Updated Covid Policies

In the last few weeks, government agencies have revised their Covid guidelines. We have also seen a steep decline of cases and ICU hospitalizations in Kent County. Therefore, we too are adjusting our policies beginning this Sunday, March 13.

  • In rooms with good ventilation and air filtration, masks will be optional.
    • This includes the sanctuary and Grade School room.
    • The sanctuary has recently installed continuous ionization filters (the same used in schools and healthcare facilities), has fans circulating the air and participants are spaced apart while seated.
    • The Grade School Room also has continuous ionization filters and children are spaced apart while seated.
  • In all other areas we will continue to ask people to wear masks (except those under 2 or with a medical exemption).
    This includes bathrooms, hallways, the cafe and entry ways.
  • Because vaccinations are not yet available to 4 and 5 year olds, we will continue to require all those in our Preschool Room to wear a mask while in that room.
    • We will reevaluate this policy once vaccinations become available.
  • We will also be engaging in a conversation with parents who have children in our Nursery and Toddler Rooms to get their input on how and when we might reopen this room. Until it reopens, little ones are welcome to roam and run in the sanctuary or the balcony, as well as join us at other times we gather (like the groups meeting after worship this week). Seeing (and hearing) them gives us joy.

We are all hopeful that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. And yet, the last two years have required us to admit that the future is wildly unpredictable. Which is to say, our policies will almost certainly change again. And while we hope that those changes will only bring us closer to pre-pandemic routines, we will continue to evaluate and adapt our policies based health department guidelines.

WholeHearted – A Lenten Series

In the Scriptures, the word “heart” is spoken of hundreds of times. And while it is a word used to describe a number of aspects of the human life, it always points inward. As one biblical dictionary puts it,

the heart is the fountain and seat of our emotions, thoughts, passions, ambitions and endeavors.

The heart is a word that captures our inner life and the deepest aspects of who we are. And yet, to live with a whole heart — to be fully alive and present and healthy — can seem elusive. We so often feel distracted and divided, pulled in countless directions. We know what it is to have our heart wounded – torn in a million pieces by the difficulties of living on this earth.

And all of that distraction and pain and pull may entice us to disengage and bury what we may be feeling, but…

Lent is a bold determination to do exactly the opposite.

During the 40 days of Lent, we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who for 40 days faced the most challenging questions and temptations head on. Lent is a time to courageously go deeper — to look inward —  to gather with others and find the strength tend to our heart.

We invite you on that journey.

Ash Wednesday

Join us for Ash Wednesday
12:00-12:30pm OR 7:30-8:00pm

At the building or on YouTube

As we begin Lent, we are setting aside space to ask, “What would it mean for me to live wholeheartedly?”

This 30 minute gathering is a chance to pause, breathe and set our intention for the 40 days ahead.

We look forward to having you join us.

New Series: Mapping Our Future

If you’re joining us online on February 13, 20 or 27,

please use this Zoom link (click here) and read the description below.

Making a map requires at least two points: where you are and where you intend to go. With all that has happened in the last two+ years, we’re taking the month of February to discern together where we find ourselves today, and where we hope to be in the future.

February 6: Over the last three years, we have focused on three areas: Embrace, Grow and Contribute (or Participate). These areas remain relevant and important, but how we live them out might look different given all that has changed in the world and in our own lives. We’ll reflect on John 4 and consider where we currently find ourselves, both as individuals and families, but also as a community of faith.

February 13, 20 and 27: These three gatherings will look different than a typical Sunday morning as we plan to use most of our time for reflection and discussion. Each week we will go in depth on one of the three areas (Embrace, Grow and Contribute), spending time in small groups brainstorming and then coming together as a large group to process.

Whether you have been at The Branch for years, or are new, we deeply hope that you will join the conversation and help us chart a course together. Your input and perspective is important and needed.

