20th March 2020
The closure of churches is an unprecedented event. It has not happened in our lifetime (the last occasion was just over 100 years ago) and it may take us a little time to come to grips with it. I am writing at a time of confusion and will write again next week when I have had a chance to come to grips with it. Yesterday there were 7 emails from the Bishop, each one with new advice.
Anything that I write today could be superseded tomorrow so keep reading your emails.
This Sunday there will be no church services. I will take time this weekend to work out a way forward. For this Sunday I suggest that you go on to our website and listen to a past sermon – there are plenty there to choose from. After that, it is my intention to put new material on each week starting as soon as possible. I will be working with Frank (our webmaster) during next week to put things in place. This will probably include a brief church service with a sermon and, possibly some music you can sing along with.
My current thinking is that we will still have the Office open Monday, Wednesday and Friday but that may change in coming weeks as we see how things develop. The office phone number is 4353 3699 and you can leave a message at any time.
I plan to open the church on Sundays from 8.00 to 12.00, starting on March 29th and to be there for prayer (keeping our social distance!). It may be possible to offer communion to those who would like it but I will need to think through that. I may also open the church on one other day during the week – probably Tuesdays. I will make these decisions after this weekend and following much thought, prayer and discussion. I will give you more details next week.
Small groups can continue if they choose to, remembering the guidelines – no contact, no food and “social distance”. Each leader should discuss this with the group. Fellowship and corporate prayer are vital but no one should feel pressured to attend such groups if they are uncomfortable with the arrangements. One suggestion is that groups could meet in the hall where there is plenty of room to keep safe distances.
All other groups are suspended until further notice.
The wedding of John and Lisa next Saturday (28th) will go ahead but will be moved to Wollombi. Attendance now will be by direct invitation only. John & Lisa hope to have a celebration later on, when things settle down, here at St James for all to attend & show a video of their wedding ceremony.
We have a pastoral care system in place. Unfortunately it is not up to date. I have contacted Tony Smith who is pastoral care co-ordinator and he will try to ensure that it works smoothly. The idea is that each pastoral care leader will regularly check on those for whom they are responsible and either deal with any problems or pass them on to Tony or to me. Many people who are new (in the last 12 months) should contact the office with their details and ask Annie to forward these details to Tony who will allocate them to a pastoral care group.
If you are young(er) and healthy please keep an eye on older congregation members and offer to do shopping if they need it. If you have elderly neighbours do the same – this is a time to show some genuine Christian care to our community.
I hate talking about money and wish I didn’t have to, but I cannot fail to remind you that church bills continue as do yours. Please make use of the envelope system to set aside your offertory each week and either drop it in to church on office days or on the 2 days I will have the church open. or keep it until church reopens. This situation will put a financial strain on all of us – including the parish. If you do not have envelopes please let Annie know and you can either collect them or we can have someone drop them in.
I will have a lot more information for you next week. If you know of parishioners who do not have email access perhaps you could print these emails and put them in their letter box.
Finally – why is this happening? Next week, in our first Sunday “broadcast” I will deal with this in detail. For now, let me just say that we live in a fallen world. Sin still plays a significant role in what happens. Sickness is part of that fallen world and not everyone who gets sick gets healed. Anxiety is, sadly, a human condition. Trust in God is the only sensible way forward.
As Christians we have a responsibility to be good citizens in this world to commend to people God’s kingdom. This means being rational and caring for others. Hoarding goods so that others cannot get them has been condemned by our Prime Minister and I hope we are not involved in this. I know it is difficult – in our household we have not done any panic buying but when we go to get what is required for our daily needs it is not there. We need to set an example. And we need to share. This is a time to learn what it means to love your neighbour.
I am open to any suggestions on how to deal with this situation. You can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 0412 522 731. I will be away this weekend, as planned, but I will still be contactable and happy to read emails and take calls.
The next Pastoral Letter will be sent next week and will give more detail on how we will deal with this crisis. In the meantime, remember that prayer is a powerful weapon. While things get quieter and we cannot do the things we normally do why not fill up sparer time with prayer. A simple suggestion – take the parish directory and pray through it on a regular basis. The next Pastoral Letter will include a Prayer Diary and a Bible Reading programme.
With every blessing.