contracting diseases. Social (physical) distancing is the most effective means to slow disease transmission.
- Many of our congregants have, live near, or care for someone who has risk factors that make them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
- Many administrative and logistical considerations need to be addressed before returning to an in-person format.
- Suspension of in-person services will allow COS leadership the time needed to make informed decisions and plans. The COVID Team will continue to monitor ongoing developments and discuss future steps.
- Several other churches in Classis Grand Rapids East are taking a similar approach. Classis has produced a guidance document that has helped and will continue to help guide future recommendations.
…that COS allow groups of up to 10 people to use spaces (one group at any given time) outside beginning in August, and inside the church once the Grand Rapids region moves into Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan, subject to the development and implementation of cleaning and scheduling protocols, the procurement of supplies such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, and the incorporation of any guidance from our insurance company (e.g. waivers).
- For those who wish to schedule a time for a group of up to 10 people to meet at COS, send an email with details (what, when, who, why) to the church administrator Lori Wiersma (email@example.com) who will process the request and respond.
- Participants must remain at least six feet apart from others and wear masks (if they can medically tolerate them) if physical distancing cannot be observed or if passing through or occupying common areas (e.g. stairways, hallways, restrooms). An accurate record of who attended the gathering in-person must be taken and submitted to the church office.
- Organizers are responsible for ensuring these interventions take place.
- If participants do not abide by these interventions, they may be asked to leave or the gathering may be ended.
- Before attending an in-person gathering, participants are strongly encouraged to consider (1) their risk factors and the risk factors of those with whom they live and (2) the fairness to those who want to attend but do not want to put themselves at risk.
- If a gathering occurs in-person and if feasible, organizers should utilize technology to allow participation for those who do not feel comfortable meeting in person.
- The Team is currently checking with our insurance company on what, if any, liabilities COS may have and will consider implementing any liability mitigation strategies suggested by them.
…that these guidelines become null and void if the Grand Rapids region moves backwards according to current, expert recommendations.
This plan is in effect as of July 10, 2020,and continues until further notice. The team will consider and add re-gathering information and guidelines as the pandemic situation changes.
COS COVID Response Team: Elders Eric Kort, Rhonda Mejeur, Nancy Pranger and Deacons Paul Harper, Carol Rienstra, Stacy Steen.
Previous Update: June 16, 2020
Dear COS members and friends,
The council and staff are planning for the gradual return to some activities at 3835 Burton. Beginning mid-June, staff will use the building more regularly, but the doors will remain locked and food pantry distribution will continue by appointment only. We want to consider your opinions and questions as we move forward toward more activities in and around COS building. Please answer the following questions (you can answer as a household or as individuals.)
Previous Update: May 29, 2020 – Letter from the pastors:
Dear friends of Jesus Christ,
During this continuing time of pandemic, we are all tempted to be like the disciples who, after the risen Jesus appeared to them they asked the question: ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
We all want to know certainty. Many of us follow the emerging data of the pandemic closely in an attempt to extrapolate greater certainty of when and how our worship will be restored to our buildings.
At this moment we have a COVID-response task force made up of healthcare professionals and pastoral leaders who are closely monitoring the situation to give our staff and council guidance. They are carefully and prayerfully observing local, state, and national guidance about COVID as well as observing the situation ‘on the ground’.
Whilst our human tendency is always to seek as much certainty, we recognize that the pandemic continues to be fluid and the situation remains dynamic. There are still many factors this team needs to be assured of before the question of group activities and the re-opening of facilities can be managed responsibly.
Therefore, we continue to wait knowing it might be some time before it is safe and desirable for everyone in our congregation to come together within our building to worship.
Just as Jesus did not answer the certainty of the kingdom coming with a time frame but instead gave the promise that the Holy Spirit would come upon and be with them, we give the same assurance that wherever two or three are gathered, the Spirit is present and is our comfort and guide.
Therefore, we encourage you over the Summer months to continue meeting with us over zoom Worship at 10 am with the links that are provided on the website and in the Friday newsletter.
The COVID response team will continue to meet regularly and brief council and staff on any further adjustments that might need to be made.
Just as we are realizing that the COVID virus has been no respecter of national boundaries, we live with even greater confidence that at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to extend kingdom boundaries.
Therefore, even though we live with deep sadness and lament that we are not physically together we find meaning in being together spiritually and we watch and pray for God’s kingdom to grow,
If you have further questions please do not hesitate to be in touch with us as your co-pastors, or Eric Kort, chair of council
Blessings in Christ our Confidence,
Pastors Karen Campbell and Andrew Mead.
Previous Update: May 15, 2020
Dear Friends of Jesus Christ,
Many of you may be wondering about when activities including worship, meetings, and programs will resume at our COS facilities. The short answer is “we do not yet know”. We are closely following recommendations for return to group activities being provided by federal, state, and local public health officials. We are working on plans to resume some activities at our facilities but these plans remain vague at this point. We covet the ongoing patience of all in this regard. We have established a COVID Taskforce to ensure we act in a way that is well rooted in our faith in God and, as a result, also responsible from a medical and public health perspective.
