SouthernCross MAY 2020
THE NEWS MAGAZINE FOR SYDNEY ANGLICANS
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COVID CHURCH CARE FOR THE HOMELESS
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God’s love for the homeless Ready to go: Volunteers wait for the next Rough Edges patron in need of food.
If you’re in any doubt that God is working through his people in the COVID pandemic, the most recent Church Hill lunch for the homeless should get you thinking. The City Care Lunch has been running for eight years, with between 70 and 120 people turning up for a meal and a chat once every two months. Aware that some charities had closed their doors, and determined to provide something as usual for their regulars (in keeping with current distancing restrictions), an appeal went out to the parish for non-perishable groceries and hygiene items. “People donated more than $5000 so we could go shopping – we didn’t need to use it all,” says assistant minister Paul White. “Tonnes of groceries came in as well, and [grocery] gift cards… A chef from our evening congregation who recently lost his job also offered to prepare a really generous roast beef sandwich and salad in a takeaway box. “The wonderful thing is that we made up 58 bags, which was simply what we were able to put together from the volume of gifts given. We also received exactly 58 gift cards. And, on the day, we had exactly 58 people come in seeking help – we didn’t have any bags left over and nobody
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Rough Edges volunteer Steve Jarman has been helping at the Darlinghurst drop-in centre and café “for years”.
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left without one, which was clearly God’s hand in everything and that was really encouraging to us.” At Rough Edges – the café and drop-in centre next to St John’s, Darlinghurst – it’s been a scramble to reorganise how things are done so volunteers are still able to maintain contact with patrons. “We’ve had to move to a takeaway model, like everyone, so we don’t have those unhurried opportunities to build deeper connections right now,” says Roughie’s community engagement manager, Jen Webster. “People are literally coming to the front door and we ask them what they need – some bread, some yoghurt, a meal – and then we give them the food. “There are a few familiar faces but, interestingly, there Socially distanced help: Church Hill are quite a few new faces as well. I think across the services prepares for its regular lunch guests. there’s been about a 20 per cent increase in people coming for help, and obviously some of them have never done this before. They’re not sure how it works or what they can ask for – it’s quite heartbreaking. “However, so people aren’t feeling disconnected, if they’re happy to give us a name and a number we can provide them with a weekly social call.” Hub of Hope at All Saints’, Petersham, which supports people in various stages of homelessness, has reorganised its Thursday buffet lunches for boarding house residents. The community-based mealtime has morphed into a takeaway lunch with a few extras like a roll of toilet paper, a dental
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mask, the Gospel of Mark, plus information about a nearby pop-up health clinic. Rector the Rev Ben Gray says numbers are well down on what they’d normally see, partly because of the lack of the usual relational time to sit and chat, but also because “these guys spend a lot of time listening to the radio and reading the paper, so they know what’s going on... there’s a lot of anxiety. “I think a bunch of the people who haven’t been coming have been trying to stay home and I don’t know what they’re doing for food. They’re trying to isolate but what do you do if you live in a boarding house with 14 other guys and you share bathrooms and a kitchen?” Mr White says that every shopping bag given out at the City Care Lunch included a slip of paper asking people for their name, whether there was any specific help they needed, and a way of making contact. More than a quarter of those who came filled this out. “We’re a church in the city and we’re conscious that God’s placed us here for a reason, and we’re conscious of sharing the gospel with the city in the way that Jesus did – in word and deed,” Mr White says. “We’re also conscious that doing good in the community is the start of a social bridge to people who are perhaps interested in Christianity. “Culturally, this ministry in our church is a really important one. It will be a gateway for people’s generosity and desire to help the marginalised, lift them up out of their situation and show them that the church genuinely loves them, because we were first loved by Jesus. It’s just a holistic thing when it comes to sharing our faith.” Rough Edges has lost a good deal of its ongoing income because of COVID-19. If you’re interested in supporting its work with the homeless, go to roughedges.org. If you’d like to support City Care or Hub of Hope, contact those parishes directly.
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Scones and chat in cyberspace
Logged in: Brad and Melissa Tyrell from Hoxton Park join the after-church chat.
