Diaconate newsletter, April
The Covid-19 crisis we face as a church is un-precedented in our lifetime. Never has there been a medical and economic challenge so widespread in our world. And so too, the global church has been transformed like never before in history. As we get used to our new church life, we will see some changes as tough, but others actually beneficial.
However, whilst church has changed, Christianity has not. God’s character, his promises, and the eternal hope of the gospel remain true and more relevant than ever. As we have just celebrated Easter, may we keep the cross of Christ and life with the risen Lord Jesus central in our faith, throughout all we encounter in life.
COVID-19 in the community
Since the Covid-19 pandemic was declared, we have seen tragic worldwide spread of disease and death. However, we thank God that Australia’s situation is amongst the best in the world. We have amongst the lowest infection and death rates, as well as a comprehensive medical response plan. Our government’s measures have been decisive, clear and effective. Social distancing rules have enabled Australia to reduce the spread of Covid-19 (“flatten the curve”). This results in a lower death rate.
However, the “flattened curve” also means that the course of the disease will be more prolonged. Social distancing restrictions may remain in place for more months to come. We need to get used to this lifestyle. We need to get used to “doing church” in our new ways indefinitely. And some of these new ways are better than before!
Our new church community
It has been wonderful to see how each congregation has been conducting its online services in different ways. Do have a look on our website at how our other congregations have been worshipping.
Some watch a video, others read the text, some do it alone, and others share it together. There are also great children’s ministry lessons prepared each week.
Thank you to all who have worked hard to produce these. The quality of productions improve every week! Clearly, God is continuing to speak to us in new ways.
Strathfield children’s Sunday School
Whilst we are all physically separated, it is important to maintain fellowship and unity as a church. Now that Sunday services are running, the leaders are working on ways to continue other ministry activities which are important for our spiritual lives. As fellow Christians, keep in contact with each other, encouraging each other on our spiritual journeys.
The leaders have been challenged to look forward to see how we can do church better permanently. Rather than look back seeking to replicate how we did things in the past, we are looking beyond the temporary inconvenience to introduce positive measures for the long-term.
Current church policy on COVID-19
Please note that our church is still bound by NSW regulations about public gatherings. Therefore we are still producing online Sunday services, and discourage groups from meeting in person. However, we definitely encourage groups to meet via online groups such as Zoom.
Our church buildings remain closed for most ministry activities, except recording of church services under strict conditions. Any other access to the church should be only by approval of the ministers.
What is God telling our church?
While we face a worldwide threat as serious as Covid-19, as Christians we might pause to reflect on what God might tell us as a church:
Trust in the sovereign Lord, our deliverer
He has delivered his people throughout history – from Old Testament times, the early church, plagues, schisms, reformation, and world wars. Through all of this, God’s people have prioritised worshiping Him.
Unify the church despite our separation
At this time of need, we need to be supporting one another and still seeing WSCCC as our spiritual home. Keep up fellowship, keep listening to sermons by our pastors, and keep up our offerings to support our missionaries and pastors.
Care for the new needy
We need to minister to a new group of people who have become needy because of social distancing:
- The elderly are particularly isolated – Many do not have internet access to join us for church. They also need help with shopping and other needs.
- Loss of income – Many people may lose their jobs, or lose income through the economic crisis.
- The sick and grieving – A significant percentage of the population will themselves catch Covid-19, and friends may pass away.
- Anxiety – The lack of social interaction can result in loneliness, as well as anxiety about the state of the world.
Shine a light in this dark world
Whilst the world seems hopeless, as Christians, we can declare that through Jesus, there is true eternal hope. More than ever, this is the time the world needs to know Jesus.
Update on church finances
With the change to online services, our members now need to make their offerings via electronic banking. In the long term, we believe this will be more intentional, convenient, hygienic and consistent. There are now two ways to give your offerings, and you can give to any of the three church funds (general, mission and building funds):
- Via secure credit card at: https://wsccc.org.au/giving/
- Via electronic bank transfers to the church accounts:
- General fund: BSB 082 080. Acc 48 243 6244. Name: WSCCC
- Mission fund: BSB 082 080. Acc 52 856 0495. Name: WSCCC
- Building fund: BSB 082 451. Acc 73 932 0475. Name: WSCCC.
God has provided for our needs during this difficult transition time. Attendances and offerings fell when the pandemic was declared, so now our challenge is to rebuild our church with online services and offerings. We encourage our members to continue to give to the Lord, as the church’s expenses also continue.
Building project (CDP) update
Because of the changes to the church and the uncertainty of the economy, the start of the building project at Croydon Park has been delayed. We will reassess the situation from August.
However, the Church Development Project is still going ahead! The architect has finalised his drawings, the engineers and consultants are working on details, and tender negotiations continue with the builder. Despite the delay, the vision for the CDP remains the same: to build our church for future generations, safe and adaptable for ministry and outreach of the gospel.
The total CDP budget has been revised, as we negotiate with the builder, account for the delays, and assess additional works (eg replacing the Croydon Park hall roof). Of this total, we need to raise a further $431,693. For those who are able, we ask you to consider continuing to give to the building fund, or offer further interest free loans.
Therefore we are continuing to make our bi-monthly Special Offering Appeals for the building fund, in addition to your regular giving. The next special offering will be on Sunday, April 26. This is for those who are able to give, and we understand that for many, this is a difficult time.
A few of our missionaries were due back for home assignment or had international teaching/training activities. Due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, almost all international travel has been cancelled. However, ministry has not stopped for them as they connect with people in their local communities and also transition to online forms of teaching/training. Please remember our WS missionaries in prayer and also encourage them using online methods. Some of them have been joining our online small groups and services.
- Give thanks to the Lord for his faithfulness to us throughout difficult times. Thank God especially that we are blessed to live in Australia, where Covid has been contained well.
- Pray for God’s mercy upon the world’s nations where Covid has struck severely. Pray for the sick, those grieving and the medical teams treating them.
- Pray for our world’s leaders who guide their nations through this crisis. Pray especially for wisdom for our Prime Minister and Premier.
- Pray for Christians around the world to be generous with their love for the needy, and to share the glorious hope of the gospel to this dark world.
- Pray for the perseverance of those serving the church – our pastors, deacons and brothers and sisters working hard to minister to us.
- Pray for God’s provision for the needs of our church. Give thanks for what we have, and ask for God to provide what we need.
- Pray for the ongoing ministries of our missionaries locally and globally, as well as their safety in their respective cities.