Southside Uniting Church's response to COVID-19

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20 March, 2020

Dear Fellow Southsiders


It seems to be that we are using the word “unprecedented” far more often now than maybe we’ve used in the past. It is true that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed our world into a new state of normal. As a church we need to be aware of the spiritual, emotional, relational and physical health of each one of us and those of our families, friends and neighbours.

This letter outlines the response that our congregation is making to the pandemic. By necessity this is a long, detailed and pragmatic letter, so here are the headings.

Worship

Pastoral Care

Groups

Outreach

Communications

Resources

Up front though, I want to remind us that first and foremost we are the disciples of the Risen King. We journey through the season of lent that invites us into the sufferings of Jesus. Each of us will react to this pandemic in our own way. There will be times when we are anxious, overwhelmed, sacred, worn out, saddened and shocked. That is all natural. But on the other side of Lent, there is the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. We live now in the time when we know that God in Christ has won the victory and that there is nothing in this world that can separate us from God’s love and the hope that he places within us.

Please take some time each day to consider what you may be thankful for and where you can rejoice in the presence of God. It may be when we hear news of recoveries. We may feel hope when we see curves flattening and infection rates decreasing. It may be in the simple joy of spending time in your garden, going for a walk or in the companionship of a friend.

'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ' (Philippians 4:4-7)

Worship

Immediately, (ie including Sunday 22 March) there will be no worship gatherings until further notice.

In place of our gatherings for worship we are providing a Southside Uniting Church live experience. This experience will include recorded songs, readings messages and prayers available via video recording as well as song, prayers and intergenerational material provided in written format. The video and written material are designed to be used together to provide a complete worship experience. The video recordings will be made available each week from 9 am each Sunday. To maintain our connectedness, I encourage our whole congregation to worship together, from where you are at 9 am each Sunday morning. Whilst we cannot be together physically, there is strong affirmation that we are united as the Body of Christ even if we are not physically together. This gives expression to our congregation being one church in multiple places. Worship resources will be made available weekly, on line and off line. 

Pastoral Care

In a time of increasing social isolation it is essential that we are not relationally isolated.

We will utilise existing group connections and networks of pastoral care that exist throughout our congregation to ensure that every member has a pastoral connection. We are aware of individuals who are not yet connected through a formal pastoral care arrangement, we will be taking action to provide connections for them.

In addition to our formal networks, each of us can provide relational support to each other. I encourage you to make phone calls, this is always a welcome and safe option. If you feel comfortable in making personal connections with others, I encourage you to do so. Always bearing in mind best hygiene practices and government advice and directives.

Groups

Our groups for children and youth, outreach and fellowship have all been placed on hold until further notice. Our Children’s, Youth and Families Pastor, Richard Moors, is collaborating with the leaders of these groups to provide learning and devotional resources. Richard also provides resources for families to share at home and in worship. These will continue to be made available. Please contact Richard for more information (Richard.moors@ssuc.org.au; 0408 446 281).

Small bible study groups may continue to meet, depending on the preferences of the members. I will be in touch with the leaders of each of our groups to provide resources in the event the group continues to meet and in the event the group decides not to meet. If you have questions about small groups, maybe you want to start or join one, please contact me (david.fender@ssuc.org.au; 0413 314 995).

Outreach

I have shared with you that history has shown that the church can have a positive impact on the neighbourhood during a crisis. This pandemic provides us with an opportunity to consider how we may serve our neighbours. At the very least each one of us can think how we may be more attentive to our next-door neighbours. We are also thinking if there are other needs that people in our suburbs have that we might be able to meet. If you would like to contribute in this area please contact our Outreach Minister Esteban Lievano (esteban.lievano@ssuc.org.au; 0407 731 950).

Planning is going ahead for our One Day Fun Day in the July. Whilst we don’t know what the situation will be then, we know that this is an important way for our congregation to connect with young families.

Communications

We will continue to produce a notice sheet each fortnight. Our preference is to distribute this electronically. If we have your email address we will email it. The newsletter is also available on our website and Facebook page.

We will also continue to keep our website and Facebook page up to date. If you have not yet “liked” our Facebook page, please do so.

Our congregation has also recently launched an app for use on smart phones and tablets. To download the app, please go to your app store, search for Church Central and download. Once you have the app installed search in the app for Southside Uniting Church.

Electronic communications mean that we can connect with each other faster and more reliably. So I encourage you to make use of these technologies.

However, if you are not online, do not worry. We will continue to make available to you the same information.

I have four requests to help us communicate better.

1.         If you have good news stories to share about the ministry of our congregation or people, please send them to notices@ssuc.org.au or 3848 7093.

2.         If you have computer skills that you are willing to share with others, can you please let the church office know. Similarly, if you need computer help, please get in touch with the office (hello@ssuc.org.au; 3848 7093). We can put you in touch with each other. For instance you may have an ipad and need assistance in downloading an app.

3.         We need people who are willing to hand deliver hard copies of our communications. Please let the church office know (hello@ssuc.org.au; 3848 7093).

4.         Please do not use our communication channels to share health or safety information from non-Australian or unverified sources. The spread of this type of information can cause additional confusion and concern.

Resources

The ministry of the congregation continues. And as always, our ministry needs your financial support. Many of us give our tithes and offerings using planned giving envelopes or through cash direct into the offering plate. With our worship services being placed on hold, these are some alternative ways for you to give:

1.         Set up a regular electronic funds transfer from your bank account to the church’s account.

Name: Southside Uniting Church

Bank: ANZ Bank

BSB: 014-202

Account: 4736-88757

2.         Each week put aside your regular giving into your envelope and keep them until a time you can present your offering to God in a worship service.

3.         If you are able, deposit your offering into our account by going into an ANZ bank branch.

Name: Southside Uniting Church

Bank: ANZ Bank

BSB: 014-202

Account: 4736-88757