‘We want to encourage our frontline staff’: Over 60 churches closing for 3 weeks as COVID cases spike

Dozens of churches in the Grand Rapids area are voluntarily closing for three weeks in support of the health departments temporary restrictions
Posted at 7:12 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 19:42:18-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Wednesday morning, the state's health department’s new restrictions went into effect, temporarily closing for three weeks high schools, colleges and universities, and indoor dining at restaurants and bars, all in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The department said they’re closing places where contracting COVID-19 is at high risk, mainly place where large crowds gather like arenas, theatres and bowling alleys. So, a group of churches decided to voluntarily do the same by closing in-person services.

“Many of them have made that decision early on and have actually been closed,” said Rev. Khary Bridgewater who attends Brown Hutcherson Ministries. “When we say closed, they’ve been digitally meeting on Zoom and other methods. So, we say the church isn’t closed, it’s deployed.”

Rev. Bridgewater is a part of the Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force and they announced that 61 pastors have decided to close their church buildings for the three weeks the restrictions will be in place. That means no weddings, baptisms, and other events will happen during that time.

“We’re all on the same page. In fact, there’s more churches that didn’t sign on because of the timing of it,” Rev. Bridgewater said. “But, we have quite a number of churches in our community that are all standing in solidarity, supporting our health system.”

Rev. Bridgewater said the task force has been meeting with the health department’s officer Adam London and deputy officer Teresa Branson weekly since the pandemic began back in mid-March, getting advice from them on how best to fight COVID. Now, with cases spiking they recently met with Spectrum Health president Dr. Darryl Elmouchi and also Dr. Mark Kooistra who recommended that they close.

Rev. Bridgewater said the churches gladly complied.

“They’ve done such a fantastic job working double shifts, putting themselves at risk on our behalf,” Rev. Bridgewater said. “So the churches just said you know, 'we believe in them, we care for them.' We believe in our doctors, our nurses, all of the frontline staff, and this is our way of saying we support you.”

Rev. Bridgwater added that they’re closing to also protect their congregations. Some of their own members have been impacted by the virus.

“We as pastors have the privilege of being with people in the best and worst times,” said Rev. Bridgewater. “So, we are with those families that have members that are hospitalized, with families that are actually, unfortunately, burying loved ones. So, we get it. We want to encourage our frontline staff.”

So far there hasn’t been any pushback or resistance, he said. All the churches will be closed and after the three-week period, pastors will decide individually if they’d like to re-open.

“It’s sort of like if there’s a hurricane, you want to see the weather before you go outside. People are making those decisions,” Rev. Bridgwater said. “So if we see success then I think churches will begin to tentatively see what it looks like. But, everyone I know is trying to be very cautious and thoughtful because they too want to take care of their members.”

Pastors and churches temporarily ending large in-person gatherings of over five people:

1. Rev. Nathaniel Moody (Co-chair Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force) – Brown Hutcherson Ministries

2. Rev. Miguel A. Toro (Co-chair Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force) – Iglesia de Cristo Misionera

3. Rev. Jeff Manion (Co-chair Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force) – Ada Bible Church

4. Rev. Miguel Abreu – Iglesia de Cristo Misionera

5. Rev. Carlos Aranguiz – Iglesia Belem Grand Rapids

6. Rev. Joy Bonnema – Madison Square Church (North Campus)

7. Rev. Perfecto Brown – The New Breed Church

8. Rev. Suzan Brown – The New Breed Church

9. Rev. Dr. Ron Carter – King’s Bible Church

10. Rev. Kevin Crisostomo – Iglesia Cristo Misionera

11. Rev. Robert Dean – New Life COGIC

12. Rev. Darrell Delaney – Madison Square Church (Square Campus)

13. Rev. Dr. Howard C. Earle, Jr. – New Hope Baptist Church

14. Rev. Troy A. Evans – The EDGE Urban Fellowship

15. Rev. Juan F. Flores – Belen Casa del Pan

16. Rev. Dr. Eula C. Gaddis, Jr. – Prince of Peace Missionary Baptist Church

17. Rev. Dr. Willie A. Gholston II – First Community AME Church

18. Rev. Adam Green – New Dimensions Victory Center Church of God in Christ

19. Rev. Dwight Gutridge - St. Luke AME Zion

20. Rev. Julian Guzman – Iglesia Vida Plena

21. Rev. Dr. Timothy Mark Harris – Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church

22. Rev. Severino Hernandez – Iglesia Fuente de Vida

23. Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Hoskins – Alpha Omega Ministries COGIC

24. Rev. Michelle Jackson – Church Builders Bible Training Center

25. Rev. Jay Jones – The Pentecostals of Kentwood

26. Rev. Joe Jones – Brown Hutcherson Ministries

27. Rev. Dr. Kizombo L. Kalumbula, Jr. – Tabernacle Community Church

28. Rev. Brad Knetsch – Madison Square Church (Franklin Campus)

29. Rev. Dallas Lenear – Journey Church Grand Rapids

30. Rev. Thea Leunk – Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church

31. Rev. Nygil B. Likely – Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

32. Rev. Artie M. Lindsay, Sr. – Tabernacle Community Church

33. Rev. Marcus Little – Berean Baptist Church

34. Rev. Ernestine Lockett – Bread of the World Church

35. Rev. Deborah McCreary – Eastminster Presbyterian Church

36. Rev. Sandra McGlothin – Women of Faith Ministries

37. Bishop Dennis McMurray – Renaissance Church of God in Christ

38. Rev. Jorge Morales – Iglesia Casa de Oración

39. Rev. John Mondi – African Community Fellowship

40. Rev. Daniel Oglesby – Living Word Christian Center

41. Rev. Carl A. Pace, Jr. – True Light Baptist Church

42. Rev. Daniel Parker – Kingdom Life Ministries

43. Rev. M. Wayne Peters – 4 Fires Ministries

44. Rev. J.R. Pittman – Ignite Fellowship Church

45. Rev. Anna Radcliffe – City Chapel Grand Rapids

46. Rev. Ron Radcliffe – City Chapel Grand Rapids

47. Rev. David Reynoso – Iglesia Sanando las Naciones

48. Rev. Isaura Rivas – Mt. Zion Hispanic Seventh-day Adventist Church

49. Rev. José Luis Rivas – Iglesia Cada de mi Padre

50. Rev. Jose Riveron - Iglesia Bautista Reconciliacíon

51. Rev. Leatha Roberts – Changing Point Church

52. Rev. Robert Roberts – Changing Point Church

53. Rev. Charlie Selmon, Jr. – Wellspring Church of Grand Rapids

54. Rev. Raycheen Sims – Dream Builders International Church

55. Rev. Robert Sims – Dream Builders International Church

56. Rev. Dr. James C. Stokes – New Life Tabernacle COGIC

57. Rev. Leroy Tolbert – Macedonia Baptist Church

58. Rev. Robert Trice – Relevant Church Grand Rapids

59. Rev. Willie E. Waver II – No Greater Love Ministries

60. Rev. Theda Fields White – Pinnacle Crest Ministries

61. Rev. Tim Wilson – South Harbor Church