So, online church is gradually becoming more familiar. You’re getting the hang of Zoom, Church Online Platform, Discord or whatever format the parish is using for its live or prerecorded services. But you really want to see people and have fellowship over a cuppa like an everyday, non-COVID Sunday. What can you do? Move morning tea into cyberspace as well. At Hurstville Grove, rector the Rev Mat Yeo says there are morning tea “breakout rooms” on Zoom, where members and visitors are given a few things from the online service to think over and chat about. “People have been staying in morning tea rooms for between 20 minutes and an hour,” he says. “You don’t need too much of a structure because everyone is craving relationship.” Over at Revesby, senior associate minister the Rev Andrew Lim decided they should have a morning tea version of show and tell for the Sunday after Easter. “Since everyone seems to be raiding the supermarket shelves for flour and other baking essentials, why not showcase a church bake-off – with or without an appropriate theme?” he says. “Then watch each other enjoy the delicious results of our creations, with live descriptions of texture, taste and aroma!” In addition, Mr Lim adds, “we had our first online communion on [Palm] Sunday, and we showed each other the various types of ‘bread’ and ‘wine’ we were using via Zoom. It was quite fun seeing people’s interpretations of suitable and comparable elements!” The evening service at Hoxton Park is using the Discord server, which is often used by gamers. It facilitates people watching church together, but what is more significant for rector the Rev David Clark is the different rooms or groups people can go to afterwards. SouthernCross
“Last week there was a ‘sermon discussion’, a ‘church hall’ for general discussion, a ‘prayer room’ – that seemed to be busy for nearly an hour – and various other not-so serious chats and memes being shared,” he says. “While I’m still trying to get the hang of it, our teenagers and young adults seem to appreciate it!” Rouse Hill is offering chat and fellowship before church as well as afterwards. Assistant minister the Rev Rick Mason sends out invitations to a pre-church Zoom meeting by text or through different WhatsApp groups he belongs to, with a particular focus on people who are “newish” to church or who aren’t in Bible study groups. “We know people in growth groups are keeping in touch with each other during the week, but for people who aren’t in growth groups, they wouldn’t necessarily be talking to anybody else [from church] during the week,” he says. “We hope that everybody will watch the livestream at 10 o’clock and 5 o’clock, but the downside of the Serious conversations here: Hoxton Park has livestream is that you don’t get to see people you normally a sermon discussion group after its evening service. see on a Sunday. In doing a Zoom chat before and after church, we’re trying to create the sense of community, conversation, encouragement and prayer that normally happens on Sundays when we gather.” The parish has worked hard over the past few weeks to get “as many of our people as connected as possible”. Mr Mason adds that they’ve also helped a number of their older members get Zoom on their phones. “It means it’s easy to invite them, and they know they just need to press a button and they can be part of a conversation,” he says. The Rev Dr Raj Gupta from Toongabbie has also seen plenty of older congregants link up to Zoom. Although in the past people had been concerned that online elements would alienate older people, “there they were on Zoom for virtual morning tea on Sunday!” he says. “This whole environment is forcing us to explore things that we never thought we could.” So far, Toongabbie’s experience with Zoom morning tea is, firstly, that a number of breakout rooms are needed to enable small group chats. Also they find one person is needed to “drive” each room so the format works well. “Often people can be looking and wondering who’s talking and so on,” Dr Gupta explains. “Someone really does need to facilitate things – more so than would be needed in a physical, casual environment.” So, once you’ve got morning tea chat, prayer and food “sharing” sorted out, on whichever online platform you favour, perhaps you could add in some extras. Rick Mason says that, for his Bible study the other week, he asked everyone in the group to dress up and/or change their Zoom background SouthernCross
to something “that would amuse us”. “One couple were wearing scuba gear with a fish tank behind them,” he says with a laugh. “Other people had clown hats. Another couple had trawled my Facebook page and the church website, grabbed every picture of my face they could find, and turned that into the background for the conversation!” On a more serious note, he adds, “We’re very aware that a Zoom conversation is nowhere near as good as in person, so we’re trying to do stuff that’s amusing to lighten the mood and help us Show and tell: Revesby congregation members go alllaugh together. We want to do whatever we can out for their online morning tea bake-off. to help people feel included… we’ll keep inviting as many as possible to Zoom conversations on a Sunday so they can keep seeing their friends and meeting new people, and can continue to grow while we can’t meet together.” Need to get more familiar with the different options on Zoom for church, morning tea or Bible study? Learn from an hour-long Zoom masterclass run by Bishop Michael Stead, the Rev Mike Paget, the Rev Ben Boardman and the Rev Jodie McNeill. Run live last month, it was recorded and is now available on sydneyanglicans.net as a webinar-style presentation. Click the “COVID-19 response” box on the Sydney Anglicans website and look down the list of recent additions. The “Zoom Conference on Zoom Church” option has the masterclass link on Vimeo.
‘Unprecedented and traumatic’ COVID challenge at Caddens
Terrible toll: Anglicare’s residential aged care facility, Newmarch House.