The most likely scenario is that activities at our COS facilities will resume in a phased manner. We encourage our members to continue to maintain virtual contact with your households now, as households may prove to be excellent ways to identify small groups of people with whom in person contact might be appropriate in the early phases. Repeated contact with the same small group of people will be preferable to repeated contact with different small groups of people.
On a positive note, we are making plans for our staff to be able to return to our facilities once the stay at home order is lifted. We are implementing policies and procedures to ensure that risk of transmission of viral infections are minimized.
Meanwhile, we rejoice that COS is alive and well as a church and our staff and members continue to worship and serve the Lord’s work every day in our world. Even as we walk through this valley, it is obvious that the Lord is with us and we are with the Lord.
Previous Update: May 1, 2020
Sharing in this time of Need, learn more at coscrc.org/covidfund
The Corona Virus has brought many changes to our COS family that tend to lessen our sense of vital community. We are thankful for the Zoom worship services, but video can never replace seeing each other in person as we pass the peace and gather around the Lord’s Table to share in Christ together.
the Council of COS has established a special COVID19 Relief Fund to collect and distribute money to those who are struggling financially to meet basic needs. Two teams are identifying needs within our own church community as well in our wider community. Some immediate wider needs have already been brought to our attention. For example:
- Our sister church, Coit Community, has been inundated with requests for assistance with rent and other household expenses.
- Nation Outside, a group organized by Troy Rienstra, is supporting recently released prisoners who have little or no resources.
The Council pledges to use this fund to provide financial support, with wisdom and compassion, to those in need in our congregation and beyond.
You may give to the Fund by:
Using the online giving portal and selecting “Receipts – Benevolence Fund”. Please also indicate “covid19 relief” in the memo field.
You may also mail checks to:
Church of the Servant
3835 Burton St. SE
Grand Rapids, MI
Please indicate “covid19 relief” in the memo field.
Previous Update: April 17, 2020
If You Get Sick…A Request and A Promise
Dear COS family and friends,
We don’t like writing that subject line—we don’t want to think about anyone from COS being seriously struck with COVID-19. And yet, we know that some of you are already experiencing symptoms, and we are told that the high point of infection is coming at us. We know that we are not immune, so we want to be prepared for what is coming.
If you have symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 infection, or if you are diagnosed with the disease, we trust that you are in touch with your health care providers and getting wise counsel from them. PLEASE be in touch with us as well. Connect with your elder or deacon, or with pastor Andrew or pastor Karen. We will
- ask you if we can share your need for prayer with the congregation or a smaller group
- pray for you and your family and friends as you navigate this time and set up a group to pray regularly.
- ask you how we can assist you with any specific needs. People are available to bring meals or bring any groceries or other items to your porch, check in with you by phone or computer and support your family. Elders and deacons would like to be able to serve you in any way possible.
If you are hospitalized with this virus, we know that your body is working hard to overcome severe symptoms, likely related to your breathing. We know that you will probably not be allowed to have visitors, even family members. We want to know, so that we can pray for you, for your family and friends, and for your medical team. We will ask if we can share your situation with COS. We will also look for any available ways that we can support you and your family.
Because this virus can be deadly, it is wise for all of us to think through the possibility of serious illness and even death. None of us is guaranteed health, effective resistance, and long life; we know that this is true all the time, and yet there is something unique about this time. This is a time to be honest about our fears. You may fear being alone if you are sick in the hospital. You may fear loved ones being sick and being unable to visit. We are human, with a longing for human touch and presence. This is part of the wonderfully embodied way that God gives us life – a great gift, and yet, right now it a challenge for many of us to meet that need.
Take time to talk to your friends and family and pastors about these things. These are serious and sobering conversations, but they are a gift and can deepen our relationships going forward.
We are always vulnerable, and right now you may be feeling that more keenly than usual. And yet, we know that we are always loved and cared for by Jesus Christ. If you or your loved one becomes sick with Covid-19, know that the community of Church of the Servant longs to support you, and we will, through prayer, and through any practical means possible.
Finally, hear these words from the God who loves us, who redeems us, and who comforts us:
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And finally, an evening prayer for an anxious time:
Calm me, O Lord, as you calmed the Storm. Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease.
Enfold me Lord, in your peace.
Peace to you all,
Maria Beversluis van Leeuwen, Pastoral Care Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Campbell, Co-Pastor, email@example.com, 616-956-7611 ex 21
Andrew Mead, Co-Pastor, Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org, 616-956-7611 ex 24
Previous Update: April 10, 2020
The executive committee would like to provide an update on our Church’s financial footing in these challenging times. We are deeply grateful to report that financial support of our ongoing ministries continues to be strong. Our monthly budget is $119,000, and giving last month was over $137,000. We are less than halfway through April, and giving this month is already over $50,000. We continue to support our denomination, our missionaries, and our community through our work and we continue to stand by our commitments to our employees to maintain their compensation through these tumultuous times. For these reasons, we ask for your ongoing faithfulness in support of our work. However, we understand that while the pandemic shows very encouraging signs of weakening, continued progress against COVID-19 will continue to exact an economic toll on each of us in the coming weeks and months. For that reason, we have also applied for a loan under the CARES Act to provide contingency funding in the event the economic situation results in reduced giving to COS. Any loan made to COS under the CARES Act would be forgiven if we maintain our current staffing levels–which we have every intention of doing. We covet your ongoing support and prayers during these times and encourage you to reach out at any time with any questions or concerns you might have.
