Covid-19 Protocols Update | February 5, 2021
This past Tuesday, the Harvest Session reviewed the protocols it had adopted back in November and voted unanimously to take two steps to relax COVID protocols.
In November, the Session had acted to tighten our COVID safety protocols for several reasons: we were seeing a significant increase in cases locally, the conditions in health care were worsening, cases were increasing within the congregation, and other Reformed Churches in West Michigan were being forced to cancel worship due to COVID outbreaks. The Session considered the importance of preserving our ability to worship, our desire to support civic efforts to curb worsening health conditions, and our desire to protect the well-being of our neighbor. For these reasons, the Session voted to tighten masking protocols, and, in compliance with DHHS orders, paused in-person, non-worship gatherings.
Though COVID continues to affect many in our community and our health care advisors are still recommending masks and social distancing since conditions have improved since November, the Session determined we could grant more latitude while still remaining consistent with our theological rationale. The two major changes Session approved are:
- Midweek Programs: Effective February 1, in-person, midweek programs may resume at Harvest subject to the following protocols:
- Participants are asked to remain masked in the building, except when eating or drinking
- Efforts should be made to maintain six feet of spacing (e.g. chair spacing)
- If food or beverages are provided, the participants must be seated, groups are to be separated by at least six feet, and no more than six participants are to be seated at a table
- Occupancy must not exceed 20% of the limits established by the fire marshal if the venue has fixed seating. If non-fixed seating, occupancy is limited to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet.
The resumption of each ministry or group is at the discretion of the ministry leader or chairperson. We would encourage groups to be cognizant of health concerns within the group and, where possible, to provide video conferencing options for those who are sick, quarantining, or have health concerns.
- Masking in Worship: Effective February 7, masks will be recommended, but not required, in the auditorium during the 11:00 AM service and in the craft room during the 5:30 PM service. The Session would issue the following qualifications:
- Existing protocols (masks required when singing or reciting) will continue for the 9:00 AM and 5:30 PM (auditorium) services.
- Masks will be required in the common spaces of the building at all times (e.g. foyer, hallways).
- We would encourage any staff or volunteer who is uncomfortable serving in an unmasked setting to communicate this with their team leader so that we can make adjustments as necessary.
As always, if you have any questions about these decisions, we would encourage you to reach out to your elder. We understand that some may judge these protocols unnecessarily restrictive and others unreasonably lax. We also understand that for a variety of reasons people have struggled with COVID issues; however, the Session wants to say that we especially appreciate how so many of you have patiently endured (even when you may have disagreed with decisions that have been made or found them really difficult!). The Lord has been exceedingly kind in helping us weather these challenges and we want to express our gratitude for your ongoing commitment to family life here at Harvest.
The Harvest Session
In order to better love our community and promote both their safety and ours, the Session is asking our congregation to observe the following practices:
Prior to Sunday
- Take time to read the indoor and outdoor worship protocols that have been approved by Session. As you can imagine, in-person worship will be different than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health and safety plays a more visible role than it did before.
- You must submit an RSVP if you plan to attend in-person worship. Each location has limited capacity.
- If anyone in your household is not healthy, please worship via livestream to protect the health of others. We also ask the elderly and immunocompromised to consider worshiping via livestream at this time. (Those who for reasons of health or conscience do not feel comfortable attending in-person gatherings at this time are encouraged to worship via livestream. While we have a command to worship our God, the session wants to preserve the liberty of conscience for all members to fulfill this command either in person or via livestream during these extraordinary circumstances.)
- If you have any questions or need to change your reservation, please email email@example.com
- We ask that those attending the 9 AM service park to the right while those attending the 11 AM service park to the left.
- Auditorium chairs are set up to allow for social distancing. We ask that you allow ushers to seat you to allow the greatest number of people to worship together in the auditorium.
- Please express non-contact greetings to one another from an appropriate distance. Here are a few fun suggestions.
- Please bring your own mask.
- Offering: Offerings will be taken in person. (If you are not able to attend in person, we ask you to consider donating online or through the tithe.ly app.)
- Cry Rooms: Cry rooms are set available in both nurseries (not staffed with volunteers) as well as in classrooms 1/3 down the hall.
- Nursing Moms Room: A nursing moms room is in rooms 5/7.
- Masked Area: The craft room continues to remain a “masked at all times” area. Please sign up to worship here if you prefer.
- Fellowship: Fellowship time will occur between the services from 10:15-10:45 AM for attendees of both services.
This is just the third phase of our reopening. We will constantly be evaluating and adjusting our approach as the situation changes. Some of you may be disappointed that there are restrictions in place and others may be fearful that the restrictions will not be followed. Our responsibility before the Lord and to one another is to navigate these differences of opinion with grace, love, and an eagerness to maintain our unity with one another during this time. We also ask you to be flexible and open to change. Many of the decisions we make are to protect the health and safety of the most vulnerable among us, and this is a dynamic situation that will surely change as time goes on.
As always, please feel free to contact your shepherding elder if you have questions or concerns.
Yours in Christ,
The Congregational Life Team