South Church COVID-19 Update, 6/18/21

“In view of the state health department’s announcement that all COVID protocols will be lifted on Tuesday, June 22, we are including our Vacation Bible School which begins Monday evening as we announce that all COVID-related protocols (including regarding masking and distancing) are rescinded for all South church ministries, programs and meetings. This Sunday (June 20th) will be the last Sunday that you will need to register your child for Sunday School or Student Hour.”

South Church COVID-19 Update, 5/18/21

Dear South Church Family,

Last weekend, we acted quickly in response to the unexpected announcements by the CDC and the State of Michigan regarding COVID protocols. Our position has been, and continues to be, that we will not be stricter than those two entities. So, we ended up making what we felt to be the best decision we could given the limited amount of time.

Since then, we have had more time to process, gather wisdom from our deacons and other sources, and examine the guidelines and orders more carefully. This morning, Pastor Don met with our COVID Response Team and we came up with the following guidelines for our church. These guidelines were presented to the staff for feedback and clarifications have been made.

We are not so naïve as to think these guidelines will be unanimously agreed upon by our church family. Nor do we believe that we have answered all possible questions. However, we are hopeful that we will all continue to pursue unity, peace, and mutual upbuilding (Rom. 14:19).

With that in mind, the following are the guidelines and clarifications:

Masking and social distancing requirements for worship services and adult ministries are lifted immediately. Unvaccinated persons are advised, not required, to follow the CDC guidelines.
Middle School, High School and children’s ministry volunteers and students are required to be fully vaccinated or masked until the population that they serve has had opportunity to be fully vaccinated. Registration continues for youth and children’s ministry for room capacity reasons. (Middle School & High School: June 30; Children: Indefinite).

Registration will not continue for adult ministries.
No food restrictions on adult ministries beginning immediately and for Middle School & High School on June 30th
Communion will continue using the single-served elements for the time being.
Bibles and hymnals will return to the pews in the Worship Center and benches will return to the concourse.
Work from home restrictions for staff are lifted.

Once again, thank you for your patience these past fourteen months of changes and uncertainty.

Praising God to be a part of South Church,
Pastors Don, Doug, Keith & Tim

South Church COVID-19 Update, 5/14/21

Dear South Church Family,
With surprise and great joy, we all heard the news from the CDC and then Governor Whitmer: Fully vaccinated people are free to remove their masks and no longer need to practice social distancing.

We look forward to offering maskless options beginning tomorrow. The staff (along with input from the Medical Advisory Team) hopes to iron out ways to protect both children and the unvaccinated this week. Please stay tuned for updates as we are able to get them to you. Those who are not vaccinated should still wear mask. Those involved in the children’s ministry (children and leaders) will still be wearing masks.

Thank you for your patience these past fourteen months of changes and uncertainty.

Praising God to be a part of South Church,
Pastors Don, Doug, Keith & Tim

South Church COVID-19 Update, 11/15/20

We are so thankful that South Church has been able to worship in-person together for the last three months. Our goal is to continue to meet even as COVID-19 rises in our community. In order to do this everyone needs to be wearing a face covering over nose and mouth the entire time inside the building, including while seated in the worship services, and continuing to social distance, which includes avoiding congregating in the building either before or after services. These protocols are in place because as COVID-19 numbers increase, the likelihood of COVID-19 positive guests in our building increases as well. Remember, a person can have the virus even if they’re not showing symptoms.

Still, it’s important to monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms. If you are sick, you still have the option to join our livestream service. If you are healthy and register for a service, please remember that by registering you are agreeing to follow all South’s guidelines, so that all who attend can have the peace of mind in knowing that everyone else here will be following the guidelines as well. Showing love towards one another in this way expresses our deep care and concern for each other.

In the event that South becomes aware of those who have attended who have tested positive for COVID-19, those who may have been in close contact with them will receive notification of that fact without violation of privacy.

Remember too, that while all these measures are in place to enable us to gather as safely as possible, each person still has the choice of whether attending in person is the right choice for them.

So let’s stay strong together- in our passion for Christ and in our caring for one another!

South Church COVID-19 Update, 10/22/20

For seven months our church body has had our normal ministries radically altered due to COVID-19. We praise the Lord that under the direction of our medical team in August, we were able to put together a plan for us to be able to begin safely meeting again for worship. Since then, more ministries have restarted using creative formats.

This past week, however, the South Church family had two individuals test positive for COVID. The first case was a high school student who was at Arise the evening of October 14th. After experiencing symptoms October 15th, this student tested positive on October 17th. The second case was a college student who attended both College Hour at 10 am and the 11:15 am Sunday morning service on October 18th. This person tested positive on Monday, October 19th.

