Dear Sisters and Brothers of Arawang,
Yesterday our Diocese had a communication from Bishop Mark that following the Prime Minister’s measures to combat the COVID-19 virus the Anglican Bishops of NSW/ACT had decided that no public church services will be held until further notice. For us, this is effective immediately. For rural dioceses and smaller rural parishes this comes into effect next week. You can read Bishop Mark’s communication via the Diocesan website https://anglicancg.org.au/cessation-of-services/
In this communication, I would like to:
- Encourage you that this is not new for followers of Jesus Christ,
- Set a way forward for us so that we can still meet together around the Word of God to sing his praises, pray, care for others, be cared for ourselves and serve our community;
- Update you about the City Bible Forum (City Legal) mission.
The people of God have been meeting in weird and wonderful ways since the very early church. The Apostle John wrote to one of his little churches, saying, “Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not write with pen and ink; instead I hope to see you soon, and we can talk together face to face.” (3 John 1:13). This church was likely a house church. For John not meeting face to face was a grief and for us it will be too. I would much rather not use keyboard and screen but see you face to face! However sometimes second best becomes best because of the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Of course the persecuted church have been meeting “underground”, in small secret groups, since New Testament times. According to OpenDoors, North Korea has been the most dangerous place to follow Jesus since 2002. Believers face violence and extreme levels of pressure in all areas of life. Despite this, the underground church in North Korea is alive! We are asked to pray for the church there that “God would strengthen and encourage believers in prisons, labour camps and remote areas and that God will be preparing and equipping the underground church to be salt and light in [their community]”.
Of course we are not stopping gathering because of persecution but because of the COVID 19 virus. God willing we will be strengthened as a church family because of this strange season we find ourselves in as we continue to meet together in creative ways. It is vitally important that we continue to meet because we are saved into a body of relationships. Just like coals in a campfire: they all burn brightly when they’re together, if one rolls out into the dirt, the whole fire is weaker for it and the coal on its own will grow dim and shortly go out. This is why God says through the writer to the Hebrews:
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not
neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Let’s not allow any coals to roll out of the ‘campfire’!
So that the Arawang ‘campfire’ can burn brightly, I propose the following way forward:
Church Hubs over Zoom meetings:
I have worked hard to create a series of smaller groups of people from within our church family. My intention is that these groups (or “Church Hubs”) will meet together on Sunday mornings in the home of their group coordinator. According to the directive from the Bishop, each group needs to be around Bible study size. Each group would have a coordinator, access to a computer and a strong internet connection. Each group will then connect together for church via an online Zoom meeting. Each meeting will sing, pray and listen to the sermon online via the online presentation. I will be in contact with each coordinator before Sunday to make sure we are organised and ready to go.
While we are meeting in this way, we will be having one combined live online service beginning at 9am. I apologise for any inconvenience this causes, however I believe all of us meeting together at the same time and connected online, even if we are in different locations, will aid our sense of togetherness in this time of “isolation”.
Each group coordinator will be in contact with their group members soon. For now, it’d be good for you to plan that you’re off to a church hub on Sunday morning and expect a phone call or email from your group coordinator letting you know where.
Of course these groups can be missional too. Feel free to ask neighbours and friends to join you. It’s always easier to invite someone to a home church than a traditional church building! Maybe when we meet together at the end of all this, God would have grown his kingdom and strengthened his people! I pray so.
Please be up to date via our online presence
Please do keep informed via our Facebook page, which you’ll find here, https://www.facebook.com/Arawang-Anglican-Church-1330667650409954/ and our website which you’ll find at https://arawanganglican.com.au. I will be continuing to meet with and visit people as usual. Please be in touch if you would like to meet.
Please continue your regular Bible study meetings
There are several Bible study groups currently meeting and they will continue to meet. I will remain in contact with Bible study leaders.
The City Bible Forum City Legal Mission
In light of the Bishop’s direction to stop gathering in church, I have told City Bible Forum that the mission will no longer go ahead as an Arawang partnership. So, the dinner and Bible talk tonight are cancelled and the meeting in the Diocesan Offices tomorrow is also cancelled.
However, City Bible Forum are still coming down and the brekky is going ahead at the new venue (‘The Murdoch Room’ in the Hotel Kurrajong, 8 National Circuit Barton). The time remains the same – 7.20-8.20am. If you have registered for this event you should have received an email already. Please feel free to honour your registration privately, as I will be. Perhaps I’ll see you there.
A guide for us in decision regarding meeting size is a maximum of 15 people together as long as we are able to maintain social distancing measures (see below). I prefer the term physical distancing because we need to be socially close in any way we can!
For Bible study meetings, Church Hub meetings or the CBF breakfast please follow social distancing advice:
|In line with the latest government advice, we are asking that we all follow these sensible precautions at our gathering on Friday: observe social distancing of 1.5m; greet people without handshaking; don’t come if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms; don’t come if you must self-isolate due to travel or exposure to someone with Covid-19; don’t come if someone you live with is in a high-risk category|
Finally, Jesus spoke a lot about the relationship his people have with money. As a pastor, I feel uncomfortable speaking about money, especially knowing that I am the beneficiary of much of your giving in my pay, but because Jesus did, I need to. It is going to be harder to financially contribute to Kingdom work while we are not gathering as usual and so here are some thoughts for you: Money is not directly an idol because money is provided by God for our good. So why did Jesus speak clearly about money? In short Jesus spoke a lot about money because money shows us very clearly who and what we worship. Money will show us where our idols are. It’s why he said we cannot serve both God and money.
There is currently a gap between the funds required and our giving at church. We are highly dependent on funds from investments. My goal is to have us 100% funded via the church plate, so that we might use the investments to resource, strengthen and grow our Arawang ministries. So I’ll take the opportunity here to ask that you please reconsider your tithe to the Lord in the coming weeks and continue your offerings.
There are 2 ways to give in these new circumstances:
1 Consider a regular direct debit (the better option) to BSB # 702389 Account # 05202597, Account Name: Arawang Anglican.
2 Bring your offering to your Church Hub. At the end of the meeting two people are to count the offering, document it, bag or envelope it, give it to a warden, me or Catherine Dive directly.
I am always encouraged as I read Revelation 5. The Lord Jesus remains on his throne and has the scrolls of history in his hands. The people of God cry out,
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open it’s seals,
For you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed people for God,
Saints from every tribe and language,
people and nation;
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God…” (Rev 5:9ff)
Let’s keep serving Him with joy through this unusual season, knowing that though we may be apart for a time, He is always with us and He has united us in His body.