Latest 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.)

  • Grounds:
    • 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 (lori.wiersma@coscrc.org) 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.

 Other Resources:

7 Theological (and Practical) Reopening Resources for Churches

https://www.reopeningyourchurch.com/


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.
In Christ,

Eric


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
49546

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.

Romans 8:38-39

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.

Amen.

Peace to you all,

Maria Beversluis van Leeuwen, Pastoral Care Coordinator, maria.vanleeuwen@coscrc.org

Karen Campbell, Co-Pastor, karen.campbell@coscrc.org, 616-956-7611 ex 21

Andrew Mead, Co-Pastor, Andrew.mead@coscrc.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.

WORSHIP together
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
PRAY together
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

March 13 update – Swahili

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?


In Christ,
The Executive Committee of COS


Previous update: March 11, 2020, at 8:04 pm

March 11 Update – Swahili

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Members who have symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) are asked to stay at home.
  3. 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.

In Christ,
– Executive Committee of COS