As a result, Senior High and Cutting Edge ministries are suspending in-person events for two weeks and have contacted those who attended, asking them to monitor themselves for symptoms and to be tested if symptoms develop. In addition, Cutting Edge students will watch our Sunday service this week on live stream and our Senior High students who were in close contact for 15 minutes or more with others at Arise on October 14th, have been asked to do the same.

The student who tested positive who attended the 11:15 am Sunday morning worship service was not in close contact with anyone outside of the college ministry for more than 15 minutes. So it is not necessary to suspend the 11:15 am service for the same reasons.

South Church is blessed to have highly qualified medical personnel to rely on to help us understand and apply the protocols laid out by our state and federal health entities. Our medical team’s consistent advice from the beginning has not changed: 1) Wear face coverings; 2) Social distance; 3) Wash hands/Disinfect surfaces. We are confident that we can offer a safe place to assemble for worship, Bible study, and fellowship when these protocols are followed by everybody in attendance. Thank you for your partnership in our endeavor to gather safely.

If you have questions or concerns, please submit them to our COVID Response Team members: Kelly Sites, Pastor Tim Van Loh, and Trevor Harrison. They are working tirelessly to both develop our COVID Plan and oversee it.

Update 7/31/20

We are excited to announce that we will begin holding in-person, at-church services starting on August 16. There will be two hybrid services, combining Creative and Balanced styles. One service will meet at 9:30AM and the other at 11:15AM, both in the Worship Center with socially distanced seating. Per South Church’s medical team, masks are required in the building. If you are unable to wear a mask, we invite you to continue watching online, or attend our outdoor evening service. Reservations will be accepted online starting on the Monday preceding each service.

We thank you for your patience and your encouragement during the past several months, and we covet your continued prayers as we move forward.

Update 5/29/20

Dear South Church members and friends,
We want to provide this letter to give you an update as we as a pastoral staff continue to plan for the future as we move through the current health crisis. As we do this planning, we are mindful of the principle of James 4:15, “…you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

We are sure that you realize that the entire situation continues to change rapidly and is rather complex, including as churches are now moving forward in the process of ‘re-opening’ their buildings for worship services. This letter is not intended to give a specific time-table, since our state is still under the ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order, but we do want to assure you that the staff is making plans for the steps that it will take for us to diligently move toward the goal of re-opening.

At the same time, we think it is important and meaningful for us to communicate the key principles and essential values that are guiding our discussion and planning. These six principles are listed below, and included with each are some of the key biblical passages that are the basis for them:

  1. A strong desire and commitment to returning to gathering together in worship and fellowship (Matthew 18:20; Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42).
  2. Love for one another in our South Church family, including a willingness to defer to one another (John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 12:18; 14:19; 15:1-3a).
  3. A commitment to the health and well-being of our neighbors in greater Lansing, especially those most vulnerable among us (Matthew 5:16; 22:39; 1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
  4. A concern for maintaining a good testimony in our community (1 Peter 2:15; Proverbs 22:1). We want to act in ways that ‘make the gospel attractive’ (Titus 2:10) rather than acting in ways that would give people reason to think and speak negatively about Christianity (1 Timothy 6:1).
  5. A commitment to prayerfully seek God’s wisdom, rooted in Scripture (and common sense) for our planning (James 1:5; 3:13-18; 4:13-15; Proverbs 16:9).
  6. An appropriate respect for governing authorities and qualified medical authorities, balanced with an awareness of our rights as citizens, in keeping with the common good (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-25; Acts 16:35-40; 22:22-29; Romans 12:17-18).

The ministry staff continues to meet regularly to discuss the specific measures that will be involved as we re-open, step-by-step (including things like maintaining physical distancing, keeping our facilities for worship sanitized, etc.), and this discussion will be widened to welcome input from lay leaders as well. We want to assure you that we are eager to gather together again, when we can do so in ways that fit with the six key principles presented above, and that make good sense when it comes to our key purposes for gathering—to worship, to receive God’s Word, and to fellowship together.

In the meantime, we encourage you to continue all the good things that we are hearing about as you creatively find ways to stay connected in studying God’s Word and in fellowship, to continue supporting our church in prayer and giving, to help meet one another’s needs, and to share the gospel with neighbors and friends.

