Covid-19 Update - Nov. 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE FROM SESSION AND PASTOR FULLER

Dear Trinity Family,

Last week a pastor friend of mine in California shared a word of scripture with me that has encouraged me a great deal!

Romans 15:5-6
“Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.”

Like you, I need to hear that the Lord is in the business of giving us encouragement and helping us endure! Together, we also need the endurance and encouragement to live in harmony with each other during this time. As we live in harmony, united together in Christ, we glorify God!

Once again, we face some decisions about worship and programming at Trinity Church as a result of the rising number of COVID cases concomitant with new Michigan Health Department restrictions on social interactions. We’ve made lots of tough decisions along the way that have changed the way we ‘do church’ together, but in all of these I’ve been awed by the sense of unity and grace that I’ve seen in our church family. You have been bent, but not broken. You have given one another grace, you have been flexible with us, and you understand that none of us have ever experienced or led through a global pandemic before. Thank you!!!

This week, the ruling elders and staff have had long discussions and spent a great deal of time praying and seeking wise counsel regarding how to move forward in the near future with respect to worship services and core discipleship activities like ROOTS, AWANA, and student worship gatherings.

Your pastor, staff, and Session are unified together in the decision to maintain in-person and online streaming worship service options on Sunday, along with most Wednesday night programs, but with some key modifications. Please hear that our heart is to minister well to you and our community as we continue to adapt in these changing times.

As we made this decision, the details of which are outlined below, we sought to balance a desire and need for God’s people to gather in person for worship and mutual encouragement with a commitment to follow the Michigan Health Department restrictions, which are designed to keep the coronavirus from spreading. Trinity has tried to walk this balance for the last eight months – following previous guidance for large gatherings with respect to social distancing, masks, cleaning, and capacity limitations. Our church family has consistently followed these protocols and consequently, by God’s grace, has not seen a spreading of the virus.

We don’t believe there is one right answer for every church, and we also know that circumstances can change suddenly, which could necessitate further changes. We believe that most area churches also are concluding that the best course of action is to maintain in-person options for essential worship gatherings. We believe that in-person worship, Bible teaching, and our food pantry serving the community are priorities that we need to continue as long as possible. Other church community events will be cancelled temporarily, even though they’re still an important part of our life and growth together. Together, we are doing our best to think outside the box and provide alternatives for our church community.


THE DETAILS

Sunday morning worship services will continue as we have for the last several months, with live-streamed services at both 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. We have been socially distancing, requiring masks, and operating at less than 30% of capacity. People are asked to register ahead of time and do self-checks for temperature and/or symptom monitoring before they come. Children’s ministry and Junior/Senior High student hangouts meet in their respective areas with identical restrictions.

Wednesday Nights:
ROOTS will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary to provide more space for social distancing during a short teaching time. Our worship time in the FLC is discontinued to allow for Small groups to meet earlier and have more time together in large breakout rooms with social distancing and mask protocols. ROOTS will NOT be live-streamed on YouTube. However, you can watch LIVE from the Sanctuary via our Facebook Page. We also are prepared to add another ZOOM group, if necessary.

AWANA will continue as before so our children can worship together. Volunteers and children will continue to wear masks, social distance, and exercise safety protocols.

JUNIOR HIGH will continue worship and teaching gatherings on Wednesdays. There will be no food, and masks & social distancing still are required.

Tuesday morning ROOTS will continue as normal. We’ll continue to provide plenty of open space, utilize social distancing and mask protocols, and provide ZOOM options.

Sunday Night HIGH SCHOOL will continue to safely meet for worship and encouragement, without food and with strict safety protocols. Our team leaders are brainstorming even more creative ways to engage our at-home teenagers.

Food Pantry has been an essential service to our community. We moved all packing and distribution outdoors several months ago and have safely given food, smiles, and the love of Christ to hundreds of people in our community. If you haven’t yet – try volunteering!

Other Activities – All other church activities are postponed or moved online. These include, for instance, Drop & Shop, the women’s Cocoa Event, our Board Game Hangout, etc. Look for future communication regarding specific events!


QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE:

When does this take effect?  
This is effective immediately, and our prayer and hope is that it would be effective through year’s end.

Who made this decision?
This was a joint, unanimous decision of Trinity’s ruling elders, staff leaders, and pastor.

