As we prepare to re-open our buildings and find new ways of gathering together, the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania have a team of people working on providing advice to congregations about how to proceed.
I encourage everyone involved in Ministry and Mission at St Luke’s to become familiar with these regular updates so that any face to face gathering you are involved in is organised in a way that will keep all participants safe.
This weekly update can be found on the Synod Website here and is updated every Thursday. There is a pastoral letter for the moderator at the beginning of the update linked below which I encourage you to read:
Currently Church Council is working through a recovery checklist to ensure that we are ready to safely open the buildings again. The areas we must consider include:
- How to limit attendance numbers to the maximum 20 people and whether to allow non-members to attend
- Whether attendance by people (including Ministers) in any of the vulnerable groups should be discouraged
- How to ensure that persons who are unwell do not attend
- How to ensure social distancing is maintained, including on entering and exiting the building
- What changes to worship will be required to ensure the safety of all attendees, including eliminating/minimising the touching of shared items (eg microphones, books, pulpits, collection plates)
- How to ensure personal hygiene and building cleanliness meet minimum standards. See new Safework Australia guide linked to Recovery Checklist at: https://victas.uca.org.au/ download/668/faq/8852/recovery-actonplan-checklist
- Ensuring that bathrooms are properly provisioned with soap, disposable handtowels and sanitiser
- What signage may be required to ensure the observance of all measures by attendees at all times
- How to maintain a record of all people who attend, including contact details, and
- How you will respond to unwell people attending, and attendees with suspected/ confirmed Covid-19
As you can appreciate, some of these are tricky issues to address. For now, we have set up a station in the foyer where we ask everyone attending the building to sanitise their hands and sign in and out of the building. This is so that we can contact anyone who may have been potentially exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 as soon as we are made aware.
Posters have been placed around the building advising people on the steps we must take to keep everyone safe while we are in the building. We will keep you advised of other measures as we put them in place.
If you wish to use the St Luke’s buildings to meet or for other church business, please contact Robyn to arrange booking the space and to receive any further information you will need to host the activity safely.
Grace and Peace to you all,
Grace to you and peace in these strange and, let’s be honest, worrying times.
For most of us the things that used to mark the rhythm of the week have been stopped: no longer can we go to the local cafe on Monday mornings to meet friends, nor can we gather on Sunday for worship.
Even going shopping which once was a necessary chore has become a stressful experience.
Of course, there are some blessings.
People are making an effort to keep in touch via the telephone or online technology. I have heard lots of stories about this taking place amongst the members of this congregation.
Suddenly there is space in week which to catch up with matters which for too long have sat on the “we will get around to that one day” list. At the Stephens’ residence I have finally tidied out the garage and Jenny has found a couple of unfinished craft projects that she now has the time to complete.
We are in Lent … a time for spiritual renewal.
The enforced isolation creates more time to reflect and pray; to tend to the care of our souls.
Perhaps you might seek to be more intentional about reading the Bible each day using a resource like With love to the world.
St Luke’s will be offering resources online and via other means.
On Wednesday evenings at 6 pm we will hold a short prayer time which will be accessible via the St Luke’s Facebook Group. There will be an opportunity to share prayer requests at this time online, but even if you are not technologically savvy why not commit to praying at this time each week as a sign of being one in Christ.
We are also exploring how we might do a version of small group gatherings online or via linked phone calls.
I am concerned that we hold all those who are offering direct assistance to those who are ill or in need in our prayers, as well as all those who find themselves without an income because their source of employment has been forced to close, and those employers who have had to make the very difficult decision to stand people down.
We should not forget the work of “Uniting” in our region as Des Younghusband and his team seek to support those who even in the best of times struggle to put food on the table.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need someone to talk to.
Blessings to you in the name of Christ,
Please find below a pastoral letter and prayers amidst the bushfires from Synod of Victoria and Tasmania Moderator Rev Denise Liersch:
Dear friends in Christ,
As the fires keep raging across the east and north east of Victoria, I invite us all to keep the people and communities of those regions in our minds, hearts and prayers.
Amidst the unprecedented intensity, veracity and destructive force of these fires, and the heartbreak they are bringing to so many, we are receiving messages and prayers of support, love and concern from across the life of the Church.
These have come from the President of the Uniting Church, Deidre Palmer, from the Moderators of other Synods who are facing their own devastating bushfires, and even from the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches.
When one member of the body is suffering, the whole body suffers with it, as we care for one another. We keep in our prayers the communities of New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia currently facing fires, and those in Queensland so recently affected.
Together we are bringing our prayers and support for those who have died; for those who have lost loved ones, their homes and livelihoods, animals and pets; for those who don’t know if loved ones are safe or not; for those who don’t know if they have homes to go back to or what the future holds for them.
We are praying for those who are fighting the fires, risking their own lives, leaving behind family and work and forgoing income, out of a commitment to protect others and our unique bush land and wildlife.
We are praying for community leaders and the myriad of volunteers donating their time, food, feed for livestock, and other items … to support firefighters and those in evacuation and relief centres.
We are grateful for the untiring dedication of those working behind the scenes in planning, logistics, supplies, transport, the Red Cross and other relief organisations.
We are grateful for those who are calming children, caring for vulnerable older ones, and soothing angry and distressed ones.
We are grateful for those who are caring for injured and homeless wildlife. Human kindness is being seen all around, as people open their hearts and homes to give of their own possessions and time to support neighbours, friends and strangers. The generosity and hospitality of so many is astounding.
We are thankful for the care, concern, leadership and service being offered by Emergency Chaplains, ministers and so many members of our Church communities in the middle of this crisis. They have brought spiritual and practical support in the form of clothes and food, and teams are already organising to commence repairs to damaged fences and properties.
From news received so far, those of our Church communities in affected areas are safe, though some have suffered damage to properties and many have evacuated. The situation is fast-changing. As needs become clearer, the ways in which further help might be offered will also become clearer.
We are in the middle of the season of Christmas and Epiphany. It is at this time that we mark the visit of a few wise strangers who recognise Emmanuel, God-with-is, present in a vulnerable child, born into a situation of threat to human existence.
In these times, we are acutely aware of the very real threat to vulnerable communities and environments from the effects of climate change, not least through drought, extremes of weather and devastating bushfire.
As we tackle questions of climate change, we recognise the influence of our own human activity … or inactivity. Amidst the threat to human life and to our unique environment and wildlife, may we see where God is with us in a different way of living: in generosity, hospitality and compassion for the people and world God loves.
May the God who walks with us, give us the strength, courage and hope we need, now and continuing over these coming days.
May the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, fill your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Grace and Peace,
Rev Denise Liersch
If you wish to help those affected by fires please consider donating to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.
@VCCEmergencies providing up to 35 Chaplains a day across the fire affected areas of East Gippsland plus 9 vols and staff in our EOC each day. Remarkable effort and thank you. @PHUGGINS4 @BishopComensoli @ShaneABaxter @ABFreier @CommissionerEMV @vicemergency @VicGovRecovery pic.twitter.com/oZWPgWomyn
— VCC Emergencies Ministry (@VCCEmergencies) December 31, 2019