In His grace,
Don Denyes, Senior Pastor
Doug Phillips, Executive Pastor for Ministries

Update April 17, 2020

Dear South Church members and friends,
This is our third update letter to the congregation since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, and in this letter we wanted to focus on our plan regarding the annual congregational meeting.

Obviously with the current Stay at Home order still in place we are not able to meet Sunday evening (April 19) as originally planned. So Pastor Don and I have been interacting with the official board members (and with the deacon and trustee leaders in particular) and we have decided that, given the fact that the two matters that are typically the focus of the annual meeting – the election of officers and the approval of the budget for the new fiscal year – that we are asking the current officers (deacons, trustees, mission board & Christian education council, along with the treasurer and clerk) to continue to serve, and that we will adopt the new budget on a provisional basis, until such time as we are able to meet, discuss together as needed, and vote in person. We asked the official board members to weigh in on this approach and all who replied were in favor of it.

With regards to the budget, there have been very few changes proposed. It has already been our policy to begin the implementation of new budgets on April 1 (the beginning of our fiscal year) even though the congregational meeting is held the 3rd Sunday in April. So our approach in this very unusual situation with the health crisis seemed like a reasonable accommodation for now. (Missionary-related budget matters are typically enacted in June, so we are hopeful we will have been able to meet in person by then.)

If you have any questions, please let us know. And in the meantime, be sure to continue to stay connected with South Church through the Sunday live-streamed services, Pastor Don’s daily video devotionals, contacting us as needed at the church office, and in other ways available to you that are explained at our frequently updated website:

We are thankful too that our members and friends have continued to support the ministries of our church during this time (including the grocery delivery project) through your financial giving (whether by mail or online), and we encourage you to continue to do so and of course to continue to pray for the Lord’s blessing and guidance as we seek to plan for the times when we can begin to connect again in person, as I’m sure we are all more and more eager to do.

In His grace,
Don Denyes, senior pastor
Doug Phillips, executive pastor

Update 3/25/20

Dear South Church,
We wanted to give just a brief update to the fuller letter posted below about our plans during this unusual time of the coronavirus pandemic. With the governor’s recent ‘stay at home’ order (which extends until April 13) we have made adjustments to our office work plan, but in keeping with the advice we have been given, we are still able to carry out essential worship-related tasks like live-streaming the Sunday services and providing Pastor Don’s daily video devotional, along with benevolent ministry for those especially in need.

For the most up-to-date information we encourage you to continue to go to our website: At the website we have made recent improvements to help access key resources (e.g., the links to the live-stream, a way to sign up for text-alerts, how you can help others in specific ways, and information on how you can continue to give to support our ongoing church ministries). This page also includes a list of key government-related resources.

And while we encourage all who can to use the website for the most updated access to us, you can still also call the church at 517-322-2000. We as the pastoral team wanted to continue to be here for you in whatever ways we can.

For our Adult Bible Communities, other Bible studies and Growth Groups, please continue to be in touch with your class/group leaders concerning their plan for during this time. Also, Pastor Neil with the college ministry, Pastors Joel and Nick with the student ministry and Kathy and Heidi with the children’s ministry are all finding new ways to continue to share God’s Word and stay connected to those they minister to as well. Pastor Corb continues to present our Sunday morning service, assisted by Ethan Simpson, who has been a special help during this time, along with Andy Luce’s extra work developing the website.

But as important as anything else, please continue to pray for our church and its ministries, for our leaders, for those serving on the front-lines to battle this pandemic, for the spiritual and physical needs of those in our community and for our troubled world. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)

On behalf of Pastor Don and the entire ministry team,
Doug Phillips, executive pastor

South Church’s Response to the Coronavirus

March 13, 2020

Dear South Church,

In light of recent events and health concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we want to communicate what we are doing at South to help care for one another. Providing effective support and care to those most vulnerable (the elderly and those with serious chronic health conditions) is a critical priority for South Church, and is at the heart of the approach we are taking. We also want to be good neighbors in our community and our State when it comes to helping slow the spread of this virus, and to be responsible citizens, respectful of the appropriate governmental authorities, and in particular the governor’s order, released just today, prohibiting gatherings of 250 people or more (through Sunday April 5).

In view of all these factors we are temporarily cancelling services beginning this Sunday March 15 through April 5, including onsite activities and programs during that time period. (The offices will remain open but please call ahead to make an appointment if at all possible.)

We can assure you that we have been very reluctant to adopt this approach because of the high value we place on our times of gathered worship, teaching and fellowship, but we are in an extraordinary situation at the present time. We will be live-streaming a (simplified) service at 9:30 on Sunday mornings with music and a message from God’s Word, which you can connect to via our website ( (Please note: the church will not be open.) We will also be exploring other ways to provide online teaching and ministry. While all on-site activities at the church will be canceled during this time, small groups are free to make their own decisions regarding meeting in their homes.

