Dear Birmingham and Berkley First Family,
Grace and peace to you in the name of the Babe of Bethlehem, whose light we proclaim as we prepare to enter into the Advent and Christmas seasons. I’m writing to you today following Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s address on Sunday as well as Bishop David Bard’s request of Michigan area churches that was released on Monday (click here to watch).
By now you’ve heard that the current active cases and positivity rates for COVID-19, as well as hospitalization rates in the state of Michigan, are drastically increasing. Several in the healthcare industry with whom I have consulted in recent days have shared that we will continue to see hospitalizations and death rates rise in the coming weeks.
Even as we hear promising news of vaccines on the horizon and new treatments implemented, we are yet again entering into a season of unchecked community spread. Our healthcare workers, grocery workers, and so many others are working the front lines to keep us safe and attend to our basic needs. Church families have been impacted as loved ones have become sick and some have died. Many local business owners along with all of our families are being asked to make great sacrifices as we approach the holiday season in order to help flatten the curve yet again.
At Birmingham and Berkley First, we have been committed to the health, safety, and wellbeing of our congregation, our staff, and our communities from the beginning of this pandemic. I’m so thankful for the volunteers, staff, and generous donors who have helped to make possible deeply meaningful and safer options for both online and in-person worship services. We stand in prayerful solidarity with local businesses and our families who are all making sacrifices in these days as we ask one another to “mask up” and attend to important safety protocols.
In the communication that I mentioned above, Bishop David Bard has requested United Methodist churches of the Michigan Area to refrain from in-person worship through the Advent and Christmas seasons in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Effective Sunday, November 22, 2020, our weekly worship services across our campuses will available online only by livestream through the end of December in order that we might do our part to help bring down the spread of this virus that continues to impact our lives in so many significant ways.
I say this knowing the great sacrifices that I am asking of each of you, especially in this holy season. I appreciate your commitment to do no harm, to do good, and to stay in love with God as you wear a mask, keep social distance, limit yourself to small gatherings, get your flu shot, and continue to connect in meaningful ways for worship, study, and mission.
At the same time, I am deeply grateful that this is different from what we did in March. In many ways, we are continuing excellent ministries for one another and our communities as:
- Worship teams will gather in small, socially distant groups to lead worship livestreams from our campuses.
- Mission teams will still gather across our campuses to collect, sort, and distribute needed gifts and supplies to ensure critical mission projects and assistance to those in need. Vital ministries like blood drives as well as food and supply drives will continue.
- Funerals, baptisms and weddings will continue under our current limited guidelines for families, offering livestreaming options for the greater community when appropriate.
- The Birmingham First welcome desk will remain open for now from Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until noon and the Sanctuary remains open during these hours for less than ten people at a time to enter, meditate and pray.
- Small groups and committees will continue to meet online.
A member of our clergy team is always available for you when you call our Pastor-on-Call phone at 248-408-0038.
Our volunteers and staff are planning to light up the outside of our buildings to shine the light of Christ into our communities in these days. Due to the generosity of area businesses, members and friends, you won’t want to miss outdoor activities for you to drive by or even pause outdoors to remind ourselves of the hope we have together. Stay tuned for more details soon!
- Should our circumstances change in any case, we are prepared to make changes to our current plans based on the best advice from governmental authorities, community health agencies, the medical community, and denominational leaders.
Our staff, volunteers, members, and friends are amazing and constantly rethinking how we worship and serve in these difficult days. We’re committed to continuing to explore new ways to Be the Light for our communities and congregations. I want to thank you for your continued prayers, support, and sacrifices in these days. We are in this together!
As we approach Christmas, I know that the One who heard our cries over 2,000 years ago continues to reach out to us today. If God could step into our midst in Bethlehem, I’m excited to think of what God will continue to do among us today in Birmingham, Berkley, and our world.