The State and Federal Governments are supporting Anglicare as it continues providing care for residents and those infected with coronavirus at Newmarch House at Caddens in Western Sydney. “The Commonwealth and NSW Governments through their Health Departments continue to support us in providing the clinical support we require to deliver the care our residents need,” Anglicare CEO Grant Millard said. “This is a terrible situation and a challenge for us, our staff, but especially for our residents and their families.” Since early March, screening procedures were in place at Anglicare Homes, with staff required to disclose if they were unwell, or had been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID19. Despite the measures, on Saturday 11 April, Anglicare was notified that a care worker had tested positive to the virus. This staff member, who has been working at the home for a number of years was screened before starting their shifts, but did not display any symptoms during the period that they were at work. Residents at Newmarch House then started testing positive for COVID-19. In the days after the outbreak, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she felt for the care worker who inadvertently passed on the virus.” “She did the right thing, as soon as she realised she could have been in contact with someone with the illness she got tested so we commend her for taking the action she did, when she did.” the Premier said. With the support of governments, Anglicare has since initiated a number of measures including isolating those infected and having specially trained staff members care solely for the residents with COVID-19, to reduce any possibility of cross infection. The Nepean Local Health Area Network is assisting with the care of residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, under the supervision of NSW Health Infectious Diseases Specialist, Dr James Branley. The residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 are being cared for in the home but have access to hospital resources and SouthernCross
“Devastating”: Grant Millard interviewed on ABC News. are receiving oversight by hospital specialists in infectious diseases, as if in the hospital setting. Despite the efforts of medical staff, COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll at Newmarch House, with at least 12 deaths. “This coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in terms of its scale and impact across the world,” Mr Millard told reporters. “But more importantly we know what a devastating effect it is having on older people. Anglicare’s key focus at the moment is to provide a safe and secure home for our residents. All our energies are directed at eliminating this virus from Newmarch House.” The first person to die on April the 18th was identified as 93-year-old Raymond Jennings. Mr Jennings’ family issued a statement to Channel Nine News. “We are heartbroken to have lost our father, and grandfather, in these very difficult circumstances,” the family said. “We will always be grateful for the exceptional care he received from Newmarch House. It was his home, and he was well looked after from the day he entered until his passing. The events that led to the viral outbreak in no way change our positive opinion of Newmarch House. We remain strong supporters of all their staff, including the care worker who inadvertently brought the virus into the premises. We pray that she, and all affected staff members recover from this ordeal and are able to continue their vital work in the critical aged care sector.” “We are incredibly sad that more residents have since passed away, and we extend our deepest sympathy to their families. We also pray for the ongoing health of all other residents, and for the families who anxiously await news about their loved ones.” Mr Millard said the COVID-19 outbreak was “unprecedented and traumatic”. “Nothing actually prepares you for the trauma that our staff and residents and families are dealing with,” he said. “Please keep our residents and their families in your thoughts and prayers, especially those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.” SouthernCross
“对于正在悉尼寻找哪里有中文聚会和国语崇拜的人而言，这个网站实在太棒了，太 好用了！”朱仁杰弟兄这样说到，这个网站是他和高嘉华圣保罗圣公会的主任牧师翁 沛伟牧师一起合作建立的，一个针对中文事工在悉尼圣公会教区的可搜索网站。
朱仁杰弟兄继续解释说到：“这个网站可以帮助你找到在悉尼地区内，所有开设了中 文事工的圣公会。我们来想象一下，假如有一天，你朋友问你说在他家附近有没有好 的中文教会可以推荐呀，你会怎么做？拿起手机在朋友圈里广播一下，然后等上半 天，或者去挨个问你认识的牧师。现在不用那么麻烦啦，你只要去这个网站上搜索一 下，就有答案了，太简单了对吧？哈利路亚！”
据初步统计，目前大约有100多万的华人(或华人后裔)居住在澳大利亚，其中，在悉尼 地区的总人口中，华人(或华人后裔)占到了15%。然而，在圣公会中，华人(或华人后 裔)约占到了18%。 这个新的中文网站是：sydacm.com.au
FOLLOW THE CROSS ON A NEW CHINESE WEBSITE “It’s amazing and convenient for those who are looking for a Chinese church in the Sydney region,” says Range Zhu, who has worked with the Rev David Yung of St Paul’s, Kogarah to produce a searchable website of Sydney Anglican churches with Chinese ministries. “This website links you to your local Anglican churches which have Chinese congregations,” he explains. “Can you imagine that, one day, there is a friend who asks you about whether there is a Chinese church near his living area: you don’t have to broadcast to your friends then wait for a reply. Just go to that website to search in that area, then you will get the answer. So simple. Praise the Lord!” There are now more than a million people living in Australia who have Chinese ancestry. Around 15 per cent of the people living in the Sydney basin are of Chinese descent – yet in Anglican churches, in terms of total numbers, they make up about 18 per cent. The website can be found at www.sydacm.com.au SouthernCross
How can we wash our hands when we have no water? In scarce supply: A child fetches water from one of the new bores in Rorya Diocese, Tanzania.
