COVID-19 RESPONSE UPDATE

Covid Update – 10/16/20

Dear gracespring family,

I wanted to get word out to you that physicians have informed me that we are seeing Covid cases on the rise in our area. Last week, Radiant Church had to close their doors at all campuses because of 50 cases originating from church-related gatherings. Let’s be sure to keep them in our prayers. Let us also pray for all of the churches in our community, that they may be protected from any backlash arising from church leadership trying to navigate the difficult tension between the physical health, along with the very real emotional and spiritual health concerns of their congregations.
We need to continue to be vigilant so that we can continue to move forward as we have. To date, having met since early June, we have no reported Covid cases attributed to our gatherings. Praise God! May this continue. But let me remind us:
  • If you have any symptoms of Covid, or have been in close proximity to one with Covid, please do not come in person. Please err on the side of caution, as we will continue our on-line experience for those who join us virtually.
  • For those who come Saturday night (6:00 p.m.) or Sunday morning (9:00, 11:00 a.m.) please honor our ‘masks-encouraged’ position as best as you can, knowing that some are unable. We need to continue to be a community of grace in these matters, while also doing what God’s Word calls us to: “Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)
We will continue to do what we have been doing since June, seating people every other row, encouraging seats between family groups, sanitizing the auditorium between services and switching which rows are open for first and second service. We will also continue sanitizing our bathrooms, door handles and counters before and after each service. At this point, we are still planning on opening up our gsKIDZ (Infant-5th grade) Ministry on Sunday, November 8. In order to open up gsKIDZ ministry, we still have a few openings for opportunities to serve on Sunday mornings. Where God guides, He provides. But sometimes God does guide by what He doesn’t provide. Please pray for more volunteers to rise up, and for Sara Norton and her team who are so longing to be with our kids in person and get our families connected in person again. We will remain vigilant with our responsibilities as we continue to make much of Jesus and be a place where the power of the gospel is lived out.
We covet your prayers during these days and weeks ahead as we keep our eyes on the rod and the staff of the Good Shepherd who is guiding us through these unique times. We have been encouraged by so many of you thanking us for providing what we have, seeing lives being transformed in powerful ways and welcoming many new people through the doors. May God get the glory!

In His Grip,

Pastor Bryan Tema

Updated 9/21/2020

Dear gracespring family,

As we continue to progress during these unique times in history, we remain vigilant in exercising what God calls us to as a family of faith.  Since June 28, 2020, we have opened our doors to offer a place of hope and healing for those in need of personal interaction (Sundays at 9:00 and 11:00 a.m.), while at the same time providing an on-line experience to keep those connected who don’t consider it wise to meet in person.  Regardless of the conviction, our leadership has determined that it would be irresponsible for us to offer anything less (Hebrews 10:24-25).

What we are witnessing now is a growing number of Christ-followers in our community who are hungry to meet regularly as evidenced by our capacity crowds and a significant number of new faces.  Because of our commitment to provide a safe environment by blocking off every other row and encouraging gaps in rows between family units, along with extensive cleaning between services, we are now reaching full capacity in both services.   Because we have not yet reopened the gsKIDZ Children’s ministry, many of our young families have yet to return.  So when a survey was taken by families and volunteer staff reflecting a desire to return, the decision was made to open up gsKidz on November 8 which will only add to the congestion.  Studies show that when a gathering place reaches 70% capacity, it hinders more growth because of feeling full.  In the days we find ourselves, being crowded is not what is most wise.

In an effort to continue to be proactive, we believe we need to add another gathering opportunity to help disperse our people, while also extending our reach.  Beginning on Saturday, October 10, we are adding a Saturday evening service at 6:00 p.m. which will have a similar feel to Sunday morning (same teacher/worship team), with maybe some slight modifications.  There is no immediate plan to offer gsKIDZ on Saturday night, but we desire to move in that direction.  We ask that you prayerfully consider the possibilities of leveraging this service to . . .

  • invite others and hit the town together afterwards.
  • provide you some downtime on Sunday.
  • attend with your family, and then serve in one of the ministries on Sunday morning.

God’s Word is clear that a sabbath rest is important for our own spiritual health and physical well-being.  Regardless of the day, having one day a week for such ‘rest’ in taking time to keep our eyes on Christ, and helping others do so as well, is paramount to an enduring faith.  So please prayerfully consider how you may step up to help make this added opportunity thrive.

We so appreciate the support and understanding of our gracespring family during these times!  Our efforts to guard against Covid can only do so much, but are grateful to God that we know of no reports of anyone getting Covid from our church family.  We ask for your prayers as we seek our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, to how He is calling this church family to continue to move forward, and what He is calling you to do as we join Him in His mission for us TOGETHER.

