28 March, 2020 (updated)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Let me begin by reminding you of the words of Psalm 46, which Betty Wiersma read for us at our service this past Sunday morning.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
We are living through what seems like unprecedented time of worldwide disruption, with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Nations are in uproar. Perhaps some kingdoms will fall. The earth gives way, the waters roar and foam, the mountains quake – but we will not fear, because God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. God is our fortress. Most importantly, he is with us.
Many of you will have already heard the news this morning that further measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are being put in place by our commonwealth and state governments. The change of greatest significance for us, as a church community, is that we are not able to gather together in person for worship on Sunday (or any day of the week).
Our elders have been discussing the possibility of this development occurring over the past week so that we might be (partially) prepared for this to happen and thinking about how we would respond in the very short-term.
We support the general recommendations of the government, for they are an expression of the call of Jesus for us to love our neighbour as ourselves. It means that, for a time, we will have to sacrifice many of the things that are normal to us for the good of others. We recognise that for us to act in this way is a sacrifice, but these precautions are a sacrifice of love precisely because they care for and consider the needs of those who are most vulnerable to this virus.
What are the direct implications for us?
- Since we exceed as a congregation the limit on the number of people who can gather indoors at one time, our weekly gatherings in person on Sunday (and other days) are now suspended indefinitely.
- In place of our usual gatherings, we will be pre-recording our service on video and making it available to watch online through YouTube. You will be able to find the service on our church website (www.toowoombacrc.com) each Sunday commencing at 9am. This will enable us to be together in spirit, even though physically apart from one another.
- If you have any items for prayer, please let me know by Thursday evening so I can include them in the prayers that will be included.
- Obviously we will be unable to pass our offering bags around during the service! Many of you already give to support the work of the church by electronic bank transfer, so you are not affected by this change. However, if you regularly contribute your offerings in the bags that are passed around in the service and are able to setup a bank transfer, here are the details of the church bank account:
Acc. No: 31 387 9212
What about other church programs?
- All our regular church programs are no longer meeting in person, but many are moving online so we can continue encouraging one another.
What else can I do at this time?
- Please maintain as much contact as you are able with other members of our congregation by phone, text, email, and social media, especially those who are on their own or isolated for some reason. Now is not the time for us to bunker down and move away from one another, but to move toward each other (even if not physically!) and bless one another with love and care.
- If you have needs, please let the deacons know. In all seriousness, if you are running out of a basic provision such as toilet paper and can’t buy any at the supermarket, or you can’t leave home for regular shopping, let us know so that we can share what God has given us and care for each other in this way. You can email our deacons, or contact them by phone.
- It could be that the coming weeks and months ahead become a very financially difficult time for you, as the economy is affected. If that time comes, please be assured that we want to be able to help you in your time of need, much in the same way as the early church helped care for one another. Please speak to the deacons as your needs arise.
Many of these changes are going to push us out of complacency, self-sufficiency and self-reliance. God is already causing us to rely on him in ways that we maybe haven’t for a long time. I imagine it’s going to be a bumpy ride at times as we work out how to adjust to the challenges of this season of church life, but we are committed to loving God, one another, and those around us. Our mission as a church to glorify God has not changed, only the ways in which we might seek to put that into practice.
Please have patience with us as we navigate these challenges. We can have confidence in troubled times, because we are not alone. Our God has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and that gives us hope for the future. God is still sovereign. God is on his throne.
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” – Lamentations 3:22-23
May God strengthen you and give you peace. Know that I am praying for each and every one of you at this time.