“I want to share Jesus’ love to everyone in Rorya, I want to share Jesus’ love to everyone in Tanzania.” These are the passionate words of Kelvin Adiema, the community development officer for the Anglican Church in Rorya, Tanzania – who, backed by funding from Sydney Anglicans, is turning on the water for poor communities in East Africa. Mr Adiema spoke at churches across Sydney last month as part of the Anglican Aid Waterworks appeal, which is now in its fourth year. Waterworks for a Thirsty World has raised more than $700,000 for specific WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) projects in vulnerable communities and he is not shy about sharing what a difference it has made to his home area. “It has saved lives,” he says, referring to the desperate lack of water and sanitation for more than 250,000 people who live in Rorya’s 87 villages. Before the Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid paid for bores, women and girls would spend three to four hours a day looking for water, endangering their safety – and for the younger girls, missing classes vital to their education. Now the bores are in place the next step, according to Mr Adiema, is microflush toilets. “In your country I think every family has toilets,” he says. “Maybe some who don’t have toilet paper are struggling. But in my area, people don’t have toilets.” In partnership with Anglican Aid, the Rorya Diocese has launched a project to install microflush toilets, which use far less water than conventional toilets. “We are targeting public places like markets, dispensaries and health centres, churches and schools, so that people can see the example of these microflush toilets and start building them, because they’re cheap and families are able to own them,” he says. Before the COVID-19 outbreak worsened, Mr Adiema spent a busy three weeks in Australia and SouthernCross
“It has saved lives”: Kelvin Adiema (left) oversees bores being drilled across the Rorya Diocese to access clean water. was overwhelmed by the response from schools, churches and individuals who held events and participated in fundraising challenges. Even Archbishop Davies responded with his own personal fundraising challenge. However, the pandemic has made conditions worse for the Rorya project and several other Anglican Aid programs. A special COVID-19 appeal has been launched to make sure that, despite our own problems in Australia, the urgent needs overseas are also met. The Rorya project is among those receiving ongoing support. On his return to Africa, Kelvin Adiema sent a message to Anglican Aid that outlined the current problem. “The Tanzanian government is encouraging people to stay at home unless they have business in town, to keep washing their hands and to use sanitiser. It’s a good message but very hard to do if there is no clean water near your village.” To help raise funds for the many Anglican Aid projects affected by COVID-19 go to https://anglicanaid.org. au/covid-19-relief-appeal SouthernCross
He is Risen! Now pray
“Easter is precious”: Dean Kanisha Raffel at the Cathedral’s televised service.
As Easter Day was celebrated in a nationally televised service from St Andrew’s Cathedral, Archbishop Glenn Davies urged viewers to create “a great wave of prayer” during the Coronavirus pandemic. The service, televised on the Nine Network’s 9GEM channel, featured music from a trimmeddown and socially distanced choir, singer-songwriter the Rev Rob Smith and a sermon from the Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel. “This is an Easter unlike any we have known before,” Dean Raffel said in his sermon. “Ordinarily today would be a day when churches are brimming with those who come together to proclaim ‘Christ is Risen, he is risen indeed!’. But this Easter is different. We’re not together, we’re not gathering, we’re not singing with one voice. But for all that, this Easter perhaps is more urgent and more precious than any I can remember.” The Dean said the pandemic had caused a re-evaluation of life by many people. “Easter is precious because it is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that confirms that everything matters. Justice matters, kindness matters, you matter and the decisions we make – especially the decision we make about God and life and death and eternity – matter. In the Western world we have slowly persuaded ourselves that only what can be seen, only what can be touched is real, but the Coronavirus has brought to light again that this world is not a sufficient explanation of itself or of us.” In finishing the national telecast, the Archbishop called for fervent, daily prayer about the SouthernCross
pandemic. He began by leading in prayer for frontline health workers. “Those doctors, nursing staff, health care workers, as well as emergency services, police and defence force personnel, need our prayers and our support,” the Archbishop said. T’hey are the frontline workers, not only here in Australia but around the world.”
THE PRAYER FOR FRONTLINE WORKERS AGAINST COVID-19 Our heavenly Father, we come before you with contrite hearts, yearning for your comfort and your grace. In the midst of COVID-19 spreading across the globe, we ask in your mercy that you would stop this plague and restore harmony and health to the nations, and especially Australia. We thank you for all those who have dedicated their lives to serving our community: for health workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and especially those who labour in laboratories seeking a vaccine for the Coronavirus. Give them wisdom, skill and patience in their work and, by your grace, give them success in their endeavours. We also pray for those who govern us, for our Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers, for their courageous leadership and national co-operation across states and territories. Grant them wisdom in their decisions as they navigate the threats to lives and livelihoods. We also pray for our police force, our emergency services and defence force personnel as they seek to maintain order in our country. May all Australians respect their work, accept the limitations on our freedoms and seek the welfare of others, for the good of all. And we pray for ourselves and our families, especially those who have lost loved ones to this disease, or those suffering from its effects. May we know the peace that passes understanding as we place our trust in Jesus, in whose powerful name we pray. Amen.
Dr Davies also urged continued prayer. “Our God is not socially distant. He longs to hear our prayers and answer them. We may not always understand the larger picture of how he works but he will not abandon us.” Dr Davies said that, for the duration of COVID-19, he and his family had set aside 1900 hours (7pm) to remember to pray daily for our world, our nation, our leaders, our health care workers, our community and our families. “Imagine if we had a great wave of prayer across this nation!” he said. “Remember we have the confidence to pray to our heavenly Father, because Christ has defeated death by his resurrection, and brought hope to the world.” SouthernCross
Local kids draw close to others A happy note: (clockwise from main) Phineas, Felicity and Janora Kinsey.
