Pastoral Letter to Members and Friends of Ringwood/Knox Parish 25.03.2020
Our Psalm for this Sunday is Psalm 130 – a Psalm of lament that begins:
“Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication”.
Along with every Christian I have been calling out to God from the depths in these days.
As you may have heard from the announcements by our Prime Minister, our churches have been closed! The church building is an important part of the Christian faith as a gathering place for the children of God. It is an important part but it is not the essential part.
We are the body of Christ who gather around Word and Sacrament. Those 2 elements of worship still exist and cannot be taken away from us. We have the Word. We have our Bibles, we have our Prayers, we have our Daily Devotions. We will also provide a recording of my sermon and a brief liturgy. Once we have that worked out we will attempt to “live stream” our services on Sunday morning so that church as much as possible continues. But this is all new and we will develop it over the coming weeks and months as we explore what we can and can’t do via this technology.
So I do apologise if you had been expecting communication from me earlier. As well as working out this new way of church we have also been working out our own family situation as you have.
But what about the Sacrament? For the time being we have been restricted in personal visitations which makes it difficult to provide home communion. Please don’t think that my non visiting is because I don’t care but rather because I care about your health and wellbeing. But let us not forget that there are 2 Sacraments – Baptism and Holy Communion. In our Baptism Jesus made a very powerful promise that is more relevant to us today than it has ever been – I am with you always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
We may have been isolated but God has not been. God cannot be limited by time and space even though for now we have been.
These are difficult times but God can bring blessings from adversity. In our Gospel reading for this Sunday – the raising of Lazarus – Mary and Martha are disappointed by the way Jesus seemed to be indifferent to Lazarus’s situation – “if you had been here our brother would not have died”. Maybe you have been disappointed in God that he has not brought this under control. But it was through Lazarus’s death that Jesus was able to show his true power of life and death and as a result, many of the Jews who had not believed in him went away believing.
Let us hope and pray that this difficult time will be used by God to show his true power and love. Let us pray for each other and support each other during this time. Let us use our membership directory and ring through the list, particularly those we might believe are alone and vulnerable.
Please remember that even though I am restricted in my physical contact with you for the time being I am still your Shepherd. I will be praying for you – I will be contacting you – and I am able to be contacted 24 hours and day – 7 days a week. Do not refrain from contacting me because you think I’m too busy or because it’s my day off. Care for you does not take a day off and I am never too busy to receive a call from you.
The Lord is our Shepherd and Jesus has called me into this ministry as your Shepherd and has asked me to “feed my sheep”.
God bless you in this most challenging time as we put our trust in God and to God be the Glory.
Our Secretary, Chris, is busy organising a product to allow a brief service of the word to be recorded and made available to you and will email those with those means and be in contact with others who do not. Please be assured that the Ministry of Good Shepherd Ringwood and Our Saviours Knox continues and in God’s time we will be back in our church buildings stronger than ever.
Pastor Peter Ghalayini.
A Letter to Members Outlining Our Response 20th March 2020
To Covid-19 (Coronavirus Pandemic)
Members will no doubt be aware of the ever-changing and escalating responses from Federal & State Governments to contain the spread of Coronavirus across our communities.
Our LCA Church-wide Office and the Victorian District have been issuing advice to parishes and churches to heighten hygiene practises and for the general wellbeing of our members.
Yesterday our Parish Council met to consider our response at the local level, and we provide an update on Worship services, standing committee meetings, ministry programs and other gatherings for your information. Subsequent to that meeting, the LCA has instructed that offering the sacrament of Holy Communion at Worship services is to cease for the present time.
Pastor Peter and Council have a strong commitment to continue Sunday services at Ringwood and Knox as long as gatherings of up to 100 are allowed. The following processes will be adopted:
- Church seating will be configured to allow social distancing
- Sanitising liquid will be provided for hand cleansing upon entry to the church
- Members will be encouraged to remain seated for the entire service
- Freewill offerings will not be collected from the seats, but deposited on offering plates when leaving the service
- Morning tea will continue, with new processes for collecting food & drink, and seating recognising social distancing requirements.
Lenten Services will continue for next 2 Wednesdays prior to Holy Week.
Easter Services will proceed as planned, notwithstanding special arrangements may be necessary for larger congregations.
Standing Committee Meetings
Meetings will continue to be held as scheduled, noting social distancing policies. For members who opt not to attend for personal/health reasons, tele-conferencing options will be available.
- KYB (Know Your Bible) gatherings have been suspended
- Bible Studies will generally be suspended, unless convenors determine with their attendees to continue them
- Sunday school at Ringwood will be in recess until after the 1st term school holidays and then be re-assessed
- Bible Song will be held on Palm Sunday at Knox will be re-assessed
- Youth programs will be assessed following the gathering held on Friday 20th March
- ‘Girls Night Out’ has been recessed
- Men’s Group has been recessed
- Koinonia has been recessed
- Mary’s Circle has been recessed
- Women's Fellowship has been recessed.
ALWS ‘Walk My Way’
This has unfortunately been deferred to a date later this year or early next year.
Lutheran Women of Victoria
This gathering which was scheduled for Ringwood in June has been deferred.
We are aware that some members will ‘self-isolate’ to protect themselves from contact with the general population.
Pastor Peter, our Ministry team and Pastoral Assistants are anxious that our church can continue to minister to and support these members whilst they are not in our midst. We encourage members to contact any of the above ministry people to enable regular contact to be made. This can also include home communion where requested.
It may be indelicate to raise this topic at such a time, however the ongoing viability of our parish and other congregations across the LCA, depend on the generosity of members. Our current budgets in our two congregations are behind plan and this may be exacerbated over the coming period. We ask members to prayerfully and earnestly commit this to their hearts. We again bring your attention to the LLL REG (regular electronic giving) facility which enables members to support their church whether at Worship service or not. The internet link is: https://lll.org.au/giving/regular-electronic-giving-reg
We are in uncertain times and ever-changing circumstances. It may be necessary to change our processes and practises from those outlined above; we will keep you updated as necessary.
The Psalms are often referred to as the Prayer Book of the Bible. Most of the Psalms were written during times of uncertainty and distress such as this. Psalm 13 begins “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? We might ask – how long O Lord – 2 months, 6 months? But the Psalm concludes - But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
Let this time also be a time of trust in God. Let us remember and pray – The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23). Let us find strength in Psalm 121 - I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
We have sometimes wondered about our future as a small and declining church. But in this situation we are facing it has revealed itself as a hidden blessing and perhaps, as we find in the Book of Esther – “for such a time as this” this has given us an opportunity to shine our light in our community for God.
We may need to do things that might be different and inconvenient but that is the message of the Cross upon which our Saviour died.
May God bless you and strengthen you as you continue to put your hope in Christ our Saviour. Amen.
With Christian Blessings,
Pastor Peter Ghalayini Peter Renner
Parish Pastor Parish Chairman