Dear loved members and friends of St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Hobart.
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for our forgiveness, life and salvation.
As you would all be aware, gathering for worship, along with most aspects of our social life has been radically altered and curtailed due to the COVID-19 virus.
The Bishops of the LCA met yesterday to evaluate the emerging situation and we have just received an update from our the National Bishop, John Henderson. He prefaces the body of his message with these motivational words:
“This is an opportunity for us to step forward, boldly and confidently, as Christian citizens who understand how to practise care, compassion, and love. The hope we have in us is greater than anything this earth can offer, and God’s love strengthens us. Our Lord has been preparing us for this time for many years. Suddenly, being a church is not just talk, but action, as we are challenged to step out of our church buildings into the unknown. As we do that, we will feel some sense of loss, but it does not need to bother us unduly. Our true hope is not in bricks and mortar, or the things of this world. We will always have what we need for each day. This is what we repeatedly ask God for, every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer. We can use the gifts we have been given for the good of the whole world, serving God with joy in our hearts."
Regarding the required closure of Church buildings, Bishop Henderson states:
"Government directives are quite clear on this matter. We must close our physical church buildings and worship centres for the duration. Australia has a Christian, church-going Prime Minister, and he would not ask us to do this lightly. This means no Sunday morning, Lenten, or other church services, small group bible studies or prayer times in our buildings or on the church grounds."
"And yes, sadly, this means no Holy Communion for the time being. The bishops ask you not to trial any experimental practices in your congregation. Communion is not magic. It is the community meal of the church, instituted by the Lord of the church, not a private spiritual act. Returning to the altar for the bread and the wine, once this is all over, will be a sweet and special moment, a special celebration of God’s redeeming grace. While it is central to the regular life of the church, in times of duress our faith and salvation do not utterly depend on receiving Communion. God has many ways of feeding us with his word and the water of eternal life – let’s explore them and make use of them."
Bishop John then goes on to address various related matters and provides further important information and makes some excellent suggestions under the following headings:
"Gather however you can, without physical proximity. Keeping worship alive in your home. Thinking of others. Easter is coming! Keep up-to-date and share resources."
Please read his update fully and carefully after reading the rest of this message which also contains very important local information. The link to the full transcript sent by Bishop Henderson is at the bottom of this mail-out.
First live stream a huge success:
The first live stream of our service was a huge success and we have had widespread very positive feedback, most importantly regarding the content but also very importantly on the professionalism of the stream. As of late this morning we had over 100 unique or different visitors who watched the majority of the service (and we know that some of these were multiple viewers, eg couples and families) and a further 65 or so of those same visitors returned and watched the majority of it a second time. We also had another 70 who dropped by for a look, with quite a number of these being there more than long enough to view the sermon and some other parts of the service. These numbers are in addition to the around or just over 35 who were still in Church last Sunday.
God is indeed providing us with a unique and unexpected opportunity to share the Gospel. These numbers are likely to increase as the word gets around and we promote this service more fully in the wider LCA and our local community. Please keep the promotion of this opportunity and each week's preparations very much in your prayers. For any who have missed the news about our streaming of services, the service is available on the home page of our St Peter's website with no log in required. Just click the button that says "10AM Live Stream".
Comments Page now here:
Also, the Home Page of our St Peter’s website www.splchobart.org has a button you can press to keep connected with each other, make comments, share resources, ask questions and encourage each other. Be assured this will be a safe place to connect and talk. If any post is deemed to be aggressive, indecent or contravene our guidelines it will be quarantined. It is not that we are seeking to censor or stop important questions, but rather we do not want anyone to feel intimidated. Posts will appear immediately. In the unlikely case that your post disappears you may wish to rethink how you communicated and then try to make the point again more gracefully or tactfully. If you have concerns regarding a post that is allowed to stand for any length of time, or about a post of yours that disappears either phone or email me with a return phone number.
I must pay tribute to Harrison. One of the reasons we as a congregation are so ahead of the curb here and being so widely acknowledged and praised for our professionalism is him using the gifts God has given him tirelessly on our behalf. It is such a blessing to also have him in such close proximity with the scene changing so quickly.
The provider we have chosen to use for the comments is Disqus due to the facilities it offers, its simplicity and the widespread nature of its use, which means many of you will already be signed up to it. While easy to sign up to, if anyone has trouble contact either Harrison or myself and Harrison will talk you through the process. To post a comment simply go to the bottom of this email which will appear by clicking the ‘discussion’ on our comments page.
Go to the discussion page
We will keep providing updates. Please keep going to the comments page or button on our website to keep updated and in touch also. I envisage the conversation to flow at the Disqus comments opportunity under each post I send out beginning with this one. Please join the conversation even it is simply to say hello to begin with and to let us know that you are connected to and a part of the discussion group.
Pastoral care: The current environment is very testing for some of you. You may want reassurance, a listening ear, prayer or guidance regarding decisions that need to be made due to new circumstances. If you need Pastoral care please do contact myself, one of the Pastoral Assistants or talk to each other. Reach out no matter what, but especially if you are feeling desperate. We do not need to journey alone and with our loving God, there is always hope, always a way, even though what appears to be the most impossible of circumstances. I know as I have been there more times than I care to remember! God is great and God is good!
Here is the link to Bishop John's full transcript.
I close by using the same Psalm Bishop John cites in his email:
I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
- (Psalm 121: NRSV )
Warmest regards and blessings,
Pastor Mike Steicke,
St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Hobart.
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