Dear members of the Parish
Please accept my apologies for the bluntness of the email message sent out on Friday afternoon regarding the suspension of services, following the archbishop’s directive.
After working out how to manage the complexities of gathering together in a safe way, late Friday afternoon we were informed that worship and church meetings had to be suspended.
My priority was to just let people know.
There are, of course, many other issues that people are concerned about.
As we are no longer allowed to even leave our church buildings open for private prayer, we cannot gather physically for worship (funerals and weddings are exceptions.)
This highlights how communal our faith is. We will miss being together in a physical way, but hopefully we will gain a deeper sense of being together in a spiritual way.
There are possibilities for online worship of various kinds, but we have to work out if they’re appropriate for us.
Sermons are available on the parish web page, or I can email you mine if you request (at firstname.lastname@example.org).
There are a number of other means of worship that I am considering at present.
A number of parishioners have told me they have begun saying morning and evening prayer, or just doing the set readings for the day and singing or reading a hymn. There are Apps for phones and tablets, such as epray Daily, which has Morning and Evening Prayer (with readings and collect for the day inserted), Prayer at the End of the Day and A Service of the Light to chose from. Another is Pray as you Go, based on Ignatian Spirituality. There are lots of meditation Apps available too. St Peter’s Cathedral and many other places of worship are putting sermons and services online.
Maintaining communication will be really important as we can’t meet together. Apart from online options to be explored, there’s phone, email, post, parish web-page and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/stirlinganglican/).
We will also either re-design the pew-sheet or create a weekly newsletter.
Pastoral visiting can continue, although there are restrictions on visits to aged care facilities. Barb and I are still available to meet with people, provided that we maintain the required social distancing. The Pastoral Care Commission has been putting into place means of providing help and checking how people are going.
Parish Council will continue to function, probably through online or email meetings. And I am waiting for guidelines from the Diocese about how to hold our Vestry meeting.
The Parish Monthly Market has been suspended, but some people are keen to explore whether we can still sell cooked food for collection by, or delivery to, customers.
Like every other organisation, maintaining our finances is vital and one of the ways we express our commitment. The simplest way to maintain giving to the parish is through direct debit. Once set up, there is nothing more to do, and it saves work for volunteers. If you wish to do that, the required details are:
Parish bank account BSB: 105 079
Parish bank account number: 305481040
Please contact the office, me or the Treasurer, John White for assistance if required. Contact details are on the web page and in the pew-sheet.
As we celebrate the Eucharist, the priest recites the words of Jesus to “do this in remembrance of me’. That doesn’t simply mean repeat the ritual action. More importantly, it means let this action be the pattern of your life too, as it is of mine. In other words, be Christ-like, be like Jesus, accepting love and giving love.
Living that way also helps us to know God, because Jesus taught that to know God you just have to do what he did – accept love and love others. In doing that you will know God because it puts you in a place where you are connected with God. As we are restricted from receiving holy communion in its physical form of bread and wine, we can allow its significance to grow in our lives through doing what Jesus does. And that takes a different form for each of us, corresponding to our unique characteristics.
What does it mean to accept love?
Primarily that means accepting God’s love, for its unconditional nature frees us from having to comply with any potential demands or expectations. God’s love comes to us in the emptiness of silent prayer, but also from others and ourselves. Sitting in silence and opening ourselves to God within us, can take time and effort before it becomes desirable, but it is most worthwhile and provides the greatest inner adventure. As wherever we go, we are there, it’s important to also try to love ourselves, starting with acceptance of who we are, what we’ve done and what’s been done to us. Accepting love from others, may make us aware of barriers we have put up to protect ourselves, so that can require spiritual and emotional work from us.
While we face many challenges at this trying time, God’s love is constant. God’s love remains.
Beneath all our challenges, the main challenge is spiritual and the biggest is to remain faithful, i.e. keep going, keep living, keep being human, keep trusting God. The opposite of faith is fear, hence, the most common phrase in the bible is Do not be afraid. That doesn’t mean be absolutely free of any doubt or anxiety, but just keep going, and the power to keep going is the power of love: accepting love and loving others (and the earth!).
The power behind us (love) is always greater than the challenges we face. Remember you are loved and remember to love.