Back to the Building

With the latest numbers improving and fewer isolations and positive cases within the Branch community, worship this Sunday (2.6.22) will be available both in-person at the building and online on YouTube (please note the change; here is a link).

Here are a few reminders about Sunday:

  1. We will be meeting at 9:30am!
  2. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will be following the Kent County Health Department’s and CDC’s recommendations. Currently, this means that everyone, regardless of vaccination status or age, will wear a mask whenever in the building. Those under 2 and with medical exemptions are not required to wear a mask.
  3. If you are not comfortable wearing a mask, or are not ready to be back indoors, we invite you to join our YouTube page.
  4. BranchKids PreK-4th grade will resume on 2/6/22. Kids will start in worship with their families and then be dismissed about mid-way through our time together. Learn more here.
  5. Toddler and Nursery rooms will not be available; however, the balcony has been reconfigured and has space for parents with babies or toddlers to roam, rest and participate in worship.

Important note: Sunday, January 30th!

On Sunday, January 30th, we will be meeting entirely online, using Zoom (same time: 9:30am).


Here is the link for Sunday: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85627759920


We’ve made this decision based on four factors:

  • Our local health care system is severely strained, and positivity rates are at an all-time high.
  • A growing number of people in our own community have contracted Covid or are in quarantine.
  • Many at the Branch were already planning on participating in worship online this week because of these circumstances.
  • While it may not be preferred, we now have a lot of experience online and know it can be a meaningful way to connect and be encouraged.

We will evaluate everything again next week and make a decision about that Sunday (the 30th) then.

As always, we are immensely impressed by and grateful for the flexibility, kindness and understanding this community demonstrates. We’ll see you all online on Sunday!

Sunday, December 26th!

We have decided to not gather on Sunday, December 26th, but instead use that time in other ways that might connect us to God’s love and each other. We have a beautiful digital liturgy we can share with you (created by Sanctified Art). To get a digital copy, simply email chris@thebranchonline.org. This liturgy could be used by an individual or family.

And/or, we encourage you to do something that will remind you of God’s love for you. How do you best connect with God? What easily brings joy? What puts your mind and heart at peace? Whatever it may be, may you “be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19 The Message)

Christmas Eve

Our tradition of gathering on Christmas Eve continues this year in person and online.

Join us at our building (973 28th St. SE) or on our Facebook page at 5pm. Our hour long gathering will include music, singing, a retelling of the Christmas story and we will end by lighting candles together. All ages are encouraged to join us and participate.

Please note: masks are required at all times when in the building.

Current Series: Close to Home

Our homes are regularly a part of our holiday traditions. But home is more than just an address or a physical structure. To each of us, ‘home’ carries a multitude of meanings, memories and emotions.

And in its broadest sense, home is more than the place we live and all it entails. Home could be any place where we feel safe and cared for – and so do others. It could be any time when we are able to be our truest selves — and so are others. Home, for many, is being at peace personally and collectively. In short, home is where things are as they should be.

We all long for this sense of home. To experience a wholeness within ourselves and with each other. This Advent we’ll be considering what it might look like to move closer to this home. To become people who come home and help others do the same.


Upside Down – Current Series

The last two years have turned the world upside down. And while in many ways this disruption has been hard and painful and disorienting, disruption can also create opportunity for us to see things in a new way.

And yet, there is a longing right now to just ‘get back to normal’. To somehow return the world to what it once was. But that simply isn’t possible. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

What if this moment is a moment to survey our upside down world and ask, “how can we rebuild our lives and our communities so that they are truly right side up?” What if instead of going back to the way things were, we forge ahead a new way to live?

Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount’ is an expansive, wide-reaching collection of teachings that speak to things that deeply matter to our lives right now: anger, true religion, hypocrisy, the place of possessions and money, revenge, and judgement (to name some of the topics covered). Join us as we take in these teachings and ask how they can lead us to turning our upside down world right side up.

