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 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.