Dear members and friends of St Peters Lutheran Parish, Hobart.
A Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) Pastor who also practices part-time as a GP (doctor) has been keeping myself and others informed regarding developments associated with the COVID-19 virus, began an email fairly early on in the piece by saying ’here is an update from my point of view, which is in the middle of the two extremes, i.e. of total complacency and saying this is all a 'media beat up' on the one hand, and responding like a 'Doomsday Prepper' on the other’. That is also the approach that I, as Pastor, am also seeking to model to our people.
Thankfully as I write (and I am aware that this could change at any time) we do not have community transmissions taking place in Tasmania. I do understand the concern and fear that many are experiencing, largely based on what is unfolding in so many areas globally. We are all struggling to get our heads around the situation. However, as we have various sources of expert medical advice that we at St Peter’s can consult, I encourage you to not over-react to the initial situation but think in the longer term. We in Tasmania may benefit from being a somewhat isolated and island location. Time will tell. However, if there is widespread community-based transmission down the track we would not want to be too tired from being in isolation for when it really counts. Being informed and listening to very reputable media and other expert analysis is important but it is also important to have breaks form this, to take some deep breaths, to reflect, and above all to meditate through the lens of our faith on God’s love, faithfulness, care and power; on His ultimate and eternal purposes in all of this, on Christ crucified and risen for our everlasting benefit and upon the huge insights and amazing spiritual understanding and incredible revelations that we receive though hearing, studying and reflecting upon His Word.
St Peters services, physical distancing, live streaming and events.
As we seek to further understand and come to grips with what is unfolding, we at St Peter’s are taking and recommending a cautious initial approach, without overreacting, until the situation becomes clearer. To this end, we have cancelled most of our events outside of services such as tonight's men's shed gathering, Sunday’s music evening, the Easter Dawn service on Mt Wellington (an internal decision already made by us but which was confirmed by a limit to ten as now allowed in the Mt Wellington observatory), the Easter Sunday breakfast and the ANZAC Day service and breakfast.
At services, we will be practising physical distancing. Notice the phrase physical distancing which communicates far better than the often used phrase social distancing.
Plenty of seating is available and we are directing families or individuals to leave gaps between themselves and other individuals and families. We will not be providing morning tea at the moment (the morning cuppa, like everything, will be subject to ongoing review and feedback is most welcome). The offering plates will be put in a special location where offerings can be made so that touch from person to person is avoided. I have already mentioned communion and cleaning in a previous mail out, and we will provide further simple instructions to those attending. Extra details can be offered at services and as the need arises.
Starting this Sunday we plan for our services to be publicly live-streamed. This is a service to our members, and particularly to the aged and vulnerable among us, to the wider LCA whose Bishop John Henderson has asked that congregations that are set up for this make it available to the wider Church, and as mission to our community which is currently asking many questions and more urgently searching for answers and meaning. To this end, we have made this as accessible and simple as possible. Simply go to our St Peter’s website www.splchobart.org (or simply search ‘St Peter’s Lutheran Hobart’) and everything will be there on the front page. No need to log in, sign in or go to other pages. ‘Simple and accessible’ is our motto as a part of our mission and service to you, to the Church and to the wider world.
Also on our St Peter’s website Home Page is a button that you can click to arrange electronic transfers or giving. Please seriously consider God’s provision, your giving and our needs at this time. ‘We walk by faith and not by sight’ (2 Cor 5:7).
The aged, vulnerable, ALL OF US and the OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH
Many of our aged and vulnerable understandably have a heightened sense of vulnerability and are avoiding much physical contact at this time. Some of you have communicated your desire for this to us. Can I assure you that if you choose to physically isolate for a period of time, whether relatively short or long, you have both our full support and understanding.
Additionally, to all of you I say that the questions raised by the pandemic and unfolding economic situation (something that at least some have been warning was coming anyway and has only been triggered and further exasperated by the COVID-19 virus), the extra time that many will have available due to the cancellation of so many events and other activities, changed work routines, isolating, etc provides a great opportunity for extra spiritual growth. While many stipulations of the Mosaic law of the Old Testament are no longer binding on us as Christians, there is much that we can glean from it and, of course, the New Testament is to be read in the light of the Old. The Mosaic law (law of Moses) taught that every 50 years (7 x 7 Sabbaths) there should be a Jubilee year in which the land would rest and not be worked, people should live off it more simply during that year (eg only what it naturally produces without pruning and tilling), and everyone should experience a quieter time of reflection. It was also to be a time of economic reset. This is only a brief introduction to the Jubilee year that I would love to explore further, especially as Jesus elaborates on this in Luke 4, but maybe something like this Jubilee year is being imposed in love by God on us as a culture (albeit in part though our own folly) who have become so blind, deaf and cluttered that we drown out all that is foundational, urgent, ultimate and eternal? God will not forget through this time (and especially for all eternity) those who have made room and heeded his voice, while exhorting that we likewise, in love, use this opportunity to draw others into an experience of the riches that we ourselves have discovered and enjoyed in and through Him!
Because of the unique opportunities we are encountering we have also added a resources bar or Page to the Home Page of the St Peter’s website (simply click on the relevant button). I will add some resources to this by Sunday, and then keep doing so. Please check back frequently for updates.
I am becoming increasingly aware of the psychological effects that isolation can have. I only really learnt of the phrase ‘cabin fever’ a few days ago and have subsequently searched it. After each service streamed there will be a VERY SIMPLE forum on that Page for both posting and viewing comments and questions. We will ensure that this is a safe place and will moderate any unhealthy comments. Please do contribute, no matter how simple, for you may never know what that may mean to another, just knowing that there is someone out there journeying with them! Encourage each other, provide credible news, Christian content and comments etc, but in an edifying way so that moderating is easy and that all feel safe in contributing so that the body is built up. Also, phone each other, care for each other, cry out for help to me, to a Pastoral assistant or to each other. You are not alone! You are loved, by us and by God!
Luther’s gone viral!!
Luther was a prolific writer who wrote on just about everything, so it should come as no surprise that he wrote on the bubonic plague which made a resurgence during his time. The Christian tradition has much on the plague and much depth as those who have gone before us experienced so much and have a lot to offer. The full article is about 12 pages and worth the read but below are a couple of links to articles on this and a famous quote or two he made. I am coming across his article just about everywhere, even in the most unlikely of places (link to the full article available in shorter articles linked below) :
”Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body?
You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy [Satan] has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
See also: www.eternitynews.com.au/world/should-a-christian-flee-the-plague-martin-luther-was-asked/
Warmest regards and blessings,
Pastor Mike Steicke,
St Peter's Lutheran Church, Hobart.
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