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Practical tips for restarting church

  • Pray for yourself and others as we navigate these changes to church.
  • Think and pray about who you will sit with/near in a pod. If you bring children/youth to church, talk with them about how church will be different, and what they can expect. Prepare them for more than 1 seating option, depending on what pods are available when you arrive. (For example, your whole household may be able to sit together, or you might split in half.)
  • If you are feeling unwell with cold or fever symptoms, please stay at home.
  • Expect church to be different. We won’t hand out pieces of paper, nor Bibles (unless you forgot yours). Words to say, pray and sing will be on the data projector screen. We won’t have water coolers or cups, but can give you a plastic water bottle if you forget yours. We won’t have food after the service, and Lord’s Supper will be done differently.
  • Bring a water bottle, a Bible and your own notebook (if needed).
  • Plan to arrive 10 minutes before we start, as many things will be new and different, and it might take longer than usual to get everybody sorted.
  • If desired, bring toys, activities or a mat for your child to enjoy within your pod.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands upon arrival.
  • Follow all guidelines given to you by the welcomers and staff.
  • If there’s a queue of people coming in, please stand on the dots.
  • As always, please greet and welcome one another to church. However, please refrain from handshakes, hugging, kissing or high-fiving people as you greet them.
  • Keep physical distancing in mind as you chat to others. Gently encourage those around you who forget.
  • Enter the main church space through the double doors toward the back.
  • Join a pod. Choose a corner seat to be 1.5m from everyone else in your pod or sit in the row of a pod with others you are comfortable with. Feel free to rearrange chairs within your pod, with others permission.
  • If you notice someone new, welcome them, invite them to join your pod.
  • As always, participate in every part of the service.
  • Engage with others in your pod when directed to.
  • Please ensure any children you are responsible for remain in their pod.
  • Use the cry room for changing or feeding, 1 household at a time.
  • Ask questions during the after-church chat.
  • Keep physical distancing in mind as you chat to others. Gently encourage those around you who forget.
  • Exit via the door near the kitchen/office, not the entry door.
  • Wait patiently to exit and avoid a bottleneck situation around the door.
  • Return any used Bibles to the used Bibles box.
  • Supervise your children if they use the play equipment.
  • If you’re in a great conversation, invite the other person/people to continue over food/coffee somewhere else.
  • Ask additional questions or pass on constructive feedback via email.

Restarting in 3 services

Because we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and the legal requirements for gathering size have changed.
(What if I stay home? Or we meet fortnightly? Or we keep live-streaming? What if it takes awhile for many people to come back to church?) We expect that physical distancing will be a requirement for some time and are convinced that we need to adapt to it rather than wait for it to pass. We want everyone who wants to come to St Peter’s, to do so. We don’t wish to turn anyone away from church on a Sunday or ask anyone not to come. We also don’t wish to be so full that we are unable to welcome visitors. In fact, this flies in the face of our desire to connect with our community to share the love of Christ. We also expect that while our services may start small, many people will return to church over the coming months, and we don’t wish to be forced to change again when that happens.

We want to simplify things in the short term, by which we mean the 7 Sundays between 7th June and 19th July, the end of school holidays.

We think it best if all 3 services are the same each Sunday, although one Sunday can differ from another. For the 7 weeks, we could work through a pattern of service plans along the lines of:

  •  1st Sunday of the month – Prayer book communion service
  • 2nd Sunday of the month – Contemporary service
  • 3rd Sunday of the month – Prayer book praise, prayer and proclamation service
  • 4th Sunday of the month – Contemporary service

In the short term, we will offer a livestream overflow in the Hart room and for this reason have decided not to have kids church until at least the start of Term 3. We have also decided not to have any food after each service for the time being.

In the longer term, as each service builds its own momentum and character, we can start to tweak things to love and care for the people who come to that service. People always matter more than programs, and this will impact decisions about kids church, music, liturgy, food etc.