In His Grip,

 

Bryan Tema

Lead Pastor

Updated 6/11/2020

Dear gracespring family,

We recently shared a plan to phase back into our gatherings beginning on June 21 with an outdoor service at 11:00 a.m. (masks-optional since outside, but also a section for cars), and then resume services inside on June 28 at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.  This plan allowed us to maintain a live, top-quality online experience with added time between services for cleaning.  We built into the plan a couple of Sundays to practice the feasibility of wearing masks and social distancing with a smaller group before opening our doors to everyone.

This past Sunday we offered elders, staff, and some lay leaders the opportunity to participate in a ‘mask-required’ service with their families.  After the service, we met and had a dialogue.  We, as Elders, then took this feedback and met on Monday night, June 8, to pray through striking that balance between FAITH and WISDOM.  We had to wrestle together with the truth of the opportunity to function in a way that ‘puts others as more important than ourselves’, while at the same time, understanding that in coming off of three months of ‘isolation’, along with ‘ever-changing’ science due to the uniqueness of this virus, we also have a responsibility to not create an environment that makes those who choose not to wear a mask feel less welcome.  

As Elders, we realize that although we all miss the personal relationships that make gracespring so strong, there are those who are at higher risk who will continue to worship at home for a time. We don’t want anyone to feel bad about this.  Taking this into consideration, along with some challenges voiced in praising God with a mask, has led our team to make an adjustment in the plan moving forward.  

The June 21 outdoor service will be as planned.  On June 28, when the Auditorium is opened for gathering, we will encourage masks for both services, even offering them at the door for those who lack one.  However, masks will not be required.  We will not turn anyone away who declines to wear one.  Yet what we all need to do is to be a family that loves and encourages one another by respecting people’s space as some are not in a position to shake hands or give hugs.  We can honor each other by simply asking for permission before making contact.  Our desire is that gracespring continue to be a place where people feel free to celebrate life in Christ, while also being a place of hope and healing.  Our community needs this desperately!

So, to sum it up, BOTH SERVICES are MASKS-ENCOURAGED, not REQUIRED. 

For those who would feel more secure in an environment with masks-only, we will have the right section of our Auditorium reserved as such.    

Please bear with us through the fluidity of these unique times.  As Elders, we desire to navigate this opportunity in a way that reflects the value of everyone, embracing diversities of opinion and convictions, while also being sensitive to the health concerns of those around.  Through this diversity, may we hold firm in unity together as a family of faith in honor of our King.

In His Grip,

Bryan Tema, Lead Pastor & Loren Tanis, Chairman of Elder Board

Updated 05/29/2020

Dear gracespring family,

There have been many questions regarding ‘when church will start back up’.  Well, let me be clear that the church has never closed, but that this pandemic has reminded us of the importance of being the church where we live, work and play.   So let’s rephrase the question: “When can we look forward to gathering again in person?”

Our gracespring leadership team has sought the Lord through this uncharted territory.  We feel confident that God is calling us to phase back our weekly gathering times for those who so desire.  We understand that what is shared in this letter will be received with celebration by many and concern by others.  In times like this, we must always look to the Scriptures to provide us wise counsel for HOW to move forward with difficult decisions such as these.

Proverbs 22:3 says: “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”   We are encouraged here to move forward with caution and not flippantly.  Throughout this pandemic, there have been two very different perspectives promoted, each side finding ‘experts’ to support their premise.  Because just over 100,000 families have been impacted nationwide, and there is not yet a vaccine, we must lean towards the side of caution.  However, as this isolation has continued, our church leadership believes that the impact of continuing to socially isolate from ‘the family of faith’ will have its own detrimental consequences (Hebrews 10:24-25).  So, we are choosing to walk through the door of FAITH over the door of FEAR because we are convinced that this is the way of staying true to our mission of ‘making disciples who make disciples’.  There is an opportunity before us to live counter-culturally, showing ourselves to be ones who are being transformed to look more and more like Jesus.

Romans 12-14 are three chapters of the Scriptures that the Lord has brought me to.  Let me remind us that these chapters are the behaviors expected from hearts that are being transformed by and through the grace of God (Romans 1-11).  So, these behaviors don’t come from our own best efforts, but from yielding ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit.  Here are some of the expectations of Jesus-followers:  

  • Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.  (Romans 12:3)
  • Give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (Romans 12:17)
  • You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  (Romans 13:9)
  • Let not the one who ‘wears a mask’ despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who ‘wears a mask.”  (Roman 14:3 – My contemporary rendition)

These are the Scriptures which serve as the foundation for our plan moving forward.

In the month of June, we are adjusting our service times to 9:00 and 11:00 a.m., providing us time for a shorter, multi-age group aware service (Since we will be unable to do gsKids ministry in the foreseeable future), while then having time for teams to clean adequately before our next service.  We will continue our online platform, continually looking for ways to improve this wonderful tool that has extended our REACH

The Sundays of June 7 and 14, we are limiting attendance to those Elders, staff and lay leader families who feel comfortable attending, with the goal to trouble-shoot and work through the kinks, assuring that we have taken the necessary steps to ensure a safe environment.  We would still strongly encourage you to host Watch Parties during these weeks, inviting neighbors or co-workers for Brunch, and then enjoy the service together.  June 7 will articulate what we are about as a church family which may be insightful.

