Dear Church Family,

It’s been a very interesting week. Things have been happening quickly, and changing often. In all things, we trust God to keep us safe and we continue to pray for God’s protection over us and those we love. Additionally, God gave us brains and has provided folks with specific expertise at this time to help us be wise in preparation. Our hope is to hold these truths in balance so that we can love one another and our neighbors well at a time of heightened anxiety and genuine concern. We do not want to over-react or live in fear, but we do believe that taking some wise precautions will help to stop the spread of this virus.

At Hillside we want to care for our congregation in all respects, including the physical and emotional well-being of our community. To that end, we are asking you, our church family, to take precautions to keep yourself and others safe, especially in light of recent developments with the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

At this time, health officials are recommending the cancellation of gatherings of more than 100 people. For this reason, we have cancelled services for this Sunday, March 15, although this Sunday’s service will be available on Livestream starting at 9:30 a.m. We will keep you informed of upcoming services. We are thankful for the ability to Livestream and we plan to continue to use that resource to help us worship together (at least in spirit). We will continue to update prayer line items and other needs so that we can continue to care for one another.

You may wonder about other mid-week meetings and activities at Hillside. The Guatemala International Night dinner has been cancelled due to the number registered (145). Our general guideline is that midweek meetings and activities that involve less than 50 people where you can maintain a safe social distance (e.g. 6 feet) may continue. We will make every effort to notify you as best we can, but please also check our website and Facebook page to see if an event is going to take place as things can change rapidly. At this point we anticipate the office will remain open during normal business hours.

Your well-being and safety are of primary importance to us. Here’s how we are committed to keeping our facilities clean and safe:

  • We recommend that you give your tithe and offering online.
  • Before and after services and mid-week meetings we will sanitize highly touched surfaces before and after such as doors, handles, tables, the coffee area, drinking fountains, check-in stations, and bathrooms.
  • Our staff and volunteer teams wash their hands frequently and will stay home if they are sick.

Wherever you are we encourage you to take every precaution to keep yourself and others safe. You can help stop the spread of viruses in the following ways:

  • Stay home when you or your family members are sick. Our services will be available via Livestream which is available on our Website, Facebook page, and our mobile app
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Cover your face when sneezing or coughing and get in the habit of not touching your face.
  • If you are returning from a high-alert area, we ask you to refrain from attending church events, classes, and services for the recommended 14-day time frame.
  • If you or someone you’ve had contact with tests positive for COVID-19, please let us know right away so we can find a way to help, pray for everyone involved, and take the necessary precautions here at Hillside.

Our financial obligations continue even through this challenge. If you are not set up to give on-line or via text and need assistance doing so, please feel free to call the church office.

In times of fear and crisis, the church has a unique opportunity to shine the love of Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, the church is equipped with wisdom, with love of neighbor and with a stubborn resistance to fear. We are evaluating how we can best minister to the members of our church and to our community. Please let us know if you have any special needs.

This is what we know at this point time and will keep you updated as additional information becomes available from public health officials.

In the meantime, please go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html or https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus for the most current information.

 Your servants,

– Council, Hillside Community Church


P.S. We found this rationale for cancelling corporate worship services from LaGrave CRC helpful, and may be helpful to you as well.

  1. The coronavirus is coming to Grand Rapids. I suspect it’s probably already here, but people who have it don’t yet have any noticeable symptoms. I would expect widespread illness in Grand Rapids within the next two or three weeks, depending how aggressively area businesses, organizations, governments and individuals work to delay the disease spread.
  2. For most healthy people, getting the virus will be an inconvenience, but nothing dire.  For a small group of people, mostly elderly, the virus can be life-threatening. Those people may need strong medical intervention, including hospitalization.
  3. If we (governments, institutions, individuals) do nothing to delay the virus spread, there’s a risk that hospitals and health systems won’t have capacity to treat (i) those who get seriously sick from the virus, along with (ii) all those who get injured or sick apart from the epidemic.  Some ugly situations may develop, where health care providers will need to decide, for example, who gets needed oxygen and who doesn’t.
  4. That’s why, socially, it’s in everyone’s interest to slow the virus spread as much as we can. We probably won’t be able to prevent it entirely, but what we’d like to do is slow disease spread, to minimize sudden stress on the healthcare system.  That’s why the governor is asking people to avoid large gatherings, and to observe good hygiene. Now, not later, is the critical time to slow disease spread. (As of tonight, most area colleges, including Calvin, are suspending in-person college classes.)
  5. At LaGrave, even if we don’t shake hands in the service, there are surfaces in the church where disease can spread (hymnals, pew Bibles, doors) and there could be air-borne risk to people sitting in the church pews.
  6. LaGrave has a large number of elderly members, the demographic who would be at greatest risk from the disease.
  7. There’s a possibility, at least, that before this coming Sunday, someone in authority is going to ask, or recommend, that Michigan churches cancel large gatherings (like services) at least for a week or two, to slow down the disease spread. Kentucky’s governor has already issued a formal cancellation request to Kentucky churches. If churches get that recommendation or request, most churches will likely comply.  Even now, churches around the country are already proactively cancelling services.  See nytimes.com; washingtonpost.com;  and usnews.com.
  8. If we get a public health recommendation or request, LaGrave should not be an outlier church who disregards the recommendation and invites its members to come downtown and mix with each other. First, we have a moral duty to the community, I think, to take reasonable steps to slow disease spread as best we can. Also, we would be needlessly exposing our (elderly) members to a potentially serious health risk. Finally, disregarding that recommendation or request would needlessly provoke ill will and blame feelings toward LaGrave on the part of the public as a whole, particularly if the Grand Rapids community subsequently experiences a difficult time with the epidemic.