As I’m sure you know, this situation changes rapidly and so we will be posting updates at the website and on social media as things develop, including future plans as they can be decided on and implemented. As we have made these decisions we have been relying on information from reliable sources like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) — and key members of our congregation with expertise in these matters. There are good resources at that website for guidance on how to help protect the health and safety of you and your family.

Even as we are seeking to be wise and prudent in steps we can take, ultimately of course we continue to prayerfully commit ourselves to the care and keeping of our strong and loving and sovereign God (Psalm 23). And we want to encourage one another to use this unexpected time of challenge to seek to draw close to the Lord, to relate to one another in spiritual encouragement in creative ways, and to reach out to those most vulnerable in need in practical helpfulness and compassion (which could include the practical step of helping to inform people about this news regarding our services), and to continue to support the church in giving either by mail or online.

If you have questions, please let us know, and we covet your prayers as we continue to move forward to provide fruitful ministry together and make the best decisions we can in the midst of uniquely challenging circumstances.
In His grace,
Don Denyes, senior pastor
Doug Phillips, executive pastor


1. How is South Church providing a safe place for worship?
We currently are worshipping at 25% capacity to allow for social distancing in our Worship Center. Masks are required at all times within the building. Social distancing is required while in our parking lot and building at all times. Our staff sterilizes the church regularly and between services on Sundays. We have an on line registration for guests who also will answer health related questions each week to ensure they are healthy to attend worship.

We are providing an on line streaming of our services for those who are not able to wear a mask or who do not yet feel they can attend church.

2. What times are the South Church services?
We are currently offering a hybrid (mix) of Creative and Balanced worship in our Worship Center at 9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. as well as a 9:35 a.m. service designed especially for families with small children. We have on line streaming of the services at our website: Sunday nights can be streamed at 6 p.m. also on our website.

3. How can I register for services at South Church?
We open reservations each week at 10 a.m. on Mondays for the following Sunday services. You can sign up on our website: or if you are not able to access a computer you can call our church office Monday-Friday from 8:30-4:00 and have our staff sign you up. Please call 322-2000 for help.

4. How can I receive prayer?
You can submit a prayer request on line at or call our church office Monday-Friday from 8:30-4:00 p.m. Our Pastors are also available by email or by calling the church office.

5. How can I give my offering?
You can give your offering in the following ways: drop it off at the church office Monday- Friday 8:30- 4:00 p.m., give on line on our website:, mail it in to our church office, or give on Sundays in our offering boxes which are located near the Welcome Desk and near the Military table in the concourse of the church.

6. What doors do I enter for worship on Sunday mornings?
Currently, while we have service in the Worship Center, you can enter through the BLUE marked doors at the main entrance or enter through the BLUE marked doors at the East-Portico entrance.

7. Are bathrooms available on Sundays?
We have the East Nursery bathrooms open on Sundays with social distancing floor markers to help guide you.

8. Is coffee provided on Sundays?
Currently, we are not offering coffee or tea services.

9. Who made the Covid policies for South Church?
South Church developed a Covid Response Team made up of staff and medical professionals with extensive experience in infectious disease. Along with our Pastors and staff, we developed the policies with keeping Christ as our focus and providing the safest place possible to worship together in a safe way.

10. What if I’m unable to wear a mask?
We invite you to enjoy our live streaming on Sundays on our website:

11. Are children able to attend worship on Sundays?
We trust parents to make the best decisions for their families. Masks are required (not necessary for children under 2 years of age), and children need to stay with their parents at all times. The nursery and Children’s Sunday School are not available at this time. Check our website for further information about programs we will offer in the future.

12. Will there by singing during the worship services?
We have limited our services to one hour. There will be singing. Everyone is required to wear a mask while at South Church and we are social distanced in the pews with 6 feet between families or individuals, and seating in every other pew.

13. What if I have questions about safety, policies, or services at South Church?
Please see our website for informative information. We have a map that shows the doors to enter for services, the times of our services, a video that helps explain what you can expect, and other information to help. If you continue to have questions, don’t hesitate to contact our church office at 322-2000.

Prayer Requests

Our pastoral staff and prayer team are still praying, and invite anyone who wants prayer to send their requests to Kelly Sites, our connections director, who will then share them with the team. This would be similar to submitting them through the connection card in the Sunday Worship Folder.