Birmingham and Berkley First
Ministry, Mission & Coronavirus
Questions and Answers
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For how long will the church be closed?
Our church has not closed and will not close. Our church is OPEN! We are not meeting in our building. But the building is not our church. We are the church. And we are worshipping online. We are worshipping outdoors. We are praying together. Small groups are meeting online and outdoors. We are engaging in vital mission. We are caring for each other, our communities, and a world in need. We are being the church. And we are open!
When will we begin offering indoor worship?
Indoor worship will begin on Sunday, November 1 at all our worship venues. Since the capacity in each space is limited, pre-registration will be required. All appropriate safety measures will apply, including properly-worn face masks (covering the nose and mouth) at all times and social distancing. Watch Steeple Notes and the Birmingham First @ Home e-news for more details.
- Worship in the Sanctuary will be held at 9:30 a.m. with an overflow simulcast into Fellowship Hall and Livestream.
- Worship in the Christian Life Center will be held at 9:30 a.m. with Livestream.
- Worship in the Berkley Sanctuary will be held at 9:30 a.m and the second at 11:00 a.m. with Livestream.
Will the Christian Life Center reopen for indoor activities, like walking?
Yes, the Christian Life Center (CLC) will eventually reopen for indoor activities, like walking. However, we are not reopening quite yet. As we consider when and how we reopen, we are grounded in the Wesleyan admonition to “do no harm.” And while Executive Order No. 2020-176 does allow fitness centers to reopen effective September 9, 2020, public health guidance continues to encourage persons to engage in activities outdoors rather than indoors whenever doing so is possible.
We recognize that when the weather turns cooler, many people do utilize the indoor walking track at our Christian Life Center. We are developing plans for how to make the CLC available for those who need it while remaining committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our staff, our communities, and our congregation. When the Christian Life Center does reopen, hours will be restricted, participant numbers will be limited, social distancing will be required, and face coverings will be mandated. As our plans progress, we will provide updates on our website.
Is there going to be a confirmation class this year?
Yes! We are excited to invite current 8th-grade students to join the confirmation class. This year’s class will be integrated with Sunday evening youth activities. It is scheduled to begin at the beginning of October. Families with students in 8th grade can expect to receive communication from Pastor Susie Hierholzer and Pastor Rachael Dunlap in the first full week of September explaining plans for the program in more detail. For more information contact Pastor Susie.
I hear the preschool is planning to reopen. Why would the preschool reopen before other ministries?
Our preschool is planning to reopen in September. They will do so under new operating procedures that surpass guidelines from both the State of Michigan childcare licensing agency and Executive Orders from our governor’s office. These procedures include greater restrictions on access in the preschool area, curbside drop-offs, and stringent daily health screenings and temperature checks for all staff and students.
Unlike our Christian Education programs, where we rely on volunteer teachers and welcome different children from Sunday to Sunday, our preschool operates with the same children and same adults in the same rooms on a consistent basis. Class sizes are smaller – less than half – of what is typical in K-12 settings. These factors make it possible for our pre-school to operate with relatively low risk when other ministries and schools are not able to do so.
Our preschool provides a vital ministry connection with our community. The opportunity for children to attend preschool is essential for many families, particularly those supporting online education for other children in their homes. What we learn in reopening the preschool will help us better understand how to operate other programs with the lowest possible risk.
Over the last few years, our preschool has accumulated operating reserves. These reserves – and no ministry plan or operating budget funds – are being used to equip the preschool to operate safely (e.g. by purchasing air purifiers for each room and updating plumbing fixtures to operate hands-free). The accumulated operating reserves in the preschool fund are also allowing the preschool to both increase staffing and decrease class sizes so that they can operate in as low-risk manner as possible.
When will activities in the building resume?
We have published a phased reopening plan that is aligned with the Michigan Safe Start Plan. After our region of the state moves into Phase 5 of reopening, we will begin having scheduled in building activities, including meetings, journey groups, and worship. Following the precautions recommended by public health experts, plans are being developed for how we will do this. When activities resume in our church building, we will also continue to maintain and enhance options for virtual (online) participation.
In our current phase of reopening, what determines what groups can meet indoors at church?
We are continuing to follow the guidance published earlier this summer in our phased reopening chart. Click here to review the chart. Our part of Michigan continues to be in Phase 4 of reopening. Over the summer, we have had mission activities use the building. The guidelines have been for such activities to be in groups of 10 or less, practicing physical distancing and wearing face coverings. We have also had small groups of 10 or less in the building for baptisms and funerals.
The decisions that we make as a congregation regarding indoor gatherings at church are very different than personal decisions individuals may make regarding such gatherings in their homes. We are continuing to review public health guidance regarding potential lower-risk activities that might be held indoors in groups of 10 or less, physically distanced, with mandated faced coverings. Currently, the best option for most groups is to meet online or in outdoor settings. As we move into the fall, we hope to identify additional options that will allow groups to meet in ways that help us all fulfill our purpose of gathering, nurturing and equipping disciples of Jesus Christ for ministry and mission.
When activities resume in the building will worship times be the same?
The most likely answer to this question is “no.” We will use the very best public health information available to determine when and how we resume in-person worship in our worship spaces – the Birmingham Sanctuary, the Christian Life Center, and the Berkley Sanctuary. This may mean adjusting service times to allow for more time between services. We may need to add services based on how many people are able to gather safely indoors. When we return to worship in the building, it will not be the same as it was in March 2020.
I have seen job postings for hiring people. Why are we doing this when we still have people on lay off status?
We are hiring to fill open program positions. Our program ministries continue to support people of all ages grow in their knowledge and love of God. Staff members who continue to be on layoff are those persons whose work is most directly tied to our buildings being open. With our buildings being closed for all but a few hours a week we simply do not have work that needs to be done by those staff persons who continue to be on layoff status.
Is a staffing reorganization under consideration?
The reality is this: out of necessity, since mid-March, we have been an online church. Looking into the future, even post-pandemic, how we do ministry will be different. And different ministry models require different types of staff support. We are asking three critical questions: 1) what do we need to stop doing, 2) what do we need to do differently, and 3) what do we need to start doing. We know that enhancing our ability to livestream worship and other events will continue to be critically important, and we need to add expertise to our staff for this. Our congregation’s leadership is reviewing how we are staff considering how we can be as effective as we can possibly be in how we gather, nurture, and equip disciples of Jesus Christ for ministry and mission.
What about fall programs? Are they still happening?
Yes! Christian education for children. Youth groups. Journey groups for prayer and study. Men’s groups. Women’s groups. Missions. Service. Worship. If there is a ministry in which you have participated, it will still be happening, though it will look a bit different this year. Until our region gets to Phase 5 of reopening, groups will meet online or outdoors. During these extraordinary days, many people have shared how much they value participation in a small group. As we move into the fall, we want to encourage more people to be a part of Journey Groups. Please read Steeple Notes each Wednesday, and your e-newsletter each Friday, for information about new groups being formed, including our new Discipleship 101 group that Pastor Rachel will be leading.
What are we doing to continue in ministry with those without access to technology?
We have identified persons affiliated with our congregation who have limited access to technology. Each week, we are mailing this group of persons a printed copy of Steeple Notes along with a printed copy of our Pastor Elbert’s most recent sermon. We also have printed copies of the Upper Room Daily Devotional available. In addition, we are continuing to reach out with telephone calls to all members and friends of the congregation. If you would like to be a part of this telephone ministry, please let us know! Click here to send an email if you would like to volunteer. It is a very rewarding ministry in which to participate as a caller.
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