Dear members and friends of St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Hobart.
We live with tensions. The Christian life is to be communal. Hebrews 10:24-25, which has great relevance for life after COVID-19 shutdown, states: 'Let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer'. There are various other similar biblical passages and passages that reinforce this sentiment or directive.
Having said this, the Christian community is not a right, but a privilege, something Bonheoffer articulates beautifully in his spiritual classic ‘Life together’ that I referred to some weeks ago, but do so again because of its relevance for us at the moment and in case some of you had good intentions of looking at it or even started it but got diverted. You can read it here.
We also live with the tensions of our responsibilities as citizens and to the State but also of our primary allegiance to God and his will as citizens of the eternal kingdom. Bonheoffer and many of his peers such as Martin Niemoller, Helmut Thielicke and Hermann Sasse, to name but a few, knew all about this and paid a costly price in various ways, although God used all of them mightily (even if in Bonheoffer's case it was through his example and writings) after the flood of the judgement of the war on all of the nations of the earth to powerfully rebuild and revive the Church and reinvigorate Western culture for many decades to come following World War Two. Alas, successive generations are so prone to forget the hard learnt lesson of the past.
We were hoping, with restrictions gradually starting to ease this week, to begin having people join us and offering Holy Communion on a very limited basis from this Sunday. Unfortunately, we seem to need to still work through a few more things to ensure we are fully compliant and can assure you that nothing has been left undone to ensure all are safe. I am proud of the way that our leadership has handled this. There are very strong views in society, in Christendom, in the LCA and even among us on these and related matters. I believe we have handled things in a most Christlike manner, something which we model to you and which collectively we can model to a society urgently needing it. The following article, which I cannot recommend highly enough, is proving to be very helpful. It is titled ‘Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You’. Please do read it. Those who are interested in understanding further where we are coming from can read the correspondence from Bishop John Henderson here.
Different Lutheran bodies internationally are in different positions. Here is a response from President Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), a Church quite similar to ours as far as their Confession goes. It makes for interesting reading. A publication from a Roman Catholic medical lay person’s perspective in the highly respected publication ‘First things’ also offers an interesting, alternative perspective, which you can read here.
We hope to be able to offer limited attendance at worship in accordance with government regulations and attendance at communion soon, but we just want to work through a few things more thoroughly first. Kim also addresses this in her report below. Please be patient. A number of people have already visited our website to register their interest. Please do so also by filling in the simple form on splchobart.org. You will be placed in the queue and notified of a Sunday on which you may attend once we do get going.
We are blessed to have Dr Jodi Johnson-Gladings among us to consult. For those who don’t know, Jodi is a medical doctor (among other things) and her current role is Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Tasmania, which involves her advising government and medical bodies. Jodi will be a guest on our next ‘To the Point’ which will be live-streamed on Thursday week, 28th of May at 7.30pm (AEST). Make sure you mark your diaries and email all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org regarding COVID-19. She will be joined by ALC lecturer and Church historian Tom Pietsch (to be distinguished from Dr Stephen Pietsch who appeared recently). Tom will share some of the great wisdom and insights from Christians throughout history who have battled with far greater plagues and challenges than what we are currently experiencing.
‘To the Point’ continues to greatly appreciated and widely accessed. If you missed our last edition with our Parish Chair Kim Baumeler and Dr John Kleinig, you really have missed something quite spiritually profound. You can be watched here. Some are watching these in two parts, so keep at it as it continues to deliver right through to the end!
Dear friends, Patiently endure. Use this quieter time (for some) to develop good habits and disciplines and turn away from those that are destructive. Our reward will be great and eternal, won in and by Christ crucified for us, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God. St Paul writes:
‘However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”--
the things God has prepared for those who love him--
These are the things that God has revealed to us by the Spirit’.
Here is Kim's report to us. Thank you, Kim, for this.
Dear Members of St Peter's,
I hope that you have all had a good week, and that you can slowly feel some normality returning to your lives.
This week Philippa has chosen 2 verses for us that are again a great reminder of Gods promises to us. They speak of renewal and restoration and the hope we have in God.
'As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.'
- Genesis 8:22
'Lord, by such things people live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.'