Upcoming Series

After a year and a half of upheaval and change, we are circling back to the core values we have committed to as a community. Not only do these values help us describe how we will move through the world, but they also paint a picture of the kind of life we believe Jesus lived.

Join us as we consider our identity and sense of call together.

September 12 – Liberty: in a world that longs for black and white and constantly picks sides, we choose liberty.

September 19 – Incarnation: in a world of isolation and disconnection, we choose incarnation.

September 26 – Simplicity: in a world of endless choices and burnout, we choose simplicity.

October 3 –  Partnership: in a world of competition and individualism, we choose partnership.

October 10 – Participation: in a world of consumerism and tribalism, we choose participation.

An Evening of (re)Connection and Vocation

On June 17 we welcome author and professor Winn Collier for an evening on Eugene Peterson and vocation. Through the generosity of a grant, dinner is free, each participant will leave with a copy of Collier’s book and we’re able to provide kid activities after dinner.

Winn recently published the authorized biography of Eugene Peterson (pastor, author and translator of The Message). Dinner begins at 6:00pm and Winn will lead us from 6:30-7:30pm.

Sign up is required. For more details and to register, go to your Church Center app (or click here).

Our conversation on vocation continues throughout the summer July 8 & 22 and August 5 & 19. Details to come.

Worship this Summer

Beginning May 2, we will offer two options for worship on Sunday mornings.

Option 1: Live Stream on Facebook

Every week at 10am we’ll stream worship through our Facebook page.

Option 2: Garfield Park

Beginning May 2, and running through the end of August, we will be gathering in Garfield Park from 10-11am. After considering both the current Covid numbers and restrictions, and the wonderful options the park offers us, we have decided to gather in the park this summer.

If we have cold or rainy weather, worship will be held online that Sunday. We will post any cancellations at the park here, on the website, and on Facebook by 8am Sunday morning.

You can learn more about what BranchKids will look like, where to park and what to expect by checking out this doc:

Summer Handout

Holy Week

We’d be honored to have you join us and extend an invitation to others as we journey through Holy Week.

Thursday, Friday and Sunday’s times of worship can be accessed through our Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/864871555

Sunday’s tailgate will be in person, socially distanced and masked in the Branch building’s parking lot.

  • Thursday – Seder Meal; 6:30-7:15pm

  • Friday – Good Friday worship; 7:00-8pm

  • Easter Tailgate – 8:30-9:30am

  • Easter Worship – 10-11am

Thursday’s Seder Meal – this meal draws on the traditional Jewish Passover, which Jesus shared with his disciples the night of his betrayal. We’ll walk through it together, remembering God’s faithfulness in the deliverance of the Jewish people from Egypt and in the restoration of the world made possible in Christ’s death and resurrection. You can join us in whatever way works for you, but if you’d like to participate fully, grab the ingredients listed on page 1 of this liturgy: Seder Meal.

Friday’s Good Friday Worship – we’ll spend the hour together walking through stations of the cross — major moments in the final hours of Jesus’ life. This time of worship is impactful and deeply meaningful each year. We hope you can join us.

Easter Tailgate – Covid isn’t stopping our annual tradition of celebration, we’ve just changed it slightly. Join us in the parking lot of the building (973 28th St. SE), bring some breakfast (typically we would potluck, but this year each household is bringing their own food) and connect with others. We’ll stay socially distanced and masked.

Easter – 10am – we’ll celebrate the Risen Christ through music, Scripture, video and prayer. We can’t wait. Use our Zoom link (above) to log in.

Christmas Eve

Join us for an evening of music, reflection and candle light.

Worship begins at 7pm — you can log in as early as 6:50 using this link:

We look forward to seeing you!

Advent – Those Who Dream

Advent: coming, arrival

As we read the stories about Christ’s first coming 2000 years ago, we discover a host of characters who received, discovered, and responded to God’s dreams for the world. In some instances, these dreams were literal, coming while they slept. Other dreams were discovered in the course of everyday life.  Each time, these dreams woke people to God’ arrival, right in their midst.