Helen Kinsey, the assistant minister’s wife at Rosemeadow and Appin Anglican Churches, takes her kids’ drawings, asks them to share something true about Jesus, and then helps the children write a letter to older members of their congregation to encourage them. “I saw someone post on Facebook encouraging people to use up their abundance of kids’ drawings by sending them to nursing homes, so I translated it into a ministry context and decided to send them to the elderly and those living alone from our church,” she says. “We’ve heard from most of the people we sent the first batch to. Most were quite touched and thankful. Some have even asked if they can send a letter back to the kids. “Putting letters in the post box is always fun. Especially now because it gives us an excuse to go for a walk. The kids were interested in the project to start with, and they like picking who they send what to and describing what’s in their picture. They even like coming up with different ‘true things to say about Jesus’. I was quite impressed with some of what they came up with. The rest seem to be variations of Colin songs. Stuffing and stamping envelopes is also a hit. But usually six to seven drawings is enough and then they lose interest, hence sending them in batches!” SouthernCross
Shellharbour City shares the love
All bagged up: Emergency groceries ready for pick-up.
Forget hoarding toilet paper: Shellharbour City Anglican Church is sharing staples with those in need. Pooling their resources, members were able to provide bags of breakfast supplies and essential groceries to 28 families in their community – a source of comfort in an uncertain time. “It might be hard to see anything positive when Mum and Dad aren’t working, you don’t know when the next money is coming in and there’s only rice or pasta on the shelf,” says Paul, a member of Shellharbour City, who works in a local high school and sees first hand the difficulties some families are facing. “Most are working hard to make ends meet,” he says. “These kids come from very complicated family situations.” People dropped off food items and money at the Shellharbour City church, where bags were packed and delivered to the local high school to be distributed. Senior minister the Rev Jon Thorpe says it was an extension of existing measures the parish uses to serve the area. “We already do a community pantry with Anglicare, so this seemed like another obvious opportunity to care for people,” he says. “We collected from church members, but we also put it on the local community Facebook pages. Some people weren’t connected to our church but were looking for an opportunity to contribute positively [with] donated goods. It’s part of what we are known for in our community – for trying to support people practically.” Mr Thorpe says that people in all situations are anxious and fearful, and the most important thing that Christians can pray for right now is that others will see “how Jesus brings hope and comfort in these uncertain times. That’s the biggest thing, but we also pray for the practical dayto-day realities – for food and emotional support to be able to carry through this really difficult time. It’s just one way that we can be salt and light.” Adds Paul: “I’ve never had a personal experience of being short on food, but my motivation is to hopefully one day see people become Christians. If the food bag helps someone to know Jesus, far out! How cool would that be?” SouthernCross
Use our isolation for the sake of eternity Dr Glenn Davies
f we had not understood the word “isolation” before now, then we have all had a heavy dose of this experience in the past month! The Government’s restrictions on movement have impacted us all, with the strong message: “Stay home!”
While some will be working in essential services and able to leave their homes, the rest of us will only have had the opportunity of leaving our residence for exercise, medical appointments or essential shopping. We can no longer “go” to church, but church comes to us in the confines of our living rooms, on TV screens or computers, as we experience a whole new way of gathering electronically. It is indeed a brave new world into which we have been plunged. God’s creative purposes for humankind were always societal and communal – “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Therefore it is no wonder that we are feeling strange in isolation. However, isolation is not new for the people of God, although it is usually experienced in times of grief or even times of chastisement. The first people to be isolated, of course, were Adam and Eve, when God cast them out of the Garden of Eden due to their disobedience. They were isolated from the pristine environment that God had provided, symbolised by their being denied access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). Yet God was still with them. Their absence from the Garden did not mean absence from God. Elijah experienced two episodes of isolation. The first was at God’s direction when he went to the brook Cherith in the time of Israel’s drought. There for more than two years he was fed bread and meat by ravens and was refreshed by the waters of the brook. But he had no human contact. SouthernCross
We don’t even know if he had copies of the five books of Moses, or some psalms of David. Perhaps he knew these by heart and, like the author of Psalm 1, he “meditated on God’s law day and night”. However, God was with him even in his loneliness and extreme “social distance” from other humans. The other occasion for Elijah was of his own doing, when he “ran for his life” as he fled from Ahab and the threat of Jezebel’s wrath. I have always found this a strange response from Elijah after his triumph at Mount Carmel, and so soon after God’s protection and provision for his sustenance during the years of drought. Yet, there he is, fleeing to the desert – all alone. Of course, God is still with him and he knows it, for he beseeches God: “I have had enough, LORD, take my life” (1 Kings 19:4). In response, God sends his angel to Elijah to refresh him for a journey to Mount Sinai, the place where God’s covenant with Israel was established. There, in the aloneness of a cave on the mount of God, he hears in a gentle whisper the voice of his maker and fresh instructions are given him for his prophetic ministry. God still had work for him to do. God was with Elijah in his solitary journey of 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Sinai, just as God was with Moses on the same mount for 40 days and 40 nights. It is not coincidental that our Lord went alone into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. Each of the Synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ being led by the Holy Spirit for this time of testing by the Devil. Yet in this isolation from human contact, the triune God with his holy angels communed together (Mark 1:13). Here, where Elijah had failed, Jesus succeeded. In the face of temptation, Jesus never wavered. As Son of Man his confidence in God’s enabling by his Spirit was his surety; as the Son of God his trust in God’s word was the foundation of his obedience. He could therefore confound the attacks of the Devil by citing the promises of God’s word, in the knowledge that God was with him. It is sometimes thought that God abandoned Jesus on the cross, leaving him alone. Yet this is not true. In the upper room Jesus predicted his disciples’ desertion, knowing that they would leave him all alone, “Yet,” he says, “I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (John 16:32). Jesus’ cry of being forsaken on the cross was not abandonment, but rather judgment. He who was the beloved had simultaneously become the accursed. He who knew no sin, became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is the mystery of the cross and the fountain of our salvation. Therefore we are never alone. Despite the social restrictions that we suffer, despite feeling all alone in our homes – especially those who do live alone – our God is with us. He is our Immanuel. For nothing can separate us from the love of Christ: not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril nor Coronavirus! Let us therefore use this isolation to reflect more deeply upon God’s word, as Moses and Elijah did on Mount Sinai, and as Jesus did in the wilderness. We may have more than 40 days of isolation but we have an ever-present God, whose Son is with us by his Spirit both now and into eternity.SC
A PRAYER FOR MISSION 2020 Our heavenly Father, fill our lives with the fruit of your Spirit so that we may walk in joyful obedience, share your love by word and deed, and see Christ honoured in every community as Lord and Saviour. Amen SouthernCross
What do you do when your mission plans are upended by circumstances? Make new plans – and run with them – writes Simon Gillham.
