GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — During tough times, many turn to their faith as a way to keep perspective. But now, several churches and places of worship have closed their doors in response to the statements given by state and health officials regarding COVID-19.
"We think it’s the right decision to make," said Larry Louters, administrative elder at Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. "We are going to be as proactive as we can to keep the fellowship going and I think if we all pull together at the end we might be stronger."
Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church is one of many churches across West Michigan closing their doors and cancelling all in-person, mass quantity worship services.
The church administration came to this decision following Governor Whitmer declaring a state of emergency and her executive order banning all events of 250 people or more.
"We certainly have neighbors who believe that this is a crisis, we have others who believe that this isn’t yet and I think that this is a lot of fear and paranoia," said Joel Demoor, pastor at Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church. "What we go to again is the experts on that and also the governor’s voice and recommending these assemblies be shut down and we are just taking abundance of precaution in terms of saying, we are not urging worry, but we are urging caution here."
According to Demoor, their church is working on a plan to transfer all worship services online to help stay connected with their community.
"There’s obviously distance options from telephone calls instead of regular in person visits, to emails and other on the web communications," Demoor said. "We also are working to create worship services that we can put online and people can leap through in their own homes."
While other establishments have chosen to follow Whitmer's timeline of staying closed through Sunday, April 5, Neland Avenue will, for now, be closed indefinitely.
"I think that those are precautions and those limits of how long is trying to tell the public that we see an end to this, but in reality I don’t think that anybody can predict the end of this," Louters said. "So we have just opted to sort of say indefinitely and we will evaluate as data comes we will open as quickly as we feel it safe."
In this entire process though, they want to remind people to not lose their faith.
"God is here and God is present with them," Demoor said. "He loves them. He loves us all as a human family. He is also sovereign over this virus too. At the same time that doesn’t free us of the responsibility to work very hard as citizens here on earth."
The Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids will be celebrating mass before an empty church on Sunday, March 15 at 10 a.m.
The mass will be held at the cathedral of St. Andrew in downtown Grand Rapids. To watch the service, tune into FOX17 News at 10 a.m.