In Advent, we step into the mystery and awe of God’s dreams and pray they shape our reality too.

  • November 29: Those who dreamkeep awake
  • December 6: Those who dreamprepare the way
  • December 13: Those who dreamsow joy
  • December 20: Those who dreamare not alone

Rest for Your Soul – Series September 6-27

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

It’s not uncommon for folks living in a relentless, quick-paced world like ours to feel tired. But in the last five months, how much more has this been true? We are exhausted. Worn-out.

In our weariness we hear this ancient, consistent invitation: ‘come’ and find what you’ve been looking for all along.

To be clear: rest does not come by just wanting it. We must accept the invitation and be willing to surrender. These are the things we’ll consider together in this series as we lean into Christ’s words and move toward what we so desperately need.

Weekly Reflections on becoming an Anti-Racist

Below are the emails we’ve sent out since George Floyd’s murder and the protests that follow.  Each email has a number of resources to keep us moving towards becoming Anti-Racists.

May 31st

Here’s a video we used in worship as a prayer of lament.

June 9th

Over the last two weeks, large and consistent protests have demanded that we as a country reckon with the racism that is still abundantly present.

You may have felt moved and inspired to do someething. If that is true, let me encourage you to strike while the iron is hot. Don’t let this moment pass without taking whatever the next step is for you. Not sure what to do?

Here are two excellent options:

  1. TONIGHT, 8:30PM – SaraJane and Micah Herrboldt are welcoming anyone interested in learning how to become an anti-racist to a Zoom call. You don’t have to make a long term commitment in order to check it out tonight. Simply come, here their plans for the coming weeks and decide if it’s right for you. The Zoom info, and a  letter from SaraJane and Micah can be found here.
  2. I came across this excellent resource that can help you find the right resource for your growth. Look at the left hand column. Where do you think you are on the journey (be honest :). Each step has excellent resource suggestions and steps for you to take.

Onward, friends. Let’s not miss this moment.

Peace- Chris

June 11th

I used to think that racism wasn’t my issue. It was something for others to try to tackle. But over the last three years I’ve come to realize that engaging racism is one choice we all must make.
That said (and before you think I’ve gone overboard), let me say this: how you face and respond to racism may look differently than it does for me. In other words, not everyone must quit their job to become a full-time activist. There are many choices for how we engage this important work. What is important is that we engage.
Here are a couple of simple, accessible possibilities:
1. Educate: through this Friday, IVP is giving away one of its many e-books on racism and justice to each of its customers. Head here and use promo code Just20
2. Diversify: who you are listening to on this topic matters — and listening to people of color really matters. Below is a list of voices that will encourage, challenge, and diversify your social media intake. One note: listen to these voices with an abundance of humility. Instead of becoming defensive, let their words sit with and teach you.
Onward, friends.

@wokebrownfem, @nowhitesaviours, @theimtiredproject, @rachel.cargle, @advancementproject, @britthawthorne, @indyamoore, @wearyourvoice, @ckyourprivilege, @alokvmenon, @theunapologeticallybrownseries, @austinchanning, @theconsciouskid, @antiracismctr, @_nickyflash_, @heyqueenyoucute


@clintsmithIII, @keeangayamahtta, @DrIbram, @MsPackyetti, @JBouie, @thearmchaircom, @RevJacquiLewis @drchanequa, @ava, @YNPierce, @esglaude, @jemelehill, @_nickyflash_,@nhannahjones

