“We are facing tough financial moments now as [we have] no group meetings, nowhere to take our goat or chicken since the markets are closed and the hotels too. We are just praying to God to help the situation pass so that life goes back to normal,” says Christine, a member of the Anglican Development Services, Eastern (ADSE). This story about the Anglican Board of Mission’s work with one of its partners in Kenya provides a typical picture of how COVID-19 is affecting people in many poorer countries of the world, and what action people are taking to deal with the challenges. It shows the value of working long-term with communities to develop relationships of trust, and strong community structures. [Read the article here](https://anglicanfocus.org.au/2020/06/09/communities-coming-together-to-fight-covid-19-in-kenya/).
A few months ago, we turned upside down the way we gathered and worshipped. It all happened in a very short period requiring very long hours for some. It took us some weeks to adjust to the new way of being. We are now working towards being together in gathered worship again. It too has many challenges, particularly as our circumstances change.
For example, we all remain concerned about increasing cases of infection in Victoria. At the same time today, there is some discussion of smaller venues being able to double the number of people able to gather at one time.
I am aware that there is some keen for us to return to gathered worship. I continue to ask for your patience as we make deliberate and careful preparations for an expected return in mid-July. At this stage, we continue to consider how we will ensure compliance with State Health Directives and the care for the more vulnerable in our church. It is possible that when we start, we will hold only one service on a Sunday and one service on a Wednesday.
On Friday we held the funeral of Dorothy Marsden in St David's. Dorothy was much loved by her family, her friends at St David's and the Ipswich Girl's Grammar School community. At 101 years old, there was much to celebrate about her life. She was committed to her family, friends, school and church. It was the first live-streamed funeral that I have celebrated at St David's and is still available for viewing through our website.
On Monday we will also host the funeral Beryl Erskine. Beryl's family are strongly connected to the life of our church. A number of her Great Grandchildren have been preparing for their first communion at St David's this year. This funeral can also be viewed via a link provided on our website.
These funerals have provided us with an opportunity to test the seating arrangements in our church to suit a limit of 40 people. To do this, we have moved all the pews from the body of the church. These pews are now stored in the old Sanctuary in the western end of the church. We have then placed forty individual chairs for seating 1.5m apart. This just one part of the necessary restrictions we will be asked to follow when we return to gathered worship.
“In contrast to the BCA, which does not support rural ministry in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland, the BMF only supports rural ministry in parishes of our Diocese and gives at least 98 per cent of all money donated to support rural ministry,” says Bishop Cam Venables, as he updates us on the BMF’s vital ministry.
[Read the full article here.](https://anglicanfocus.org.au/2020/06/19/bush-ministry-fund-news/)
Are you wondering why 2000 people can attend a football match this weekend, but we are not gathering for worship as yet? Can I particularly name the loneliness that many are feeling from the loss of the essential caring relationships that are nurtured when we meet together regularly?
We are in an uncertain environment where we have got used to sudden changes of directions from our civil leaders. They too are responding to the information they have at hand at any one time. We decided some weeks back that we were best preparing ourselves to return to gathered worship when the next level of restrictions is proposed to be eased in Queensland that is currently set for 10 July.
Current restrictions mean that no more than 20 people can attend an indoor religious gathering; excepting funerals. Even when we return to worship, many limitations will make what we do feel strange; I wrote about these[last week](https://www.stdavidschelmer.com.au/news/we-are-well-placed-june-14).
The parallel I made with the football codes is a reminder of one of our main challenges. The footy already has a hybrid model of participation. Although 2000 might turn up in a large outdoor stadium, many more will watch from home. It is our desire that when we return to gathered worship, we continue to provide a connection with those who remain isolated and at risk. We can't manage all of what we are doing now as well as go back to gathered worship. For this to be possible, what we do together in St David's must also form the basis of what we share. This new hybrid model will require some logistical and technological planning to implement live streaming of our worship. We also need to consider how we can increase our connection with some beyond the regular telephone call.
We are committed to finding ways of moving closer to God and to each other that lead to abundant life. Return to gathered worship will be one part of this as we also consider how we offer care to those in need, service to the community and grow deeper in our faith. I continue to think we are well placed to meet these new challenges with God's help. I pray that you will continue to find your place in Church as together we commit ourselves to live and share God's love found in Jesus Christ.
“Might this culture of publicly saying ‘thank you’ be something that remains once COVID-19 passes. What would our world look like if such grateful messages endure beyond this time,” says Bishop John Roundhill on a new culture of gratitude he has seen emerging.
Read more from the link below
It is a bit of a struggle to feel properly connected as a church at the moment. Usually, on a Sunday, we can connect with between 50 to 70 people. Those encounters may be no more than a smile and handshake at the door, but they are significant to feel belonging. Despite best intentions, there is little we can do that adequately replaces this vital connection that comes when we gather face to face.
Life is taking some small steps forward towards renewing our connection to God and one another. There is still some way to go, but I hope the following information might help you see how we continue to be working to meet the challenges that are before us.
- Preparing for Gathered Worship
Current restrictions in Queensland allow for up to 20 people to gather for worship. At this stage, we are choosing to work towards a mid-July date when we think we will be able to have up to 40 people gathered in St David's at one time. We know when we return, we will need to be ready to continue to provide for those unable to join face to face. There are some logistical and technical challenges we are working on, and this time allows us to get prepared.
When we return, it appears that we will still need to implement physical distancing practices. These will include no gathering before or after the service, use of hand sanitiser, communion with bread only, registration before attending and potentially no communal singing.
