Diaconate newsletter, 21 June 2020
Reflecting on Covid-19
Three months ago, the world, including Australia, was in a state of uncertainty and fear, facing the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. We were watching disease and death in Italy and England, and awaiting our turn. And devastation spread around the world, with almost 8 million people infected, and 500,000 dying.
But God spared Australia. Few people were directly affected. For many people here, Covid was just an inconvenience. Why didn’t we suffer as much? There are many reasons, but in the end, it is not because we in Australia are more worthy people. It is by God’s grace that we have been saved from Covid. May we not forget the devastation of Covid from which we have been saved, and thank God for his generous mercies upon us.
Reflecting on church life
We are all now getting used to the new church life, with on-line services and other ministries. Many people have come to enjoy this format, which should be seen as a new and valid way to do church, not just a temporary inconvenience.
- Access to church life is better. Many non-Christian visitors have joined us for worship, as well as overseas family and friends. People also enjoy the convenience of worshiping from home.
- Preaching God’s Word by video is no less effective, with good use of multi-media and the ability to re-watch or pass on sermons.
- Caring for each other has been deeper and more deliberate, rather than incidental fellowship in a large group.
- Ministry involvement has changed, with some people able to take a break, and others step up in new ways.
- Offerings, given electronically, have become more deliberate, consistent and convenient.
So on-line church is valid and worthwhile, with unique opportunities for outreach. However, WSCCC maintains a priority to work towards on-site services again. Some important reasons include:
- Church body life and unity need to be expressed physically, reflective of God’s vision for his people getting together to worship in Revelation 7:9-10. Particularly encouraging is the ability to sing together as a congregation to our Lord.
- Our children and youth, in particular, need to have each other’s fellowship.
- Pastors. As our spiritual shepherds, we need to see our pastors, and they need to see us.
- Our local presence as a church is important in Strathfield and Croydon Park, as our witness to our neighbours, who may have no other contact with Christians.
- Returning to our spiritual home. Although just bricks, we view our church buildings as our spiritual home, where we hear God’s Word, worship together, and fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters. It is where we have spiritual stability.
When will we return to church on site?
Our church’s activities remain bound by NSW health regulations. Our priority is the health and welfare of our members and the wider community.
The main restriction for us is social distancing (4 sqm between people). This restricts us to no more than 40 people in Strathfield (hall or chapel), or 30 at Croydon Park (hall or chapel). Therefore we cannot resume Sunday services until this restriction is lifted. It may be some time before this is possible, therefore we encourage everyone to keep enjoying on-line worship.
It is important that we continue to have fellowship with each other and meet in person. With many social activities now allowed, perhaps you could consider worshiping together in groups at each others’ homes (we are allowed up to 20 visitors to your home). Of course, please practice the usual hygiene measures.
However, we will gradually re-introduce other activities back to church. All bookings must be approved by a pastor or deacon, and availability booked by Gigi. Note that there will be new strict hygiene processes at each activity or meeting:
|May||Staff return to site (gradual)|
|June 15||Committee meetings||40 (SF) or 25 (CP)|
|July 1||Small ministry group activities. For Strathfield: One group up to 40 orTwo groups up to 20 each.||40 (SF) or 25 (CP) Maximum 2 groups on site|
|August 1||Multiple ministry activities, or large groups split into several halls. Limited by 4sqm rule: SF: chapel (40), upper hall (40), lower hall (15), upper foyer (20), conference rooms (8), Sunday school rooms (4).CP: chapel (25), hall (25), Sunday school rooms (4).||Attendance limits as per 4sqm rule. Maximum 3 groups on site.|
|TBA||Sunday services, including Sunday School and youth (when social distancing rules lifted)||100+ in single hall TBA|
Important new hygiene measures
- Symptomatic people – please don’t attend the church building if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms, but go and be tested for Covid-19. Similarly, please stay home for 2 weeks if you have returned from overseas or been in contact with someone with Covid.
- Attendance record – by law, at each meeting, we must keep a written list of every attendee, their phone number and email address. Please sign in using the book at the church entrance.
