In adherence to the federal (Australia) and state (Victoria) government requests for places of worship to close and religious gatherings to cease for a period of time while the nations seek to “flatten the curve” of Covid-19 I sent this pastoral letter to my congregations. It was to be read by them in their homes on Sunday 29th March alongside a brief liturgy as detailed within the letter.
Good morning Church,
Well, here we all are at home: we’re not quite in lock-down yet and you are free to leave at any time (just don’t go west because there’s a Border Patrol). The Church is still very much active in the World, Australia, Victoria, Kaniva and Serviceton, (Commercial Street East and Baker Street, Elizabeth Street and Kent Street). Whether it is active in any other street is up to you I guess.
I am writing to you today with excitement and with confidence. Our God is good, “large and in charge” one of my ministry friends recently reminded me, and speaking with an eye on pathology our shire is currently Coronavirus free. Praise be to God, and thanks be to everyone who has been diligent in hand washing and in practising social distancing.
I assure you as your pastor: this is not the apocalypse.
God has not sent Covid-19 on the world as a punishment for your sin, my sin, their sin, China’s sin, or America’s immorality. Our reading from John 9 last week makes it clear that whatever happens it happens for the glory of God. If anyone in Kaniva or Serviceton becomes ill with Covid-19 it will be because of a lack of personal hygiene and not because of a lack of personal (or national) righteousness. Australian Christians are not under attack by Australian non-Christians, nor by our governments (state and federal), nor by the dark forces of the hellish realms. We are holding off from gathering on Sunday for a month until such time as we know that people won’t catch each other’s bugs through proximity.
If you saw the Facebook edition of my sermon from last Sunday, delivered outside at Serviceton Recreation Reserve, carna Leeor Bombers, you will have read me writing that “as The Church it is vital that the local Christians get out of their buildings and be the people of God in their communities”. To some extent this directive needs to wait, we are supposed to be practising social distancing so please lay-off the door-to-door evangelism at least until the end of April. (Having said that, anyone who wishes to drop off biscuits at the manse may place them on the white table on the porch, ring the doorbell, and then leave.) But we do have an opportunity as local churches to reset our minds, rethink our ministries, and lead the world in showing practical kindness and social responsibility. In April 2020 that looks like listening to government directives and adjusting to life without the weekly gathering of the congregations; and also being people of integrity and honour in staying away from other social gathering places while the nation practices this short period of quarantine.
My prayer for all of us over April is that we may use this time as a season of refreshing. You will be receiving a weekly worship letter with suggestions of songs and prayers to use on Sunday morning in place of gathering, and a short homily from me. Please make use of it, as well as your own prayer and devotional materials. Put on your worship CDs (or Spotify), read your Bible, spend time praying and just listening to God, sit in your own garden and smell Creation, walk around the Wetlands (leaving at least two metres behind/before other pedestrians) and imagine Jesus walking with you. And by all means ring me for a chat if you’d like.
It was reported last weekend that with social distancing and home isolation taking place in Europe and China that pollution is receding: the smoggy skies above Beijing and Paris are clearing, and the waters of Venice lagoon are too. Stiller waters has equalled cleaner environments. Perhaps a month of solitude in (with) our saviour might do the same in our hearts, minds, spirits, souls, and I daresay bodies too. Again, let’s make the most of our enforced quietness and worship The LORD who has saved all of Creation and is shaping a New Creation.
Above all Church, in a world where we can’t find toilet roll and hand sanitiser at Doyle’s, and no-one may go to Bordertown without a visa, don’t hoard peace. Don’t hoard hope, don’t hoard grace, don’t hoard joy. Ring your friends, meet for coffee in small groups in large spaces (support the take-away food shops and eat in the park). There is more than enough of God for you, be generous in sharing the good news.
And may the peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds secure in the knowledge of his grace. So let the blessing of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon you now and abide with you always. Amen.