Letter from the General Secretary and Moderator (23 March 20)

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23 March 2020
Dear ministry colleagues and members of Congregations.
Sunday was such a feast.
What a joy it was to be part of so many wonderful expressions of Christian witness through worship services livestreamed and posted online over the weekend. Thank you to everyone for the innovative ways you sort to share the gospel with your congregations. For those of you who do not have strong internet, the Synod and Presbyteries are exploring ways for you to receive email or hard copy versions of services for the weeks ahead. A comprehensive list of churches who are live streaming worship will be sent out this week.
As you know the challenges and the changes to the way we manage our daily lives are coming thick and fast. On Sunday 22 March, both the Federal Government and the State Government in SA made several announcements. They provided details of closures to public spaces to ensure appropriate physical distancing rules are adhered to. In his press release, the Prime Minister stated that places of worship were to close. In order to keep people in our congregations and communities as safe as we can, it is very important that we follow their guidelines.
So what do these changes mean for us?
All worship services in church buildings are to be suspended from Monday 23 March. If a church is going to live stream or record worship services for online worship, only essential personnel are to be present, and appropriate physical distancing must be adhered to (4m2 per person and 1.5m apart). If anyone is in the high risk category for COVID-19, they must not attend. If churches are producing printed resources, we encourage you to deliver them to members rather than have them collect the packs from the church. Please encourage your members to give their offering via direct debit, or to arrange a safe process of regular giving. Church offices may continue to operate with staff as required, but must be closed to the public and church members who are not recognised office, paid or volunteer workers. All gatherings, groups and activities in church facilities need to be suspended. These include Bible study groups, fellowship groups, craft groups and non-associated groups who hire your facilities. Hiring of church facilities to external groups must be suspended from Monday 23 March. Gatherings in homes must have no more than 1 person per 4 square metres in the room where the gathering is held. Funerals may be held in church buildings for family members and officiating persons only, as long as the 4m2 per person and 1.5m distance rule is adhered to. Congregations involved with the distribution of emergency relief food parcels must contact Rev Tim Hodgson (Executive Officer UnitingCare SA): [thogdson@sa.uca.org.au] or 8236 4276 before proceeding. This is to ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect both volunteers and recipients.
We encourage worship to continue, either online or with worship resources shared with members either by mail, delivery or on the phone. Pastoral care is also an essential activity of the church and vitally important at this time. Please keep connecting with one another online, by phone, or with appropriate physical distancing outside.
While church buildings are not being utilised, it will be important that the grounds are maintained and the buildings checked regularly. It is important when doing this to be careful. We are in a heightened risk awareness environment and we don’t want to take up resources in our health care system that are needed to deal with COVID-19.
If you have any questions about this, please contact Associate General Secretary, Rev Sue Page [spage@sa.uca.org.au] or 8236 4217 or Executive Officer Placements and Safe Church, Rev Philip Gardner [pgardner@sa.uca.org.au] or 8236 4268.
I anticipate that it will be both necessary and important for the Synod to communicate to congregations and other ministries again in the coming days. As you process together the implications for your communities it is important for us to remember who and whose we are! Have fun exploring this opportunity to reframe what it means to be the church at this time and don’t forget to rest. May you continue to know the love and grace of God in and through Jesus the Christ.
23 March 2020
Message from the Moderator
As we enter this stage of restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, I ask you all to continue to pray for your church leaders, the decision makers and health professionals, as they all seek God’s guidance and the best way forward.
I encourage everyone to look out for each other, maintain connection and worship God in new and different ways.
As the scattered but connected Community of Christ may you draw on the strength and wisdom God provides.
Please see the latest information about what the government restrictions mean for the Uniting Church in South Australia HERE [https://sa.uca.org.au/uniting-church-media-releases/covid-19-update].
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