Coronavirus email #7: Starting back with 3 services

It’s only been a couple of weeks since the ‘Roadmap to the new normal’ was released by the NT Government, outlining a 3-stage relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions. At the time we made the decision to wait until the guidelines for stage 3 were released, in the hope that we might be able to return to meeting physically in 2 services, at 9am and 5pm.

Unfortunately, ongoing physical distancing requirements mean we have too many people at St Peter’s to continue to meet in 2 services. This is true no matter how we arrange the seats (including more or less conservatively to allow for household groups) and it is true even allowing for overflow spaces at church. After extensive thought, prayer and discussion we have come to the conclusion that there is no way around it, and so from the 7th of June we will begin meeting in 3 services. 

Ordinarily if we made such a change there would be time to grieve what is left behind, as well as embrace what lies ahead. Unfortunately, we are hindered from properly farewelling our 2 gatherings for the same reason that we are hindered from continuing to meet in them: size. While our size is an extraordinary blessing from the Lord, it is also the reason we must undergo even more change as we return to physical gatherings. We hope you will recognise and mark this transition, allowing yourself time to feel grief, as well as opportunity.

After discussing the matter at Parish Council last night, we decided our 3 services will meet at 8.30am, 10.30am and 4.30pm. Changing the time of all 3 services (rather than adding an extra timeslot to our current 2) recognises this as a new beginning for everyone, as each service will be different to what we have offered in the past. 

We would like you to prayerfully consider which service to join and indicate your preference by filling in this simple survey. Once we have received sufficient replies, we will confirm with you which service we expect to see you at, before 7 June. 

You may have a number of questions and/or concerns, and rather than address them in the body of this email, we refer you our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

It is our hope that St Peter’s will continue to be a special church family, made up of people of different ages and stages and cultural backgrounds and giftings. We are excited to physically gather as God’s people, around his word, and encourage each other in Jesus. We will be praying for you as you digest this news, grieve what is past and look forward to the future. 

Love in Christ,

Joshua, Laura and Jenny

Coronavirus update #6: Further details on restarting church

As we mentioned last Sunday, in accordance with the government’s Roadmap to the new normal, the physical distancing guidelines require all people (customers and staff of a business) to be able to remain 1.5m from one another ‘within the business’. This means our church building can only hold 64 people, and we could create an overflow of another 21 in the Hart room (which isn’t a viable long term solution). Therefore we would need to start a 3rd service if we want to meet as part of a stage 2 change.

I called the gatherings hotline again on Tuesday and asked about the guidelines for venues with fixed seating like cinemas, the entertainment centre, a lecture theatre, etc and was told guidelines will be released about them on the 18th May as part of stage 3 of the removal of restrictions. The website mentions an ‘approved seating configuration’, which isn’t very specific. However, I was encouraged to consider waiting for those guidelines, as it might mean we can fit more people into our space.

So, it seems we have two options. Firstly, we could start meeting together with a 3rd service on the 17th May (stage 2), and work out who goes to which service then. Or, we could wait to the 18th May in hope that we can get a seating configuration approved that enables us to return to two services on the 7th June (stage 3).

I think it’s more manageable, less change, and less traumatic for all, if we postpone the decision about the number of services until after the 18th May, and hope we can meet together on the 7th June in two services.

I’m sorry to postpone the opportunity to meet together for a further three weeks, but think the hoped for benefits of not having to start a 3rd service outweighs the delay.

Please pray for wisdom, clarity, and patience for our whole church family as we await further guidelines and do what is right and loving for all.

We have also significantly updated the coronavirus FAQ page addressing questions about

  • seating in church for children,
  • plans for playgroup, FRESH, and youth group,
  • what will church look like,
  • will the livestream continue once we can meet again,
  • and more…

Coronavirus update #5: What is the new normal?

The NT government has today released a document called ‘Roadmap to the new normal’, which outlines a 3 stage plan to relax Covid-19 restrictions in the Territory. You can find a copy of it here

Please be advised that St Peter’s will be live-streaming both services again this Sunday and we will update you then on how this ‘roadmap’ will affect us into the future. As the stage 1 approach (from 1 May) includes a provision for having visitors to your home, with physical distancing, you might like to invite someone to watch the livestream with you. 