June 19th

Branch family –
Time has been playing tricks on us in this pandemic – moving both slowly and quickly at the same time. I was stunned today to realize that it’s been nearly a month (a month!) since George Floyd’s murder, three months since Breonna Taylor lost her life and four months since Ahmaud Arbery was chased down and killed.
If you are white — and you check in with yourself — you may find that you are growing fatigued by all that has been going on. You’re not alone. We are in a pivot point in history and it is exhausting.
So how do we stay engaged? (and we must stay engaged if anything is to change).
1. We have to take care of ourselves.
Each of us must be incredibly intentional to do those things that refill our tanks and keep us centered on Christ. The pursuit of justice takes persistent strength and resolve. So how are you caring for yourself? What could you do, even this weekend, to become recentered and restored?
2. Take the next step (not the next 10….just the nextstep)
We’re all in different places and so your next step might not look like mine. But here are a few ideas that I hope may be helpful this Juneteenth.
  • We cannot move into a new future without understanding our past. Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales and co-host (with Skye Jethani) of the Holy Post Podcast, released a helpful history of race that will help you understand how we got to where we are today. It’s 17 minutes, but stick with it till the end.
  • As white folks, we often get hung up on the anger and rage demonstrated by our black brothers and sisters. Esau McCaulley, assistant professor at Wheaton College, writes about this and places it within a biblical framework.
  • I’ve seen many African Americans encourage us to not just read books about racism (which is good and important!), but to also read things about the life, vitality and beauty of our black brothers and sisters. To be frank, this is fairly new territory for me. But here are two autobiographies I read last summer.
    • Howard Thurman has been such a gift to me. His autobiography is excellent, as is his best known work, Jesus and the Disinherited.
    • Ida B. Wells is one of the fiercest, most courageous people I’ve ever encountered. Her autobiography is hard to find right now, but put it on your list.
Grateful to be on this journey with you.
Onward, friends.

Becoming an Anti-Racist

Below is a letter from SaraJane and Micah, inviting anyone to enter into a conversation around how white people can become anti-racists: people who are actively working against racism in their own lives and in our world.
Dear friends and family,
What a time we find ourselves in.
Over the past month, we have sat with our children more times than we would like to, sharing with them the news of yet another life taken far too soon due to racism and injustice. As we move through these times, we have appreciated those of you who have reached out, checked in, taken action, and spoken up. For those who are unsure of how to take the first step, you are not alone in those feelings. It can be overwhelming to take that first step, to enter into discomfort, to not remain stuck in not knowing.
Ibram X Kendi wrote “Being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” 
We’d love to support you in doing this important work. Please consider refraining from asking Black people to do the educating for you. It is not their responsibility to do that heavy lifting, especially as they move through these days full of fear and trauma. Listen to their words, but save the questions for white people who are doing the work.
If you know how you learn best, what you want to dive into, and feel like doing the work independently, feel free to reach out and we will try to point you in the right direction to explore the multitude of resources available.
However, if you are curious about doing this work with a group of individuals, we invite you to join us. This group will be for white people who are ready to know better so they can do better. Although the group will be white participants, it will center the voices and experiences of people of color.  Together we will practice awareness, listen, learn, acknowledge, and take action.
This is the good, important, hard work that we must do, that we are asking you to do. For the sake of our three beautiful children and all those like them. If you are willing to be on this journey, please join us Tuesday, June 9th at 8:30pm, EST and we will share more with you about what our time together will look like.
Meeting Info via Zoom:

Topic: Becoming Antiracist

Time: Jun 9, 2020 08:30 PM America/Detroit

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 885 6490 4384

Password: begin

We hope to have you join us so together we can build a better tomorrow.

Liminal :: Stories of the In-Between

We’ve all been there. In fact, we’re there right now.

Liminal spaces are in-between spaces. They are seasons in which we find ourselves between one reality that has ended and another that has not yet begun. Covid-19 has caused life as we knew it to end. The world is simply not, nor will it be, the same as it was.

And because of that unknown, liminal spaces are incredibly disorienting. You feel it, don’t you? The change. The uncertainty. So much has shifted.

And…liminal spaces hold a unique opportunity. As we hover between what was and what will be, the questions that really matter seem to rise to the surface.

We’re going to take a look at some biblical stories in which people (and communities) had to walk through a liminal space. What might their story have to tell us about our own?

We hope you’ll join us.