Sunday, June 21 will be an outdoor Celebration Service on Father’s Day.  This will NOT be a typical service (though we will have a pre-recorded service shown on the online platform to keep in line with excellence), but will highlight Worship, Sharing and Communion.  If you feel more comfortable in your car, there will be a place for you to park and listen.  We will have chairs spread out and would encourage any families who want to sit in the grass area to bring chairs and/or blankets.  We encourage masks for those in closer interaction. 

Sunday, June 28, this will be our first Sunday open for two services (9:00, 11:00).  At this point in time we do not see the need to specify which service to attend, but there will be overflow venue(s) just in case.  We will not exceed the CDC guidelines given for the space we have and would ask that if you feel symptomatic at all, to please stay home and enjoy the service on-line.  We will be sitting every other row with 3 seats between family units on the same row.  We are REQUIRING masks and ask that you bring masks from home.  We will have some on hand for those who forget.  This is the opportunity for us to be selfless for the benefit of others, a great exercise for us all. (Remember Romans 12-14)

Because these are ‘faith-building’ times before us, I am calling our church family to pray and fast on Wednesday, June 10 for God’s protection as we move forward, but that our impact multiply as we lift up the greatness of Christ, living for His Kingdom over ours (Matthew 6:33).  We will then conclude the day with an online service at 7:00 p.m. filled with praise and prayer.  Please prioritize this day for connecting with Christ so as to be conduits of His glory to others.

I miss you greatly and look forward to seeing you in person on June 21 outside.  If the weather is bad that day, we will post that on social media and invite you to stay home and watch our online platform.  But let’s look forward to the time we get to meet together as a family again to love on one another in selfless and life-giving ways.

In His Grip,

Pastor Bryan Tema

Updated 05/22/2020

Dear gracespring family,

We know many are looking forward to returning to our Sunday gathering. It is our responsibility as a church to provide safe and responsible environments and not simply rush back since the risk is still very present. Our leadership team is meeting this week to make a final determination for a wise transition plan. We plan to share this by the end of the work week.

Please be in prayer for us over such an important transition as we all look forward to meeting in person again soon.

In His Grip,
Pastor Bryan Tema

Updated 05/12/2020

Dear gracespring,

Since Sunday, March 15, 2020, the church has literally ‘left the building’ with the COVID-19 threat. It has been difficult for we who look forward to our weekly gatherings in both serving and celebrating the greatness of Jesus together. I am reminded that when Jesus’ disciples had been commanded to go out to the ends of the earth with the GREAT NEWS of what God has accomplished in Jesus for humanity, they didn’t ‘go’ immediately. God had to allow persecution to get them out of their ‘comfort’ and where He needed them to go. I truly believe that this is one of the many purposes of God in all of this!

We have seen the Lord do tremendous work in these past seven weeks, despite our world looking so different. Yet there continues to be growing numbers of people experiencing heartache emotionally, physically and spiritually, with not only quarantine fatigue, but the loss of loved ones, jobs, and the inability to get those hugs and encouraging words in person from loved ones. May the prayers of God’s people continue to move forward in power, while also diligently working to help meet the needs that God places before us SO THAT we can share the reason for the HOPE that we have in Christ. My encouragement to you is to focus on those in your neighborhoods: Get to know the names of every neighbor. Drop them baked goods or a note of encouragement. Ask how you can pray for them. This is the opportunity before us all right now!

We understand how eager you are for everything to return back to normal. I would ask that you understand that even when the quarantine restrictions are lifted, gathering limits will be such that we foresee being unable to meet as we were for quite some time. Because of this, our church leadership is currently praying through a plan to most wisely phase us back. In the meantime, we must be proactive in finding virtual ways to connect with one another in meaningful relationships that can continue to encourage our vertical relationship with our Lord.

gracespring is continuing to take steps to elevate our online platform experiences, offer more innovative ‘connecting experiences’, and enhance our communication, while also making sure we have a clear way of putting the needs of our people, the community, and the world before you. Currently, the BEST place for you to express a need, meet a need, and ‘share a triumph’ is our gracespring Facebook Group: gsGoodNews. Please connect today and LIKE us on Facebook, while also getting the word out of our online experiences.

May the message of God through the Minor Prophets we are studying continue to encourage you to take a personal inventory of where you are spiritually: Is Jesus One you know about, or do you really know Him as both Savior AND Lord? Praise God that ‘The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.’ (Lamentations 3:22-23) May we STAND in this daily HOPE that He provides!

In His Grip,

Pastor Bryan Tema

Still have questions?

Email us at connect@gracespringchurch.org or at 269-629-9622 x229.