As we prayerfully consider which service to attend, we want to remember our goal as a church to help everyone grow in Jesus Christ. Because we come to church for others, not just ourselves, this will shape the decision we make. You might consider:

  • Which service time would suit the friend(s) you want to invite to church?
  • Which service would enable you to serve others?
Once we have received the majority of responses (hopefully by 31 May) we be able to work out if the services are balanced, or whether one or more are overfull. Our expectation is we will need to follow some people up, beginning with those who have not responded, to suggest a particular service in order to balance numbers and demographics. In some cases, we may ask you to consider a particular timeslot due to your gifts or serving preferences.
We want to encourage everyone to choose one service and commit to it until the end of this year.
As we have been working towards teams ministry, we hope to have some people at each service who can serve in music, kids ministry, the service, and welcoming. In the short term, this could require some people serving more regularly than they previously did. It could also mean that some things change, e.g. moving to an optional creche room for parents and toddlers rather than a program with rostered volunteers. It could mean some things stop, e.g. food after services.
Part of the reason for our transition to teams ministry has been the desire to see people serving joyfully in one or two areas, instead of feeling stretched thin across a number of rosters. While we would love you to think about how you can serve significantly at the service you join, we also encourage you to recognise your limits and commit where you can joyfully serve Jesus and his people.

As the Lord allows, we intend to continue the three services at St Peter’s, even if physical distancing restrictions are lifted. This is in recognition of:

  • The likelihood that physical distancing restrictions will remain for some time during which we will develop new relationships, routines and opportunities in our 3 services.
  • Our desire that St Peter’s will continue to welcome people relocating to Darwin as well as those from within our community. Our physical spaces have been close to capacity for some time and we believe that an ongoing third service will better serve the growing needs and opportunities our church faces.
We’re still working out the details, but we want to make sure everyone who comes to St Pete’s feels welcome, and not make anyone feel more isolated. This means that we’re leaning toward ‘pods’ which are groups of chairs arranged in a square, delineated by masking tape on the floor. The 4 chairs in the corners of the square will be 1.5m apart, so anyone can sit in them. Some pods will have 6 seats (1 row of 4 and 2 in separate corners) which will allow larger household groups to sit together or invite another person or two to sit with them.

It’s true we could squeeze another 20 people in, depending on the configurations of those who attend. However, even fitting in 20 more people does not solve our problem, as it means there are a smaller group left out, not to mention that we can’t fit in any visitors or attenders who aren’t on the church roll (e.g. all our long grassers).

Any way we look at it, while physical distancing is necessary, neither the current 9am or 5pm services could fit in the church building.

We don’t want an overflow room to be a long-term part of church, so we need to run sufficient services to allow for minimal overflow. However, overflow will be necessary if every regular comes back to church and / or as we welcome newcomers and those who are not on the Elvanto roll.

There are downsides to increasing our overflow space by using the outdoor area, including weather, tech setup, shelter and noise from the open louvres of the church building and Hart room. As such, we hope to include most if not all people in the main church building, with a small overflow space available in the Hart room if necessary.

Given our emphasis on church being for everyone, we value being ‘all ages’ as much as possible. While we think it is wise for kids to have age-appropriate Bible time, we want them to be part of the rest of the service. Rather than keeping kids separate in order to fit more adults in, we would prefer to have smaller services which include people of all ages.

We want to distinguish between someone who makes a mistake, someone who feels a bit more lax about the boundaries than we might, and someone who deliberately breaks them. The first 2 instances require gentle correction. In the case of deliberate breaches, we will ask the person not to continue the behaviour. In the case of repeated deliberate breaches which ignore behaviour correction requests, we will ask the person to leave the property.

Physical distancing and good hygiene are like all our safe ministry requirements, designed for us to proactively care for others. We know this sometimes comes at personal cost.

It is our medium-term plan to continue a simplified version of the livestream for those who are unable to come physically to church. This will be different to the current livestream and we don’t intend for it to be a replacement for in-person church, except where circumstances make that necessary.

The new normal for church

The NT government's coronavirus website has the latest information about steps to restarting, including the roadmap to the new normal: coronavirus.nt.gov.au/steps-to-restart
The earliest date the church building can be reopened for activities is the 15th May, as part of stage 2 of the government's roadmap to the new normal.

At the moment, the stage 2 guidelines for businesses reopening require people to be 1.5m apart from other people not from the same household. The other guideline is 4sq m per person in the whole space, if people are moving around. This will limit our main church building to 64 people. Giving our recent attendance figures, we would therefore need to start a third service.

However, we've been advised that stage 3 of the roadmap might outline more relevant guidelines for seating arrangements as it includes cinemas, entertainment venues, and sports stadiums etc. We're hoping this would allow us to fit more people into the building, and not require the rushed start of a third service.

Therefore, we're going to wait until we see the stage 3 guidelines, to be released on the 18th May, hoping that there will be less disruption to our Sunday services.

This means we are currently planning to restart Sunday services on Sunday 7th June.

Bible study groups are able to meet in people's homes face to face already, under stage 1 of the roadmap. Each group will need to consider how to practise appropriate physical distancing, hygiene practices, and the concerns of each member of the group.

