November 20, 2020 (8:30 PM)
In response to the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in our county, and after much reflection and hours of conversation as a Grace Church pastoral team, we have decided to suspend in-person worship services at all our locations for the entire holiday season, from this Sunday, November 22nd until the New Year. We anticipate resuming in-person worship services starting on January 3rd at all locations, and will reevaluate in mid-December.
This decision is disappointing for us on many levels, but we believe for this holiday season it is the best way to honor the mission Jesus has entrusted to us, care for the most vulnerable in our community, and respect our governing authorities. This decision was not made lightly, and included conversations with our medical task force, our church staff, and other Grace leaders. Our decision isn’t made out of fear, but out of a sense of faithfulness to our calling. Philippians 2:1-11 reminds us that our gospel call is to value others above ourselves, not looking to our own interests but to the interests of others, doing all of this under the Lordship of Christ.
In response to the changing reality and limitations of our gatherings during this meaningful season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are counting on God to work through our church, right in the midst of this pandemic, to advance the love and warmth of this season to our families, neighborhoods, and work places. We have the opportunity to think creatively about how we can support and care for the people around us struggling with isolation, fear, and a sense of sadness. We also must consider what it means in for us to be and share the good news of Jesus Christ to our neighbors and friends during this unique space we find ourselves in.
So, as we embrace these new challenges and opportunities as a congregation, we hope you will join us with creativity, commitment, and courage and take 3 strategic actions in the days and weeks ahead.
1. Attend our online service.
Join us on Facebook and invite your friends to watch with you. Then, use our social media to share the good news with others.
2. Engage in our mission.
Between our Rescue Sunday on November 29th and our work with the Hesed Christmas store on December 18th and 19th, we are providing you with two meaningful opportunities to bless others this season through Grace.
3. Consider how you can be and share good news.
Spend time with God considering and praying for those in your circle of influence. Consider how God is guiding you to reflect Christ’s love to them in tangible ways.
Our staff will be fully engaged working to help us celebrate Christmas as a church in new and meaningful ways and we encourage you to let us know about any ideas you have or needs you are facing during this most challenging and memorable year.
August 14, 2020 (8:00 AM)
A phrase we’ve said over and over again in the last 10 years certainly rings more true now than ever before: “The church is not a building we come to, it’s not a meeting we attend; it’s a community that we’re becoming.” Now we feel God is calling us to embody those words more than ever before.
Another thing we’ve said over and over is that we are one church in multiple locations. The shockwaves from COVID-19 are forcing us to live that out in new ways, as our multiple locations now include your living room and your phone. Digital space has become a “new location.” I believe God wants to fill and use that digital space in the same way that he fills our physical space when we gather for community groups or corporate worship. In fact, we are already making plans to further develop our online services as a regular location—just like you’ve been experiencing—even after the days of COVID-19 are past.
Our plans for this fall are also a new expression of us being one church in multiple locations. We are really excited to announce that Grace Church will begin in-person services on September 13th. Our challenge is to provide a meaningful worship experience for those of you who are eager to gather in person, as well as those of you who aren’t ready.
Honestly, across our network we are split about 50/50 on that point, so we’ve made the radical decision to hold in-person services for Ann Arbor, Dexter Saline, and its surrounding townships at Grace West and hold in-person services for Ypsilanti, Belleville, and Canton at our Canton location. Our in-person services for the duration of 2020 will occur at those two locations.
Since we are one church, now is our chance to truly live that out. If you usually attend Ann Arbor, grab some friends and head to one of the other locations on a Sunday morning. You will see greeters, staff, worship team members, and people you recognize at any service you choose to attend. But you will also have the opportunity to meet new Grace members and make new friends. If you usually attend West or Canton, you will need to extend extraordinary hospitality to the rest of the church. Do not wait for the connections team or staff to greet a new face. It is time for you to be the church.
If you aren’t comfortable meeting in person on Sundays, join us online on Sundays or on-demand any time during the week. We’re creating a virtual community where we can pursue discipleship together. We are creating opportunities to serve and grow, just like in our in-person meetings.
