Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Hopefully you have already heard from your Pastoral Partner in the last day or so, but I am writing to confirm that Church Council met on Friday and on the very strong recommendation of both Presbytery and Synod, has agreed to immediately suspend all worship services and public gatherings on church property, including Adult Fellowship, Lenten Bible Study, 5th Sunday Lunches, Viewhaven Services, WELCOME, and public weddings and funerals in response to the COVID-19 (Corona Virus. I note also that St Bart’s has taken very similar action this week.
I understand that this action may cause you to feel a mixture of sadness, fear, anxiety, frustration, and perhaps moments of being totally overwhelmed. Such feelings are a completely normal response to what are exceptional world circumstances. However, Church Council decided ultimately, we couldn’t, in good conscience, take the risk of causing harm to any of our elderly or vulnerable members.
I would also like you to know that the decision to suspend worship is just one of a series of actions and policies that Church Council adopted on Friday in response to COVID-19, and a full COVID-19 policy is attached to this letter/email for your information (along with a Pastoral Letter from Synod and a factsheet on COVID-19). Please read through it, as it has several relevant pieces of information for you, and some calls to action for as many members of our congregation as possible.
In designing these policies Church Council was motivated by two key principles:
- The need to continue our mission of Witnessing to God’s love for the world from the Main Street to the Paddock; and,
- The need to love our neighbours as ourselves (including not causing them any harm).
Consequently, we will continue to be a worshipping people, but in some different ways than before.
For those with internet, I will provide access to worship and discipleship resources via our website (http://crookwelluniting.org/). This will include live-streaming worship on the home page of the website at 9am on Sundays (starting NEXT WEEK, 29 MARCH), and putting recordings of services on the web for you to watch at any time. Alternatively, keep in touch via our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/crookwelluniting/
Additionally, the Saltbush Project (which seeks to minister to rural and remote communities) has worship, prayers and liturgies available on its website (https://saltbushcommunity.uca.org.au/) for you to access.
For families, Illustrated Ministry has made their devotional resources for kids (colouring-in and reflective activities) free for families during the COVID-19 crisis: https://www.illustratedministry.com/flattenthecurve
For those without internet, we will seek to provide some devotional resources for you each month in the post with your monthly newsletter. Furthermore, we encourage you to watch Songs of Praise on the ABC on Sundays at 11.30am as your own worship time.
Obviously, we are conscious that Easter is now only 3 weeks away, and perhaps the greatest grief will be that we can’t celebrate Holy Week together in one space. I will, however, explore the possibility of setting up some prayerful reflections at the Church to help you pray and worship on Good Friday and Easter Sunday in your own time. I will let you know more as this starts to take shape.
In addition to worship, we will continue to be a loving community.
Last Sunday, I promised to you that if the time came that such measures as these would need to take place, we wouldn’t allow each other to become emotionally isolated from one another. For this to work, we will need your help.
Thankfully, we have a Pastoral Partners program set up and ready to go here at the Church, and your Pastoral Partners will seek to keep in regular contact with you by phone or perhaps meeting up for coffee in cafes on the Main Street. However, if you are sick, you should NOT expect in-person visits, but rather phone calls and other support. If you are unsure who your Pastoral Partner is, please contact me ASAP.
Another way of supporting one another is to make sure we all have enough food and goods to get through any times of self-isolation we may experience. I am, therefore, seeking any volunteers who might be willing to make IGA shopping runs for anyone who is locked down at home, and deliver the groceries to their doorstep. We will make IGA vouchers available for this.
Equally, if you find yourself in need of anything, please let myself or your pastoral partner know. We have some IGA vouchers available, and some congregational members have offered to donate food and goods if people are in need.
We also ask you to please continue to support the small businesses in Crookwell as much as you are able. The owners and staff of these businesses are currently under incredible financial pressure and have also been copping significant abuse during the recent hoarding. Please, take the time to ask them how they are, and to love and pray for them. This is an important moment to witness to the love of Christ we proclaim.
Church Council is also aware that the current crisis may have a significant financial impact on individuals and the congregation and are preparing accordingly. Nevertheless, our mission continues, and we will continue to be the Church. To this end, we ask that:
- If you cannot give to the Church at this time due to financial pressures on you and your family, please feel free not to.
- If you would still like to give, please consider moving to Direct Debit offerings. Our details are:
Account Number: 156350936
Account Name: UCA – Crookwell Uniting Church
- Alternatively, for those who would prefer to give cash, please feel free to drop an envelope with your offering into the Manse (I will provide the address as needed).
Finally, let me leave you with some words from the book of Esther that I have been pondering the last few days as we have made these decisions:
When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, ‘Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.’ (Esther 4.12-14)
I find comfort in the idea that in such times of suffering, we are all in this together, and that maybe, just maybe, God has prepared us to be the Church in Crookwell for just such a time as this.
Let us live together into this promise and hope, loving one another, and leaving no one behind.
Yours in Christ,