Sunday services suspended
At our staff meeting this week we made the decision that, in light of the social distancing recommendations being issued by health authorities, we would suspend Sunday services until we receive notice that it’s safe to start meeting again. We don’t need to tell you this is an unprecedented move, but we are keen to do our part as our community acts together to keep the coronavirus at bay. Then we heard news that the Archbishop has asked parishes to suspend all public gatherings, including Sunday Services. So I guess that makes it doubly official – our regular habit of meeting together in the flesh will be on hold, effective immediately – there is no church this Sunday March 22nd, nor in the weeks following, until further notice. Other groups and ministries will also need to be in recess, or will need to try to find alternative ways of meeting (more on this below): MCP, Craftgroup, Ministry of Game, SRE, English conversation classes, Playgroup, SWAY, Growth Groups.
Threats and opportunities
This situation presents us with a couple of threats, but also with a couple of opportunities. As your minister I’m keen for us to grab hold of these opportunities with both (washed and sanitized) hands.
Here are the threats as I see them:
1. There is the physical threat of the virus itself. Please take the health authorities’ advice seriously!
2. There is the spiritual threat of disengaging with one another, disengaging with the Bible and disengaging with God.
But alongside these threats opportunity awaits! Spiritual opportunities first…
There’s a saying: necessity is the mother of invention. This could not be truer than at this time. If we can’t meet physically together, then let’s find an alternative way of doing church! I have called together a Corona Communications Team (David Cameron, Alison Rodger, Ian Carpenter, James Steward, Emily Carpenter) to help us provide a way of taking our church services online.
The team’s first task has been to create an online church experience that will be accessible from our website (www.waitaraanglican.com.au). This will include material on the screen that you’ll be able to read out loud with those who have gathered together in your living room, some music to sing along with or just to listen to if you wish, a weekly sermon that you’ll be able to watch and listen to, plus some encouragement to pray, or even some recorded prayers. Our aim is to have this ready for this Sunday, March 22nd. Can I encourage you to keep Sunday mornings set aside to engage with this online content? Aim to keep the habit and to meet with one another in spirit. It will be tempting to use Sunday mornings in another way; please think twice about giving in. We want to come out of this crisis spiritually stronger not spiritually weaker!
Richard and Victoria have sourced some on-line material for our children (see this separate blog post). Again please take the time to sit with your children and do the material with them; you could call it “home Sunday schooling”. I want you to imagine conversations your child will have in 60-70 years time when they are telling stories about the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. They’ll say “even though church shut down, we still had church on Sunday mornings at home! We used this old technology called the internet, and the fact that we didn’t give in taught me how important church is”. How we respond at this time has the opportunity to make a lifelong impression upon our young people. Please let that impression be one of not neglecting our spiritual lives. Don’t waste this opportunity.
Now, an obvious question is what we will do to spiritually care for those who are not online. One idea I (Marty) am willing to try is Garden Church. If someone with a garden is willing to host a group of no more than 6 people (including me), and provided those people are healthy and willing to follow appropriate hygiene and social distancing protocols, then I will run a service in their garden. They probably don’t even receive this email, but I thought I’d put it out there anyway. Vicki is letting them know by phone of this possibility. Please note, this option is for people who really cannot easily access the online material. If you like the idea thenprovided your Wi-Fi is strong enough you can take the computer out in the garden if you wish!
We have a few more ideas to help us connect with one another that we’ll speak about in upcoming weeks.
I’ve also asked Vicki Carter and Lindsay Jackson to start organizing a Corona Care Team. This team will be coming up with plans to see how best we might be able to care for the very vulnerable as the crisis becomes worse. If you would like to help contribute to this team then please contact Vicki and let her know. We may need people to volunteer to ring those who are shut in, and to go shopping for those who cannot do so themselves. Vicki can be contacted on email@example.com, or on 9489 4793 Tues-Thurs.
There’s another saying: never waste a good crisis! While we obviously share a concern for the very real effects of COVOD-19, we also want to come out of this stronger: stronger systems, stronger understanding of church, stronger faith in God, deeper knowledge of one another, even if we cannot meet in person! It can be done!
Keeping up to date during the crisis
- we’ll keep posting information on this blog.
2. If you’re on Facebook and you haven’t yet liked our facebook page, now is a good time to do so. We’ll be posting updates on that page as well. Also as we post links to our online church service, the Facebook thread under the post will be a good place to discuss what it is we’re talking about at church that week. facebook.com/waitaraanglican/
3. We are launching a YouTube channel! While the online church service will be accessible on the website, the YouTube channel will have other video updates and content as well. The name of the channel is Waitara Anglican Church.
4. And our weekly email update will go out each week as per usual. If you would like to recive this email, then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and Vicki will add you to our subscription list.
At this stage we have no plans to shut the church office. As long as staff remain healthy, we will keep open and working, taking appropriate precautions along the way. Our office is open 9-5 Tuesday-Thursday.
Financial giving during the crisis
Please continue to give electronically. Scheduled payments are easy to set up on internet banking. Alternatively, staff in your local bank branch can set up a scheduled payment for you. You will need to provide our BSB (062181) and Account Number (10006018). As long as our office is open, you can come and deposit your offertory in the silver letterbox on the inside of our front doors.
Growth groups during the crisis
Technically there is no ban from the Archbishop on Growth Groups meeting together, but due to social distancing being quite difficult to implement we are asking groups to stop meeting in the flesh. Please, if you are able, find another means of meeting together over the internet. Skype is relatively easy to install on a phone or computer and enables conference audio and video calls. There are other apps that can do a similar thing, but Skype is probably the best known. Please persist in trying to meet in this way.
Thanks friends, lots of information to digest, but I’m sure there are lots of questions! Hopefully we’ve answered a few.