COVID-19: Physically apart, spiritually together

Sanctuary is not gathering in the flesh for now. For details of our online gathering, email us.

So COVID-19 is roaring across the earth, my facebook feed is loaded with graphs, and government advice keeps changing. As I write, we still would be permitted to meet on Sunday. However, that could change any moment and, given the imperative of flattening the curve, the leadership team has decided to we should NOT meet. Therefore, we will stop gathering in the flesh on Sundays effective immediately. We believe this closure is necessary to prevent any possibility of becoming a centre for an outbreak; it is also a sign of our willingness to sacrifice our own desires for the common good.

This doesn’t mean we won’t gather at all. We are aiming for physical, not social, distancing. We still need to listen to the Scriptures and pray together; we still need to remember that we are not alone, that God is with us, and that fear and death will not have the last word. Therefore, even as we keep our bodies apart, we will experiment with alternate ways to gather, including:

Zoom together: We will gather at our usual service time via Zoom for a shorter, adapted service. We have chosen Zoom because it’s super easy to use, stable, and reliable, and, unlike pure streaming, will enable a somewhat participatory style of worship. If you would like to join in, please be ready on Sunday from 4.15pm. I will have emailed the link to each of you to join the service. You will simply need to click on the link to join in. If you don’t already have Zoom installed on your computer, it will prompt you to do that, and once you agree, it will install very quickly. I’ll send an email to all regular attenders explaining this further – but know for now this is what we’re planning to do, understanding it will be wobbly and clunky (but maybe kind of fun!).

Worship household by household: If you prefer, you can receive a simple DIY service via email, along with links to a reflection. Use these materials to do a service in your own time, knowing others are also using the same service and readings each week. You might also commit to calling or zooming at least one other household in the congregation, perhaps at the end of your service time, to check in, connect with and pray for each other. Let me know if you prefer this option.

Commit to calling: We can set up a roster so that everyone is connected in. Just a three minute call to say ‘hello, how are things, how can we pray for you?’ and vice versa could be a powerful way for this congregation to connect and deepen relationships. If you’d like to do this, let me know; at this stage it’s just an idea, but its time might come with more widespread closures.

Connect to a group daily via zoom: We can also set up a common regular zoom time every day, where those who wish to can join together, orient themselves once again to each other and to the God who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, and pray. If you’re interested, again, let me know, and also a broad preferred time. Depending on the time, we would give it the shape of simple morning, midday or evening prayers.

Daily Prayer Guide: We have a set of very short daily prayers available. There is some sense of congruence of praying the same prayers as others in the congregation, even if it’s not in the same place at the same time. If you would like them emailed to you, please let me know.

So, what do you think? Do you have other ideas for how we might gather (bearing in mind we don’t have a tech team or any AV equipment)? Obviously we will try various things and experiment, and let’s give thanks that we are small and have this flexibility! And, regular attenders, look out for a Zoom invite in your inbox!

Meanwhile, we are still very much in Lent. My colleague Nathan Nettleton, at our sister church in South Yarra, preached a superb sermon on Sunday regarding COVID-19, toilet paper, panic, and magical thinking. I very much wish I’d preached it … anyway, I urge you to read it as part of your Lenten journey. You can find it here.


Image credit: Richard Burlton on Unsplash.

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