ne of the central and time-honoured pillars of the Moore College community is
the annual week of mission. Planning for 2020 began two years ago and involved a co-ordinated evangelistic drive involving 10 different teams in the Georges River Region, pastor training in the Solomon Islands and mission teams being deployed to work with the Armidale Diocese, the Presbyterian Church in Bathurst and Maitland Evangelical Church. We hoped to partner with churches in inviting people to large public gatherings, meeting strangers in public spaces, hosting meals and engaging in as many face-to-face conversations about Jesus as possible throughout the week. In God’s providence, none of these plans came to pass in anything like the form we expected. Two and a half weeks before the mission was due to start it became clear things were changing very quickly. Our plans – which might otherwise have seemed quite traditional – would have been SouthernCross
transformed into acts of great recklessness and indifference in the face of the pandemic. At this point it was tempting to think that we should throw our hands in the air and cancel the mission. The truth, of course, is that the world needs the good news of Jesus now as much as at any point in history – and, in fact, a renewed openness to the gospel began to emerge as the proud boasts of secularism were exposed to the cold light of the new day. We are not in control, we are not buffered from one another or from the invisible forces that press upon us, and stamping our feet while wishing things were different does not change reality. The world needs the good news of the Lord Jesus. In an anxious time of physical distancing, self-isolation and restricted movement, how would we reach our friends and neighbours with this news? It was clear that a radically new approach was needed. Around college we began to brainstorm ideas about how to serve the church and reach the lost during a prolonged period of self-isolation. We asked church leaders what they would like us to do. From these lists we devised 24 projects that students, chaplains and faculty could work on during the mission week – primarily to produce resources for others to use. So, during college mission each of us agreed to do four things, and the first three at least are things that we can all continue to be committed to. 1 Pray for the world in the face of the in long overdue phone calls. pandemic, and especially for those who 3 Ring those we know (including those face it without knowing Jesus. from our churches) who are vulnerable or 2 Share the testimony of what God has done isolated at this time. in our lives and the difference this makes. 4 Contribute to the work of at least one of the Many of these testimonies were video combined projects below. recorded and shared. Some were shared The projects we worked on included compiling lists of existing online resources in partnership with The Gospel Coalition Australia (GCA), engaging evangelistically in online gaming, and:
RECORDING: • A Play School-style children’s program • Skits and stories for children • Lessons for Jesus Club (a ministry among the intellectually impaired) • Original music • Reading Christian books aloud • Bible storytelling • Prayer Book services for personal ministry with the elderly or ill • Read The Bible With Me for YouTube • Topical podcasts
• Family devotional resources
• Resources for Christian women
• Translations of Chinese language articles
• Answers to questions (in partnership with christianity.net.au)
• Japanese evangelistic material
• Articles (in partnership with Australian Church Record, The GCA, Matthias Media, The Centre for Christian Living, the Priscilla & Aquila Centre and others)
• Korean evangelistic tools • Resources for offline ministries • Online evangelistic courses • Online illustrated children’s books and comics • Resources for youth ministry (in partnership with Matthias Media and CMS)
• Editing written content • Short social media posts
I am so grateful for the way God has blessed us in this season, with a warm fellowship of likeminded brothers and sisters who he has gifted in extraordinary ways for his glory and the building of his church. You can see everything that has been produced on the college website at https:// moore.edu.au/moore-college-mission-2020/, including two videos students have made reflecting on the experience. All of it is free for you and your church to download and use. Many of the resources will also appear in other published forms in the months ahead. This was a week of mission absolutely unlike any other in the college’s history, and yet, all the most important elements were exactly the same as they’ve always been. The heart of college mission is about being sent into God’s world, with God’s unchanging good news of salvation in the Lord Jesus – that people might hear, repent and believe, and so have eternal life.
an Overview of the Old Testament
The details of the languages and communication methods we use, as well as the contexts of the people we are trying to reach, are always changing. This is the season we have been called to be faithful in, and there is much to rejoice in and give thanks for.SC The Rev Simon Gillham is head of the Department of Mission at Moore College. SouthernCross
Chaplains’ COVID care
t’s just a normal work day on the wards for Kate Bradford, an Anglicare chaplain at Westmead Hospital. COVID may have turned life upside down for just about everyone, but her job is much the same as it’s always been.