We have big plans for the Ann Arbor facility—including creating meeting spaces for small groups and people who need a place to work outside their home. Plus, we will continue to use it to produce our online services and midweek content. “But wait!” I hear some of you saying. “When will Ann Arbor re-open?” Look folks, Grace Church never closed. We’ve said over and over that the church isn’t a building or a meeting. It’s us, as a people. It’s time for you to take that charge seriously. If you want to worship in person on Sunday, head to one of the buildings that are open. Reconnect with old friends and make new ones. If you want to stay home on Sunday, commit to setting time aside to connect with your CG and our Sunday service online. But commit to be the church wherever you are.
We are tremendously excited at the opportunity God has given us to live out our values. We are asking you to join us in taking three simple steps as we head into September:
1. Pray about what corporate worship will look like for you this fall.
2. Reach out to others to continue building community no matter where you choose to worship.
3. Finally, be sure to engage in a service team wherever you are.
We know that God will do great things in and through you, the people of Grace Church, no matter what September brings.
July 24, 2020 (7:00 AM)
Because this is such a crazy summer, we want to keep you in the loop as to what each month will look like at Grace Church. As July draws to a close, we look forward to all that August has in store! First and foremost, we will continue offering a full online worship experience every Sunday, just like always.
We also have a couple in-person opportunities to gather on the calendar for August. On August 9, Grace Ann Arbor West and Grace Canton are both planning to provide an in-person worship service! While we won’t resume regular weekly services at either location until mid-September at the earliest, we are excited to gather together and worship in-person when we have the chance.
At 9:30 AM on August 9, Grace Canton will gather together outside the church for a pop-up service that will include singing and a message. We will not be utilizing the interior of the building at any time, but we do ask that people respect social distancing.
Then, at 10:00 AM, Grace Ann Arbor West will hold their pop-up service in the sanctuary. Registration will be required to ensure that we maintain a safe number for our space. There will also be multiple safety measures in place which you can read about on our registration page!
Even though Grace Ann Arbor doesn’t have any in-person services on the calendar right now, both pop-up services on the 9th are open to everyone.
As we look forward to each of these upcoming opportunities, we are watching the current numbers closely and will change the plan if we feel it’s in the best interest of our congregation and community. We continue to pray over and evaluate the best and safest course of action for each of our three locations both for August and for the months ahead.
May 18, 2020 (3:00 PM)
As Michigan begins to remove restrictions, more and more people are asking, “What’s next for Grace Church? How do we go from quarantine to gatherings of several hundred? Is there a plan?”
The short answer is, Yes. There is a plan. The longer answer is that this is uncharted waters not only for our staff, but for every church. We don’t have clear examples of churches who have successfully navigated the steps from quarantine to in-person Sunday gatherings. So our plan is a process. It consists of obtaining wise counsel, mapping out potential next steps, and making the best decision we can with the information we have. At each point, we will consider how to best support the vulnerable in our congregation, and how to provide resources for a wide cross-section of personal comfort. Some will be ready to gather in person very soon, while others will choose to stay isolated for longer.
Obtaining wise counsel
We are taking our cues from the federal and state government. When we need help interpreting what is legal and safe, we are relying on our COVID-19 Task Force, which includes medical and community health professionals. Our staff is regularly in prayer as we ask for wisdom in interpreting what we see happening around us.
Mapping out potential next steps
Based on the information we’ve received, we have mapped out several steps towards gathering together as community groups and Sunday worshippers. In the same way that we had several “red lines” that triggered our decision to suspend in-person gatherings, we are working to create checklists to help us decide when it is wise to begin to gather. Currently, we anticipate gathering in very small groups at first, and increasing our gathering size as it is legal and safe to do so. We don’t have a timetable for these steps, but instead depend on current information.
Making best decision with the information we have
For perhaps the first time in my ministry career, long term planning is an impossibility. There are simply too many unknowns. With information updating daily, what made sense yesterday can suddenly not feel reasonable today. In this climate, we are committed to taking the next step, and then pausing to evaluate. Evaluating might indicate that we should stay the course, change direction, or even move back to an earlier format.
As we move forward, let me reiterate that we will not encourage anyone to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe in regards to their health. Even as we begin to meet, we will continue to provide online services and digital support for community groups for as long as we can. Individuals, families, and groups will be empowered to make their own decisions about safety and gathering contexts. Thank you for your continued support and dedication as we walk out life with Jesus, and each other, in these new contexts.