- Isaiah 38:16-17 (NIV)
The verse from Genesis appears in The Bible just after we are told of Noah and the flood. It is Gods promise that while the earth remains, seasonal cycles will continue uninterrupted. We see this now played out every day, though our lives may have been turned upside down and we see disruption everywhere we do still see the changing seasons, we continue to plant and harvest, some of us more so as people try and become more self sufficient and day and night goes on. Then the verse in Isaiah reminds us of the work God does within us. He is watching over us and he is keeping us safe and will continue to do so no matter what challenges life might throw up at us. Yet again they are wonderful verses to reflect upon and to remind us to persevere as Corona Virus will pass as will the current chaos. Once again thanks to Philippa for her choice. Her choices always give me plenty to think about and I hope they do the same for others.
This last week has been a busy one. Thank you for those who participated and assisted Pastor in the last 2 services. Uma and Diva made the Mothers Day service very special, and Daibing and Xinyu on Sunday did no less. I had been told that Xinyu would be reading a short verse, clearly my definition of short and Pastors differs somewhat. It was quite a lengthy verse and with a number of difficult words to pronounce in it, and yet Xinyu read it so beautifully. Well done to you all and thank you for taking part and making these services more personal by your contributions. It is lovely to see various members appearing from week to week and greatly assists in taking part from afar.
The next matter I wanted to raise is a meeting I had with Wendy. It was drawn to my attention that there were some inappropriate posts on Wendy’s personal Facebook Page. When I raised these with Wendy she indicated that she was unaware of these posts and when we searched they were no longer present on her page. Wendy denies posting them and is mortified and very concerned that such posts appeared on her personal page. The matter has been reported to Facebook and is being looked into. Wendy’s security has also been upgraded to minimise the risk of future hacking. Should any members see any posts on Wendy’s personal page or on the School Facebook page that are inappropriate or concerning please feel free to raise it with either Jodi or myself. Wendy wanted me to assure the Congregation that she would never consciously post anything inappropriate and is embarrassed that members might have seen these posts. This is also why we are eager for anyone with concerns to come forward as we want to ensure that what people are viewing are genuine posts and not something as a result of hacking. Wendy and the whole College community are committed to appropriate use of social media and to ensure this occurs please raise any concerns that you might have if matters are posted inappropriately. Social media is a very effective way for us to remain in contact especially at times like this but it also makes us vulnerable to abuse and hacking. I guess this is a timely reminder for everyone please ensure that you have appropriate security settings on any social media sites that you use.
The final matter I wanted to inform the congregation on is how we are working towards a gradual restart of church services. Pastor already mentioned this at the end of service on Sunday. Initially it was hoped that services would commence this Sunday, however on Monday I spent a significant amount of time reading through the protocols put out by Bishop Henderson and also speaking to Bishop Preibbenow and Stephen Mildred the Districts risk assessment officer regarding services. I have also looked at the Direction put out under the Public Health act related to gatherings. It became clear after doing this that at this stage we will need to spend some time putting in protocols before recommencing services. We will continue to work with the district and also the National office to ensure we are complying with all requirements. At this point in time our priority is keeping our members safe, we have done so well so far and we do not want to undo all of our good work by rushing into things too early.
Church Council is committed to ensuring that we comply with all requirements for the protection of members attending and to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19. To this end we are working on various protocols that need to be put in place, once agreed to I plan to have these available on our website so all can view them. We are also very conscious that anything we do might still not be sufficient to alleviate the concerns of everybody. These are unprecedented time and it is every members responsibility to do their part, as protocols and procedures can only go so far. We are implementing a booking system which is already available on our website to enable people to book to attend services once it is safe to do so. We are also implementing a booking service for home communion once we are able to do so.
A lot of work is going into ensuring all our members can stay well during this time, but we need everyone to cooperate for this to work, and we will continue to update the congregation as time goes on.
I hope that everyone has a good week, and I look forward to writing again in the next mail out.
Chairperson of St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Hobart.
Great to hear so many are joining our live stream of Sunday services. Many friends, visitors and others. A few of these have made contact with us which is a blessing.
Warmest regards and blessings to you all,
Pastor Mike Steicke.
St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Hobart.
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