We are currently seeking clarity about physical distancing requirements for when churches are able to be open again (which is not expected before 15 May). On Sunday we will share our thoughts on when church services, Youthgroup, Playgroup, Bible studies and FRESH might be able to resume, as well as the way forward for food, kids church, communion and singing.

If you have other questions you would like answered, feel free to email Joshua (joshua@stpetersnightcliff.org) or Laura (laura@stpetersnightcliff.org) and we will address them on Sunday.

Thanks and blessings!

Coronavirus update #4: resources for ongoing growth

As Joshua, Jenny and I have talked and prayed about how best to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve been mindful of spending our time and energy on the things that make St Peter’s, St Peter’s. This means focussing on the Sunday livestream so we can continue to meet together, centred around God’s word. And we’ve also been keen to make sure everyone in our church family is connected with others. Please encourage each other by continuing to meet (virtually) in Bible study groups, and by checking in regularly with others. If you would like to join a Bible study group, please contact Joshua. 

As always, we want to help everyone grow in Jesus Christ. To that end, if you’re looking for more to read or do, we’ve put together a list of resources you can check out, organised by category. There is a lot of good content ‘out there’ to help us and we can benefit greatly from the work others have put in. Now, more than ever, we want to urge you to be deliberate about your spiritual growth, and the spiritual growth of those in your household. That said, feel free to skim or ignore these suggestions if you’re already feeling overloaded.

Lastly, our website continues to be the place to access the livestream and find the most up to date information about how church is functioning in the time of Coronavirus. Of course, none of these suggestions will be as helpful as reading your Bible and praying for our world and each other. Be assured also of our prayers for you, that we will all continue to grow in Jesus together. 

General resources:
– Use this time to start some theological study, check out Moore College PTC courses or Ridley online.
– Read a great article on what hospitality looks like at this time.
Watch a video about how what we’re experiencing at the moment is similar to culture shock.
– Seek help if you are experiencing domestic or family violence. Searches for domestic and family violence help increased by 75% in the last few weeks and no church community is immune. Please contact Laura or Joshua at any time for urgent support.
– Sign up for ‘church at home’ with the Bible Project (in English or Spanish) as a supplement to what we do on Sundays. 
– Enjoy Christian music online with EMU musicGetty music and Colin Buchanan
– Order Christian books online from Crossway, the Good Book Company and Matthias Media.
– Check out a bunch of Christian blog posts and articles at the Gospel Coalition Australia.

If you are married
– Check out a marriage course over 5 sessions you can do at home
Watch a video together of Keith and Sarah Condie (who run the above course), talking about marriage.

If you are single or living alone
– Read a helpful article about being alone but not lonely in the time of Covid-19.
– Join a Facebook community

If you have children
– Check out Colin Buchanan’s new ministry to kids (launching 6pm tomorrow).
– Download this Kids Read Truth Matthew devotional for free.
– Check out the Max7 website for a huge amount of free resources to use with kids, including in response to Covid-19.
– Purchase and use this ebook, specifically to help fathers read the Bible with their children.  

Coronovirus update #3: Pastoral Care Plan

Hello,

Thanks to so many who have been in touch since Sunday, to send encouragement about our first online services. It has also been wonderful to see church family caring for each other in many ways over the past week, and we encourage you to keep thinking creatively about how to do this. 

We are making plans for 3 levels of pastoral care: 

  1. How we care for those with specific needs,
  2. How all of us care for each other, and 
  3. How staff care for everyone. 

This email is primarily about the first aspect. 

How we care for those with specific needs

Thank you to those who have already offered to help others in need. Joy and David Brabham (jbrabham@bigpond.net.au / 0447 801 614) have agreed to coordinate this for our 9am congregation and Caleb Muggeridge (caleb.muggeridge@gmail.com / 0427 079 305) has agreed to do the same for 5pm. Their primary role will be receiving requests for help and offers of help, and connecting people.

Please get in touch with Joy and David or Caleb:

  • If you can provide emergency meals or if you need emergency meals. 
  • If you can grocery shop for someone who is unable to get to the supermarket, or if you need someone to grocery shop for you. 
  • If you can make a phone call to check in with someone and pray, or if you would like a phone call. 
  • If you have spare devices which we can offer those in need, if you are able to help connect devices to the internet and demonstrate how to use them, or if you need help getting or using a device in order to connect with church online. 