Those groups that meet in the church building will have to wait until after stage 2 (15th May), before they are able to meet on the church property.

Before any activity can restart, we'll need to review numerous aspects of it to ensure we comply with the guidelines around personal & community responsibility, physical distancing, hygiene practises, and communication. In order to do this well, we have decided that playgroup and FRESH will restart at the beginning of Term 3 at the earliest. Youth group has currently been meeting online, and youth leaders will get in touch when we've planned for their return to Friday nights at church. The earliest this can be is the 15th May, but it could be later.

The stage 2 guidelines require people to be 1.5m apart from other people. The exceptions to this are people from the same household, or people in the same group/party at a restaurant/cafe.

We do not expect children to have to sit on their own during a Sunday service.

We also don't want those who already feel the isolation of living alone, or who attend church on their own, to have those feelings amplified when they come to church.

At this stage we're still thinking of creative ways to show love, care, and generosity to everyone who will come to any of our Sunday services. Please share any ideas you have with Joshua and Laura.

No. Our meeting together will be different as we follow the guidelines of personal responsibility, physical distancing and hygiene practices.

We're currently thinking through the many aspects of a Sunday service that will need to be adapted, and would appreciate your input also.

Some questions we want to answer include:
  • Where should welcomers greet people who arrive to church?
  • Should all doors and louvres remain open throughout our services?
  • What signs do we need to communicate how many people can come to church and what our expectations of personal responsibility, physical distancing and good hygiene looks like?
  • How do we communicate this well to children, to those who have English as a second language, to those who are new to St Peter's and don't get our email updates?
  • Should we hand out Bibles to everyone, or encourage people to bring their own?
  • How should we distribute Bibles, and wipe them down?
  • Should we hand out any pieces of paper at all?
  • What needs to be regularly said as part of our welcome/introduction/housekeeping instructions?
  • What should/could we do when people are in breach of our expectations?
  • How many people can fit in the cry room at any point?
  • What cleaning do we need to do before, during and after each service?
  • How do we do the greeting of the peace?
  • Should we distribute communion differently?
  • etc etc.

The livestream was set up when we couldn't meet together physically. We have realised that some people have appreciated joining our livestream who haven't been able to come to the church building for various reasons.

We recognise that some people who are in places where their local church isn't able to produce a livestream have also appreciated it.

At this stage we don't expect it to be a long term feature of our church, but will do intend to continue it in a simplified way for a short term after we return to meeting together. This could be a video camera showing everything at the front of the building and an insert to the PPT slides in the corner.

Online resources

If you're feeling the lack of singing songs each Sunday, check out EMU musicGetty music and Colin Buchanan. Though Colin has lots of great kids music, he has also released the first of his 'lockdown hymns' - To God be the Glory.
  • Please get in touch if you need help or assistance. 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.
  • 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.


A livestream is a video feed of what is happening at church. We’re planning to have a video of whoever is at the front, and some way of putting the words to our creed and prayers on the screen.
We are expecting to livestream 9am and 5pm services via the Youtube link. 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.

This is new to all of us and I trust you will be gracious and understanding toward your own computer if it frustrates you, and to those working to make this happen if it fails on the day. On Sunday, the best place for an update is our website.

In the absence of a livestream we recommend you read the passages that are being read and preached, and discuss the following questions with others in your household, or over the phone, before praying together:

  • What does this teach us about God?
  • What does this teach us about Jesus?
  • What does this teach us about ourselves?
  • What does this remind us about how to be saved?

The preaching roster is below:

Our live-streamed services include prayers, Bible readings, a sermon, family news, a kids spot and 1-2 songs!
Corporate responses will be visible on the screen at the appropriate times.

At the moment we are not partaking in the Lord's Supper together.

Our prayer book service for ministry with the sick has the notes, ‘If for good reason it is not possible for the sick person to receive the sacrament, the minister shall give assurance that all who repent of their sins, trust in Christ, and celebrate his saving work with grateful thanks, truly eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, even though the bread may not have been eaten, or the wine drunk.’ While we are not all sick, but for reasons of sickness are unable to receive the Lord’s Supper, our assurance also lies in our faith in Jesus Christ.

Our staff team have given priority to reviewing our contact lists to make sure we get in touch with as many people as possible, including those who do not have email addresses. That said, please feel free to pass on this news and information to anyone you know.
We have decided to keep the video available for 1 week after the livestream, so as each new week is uploaded the old services will be removed.
Please comply with our government restrictions on social gatherings with one household plus one other.