As you are aware the spread of Covid-19 and the efforts to flatten the curve are having an increasing impact on our life. The restrictions on public gatherings that are currently in place will change the way we gather as a church for a time.
This week our Diocesan clergy met with Bishop Matt to discuss our response. We’re still working out what this all means for us in Echuca-Moama, below are some points most relevant to us.
But first, sisters and brothers, let me encourage you that while these changes are unprecedented in our lifetimes, we are not facing anything that the church has not encountered and overcome before. We have been blessed to have been able to meet openly and publicly for generations, but this has not always been the case for the church throughout history (or even around the world today). Whether we meet in large groups, in homes or even pray individually, God is with us.
All public services are to pause. This will allow us to determine how to best utilise our time, energy and efforts to connect with and serve our community. We can still use our physical spaces, including the church, outdoors and our homes to gather but this will have to be compliant with government directives, hygiene and responsive to the vulnerabilities of those who come.
And so, when we can, we will open the church for prayer. This may not always be on a Sunday morning. There may well come a time when we can no longer even do this.
Sharing, Supporting and Worshipping Together
In light of this, we are working on ways that we can continue to share together as a church and to join together in worship. One of the challenges we have is that with a diverse church community not everyone has access to the same resources to participate together. It may be that we try different things at different times. When possible, we will invite people to join in small groups of five or so to talk, pray and receive the Lord’s Supper as appropriate. This might be in people’s homes or around Christ Church.
Prayer Book & Psalms Project
Whatever we end up doing, we do have two great resources that will form the backbone of worship in this new era. These are the Prayer Book and the Psalms Project. We’re sending everyone a copy of the Prayer Book for Australia. There are services in here for Morning and Evening Prayer and we’ll be encouraging and equipping you to use them at home, in small groups and even over the phone. At Christ Church we’ve also got the Psalms Project, our commitment to read one Psalm together a day. It may be that this is the season for us to dive deeper into the Psalms as a church!
Weddings, Funeral and Ordinations
These will still be able to take place, so long as they adhere to government requirements. As of today, that means our maximum capacity at Christ Church is 35. Tim’s ordination will still go ahead, but with a restricted group of people physically present. We will be setting up a live-stream so people can join in online.
We have already hit pause on mainly music. The Diocesan Youth Camp and Holiday Kids Club have been postponed. For the time being the Op Shop is closed. Groups like KYB, Sing for Joy and Guild & Friends may be able to continue following strict guidelines. I am preparing weekly services on CD for all the nursing homes in town.
One of the challenges through this time is that many of the church’s fixed costs will continue, while income from the Op Shop and opportunities for people to give at church will be reduced. We encourage people to give electronically where possible. For those who can’t set this up, we ask that you set aside your regular giving each week and either arrange to drop it off at the church on a regular basis or hang onto it until regular services can resume.
This will be a time for us to actually draw closer together as a community. We will be organising a system of pastoral care to ensure everyone in the church is regularly contacted and connected. Should you need any support or encouragement, please call George or a member of the ministry team. We’re always happy to talk and pray with you, and where appropriate, arrange a pastoral visit.
We must make the most of this opportunity, as with any, to find ways to show and share the light, life and love of Jesus with others. We’ve got some ideas around this and will be sharing them with you in the weeks to come.
Finally, brothers and sisters, let me remind you of our vision, to see lives transformed by the light, life and love of Jesus. Many aspects of our daily life will be transformed for a season. Let us pray that through the circumstances that are thrust upon us, God not only sustains but changes us to be more like Jesus!