I applaud those of you who are finding ways of gathering in smaller groups in private homes to share worship. I think with the current limitations that this might provide a more satisfying sense of community for some to consider. Perhaps you might let me know if you are interested in this option.
- Crows Nest
We continue to partner with Crows Nest Parish as we seek to support one another in our shared mission. This week I was able to help them from a technological perspective to allow their Parish Council to meet for the first time in some months. They continue to express gratitude for the partnership, particularly in recent times. It is worth noting that the Crows Nest parish has provided financial support to help make our new website and phone app possible.
- Parish Building Project
This week saw the completion of the demolition work to remove the Tennis Court. You will notice in the photographs the care that has been given to protect the Pine Tree, which is some 150 years old. Further work will be done in the coming months to connect utilities to the blocks in preparation for sale.
We are certainly hoping to be engaging builders to complete the internal refurbishment and necessary maintenance work in St David's later this year.
- Memorial Hall Use
We have several community groups preparing to begin using our Memorial Hall as soon as possible. There continue to be strict guidelines and practices to be put in place to make this possible.
- Sale of Pews
We have begun to sell some of the pews that were removed from the Church. These pews were approved for removal by the Archbishop as part of the reconfiguration. A period of advertising to promote their sale concluded at the end of March. This period provided an opportunity for people to show interest in purchasing one of 20 pews available. At this stage, about half of these pews remain available for sale at $400 each.
Updated 2pm 5 June
It feels like the last week has moved very quickly. A lot is happening around us, and it seems to change daily. This last week is a reminder of why it is essential to be ready to adapt and respond as a church as we seek to move closer to God and move closer to each other for an abundant life.
I want to update you on some parish news as we seek to respond to the changing environment.
- Parish Building Project
We continue to meet with representatives for the Diocesan property team to move forward the refurbishment of the Western end of the Church. This project also includes the necessary repairs and maintenance to care for this precious building.
The slow processing of approvals through Brisbane City Council has delayed the removal of the Tennis court. These approvals are now in place, and the contractors have begun removal today.
- Memorial Hall Use
We are working with tenants who regularly use the Memorial Hall to return to some limited use. At this stage, the Hall can be used for groups up to 20 people. There are strict guidelines for this use and practices we need to set in place before each tenant can begin. We expect that some tenants will return to regular use in the coming weeks.
As the current guidelines stand when we return to face to face worship, there will be several restrictions on us.
a. Those attending worship will be required to register before attending,
b. we think the churches capacity will be 40 people
c. we are required to set up physical distancing in seating and movement
d. family groups will also be required to maintain physical distancing (updated - this has been changed and is no longer required)
e. communal singing will not be allowed.
f. communion in one kind will be possible
g. we will need to implement extra cleaning between services
h. those who remain in higher-risk categories are discouraged from participating.
As you can see, these restrictions are onerous and may make a return to worship very strange and unwelcoming. We continue to work through our response as well as continuing to maintain worshipping opportunities for those who cannot attend.
I am grateful for the work of our Wardens and administrative staff who continue to actively work on our behalf in responding to each circumstance as they arise.
“Violent, stormy waters that threaten to overwhelm and even to extinguish life is a recurring motif in the scriptures. From the darkness covering the face of the deep and the unformed chaos in the opening verses of Genesis, to Jesus asleep in the storm-tossed boat in the gospels, untamed, raging waters evoke potent fear in human beings,” says Archbishop Phillip Aspinall in his Week of Prayer for Christian Unity homily. Read more from link below.
When will St David's Chruch be open for public worship again?
This question seems to be what many are interested in getting a straight forward answer. The most straightforward response is that we aim to be ready to hold public worship in mid-July.
The Queensland Government has set out in "Roadmap to easing restrictions" a three-stage process. We move to stage two on 12 June and stage 3 on 10 July. Under the current guidelines, public worship can go ahead under limited circumstances.
We have recently received notification from the Archbishop that "It might be possible for parishes to return to some form of gathered worship" in stage 2. In this circumstance, congregations are limited to no more than 20 people, and people will need to "register" to attend. When the 21st person arrives, they will not be allowed to join. Full participation in Communion remains suspended, and it would seem there will be significant limitations for some time ahead. You will have also heard in the media question about practices such as communal singing, etc.. The wardens and I believe that the requirements to proceed in stage two prevent us from offering public worship during this period.
We do believe that we can begin to offer public worship again following the stage three easing of restrictions on 10 July. Under these guidelines, we can have up to 100 people gathered for public worship following further strict guidelines. There is much for us to do before this date in preparation for us to meet the new context we will face. The following are just some of what is shaping our thoughts in preparation.
- Things will not just return to how they were. Perhaps the most obvious example is the need to provide worship both online and for those in the church. Many of our congregations will remain at risk and will not be encouraged to join gatherings with others.
- Some of those who would generally help lead worship will be in at-risk categories.
- The government may need to impose higher restrictions again if there are further infections in the community.
- We are preparing our church to meet hygiene and physical distancing guidelines.
- We are preparing our church for the necessary technical capabilities to stream worship.
- We continue to seek creative ways to keep our commitment to being a caring community as well as grow in our faith.
- What we choose to do from mid-July needs to be sustainable both within our human and physical resources.
We are well placed to meet these challenges. We are blessed with committed and capable people who partner with me in leading this parish. We remain committed to finding ways to move closer to God and one another that lead to abundant life.