Previous Update: March 27, 2020 at 11:58 am
Some of you have received an Easter card in the mail about Holy Week services. This card was printed before our covid-19 crisis.
We are committed to journeying together through Holy Week but in a different form this year using online resources.
Rather than focus on the loss of being together let us focus on the opportunity of how we might inhabit the story of Holy Week in a new way and share these resources with others who also need the hope of the resurrection in their lives.
Details about holy week will be forthcoming.
Previous update: March 20, 2020
As we navigate life together, apart, we inevitably face a new rhythm as a church. Here is a little bit of what that weekly rhythm might look like, and what kinds of communication can be expected during this time.
Sunday – worship together online (resources on COS website); you’re invited to share any responses (to the service, the sermon) on the COS Facebook group.
DWELL IN THE WORD together
Monday – look for Setting the Table, our weekly worship email. If you do not currently receive Setting the Table, sign up here.
Tuesday – spend some time dwelling in the Scripture for the week, use ponder questions from Setting the Table as a guide. FELLOWSHIP together
Wednesday – a video from one (or more) of our Wednesday Night Club leaders (available on the COS Facebook page)
Thursday – expect a brief video message from Pastor Karen or Andrew
Friday – weekly email newsletter
Saturday – spend some time praying for the COS family (see the online bulletin for prayer concerns and praises and share on the Facebook group
From the Pastors:
Pastors ‘Open’ Office Hours
Pastor Karen or Pastor Andrew will be in the church office to receive your calls, especially during these hours. Feel free to call just to chat, to share any prayer needs, or critique our sermon 😊. Of course, feel free to reach out outside those hours. We’re here as your pastors.
Monday: 2:00-4:00pm (Karen)
Tuesday: 1:00-3:00pm (Andrew)
Wednesday: 6:00-8:00pm (Karen)
Thursday: 10:00am–12:00pm (Andrew)
Previous Update: March 13, 2020
Dear Friends of Jesus Christ,
As reformed followers of Christ we take our responsibilities to this world very seriously. Even though there are at this moment only a few cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, we find ourselves in a unique opportunity to work together to slow or stop the spread of this virus before it becomes more widespread. If we do not seize this opportunity, we risk spread of this virus throughout our communities, with potentially devastating consequences–particularly for our older friends and family members.
In light of this and consistent with guidance from our state government and classis officials, the council has decided to suspend all events at Church of the Servant until the outbreak abates. This includes Sunday worship, Wednesday night programming, ESL, Bible Studies, the March 16 Blood drive, or any other sanctioned gatherings at COS. Essential operations including food pantry, telephone and internet communications from the building will continue. Teams and committees are encouraged to find ways to meet electronically.
The executive committee will monitor the situation on an ongoing basis. We cannot predict at this moment when services will resume. We will update our church website with additional information as it becomes available. Bookmark this page for continued updates.
Our pastors and worship committee will be working on creative ways to stay connected with you and to facilitate your ongoing worship in your homes. We are confident that this experience will lead to new and deeper understanding of the meaning of worship and ways we can stay connected to one another and to God outside of the usual rhythms of our life.
Pastor Karen and Pastor Andrew have written a pastoral letter to the beloved people of COS. You can read it here. And in Swahili Here
You will find a link here that will contain details for a liturgy for Sunday. We invite you to use this liturgy in your own home. We hope that you may be able to continue to ‘keep your spiritual fervor’ by engaging in thoughtful rhythms that center us on Christ.
The council and staff covet your prayers for our ongoing discernment. Our church family is always in our prayers as we work to meet the needs of our congregation in the coming weeks. For the moment we leave you with the words of the song we closed our council meeting with last night:
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?
The Executive Committee of COS
Previous update: March 11, 2020, at 8:04 pm
As we are sure you are well aware, the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve rapidly. Recommendations from the CDC and Michigan government continue to develop, and we have been having many discussions this week about how to be faithful stewards and servants of God. The council will meet Thursday evening to discuss next steps, and our plans continue to take shape. For the moment, we want to make the following recommendations while we continue our process of discernment.
- Our vulnerable members should remain at home. Vulnerable individuals include those who are older, and those who have a serious chronic medical condition. “Older” means those older than 60, although those older than 80 are at highest risk.
- Members who have symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) are asked to stay at home.
- Updated information including cancellations will be made available on an ongoing basis through our web site.
Please hold in prayer those affected by this situation, and our congregation’s leadership as we discern wise next steps.
– Executive Committee of COS