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More than 60 Kent County pastors pledge to halt in-person worship amid 3-week pause

Participating churches will discontinue large gatherings such as worship services, weddings, and meetings of more than five individuals until Dec. 8

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In response to capacity shortages in hospitals and health systems across the state, local churches across Grand Rapids and Kent County will further limit in-person gatherings beginning Wednesday, Nov. 18, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Participating churches will discontinue large gatherings such as worship services, weddings, and meetings of more than five individuals until Dec. 8, according to the Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force. 

"All of the folks on the front line trying to do the right thing in public health," said Khary Bridgewater, coordinator of the Church Task Force, "we've decided we wanted to support them. One way to do that is limiting our in-person gatherings."

The 61 churches are different denominations and size. Bridgewater said many other churches have expressed interest in the pledge, even those in neighboring counties, and have taken steps to limit gatherings.

First Community AME Church in Grand Rapids is one of the 61 churches joining the pledge. Pastor Willie Gholston said they have been doing virtual service since March, and will continue as long as necessary to keep the congregation safe. 

"Because as a result of the lives lost, everybody has been impact in some particular way," said Gholston, "Many of our congregations have individuals that have contracted the disease. It’s from the youngest to the most seasoned, so it doesn’t discriminate."

Credit: 13 OYS
Pastor Gholston of First Community AME Church gives his Sunday sermon virtually via Facebook Live and Zoom.

The Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force has met weekly with leaders from the Kent County Health Department since the first documented case of COVID-19 in March. Since then, task force leaders have worked with the health department to reduce the transmission rate of COVID-19 in all segments of the community, preventing disparities prevalent in other geographic areas.

“Our goal is to stand with our front-line medical workers and public health officials,” said Rev. Joe Jones, Grand Rapids 2nd Ward City Commissioner. “We need to do this for the brave men and women who provide life-saving health care, and we need to do this to ensure there is adequate hospital capacity to serve anyone who needs care for cancer, a heart attack, or any number of medical crises. This pandemic is having a devastating impact on our beloved community and the virus does not discriminate. It’s affecting all, regardless of zip code, race, socioeconomic status or age.”

Participating churches will continue to serve members and the public through online worship sessions. In addition, by Dec. 1, select churches will begin administering wellness checks in their congregations and communities via phone, text and digital platforms.

Here is a full list of the the pastors halting in-person worship:

  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

13 ON YOUR SIDE also reached out to the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids for their plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. A spokesperson sent this statement: 

“At this time, Mass and the celebration of sacraments remain available at Catholic Churches in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. The diocese has provided each parish with detailed guidance on the COVID-19 mitigation strategies that are required to be in place in order for these celebrations to occur.

This guidance includes, but is not limited to:

  • Requiring parishioners wear a mask when they attend
  • Maintaining social distancing between households
  • Asking people who are sick or who may be considered at high risk of contracting COVID-19 to remain at home
  • Encouraging proper hand hygiene
  • Making sure that all high-touch surfaces are properly disinfected between Masses

These mitigation strategies have proven effective since we re-opened public Masses in May. We ask all parishioners to continue following these mitigation strategies to ensure that Masses remain available.

The Diocese of Grand Rapids will continue to work with medical experts and public health officials to ensure we are taking the appropriate action steps to ensure the safety of our parish communities. We are grateful for the sacrifices and work of our health care professionals as they continue to bring the community through these tough times.”



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