COVID-19 and services
Dear SJPBC family,
With the recent news, both locally and globally of COVID-19 or the coronavirus, there is an obvious concern on all of our minds how to deal with this – especially as it concerns our Sunday gatherings, even the Saturday conference coming up. As I said on Sunday, we do not want to be cavalier in this and throw caution to the wind and yet we know better than to be hysterical about it either. So, please read the following which is intended to give some pastoral as well as practical advice moving forward.
First of all, there are a number of good blogposts and articles out there that bring clarity (and calm!) to the whole issue. I am sure you have done your own reading, but the following I have found very helpful. Perhaps, the most helpful are the words of Martin Luther who ministered to his people in the midst of the deadly plague of the 16th century. Luther wrote a letter articulating his thoughts that has been subsequently titled, “Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague”. The whole piece is attached for your reading – which is recommended!
- To break down some of Luther’s very sensible and sober advice, I would encourage you to read this post by Andrew Davis:
When the Deadly Outbreak Comes: Counsel from Martin Luther
- Bill Muehlenberg helps us see historically how the gospel flourishes in these kind of times:
Coronavirus, Christianity, History and Faith
- From a medical point of view, I found this post on the Answers in Genesis website helpful:
Coronavirus: A Biblical & Practical Perspective
- Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman from 9Marks give practical advice here:
Quick Take: What Should Churches Do About Coronavirus?
- Finally, Erwin Lutzer and Paul Tautges give us some brief devotional thoughts to help worried minds:
Anxiety, Coronavirus, and the Promises of God
Now, moving on from helping you think biblically about the virus, let’s lay out some practical things we can do to care for each other and our wider community, especially those who are most vulnerable.
At this point, there has been no governmental bans on public meetings of less than 500, as such we will be going ahead this week with our Saturday conference and with our Sunday services. If there is any change, we will update you right-away.
Yet, in light of the advice from NSW Health, we’ve also decided to put some protective measures in place at all our church gatherings. We encourage you to read the following so that you are prepared.
What We Recommend (Before Church):
- If you, or anyone that you’ve been in close contact with has recently returned from overseas, we would ask that you to stay home for at least 14 days after you, or the person you have been in close contact with has returned from Australia.
- If you or your children are experiencing any symptoms like shortness of breath, fever, cough or cold, we would ask that you to stay home and call your GP before seeking medical attention. In short, stay away if you have any flu-like symptoms!
What We Recommend (At Church):
- Upon arrival to church, please ensure that you either a) wash your hands with soap or b) use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which we will try to get and place them at all doors and particular locations around the church.
- Children who will be in creche are to have their hands washed or “sanitized” prior to being signed in.
- During church, we recommend that physical contact is minimised, e.g. shaking hands, kissing, hugging, high-fiving or other forms of embrace. This is in line with advice from NSW Health.
- All food and hot drinks (i.e. coffee or tea) will be served by servers who have washed hands and are wearing gloves. Additionally, they will also pour the milk and add the sugar to avoid common handling of the hot water dispenser, spoons, milk and sugar.
- We will no longer be doing an offertory during the services. Instead we will have an offering box at the back of the church for those who would like to continue giving to support our ministry. Alternatively we would encourage people to give electronically by direct debit.
- Furthermore, to provide for those who are sick or vulnerable and unable to join us on Sundays we will be looking to livestream our morning Sunday Service. Our media team will be looking into getting this up and running over the next two weeks, and we will let you know which online media platform we will be using. We are aware that it won’t be perfect, but we hope it will serve those unable to attend.
Obviously, we do not want people to panic (Phil 4:6). We believe that Christians are to have an earnest hope which reflects us differently than those who do not have such hope. We trust in God’s sovereignty and know that we are to trust in Him through all circumstances (Matt 6:34; Rom 8:28-29), as such we should continue to meet as God has instructed His people to do on the day He has allotted (Heb 10:25). We can be assured that throughout such times, that the love of the Father is constantly upon His children. However, we also need to be considerate and loving towards our brethren.
Therefore, we encourage everyone who calls St Johns Park Baptist Church their home, to please follow the above recommendations.
In closing, this is a good reminder to all of us that we live in an uncertain world and our confidence and trust is only found in the sovereignty of God. God reigns over everything and has predetermined that which is good for all of us within His kingdom (Romans 8:28–32). This is also an opportunity to encourage and strengthen the people of God as well as an opening for the gospel in our community. For those of you who may be anxious, remember the words of Isaiah to trust in the Lord: “The steadfast of mind you will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
For the Master,
Todd (on behalf of Shane, Bill, and Petaia)