Note: in anticipation of our movements likely becoming more restricted in the coming weeks, we see the opportunity to provide technical help as a high priority. 

We have also decided to reactivate the St Peter’s prayer chain. If you would like to be part of this, please send your name and preferred phone number to Lynne Bigg (lbigg@bigpond.net.au / 0400 738 125). Being part of a prayer chain commits you to 4 actions: receiving a phone call, making a phone call, praying, and keeping the content confidential. Please contact Lynne with any prayer requests for the chain, whether or not you are a part of it. 

How all of us care for each other

In addition to caring for those with particular needs, we trust you will continue to look after each other and provide ways for others to connect with you. While a more formal system may be helpful in the future, we are thankful for an organic approach which already sees many calling, cooking, and checking in with each other. 

Please consider filming a short clip of you or your household for us to include in a supercut one Sunday. This might involve you simply saying hi, sharing a short encouragement or showing us how your household is coping with changed conditions. Please film in landscape mode and email to laura@stpetersnightcliff.org 🙂

How staff care for everyone

If you need help connecting with others in our church family, please reach out to myself or Joshua. It is our intention to contact every household in the church family in the near future, via a phone call from Josh or myself. We look forward to talking with you! 

That’s all for now. The website continues to be updated with the most recent information about services and additional ministries. 

Coronavirus update #2 – information for Sunday 22 March

By now you will be aware that we have made the decision to cancel our Sunday services at St Peter’s in response to the spread of the Covid-19 virus and in line with national guidelines. 

We know this is an uncertain time and many of us will be feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information we are consuming each day. We will endeavour to keep our essential communication as brief as possible, and direct you to the FAQs section of the website if you have further questions. 

What are we doing on Sunday?

This Sunday we plan to livestream a 9am and 5pm service. It will include prayers, Bible readings, a sermon, family news, parish council report and an interactive question / comment time. We have decided not to sing this week due to copyright and health concerns, though we intend to think creatively in the future about how to include music in our online gatherings. There will also be no Lord’s Supper this week.

Our plan is to start small and build on our livestream in the coming weeks and months. The model for our service will be similar to holiday church, where we are mindful of all ages being present. We trust you will be patient with us as we adapt to these changes and try out different ideas.

How do I access the livestream?

The livestream page of our website will have a link to our new YouTube channel.

If your present circumstances mean you will be unable to view this, please contact Joshua on 0421 235 055 or Laura on 0402 125 532 and we will help make arrangements for you. We expect to experience some teething issues as we all adapt to this new technology. If this happens to you on Sunday, please check our website for updates and an alternate plan to follow.

Who should I watch this with?

We encourage you to watch the livestream with other members of our church family. Our advice is to watch it with at least 1 extra person and no more than 10. We hope that households will watch it together and invite another group or some individuals to join them. See our website for suggestions about hygiene for those who host livestream gatherings.

Why should I watch it live?

While it may be possible to watch the service at a different time (or virtually join in with another church service happening around the world) we believe the experience of gathering ‘live’ with your St Peter’s family is of greater value. In these times of social distancing, relational bonds are increasingly important, and we encourage you to virtually lean in to your church family by setting aside the usual time you would attend church for viewing the livestream.

Our goal at St Peter’s continues to be to help everyone grow in Jesus. Our prayer is that we keep prioritising our Christian growth by valuing personal devotions, thinking creatively about disciple-making and evangelism and encouraging others in our church family. We recognise that caring for others in the present climate comes at a cost and we are all figuring this out together as events unfold. If you would like to offer to help with the many implications of these changes for our church family, please email admin@stpetersnightcliff.org

Coronavirus update 1

Sunday services are cancelled and will be livestreamed online

I’m writing to let you know that, in consultation with parish council and the health department, we’ve made the difficult decision that our Sunday services at St Peter’s will be cancelled and will instead be livestreamed online starting this Sunday.

I am concerned about the impact this will have on our church family and relationships, knowing there are even more unforeseen challenges ahead of us all. Many aspects of regular life can continue, and yet the threat of disease feels like it pervades everywhere and everything. I am optimistic that through this we will work harder at intentionally loving our neighbours better, whether from church, or in the broader Darwin community.