In many hospitals right now, she says, chaplains don’t have the freedom to visit patients. “Some are being asked to work from home, some are being asked to make their contacts by telephone, whereas we’re really delighted that, at Westmead, in lots of ways our work is pretty similar. “We’ve got a lot of patients who are not COVID patients… so we’re visiting on all of our normal wards. When we do go to patients that have an infectious disease it’s the same precautions as before – although while there was a shortage of PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] we were very reluctant to use the gear if that might mean medical staff would be short.” On the wards that do have COVID patients the chaplains visit if asked, and they also make sure the staff know that they are available to spend time with the families. “The [patients] I’ve seen weren’t COVID positive in the end… it’s treated as an infectious case until [the hospital] is certain it’s not,” Mrs Bradford says. “For me the really difficult thing has been that the family is not really able to gather around the bedside. That’s the really sad thing about the [COVID] restrictions. Usually if somebody’s dying their close relatives – spouse, children, parents – are in the room. Now, one family member can be in the room and the rest are out in the hallway… it’s not as normal. “I’m learning to ask the question, ‘Where is the family? Is the family in the hospital?’ because SouthernCross
they’re not in the normal spots… that whole learning curve, it’s new for all of us.”
VIRTUAL CHAPLAINCY At Wollongong Hospital you’ll often find the Rev Ian Rienits in his office, which is within the hospital chapel. He is able to visit patients, but – as the lone staff chaplain for eight hospitals in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven – says he has chosen to do physical visits only by referral, otherwise “Who do you visit?” Because he is the sole chaplain, he has a big team of volunteers – yet whatever visits volunteers might make are counted as part of the single hour of visiting time each patient is allowed every day. This hour includes family members, and only one person is allowed to visit at a time. Like Mr Rienits, the volunteers are normally out on the wards, walking from bed to bed and spending time with patients. The fact that they can’t visit as normal, he says, is “really frustrating for them because they want to come in! “The health system is saying if you’ve got any high-risk categories in your life, such as being over 60 or 70 and having an underlying health condition, then don’t come. That wiped out about two-thirds of my volunteers at that point! Then things tightened up more, so they stopped all volunteers – lolly trolley ladies, cancer care volunteers, palliative care volunteers. They need to become like a family visitor.” One way Mr Rienits is hoping to make more regular contact with patients, families and staff is through technology. He is in the process of trialling a “virtual” chapel – complete with photos from the real thing – so that, potentially, he or one of his volunteers could be available 12 hours a day on Zoom to whoever pops online. “The major intent is to have interaction,” he says. “They can have quiet if they want to, or they could even ‘meet’ someone there… eventually I hope to send a letter of invitation to patients.”
MORE ONE-TO-ONE TIME Things have settled down somewhat at Anglicare’s Woodberry Village in Winston Hills, for which chaplain the Rev Nigel Webb is grateful. He says there was a period of “virus lockdown”, but “at the moment we can be with the residential aged care residents, so lots of things are restricted but we can be with them face to face”. “Because there aren’t the same social connections and gatherings that normally happen, we’re spending a lot more time visiting people one to one. We would have done that anyway, but we just do it more!” However, the physical distancing rules mean that chapel is restricted to only 20 people. Undeterred, Mr Webb prepares a service sheet for each Sunday morning, then in the hour before chapel he and other staff visit the rooms of the 30 other church members, give them the service sheet, turn on their TV and tune it to the chapel channel. He says the pandemic has “opened up many more opportunities to talk about Jesus, particularly with people who wouldn’t normally come to chapel… People ask the questions, ‘Where is God in this, and why isn’t he looking after us?’, and that can lead us to talk about how God’s rescue isn’t just from Coronavirus, droughts and floods but also frailty and illness. SouthernCross
“For the Christians their faith is stronger at this time. They can really see that God is looking after them and this country, and they’re just really grateful for the circumstances they’re in and the way they’re being looked after at a very difficult time.”