March 23, 2020 (3:00 PM)
While religious organizations are exempt from today’s order, we want to serve our community by taking every precaution. As a result, we will not be gathering during the duration of the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order. As of right now, this executive order will be in effect through April 13, 2020. In the meantime, we will continue to provide Sunday morning worship on Facebook and at gracechurch.city/sermons.
Because we are exempted from this executive order, we are uniquely situated to care for and bless our community. If there is any way we can help you or your community, please reach out through our Contact Form.
Additionally, today’s order specifically allows for people to travel in order to care for “minors, dependents, the elderly, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons” and to “work or volunteer for businesses … that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals,” (Section 7) so we want to continue to urge you, the people of Grace, to be the Church in your communities. Take every precaution to keep yourself and your family healthy, but we can still serve others and show God’s love in the midst of all of this.
March 13, 2020 (8:00 AM)
It seems like every time I look at my newsfeed there is updated information about the coronavirus. Here in Michigan things are developing especially rapidly—and we are trying our best to keep pace.
In conversations with our location pastors and the Task Force over the past week, we laid out three “red lines” that we felt would require an immediate and proactive response.
Guidance from the State of Michigan requesting religious institutions no longer gather
Local public school systems closures
Positive test for COVID-19 in our congregation
In the past 24 hours, multiple school systems have closed in SE Michigan, and the latest guidelines from the State of Michigan is to refrain from gathering in groups of 50 or more. Thankfully, no-one associated with Grace has tested positive for the coronavirus. Still, in light of the other two developments, we’ve decided to suspend our weekend services for Sunday, March 15. We will evaluate on a week-by-week basis, but are preparing to be without in-person services for several weeks. We didn’t make this decision out of fear, but as a service to our community. One of our primary roles as the church is to defend the defenseless. By not gathering in a large group, we can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and in doing so protect the vulnerable in our cities.
But we do not cease being the church simply because we miss a week or two of Sundays gatherings. As we’ve often said, “the church is not a building we visit or a meeting we attend. It’s a people we are becoming.” We will continue to pursue Christ together, even if we aren’t swapping stories over coffee in the lobby or worshipping shoulder to shoulder.
Instead of an in-person service this Sunday, we will stream a service on the Grace website (www.gracechurch.city) and Facebook starting at 9:30am. It will be available in its entirety anytime after the stream begins. I don’t want to oversell it, but it’s going to be an all star cast! Zach, Dave & Sung will all make an appearance. Matt and Tyler will lead worship. We won’t even be able to tell if you fast forward through the boring parts. You will have to make your own coffee, though. Please join us on Sunday as we (virtually) gather to learn, grow, and follow Jesus together.
Our newest location of Grace Church is not one single “location” at all. Join us in worship, community, and mission from wherever you are as we encounter God together, online.
As of November 22nd, in-person services will be suspended at all three locations.
We anticipate resuming in-person services in January but will reevaluate in mid-December. When we do resume in-person services, some things will be different, but one thing won’t be: our commitment to growing together as we pursue God.
In-Person Service Guidelines
In order to love our community and one another well, we are taking multiple precautions this fall so that everyone will feel safe and welcomed at Grace Churches.
If you attend one of our in-person services this fall, pre-registration is required, and by registering you consent to follow these guidelines:
- Masks will be required indoors for all adult attendees at all times, except for those with speaking roles on the platform (off-platform, masks will be worn). We recommend bringing a mask from home, but will have some masks available. Non-mask wearers will not be allowed into the building.
- Social distancing will be practiced in all spaces including lobby and sanctuary seating.
- Seating will be limited to 25% of our sanctuary capacity, and must be reserved in advance. Seating will be socially distanced except for families/couples.
- Children of all ages are welcome, but they must stay with their parents at all times. Children 5 and older or required to wear a mask at all times. Children under 5 are not required to wear a mask.
- Please do not come to church if you have any sort of illness, including a cold, a fever, a cough, or any other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Hand sanitizer will be available in the lobby at several locations and in the bathrooms.
- Offering collection boxes will be available at the back of the sanctuary and in the lobby.
- We encourage you to read the CDC guidelines for additional health and safety recommendations: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-increased-risk.html
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