In-Person services resume at 10am and 5pm on January 17. Find out more here.
Restarting In-Person Services
At the Parish Council meeting on Tuesday 8th December, we discussed restarting in-person services. It was decided that we would do this starting from 17th January 2021. Some people will be frustrated that this is still some time away. We understand and acknowledge this. So why are we waiting until this date to restart? The rationale for our decision can be framed in terms of both principles and pragmatics.
Why are we waiting a month to restart?
As the staff have been preparing over the last few months for the inevitable easing of restrictions we have discussed principles that we feel are important for decision making. These are:
- Gathering in-person for worship services is important, valuable and desirable
- We need to comply with government and diocesan directives
- We want to prioritise safety especially for the most vulnerable
- We should include everyone when we come back and not only a select group. We want church to be a public gathering, to not turn people away, so that everyone who wants to come can come.
- We need to care for volunteers and staff through a reasonable workload
- We should be strategic in our restarting and have the long-term future in mind
- We should be willing to be flexible, creative and experimental in response to new trends, congregational needs, and ongoing COVID impact
The main pragmatic issue affecting this decision is the timing, that we are two weeks out from Christmas. We had to make a decision months ago to commit to digital Christmas services and even the easing of restrictions would not allow the accommodation of our large Christmas congregation sizes. We have invested hundreds of hours into producing the Community Carols for 13th December. It promises to be one of the largest carols events in Melbourne this year. We will also be running 4 other Christmas services.
Secondly, after Christmas, a number of staff (including Tim Johnson and Julie Smith) will be taking leave. Parish Council was committed to allowing staff to take leave to rest and refresh and did not think it reasonable to ask staff to defer leave in order to restart services sooner.
Finally, there will be lots to organise in terms of the logistics of running COVIDSafe in-person services and we want to do this safely and well.
What will services look like when we return?
The advice seems to be changing weekly at the moment so it is hard to predict fully but from what we currently know we expect the following:
- Registering for church as we need complete electronic records for all attendees
- We need to have a seating plan and processes that ensure maintaining social distancing
- Singing needs to be kept to a minimum and can only be done with masks
- The common cup cannot be used for communion
- After service hospitality will need to be radically changed or paused for a period
In order to accommodate our large congregations and follow safety regulations we also need to implement the following changes for the initial restart at least:
- All services will be held at St John’s as it is the most suitable site under COVID conditions because of its size and facilities. It makes safety, cleaning and workload more manageable.
- We will need to change the times for services to allow for multiple services and adequate. People may need to attend church at a different time of day than usual so that we can all be accommodated.
The service/s on 17th January will be a trial run and we aim to refine our procedures in light of how things have run. At this stage we are planning to build up to running 3 services at St John’s at 8am, 10am and 5pm and run these through February 2021. However, Parish Council will be reviewing this plan in light of current health advice.
We will continue to produce a weekly digital service in addition to the in-person services.
What can I do?
Thank you for your patience and encouragement over what has been an incredibly tough year for us all. Please keep praying for wisdom for our leadership teams as we seek to implement these plans. Many of you will also be asking how you can help to implement these plans and we do lots of volunteer assistance to make this happen as we need to form COVIDSafe teams to register people, usher them to seating in order to maintain social distancing, and clean thoroughly after every service. If you are willing and able to help please connect with us at the Info Hub.
Thank you again for your patience and understanding in this. Please take every opportunity to gather together now in parks, restaurants and homes and to invite people to join you for the upcoming Christmas celebrations. Praise God for his son Jesus our Saviour whose birth we will be celebrating.
In all this we are guided by our church mission Know Jesus. Make Jesus Known. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus and seek to deepen our love and knowledge of him. Let’s continue to share him with others by word and action, in everyone area of our lives.
Your servant in Christ
As we look to COVID-Normal, Tim, Kirk, Julie and Andy provide an update on our response and thinking around restarting on-site services.
With Stage 3 restrictions returning at 11:59pm on July 8, Kirk provides an update on what we’re doing.
Following our Parish Council meeting on June 16, Tim provides an update on Life Groups meeting in person, and what that would entail.
As restrictions ease across our state, Tim provides an update and our view forward – that services will remain online for some time, and our priority is to enable life groups to meet together safely in person soon.
On Tuesday, March 17, our Parish Council voted unanimously to suspend all Sunday gatherings. We’re taking measures to protect our community, and “flatten the curve”.
Services will be streamed on Sundays, at 9:30am and 6pm.
Join in here.
As we navigate this unprecedented situation, we continue to pursue our vision to be:
- An Intergenerational Community,
- Loving like Jesus
- Growing in Jesus,
- Sharing Jesus
Our Community ranges from newborns to people in their 90s, and it’s up to us to protect the most vulnerable members of our community.
Loving Like Jesus
Loving is practical. Love needs to be put into action. Love means washing our hands. Love means making sacrificial decisions to stop doing things that are important to us, in order to protect those more vulnerable.
Love also means thinking more about our pastoral care in these times of heightened anxiety and stress.
Growing in Jesus
Just because we aren’t meeting in the same way, doesn’t mean we stop developing our relationship with Jesus. At this time, we need to increase our prayer lives – to pray for our leaders, to pray for a miracle to stop this virus. In isolation, it’s a great chance to deepen our prayer life.
During this time, it’s important to try and maintain your spiritual rhythms. If you’re used to gathering at 9:30am or 6pm on Sundays, we’ll be providing digital content to keep that rhythm. If it’s safe to do so, you might like to gather in smaller groups to engage with that content. Rather than thinking of isolation as a disadvantage, see it as an opportunity to go deeper with God, and ask him how he will minister to you and grow you personally.
We want to continue to share the good news of Jesus with others. We believe we have really good news, in Jesus. It’s a great opportunity to be light, in a world of darkness. As Christians, we have a chance to be different and be people of grace, love and selflessness. Ultimately, we can do this because we have a real and sure hope in Jesus. We have confidence that whatever happens in the next few weeks and months, we have a God who is in charge and loves us deeply.