Yesterday morning, the 18th of March, 2020 the Prime Minister had a conference in which he put new limits on the social interactions Australians can have. This affects us as a Christian community and as good citizens in all things legitimate, we must acquiesce to this as our community battles the Corona Virus. At the time of making the announcement approximately 450 citizens have been infected with disease and looking at the statistics today it has risen to 560 people. Thankfully the fatality rate is very low.
As you know, Session called a meeting last night for members of the congregation to discuss whether we should still conduct services and other related matters including how we might make use of technology. Approximately 35 members of the congregation attended and all those who attended had an opportunity to discuss their thoughts. Narelle Oste gave us a brief update from New South Wales Health and the Australian Government, Department of Health as well as the Prime Minister’s department.
As mentioned in many news outlets, the most vulnerable people in the community are the elderly and those with low immunity to diseases and the impact would be greater on them than any others in the community.
The Prime Minister in making this announcement suggested that this situation would go on for about 6 months which is a long time. As many of you know already, the economy is absolutely reeling from the impact of this virus and some in the church are having difficulty finding a job and many are under the risk of losing their jobs.
Towards the end of the special meeting, Gerald asked for a show of hands in regard to whether or not we should be holding services at church and even though it was only indicative, the simple vote showed that about 2/3rd of those present favoured not holding church services for the present and seeking alternative ways, using technology, to reach out. If the truth be told, most of those who attended and voted were torn up about this!
After the close of the meeting, the Session stayed behind to discuss what we should do.
- Session has made the decision that BASE and BLAZE should no-longer meet, but seek other ways to encourage and support the youth participants.
- Secondly, Session discussed whether to go ahead with our worship services or not. After each office bearer had an opportunity to speak, Session decided not to conduct worship services at the church for the time being! Although we will not meet in the church building, we will continue to be Church and adapt to the current environment. We also noted that Glenn Davies, the Anglican Archbishop of the Sydney diocese had just announced that all Anglican Churches were to close. At the time of writing this many “Christian Reformed” churches have also ceased ordinary services. Session will meet more regularly and as soon as the situation becomes clear, we will recommence services. We know that meeting together is very important!
- Session also discussed possible alternatives and how we would support and encourage each other going forward. So, beginning this Sunday Gerald and Steven will be bringing a message via the internet. It may be a pre-recorded message or live streamed. We are in the process of finding out what we can do and will communicate how you can access this in the coming days. We will be doing our best to make this as real-time as possible and encourage everyone to join in our services at the normal time of 9.30am. Also, if you can maintain social distancing measures you are free to meet in small groups to offer prayer and praise as well as listen to the sermons delivered. Again, due to the sudden need to change, please be patient as we move towards a solution. If you have a home that you are willing to open to a small number of people, then please let me know. These small “house groups” can meet and join in with the live stream, and then spend some time in song and prayer together.
- Pastoral care was discussed and Session members will keep close contact with their ward lists. Gerald and Steven will also be involved in trying to keep in touch with as many people as possible. There is some technology that is readily available such as email, Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp, Viber, the phone and we will endeavour to use all means possible. There are many ideas in regard to Pastoral Care that need to be followed up, and our main aim in this is that everyone is cared for. Ideas and so on are most welcome and please pass them on. Session will seek to keep you informed, as much as possible about what is going on and to use every means available to encourage you in your faith. We also recognise that this duty of care is for all of us to consider and so we would urge you to pick up the phone, text or email those around you to make sure everyone is being looked after.
- The session will be meeting more regularly to discuss how we can best manage in this ever-changing environment as well as to seek opportunities to engage our community and point them towards the hope we have in Christ. If you have ideas or suggestions then please do share them, as your creativity in a time like this will be incredibly precious.
At this stage, Session would suggest that all fellowship/Bible study groups decide themselves how they might continue. There are apps that are relatively easy to use such as Whatsapp or the “YouVersion Bible” that make this relatively easy. Bible Study groups are free to still meet if the numbers are appropriate and social distancing can be maintained.
As ministers, Steven and I, will be producing devotional blogs and be working out how we might convey sermons and content to as many members of the church as possible. Please pray that our ministers can learn quickly in this regard. No doubt there will be teething problems, but we hope to keep contact with our community as much as possible.
There are concerns about what will happen if someone dies and the Prime Minister alluded to that yesterday. Obviously, these things will be managed on a case by case basis.
What we can pray about
- That the Session has wisdom and energy in leading our community.
- That all members are cared for.
- That we might engage with our community and support our neighbours.
- That those who face job insecurity or loss of work be encouraged.
- That our ministers learn quickly how to make use of technology.
- That God’s church would grow and that our faith might increase.
- That our health professionals be protected and that a cure for the virus would arrive quickly.
- That the elderly and those with low immunity be protected.
- That God grant wisdom to those who are serving the Lord overseas as to how to respond in a safe way and whether they need to travel home.
This week someone sent me this quote from Martin Luther, the Great Reformer.
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me, and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person I shall go freely as stated above. This is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” Luther’s Works; Vol. 43, pg. 132
The church is about people. This is not changed by the fact that we will primarily encounter each other in alternative means: Christ is still King, the gospel is still precious and it is good to be on this journey together! Physical distance cannot change any of these things.
On behalf of the session,