- Temperatures – will be checked for all people on arrival at church.
- CovidSafe app – as recommended by the government, please download this app to your phone. It is particularly important for church gatherings, so that you can know if you have been exposed to Covid.
- Social distancing – seating must be set up with 4sqm between people. As per current NSW guidelines, there is to be no singing, handshaking or hugging.
- Sanitizer – please use hand sanitizer when entering the hall.
Church development plan (CDP) update
With the uncertainty effects of Covid on the church and society, the CDP was temporarily suspended in March. However, by God’s grace our church has continued our ministry, and the offerings have been maintained. Therefore the Diaconate is considering when to commence building the Croydon Park phase of the project. If we raise enough funds, we hope to sign the contract in the next 2 months, and start work the following month.
We need your help to give the building fund a special “boost” during the next 2 months to get us to the point where we can start the building work! If we can achieve this, then we can start building during this time of social restrictions. Therefore our next special bi-monthly CDP offering will be next Sunday, June 28th. Please consider giving towards this, in addition to your usual offerings.
We understand that for some people, Covid has affected your work and finances, so may not be able to give. However, for others you might be in a better position financially, as families are spending less on travel/holidays, eating out or entertainment. Whatever you decide in your heart, we encourage you to make this your offering to the Lord, perhaps as a thanksgiving for his mercies during the Covid crisis.
Another way to help the CDP start the building phase is to offer further interest-free loans to the church. This reduces the immediate shortfall and extends the time we have to raise funds for repayments. With bank interest rates currently negligible, it may be a good time for you to help out the church.
We would also like to acknowledge that there have been some generous members of the church who have given tens of thousands of dollars or more to the building fund, to establish God’s church for future generations. Their sacrifice and example honour the Lord and encourages the whole church.
Mission budget update
Our ministry of the gospel around the world continues with our partnership with our 10 missionary families: Kian Holik, Jonty & Beth Perrett, Peter & Kathryn Lau, Jacqui Ng, Alex & Naomi Fung, Matthew & Jennifer Lim, Andrew & Joanna Wong, Aaron & Amy Koh, Wayne & Angela Chen, and Phil & Irene Nicholson.
Thank you for your generosity in supporting our missions ministry. Our budget progress is:
- For 2019-20, we are on track to reach our budget of $232,000.
- For 2020-21, our budget will be $244,000.
Please continue to support our missionaries through encouragement, prayer and financial support. If you are already giving, please continue your support. If you do not already do so, it’s not too late to start! Please also sign up for each missionary family’s prayer letters.
Update on overall church finances
We thank God that he continues to provide for the church’s needs throughout the Covid period. Overall, the status is:
- The general fund is “just” keeping up with our needs, but short of budget.
- The mission fund is on track to reach its budget.
- The building fund requires $300k to fund the project completely.
We encourage you to make your offerings to the Lord in full knowledge of the needs of the church’s 3 funds. Please give in a “balanced” way, to each of the funds, as each has its different purpose, but all ultimately to minister the gospel and bring glory to God.
Thank you to all for setting up your electronic banking methods to give your offerings. We hope that this has been a helpful method for giving, as you can choose wisely how much you want to give, and to which fund. It is also convenient, as you can set up an automatic debit each week.
In the future, when church services return on site, we encourage you to continue electronic offerings, due to hygiene concerns when passing an offering bag. A reminder of the offering details:
Account number 482436244
Please continue to commit our church and the world to God in prayer:
- Pray for God’s continued healing upon the world as so many nations are devastated by Covid-19. Pray for a relief to suffering, healing for the sick, and repentance in the hearts of many.
- Thank God for his mercy in sparing us in Australia, and for those in our church. Pray that our government continues to exercise wisdom in deciding what is best for our community.
- Pray for our church’s perseverance with church on-line and for our preparation to return on-site. Pray that we will be patient and encourage one another through the transition.
- Pray for God’s hand upon our missionary families, that he sustain them in their ministries around the world. Pray that the people to whom they are ministering will respond to God’s good news of the gospel.
- Pray for God’s provision for our finances, particularly as we look to build the next stage of the CDP.