The Prime Minister’s updated guidelines this morning reinforced to me how quickly the situation is changing and the importance to do what we can to care for the vulnerable in our community. As you know, the coronavirus situation is developing rapidly and government guidelines and recommendations are constantly being updated. This is the first of many updates I expect to write to our church community at least weekly. The situation will be closely monitored and major decisions about our Sunday services will be reviewed at our next parish council meeting. The latest information will be on our website: www.stpetersnightcliff.org/coronavirus

Our Sunday services are deemed very high risk according to the NT department of health’s risk assessment tool. This is due to the combination of risk factors of those who attend: recent travellers, older adults, people from remote indigenous communities, and healthcare workers. It would be naïve at best, or negligent at worst, to continue to meet when it is a very high risk.

Playgroup will be suspended for the time being.

At this stage FRESH and youth group will continue, as they are lower risk activities according to the risk assessment tool, and are similar to a school situation. This decision will be reassessed if schools are closed, or if government recommendations change. There will be some changes and considerations to minimise other risk factors such as being outdoors, around food handling, and hygiene practises.

Bible study groups will need to each conduct their own risk assessment as the make up of the groups will dramatically impact the risk of still meeting.

As I’m sure you can appreciate, these are not easy decisions to come to, and it will have significant impacts for us.

Our Principles

Our goal remains to help everyone grow in Jesus Christ. This shapes the principles which lead to these decisions.

  • Everyone means caring for the vulnerable who come to church.
  • Everyone means caring for the carers who serve the broader community.
  • Everyone means all of us caring for one another.
  • As Christians we want to support and submit to our governing authorities.
  • Relationships matter, so we have the chance to be creative in how we continue to relate to others.
  • Each of us need to take personal responsibility for our response to this, and assess how we can care for others.
  • We are still convinced that the good news about Jesus matters for everyone, and the urgency to tell this good news shouldn’t decrease but increase.
  • Growing in Jesus Christ matters the most. We do this as we hear and respond to God’s word. How we hear it is secondary to that we hear it.

I know this news might raise many concerns for many of us. I certainly have more questions than answers right now. There are many questions that we don’t have answers to yet, but please get in touch with your concerns. I’ll be working on an FAQ style document to address these, and have some initial questions below.

How can we care for one another?

This situation provides us with many opportunities to practically care for others, in particular those who are self-isolating. Some suggestions include: picking up shopping, getting urgent supplies, collecting mail, talking to someone over the phone. So,

  • if you are willing and able to offer help in this way, please let me know.
  • if you have recently returned from travel interstate, can I strongly urge you to implement social distancing for two weeks?
  • if you have recently returned from travel overseas, please self-isolate in line with our government’s guidelines.
  • if you have any cold or flu symptoms, please stay at home and get well soon.
  • if you are staying at home for whatever reason, and would like some assistance, please let me know so we can put you in touch with someone who can help.
  • if you have time to be a co-ordinator to link up those who need help with those who can give it, I’d love to chat about how we can do this well.

What does Sunday look like?

Our recent sermon series on church defined church as ‘God’s people gathered together because of Jesus.’ So it’s important for us to work out how we can continue to meet together, even though it won’t be all together in one physical space.

There will be a livestream of a modified church service available online. We’re still working out all the technical details of this and will provide information for how to view it via email later this week and through our website and Facebook page. We want this to be interactive in some way, so that being part of this ‘live’ contributes to our meeting together, though physically apart.

I would like to encourage all who are not self-isolating to consider meeting with a few others to watch this together. The risks of meeting together in a smaller group are low, when you know everyone else in the room has not recently travelled and doesn’t include those in higher risk categories. This is another opportunity to care for others, maybe those who aren’t confident with technology, those who live alone, and/or those who would appreciate company.

If you are willing to host a livestream location, and for me to offer your place to others in your area, please let me know.

There is much which is uncertain about the future and yet we continue to trust our sovereign God. My prayer is that through the challenges and difficulties ahead, we might show love, grace and peace to one another in all we do.

Again, please get in touch if you:

  • have any questions or concerns,
  • are willing and able to help others who are self-isolating,
  • are able to host a livestream site,
  • have a video camera you could lend to church for a while, or
  • are in need of help or care in particular ways.