What was some of the thinking that went into this decision?
First and foremost, we sought the Lord’s guidance and wisdom for the spiritual, emotional, and physical health of our church. The sense we have, after talking with numerous people and families with children of various ages, is that our church NEEDS to provide these live opportunities for our church families. The spiritual and mental health of students and parents alike is under incredible strain – and having the opportunity to gather together for worship and fellowship is an essential factor in their health. At the same time, it is important to us as leaders that we act as good citizens in our community. We desire to follow the Michigan Health Department restrictions which are designed to keep the coronavirus from spreading. Trinity has tried to walk this balance for the last eight months – following previous guidance for large gatherings with respect to social distancing, masks, cleaning, and capacity limitations. Our church family has consistently followed these protocols and consequently, by God’s grace, has not seen a spreading of the virus. We are not in any way trying to flout or disobey the new restrictions. We are trying to do the best we can to operate essential activities within the bounds of what we believe is allowed and wise. We believe this decision is our best attempt to balance freedom and responsibility, following the Lord’s leading and being a positive witness to the community. Ultimately, we want your family to have multiple safe options to seek God in this critical time.

Is it possible this decision could change?
Yes, of course. In the last 8 months, it seems every decision is ‘in pencil’ as we continue to live faithfully, monitor circumstances, and adjust when the situation warrants. In fact, we can almost guarantee it will change – it’s just a matter of ‘how’ and ‘when’!

What if I’m not comfortable joining the church for in-person services, classes, or student ministry events?
Grace!! From the very beginning, we’ve been encouraging the church family to give preference to one another and give grace liberally. You should never feel embarrassed, ashamed, or pressured into coming in person, as if that’s the only ‘real’ way to worship or gather. We’ve provided lots of options for online worship, ZOOM classes, and more. Many of you have life situations that warrant staying away from groups, even if they are socially distancing, wearing masks, etc. Be safe, know you’ll get grace from your church family, and come back when you’re able. In the meantime, let us know how we can help you stay connected!

Who can I talk with if I want to share concerns or ideas?
There are lots of ways to do this, and we’re very open to your feedback! You can contact Pastor Mark (mfuller@trinityepc.org), Tony Mlynarek (tonym@trinityepc.org), or any of our Trinity elders.

Will Sunday services be at their normal times?
Yes, service times will remain the same at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Will seating be limited?
Yes. In order to follow social distancing guidelines, there will be limited seats available. Seating is arranged so that you can sit in family clusters, with each cluster separated by 6 feet. There are no assigned seats – just come and sit in a cluster that fits you or your family! Also, our Sanctuary is open every Sunday to allow for overflow seating, so you can safely worship there and watch our service livestreamed, if seats aren't available, or you are uncomfortable, in the FLC.

Do we need to register to attend?
We kindly ask that you do follow the online links to register, which helps us know how to set up chairs. People who do not register can still come worship with us – we’re worshipping God! We will not turn you away!

What health and safety precautions should I take?
If you have any coronavirus symptoms, please worship from home that day. Everyone attending worship services at Trinity Church must wear a mask. (If you forget yours, we have plenty of free masks at the welcome desk.) You may remove your mask when seated, but please wear a mask when walking or singing. Please practice social distancing by remaining 6 feet from others. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the building. Attendees will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer upon entering.

Will the restrooms be open?
Yes, our restrooms will be open.

Will water, coffee or doughnuts be served?
We will not be serving coffee or doughnuts, however, please feel free to bring your own. Our drinking fountains are shut down for your safety, but we have plenty of free bottles of water available for your hydration!

What is a touchless experience?
Our team has worked hard to ensure that Sunday’s services are, for all intents and purposes, “touchless.” If you choose to worship with us in person, you won’t have to open doors or pass offering or communion. While with us, we also ask that you respect one another’s social distancing preferences.

Can we visit with others before/after service?
 We want you to be able to fellowship and talk with others, which is incredibly important. Social distance with air high fives, elbow bumps and smiles so big that they touch your eyes!

What will be done to provide a clean facility? 
Cleaning of the facility has and will continue to take place at a level at or above all guidelines set forth by the CDC, including, but not limited to, all surfaces in the Family Life Center, gathering area, and restrooms.
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