SLE Church's response to COVID-19
13 March 2020
Brothers, sisters and friends of SLE Church,
The current coronavirus situation has brought fear, anxiety and uncertainty to many.
It may not seem that way or feel that way at the moment, but God is in control and God is good. The Lord Jesus remains the one true King and the only Saviour. Nothing that has happened in the past, nothing that is happening now, and nothing that will happen in the future will ever diminish this.
We live in a fallen world, and we as an entire race, across the globe, are experiencing this reality more than ever. We’re reminded again, and in a powerful way, what God is doing in this world: the Father has given His Son all authority in heaven and on earth; the Father sent His Son to be our Saviour. In the good times and in the bad, God is in control, using all things to draw people to a saving faith in the Son.
And so God is good and remains good… even at a time like this.
At a time like this, we need to remember God’s goodness and love for us. AND we need to act in ways that are loving and good to others: to others in the church and to the wider community that we live in.
With this in mind, let me outline and then explain the measures that we will be adopting at SLE Church
What is the current situation?
On March 18, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stipulated that there are to be no indoor gatherings of 100 people and above. The health authorities have also urged for social distancing and strong personal hygiene to be practiced.
The primary purposes of these measures are to “flatten the curve” (which is to greatly slow the spread of the virus), to protect the vulnerable in our society and to prevent the already overloaded health system from being further overloaded.
Many of the younger and healthy in our community are in little personal danger and it would be easy to dismiss or be lax in these practices. But I would urge us to express love for others in the Church and the wider community, especially the vulnerable by accepting the guidelines we as a Church are making at this time.
What will church look like for SLE in the coming weeks?
SLE Church will remain a church in the true sense of the word: God’s gathered and saved PEOPLE. It’s very important to know and express this beautiful reality that we are the family of God, a body of believers in this particular church.
However, how we church will temporarily be different in this COVID-19 season.
SLE Church PHYSICAL gatherings on Sunday and fellowship groups throughout the week will be suspended for 3 weeks (19 March to 5 April 2020). Constant reviews will be made along the way and updates provided. During this time, we strongly encourage for ALL interactions to be done ONLY through virtual means.
Due to our church’s particular demographic and location, we believe these strong measures to be appropriate and loving, both to our church community and the wider community. In this critical phase of COVID-19’s progression, we should play our part in halting the exponential increase in infections and contribute to the “flattening of the curve”.
SLE Church services will be live-streamed on Sunday mornings at the usual time of 9am and 11:40am. Fellowship groups will continue to meet in virtual and modified ways. Each fellowship group overseer will make specific arrangements in consultation with leaders and members of your group. We expect them to get in touch with you in the coming days.
During this time, can I please encourage you in the following ways
Firstly, don’t stop meeting together (Heb 10:25-27).
For the present, it is wise and loving not to meet physically, but we can still meet in other ways. Can I suggest that you maintain your Sunday morning routine of church, setting aside your normal 9am or 11:40am to gather for church, in your living rooms? Online and in spirit, we are still meeting together, so join in with the singing! It’ll be a bit awkward, but do it anyway! Join in our corporate prayers with a hearty amen, sit under God’s word mindful that others are also. Make arrangements with someone in your fellowship group to skype or call each other straight after the last song to discuss the questions that help you reflect and respond to God’s word. Pray together!
Over the next few days, the pastors, elders and overseers of the church will suggest other creative and practical ways to help us keep meeting in order that we might still give and receive encouragement to keep living for Jesus. If you have other suggestions, please suggest them to your fellowship group leader.
Which brings me to my second point: don’t stop living for Christ and being on ‘mission’ to make disciples of Jesus (Matt 28:18-20. Col 2:6-7)
Most of us individually and collectively are putting much thought and energy into dealing with the present crisis -- this is important and necessary and good. But we must keep the bigger perspective.
What REALLY matters is to keep living for Christ -- continuing time in the word and prayer, being godly and loving, doing good works -- finding ways to offer practical help. There will be those who suffer spiritually, physically, emotionally and financially. Let’s be ready to help.
What REALLY matters is to keep making disciples -- seeking opportunities to keep being in touch with people, especially with social distancing in practice -- will take more effort to send text/whatsapp/facebook messages, emails … and even pick up the phone and call/skype! It is often crises that give us the greatest opportunities to explain our unshakable hope in Christ to those who have no hope.
What REALLY matters is to keep growing disciples -- encouraging, building each other up, training others in godly living and handling the word.
For good reasons, we will be investing time and energy on the present crisis, but can I please urge and encourage you to also invest time and energy and thought into living for Christ in new and creative ways? Wouldn’t it be great if this crisis actually serves to strengthen and grow our faith and ministry, rather than hinder and weaken it?
These challenging times may become too much for some of you to bear. If that happens to you, please reach out to me or Steve or one of the elders or leaders you know and trust. We’re here for you! These new measures for church are for the general protection of the community, but they are not to prevent us from loving and supporting each other through real and personal needs. So please reach out when you need to. We will certainly find ways to help each other to stand firm and press on.
In closing, can I encourage you to pray through these prayer points:
- Pray … for God to be merciful to bring full resolution to the COVID-19 crisis through natural or supernatural means
- Pray … for leaders across all the different fields (political, medical, economic, religious) to have wisdom and courage to make good decisions for the right reasons
- Pray … for us as a church, and for Christians everywhere to act in wise and loving ways, to keep pressing on in faith and mission, as we seek to deal wisely with the virus and its implications, and as we deal with the many challenges that it has and will pose to our lives individually and collectively
- Pray ... that we will not lose sight on where our true hope lies, and not lose focus on growing in our faith, growing others in maturity, and growing the kingdom.
- And pray always with thanksgiving, for every spiritual blessing that we have in Jesus Christ, and for the real hope that we have now and forever.
May God bless and keep us all in Christ.
(Please keep an eye out for further information on email/Facebook with links and instructions for accessing the livestream for Sunday services)