PRAY In addition to their own illness, many hospital patients are troubled about job and business losses and the health of family members outside the hospital. Their world has completely changed around them, Mrs Bradford says, and “people have just wanted to talk or engage at quite a deep level”. She mentions staff as a particular matter for prayer, saying “they’re being asked to carry a big burden for the wider community”, and asks that people pray for chaplains to have opportunities to connect with staff and the families of patients to support and encourage them. When Mr Rienits is at the hospital, he has also been making particular time for conversations with staff, saying, “Some of them are very pressured; others just have the general anxiety of the community. But there have been all sorts of changes happening within the hospital as well, so there’s just a general anxiety with that.” Mr Webb says even some of the Christian staff in the village have been anxious because of all that is happening around them, and he is glad of the opportunity to remind them of the love of Jesus. And although the pandemic has certainly resulted in great sadness and suffering, he reflects that it is “also a really helpful time. It’s shaken all sorts of people out of their comfort zone and into thinking about bigger things, more significant things, and what’s really important. From a Christian perspective that is exciting, because people aren’t just focused on all the reasons to avoid Jesus, and that’s pretty cool.”SC
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A sign of love THE CHURCH SERVICES OFFERING LIVESTREAM AUSLAN INTERPRETATION
Heart language : The Rev Ross Ciano at Marrickville makes sure AUSLAN interpretation is included with his online sermons.
othing makes you feel included like having people speak your language. Or in Andre Morrissey’s case, sign your language. Being born with bilateral profound hearing loss, Mrs Morrissey is completely deaf without hearing aids – and even with the aids is unable to recognise any words.
This makes communicating with people who don’t know Australian Sign Language (AUSLAN) a real challenge. And when communication is a challenge, being in fellowship becomes difficult. Mrs Morrissey says she initially found it hard to connect with her church, Marrickville Road Anglican. “People did not know any sign language, however there were a few people who knew the AUSLAN alphabet, which helped,” she explains. “It was very isolating not being able to communicate with anyone. At the time, I thought of leaving church because I found it hard not being able to talk to anyone and no one trying to talk to me.” All these feelings changed when the congregation at Marrickville started learning to sign in order to love Mrs Morrissey. “I finally felt like I belonged to church when people wanted to learn AUSLAN so they could talk to me,” she says. SouthernCross
COMMUNICATE IN THE HEART LANGUAGE This was the reason the rector of Marrickville, the Rev Ross Ciano, felt it was important to include AUSLAN interpretation in his online sermons. He preaches alongside an interpreter in order to ensure that every member of his congregation can know the word of God in their own language. “Sign language is its own language,” Mr Ciano says. “It has its own dialect, its own vibe. People feel more connected when they see sign. We’re speaking their heart language, which is very important in communication. It’s also about understanding the person wholeheartedly when you supply someone who can communicate [in] their heart language. It’s more loving. “We could have easily done subtitles and, yeah, that works, but there’s something about being communicated to in their heart language that speaks deeper than words. “The same could be said of people who can hear. We could just do transcripts for everyone, and why would we need a preacher then? But we still communicate, because communication is deeper than words.” Mr Ciano is immensely encouraged by his church jumping on board to learn AUSLAN, and by the opportunities presented by including an interpreter. “I think it’s an application of the gospel,” he says. “The gospel is for all people, dialects and subcultural groups. It’s applying Ephesians 2, that any [cultural] barriers have come down in Jesus so that we can fellowship together. “Catering for the Deaf community increases the access to the gospel for a community that would not normally be able to access church services. Primarily, we were doing the translation for our sister but, in the back of my mind, I always hope we’ll reach more people. I know there are MAC & PC
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a number of unbelievers watching our online services, and I know there are a number [of Deaf people as well]. I’m quite encouraged by that.” PART OF THE CONGREGATION The team at St David’s, Forestville also offers AUSLAN interpretation during its livestream Sunday services for the few Deaf members of its church – an extension of what was provided pre-isolation. In addition to Sunday interpretation, a mid-week Deaf Bible study runs on Zoom. “We’ve got a small Deaf group who have been able to be part of our church life because of the NDIS making it possible with social funding,” says rector the Rev Gavin Parsons. “They love being part of the church community as they are able, but are often limited on a lot of occasions. “Life is hard in many ways, but they’re keen to love Jesus in amongst all that, and communication helps. They’re certainly part of the fabric of our family congregation.” “A SPECIAL KIND OF LOVE” Mr Darren Kirkegard, from St Paul’s Carlingford and North Rocks, says offering AUSLAN translation in services is “really hard… It takes a lot of time, research and effort. To do it for one or two people in church, when you have hundreds to look after, takes a special kind of love”. Having joined the Deaf community after losing the ability to speak, Mr Kirkegard is an advocate for Deaf ministry. He teaches an AUSLAN Bible study, meets with many Deaf people to encourage them in their faith, evangelises and produces AUSLAN video resources to make more Bible content available. Seeing ministry teams go out of their way to make Bible teaching accessible with AUSLAN interpretation is encouraging, but he suggests a number of simple ways that every Christian can love the Deaf.
With Jesus’ help: Darren Kirkegard shares the impact Jesus has had on his life in an online video.
“Don’t treat them like they have the plague – or COVID-19,” he says. “Go up and say ‘Hi’. Try to communicate. Chat with them through a phone or pen/paper. Know about interpreted church services and online resources, such as http://auslan.bible/, which has parts of the Bible translated into AUSLAN. Keep praying for the Deaf community, and those ministering to the Deaf community.” Mr Kirkegard adds that, if people can do it, taking the time to learn sign makes the biggest impact. “Some people have made the ultimate sacrifice to learn the new language to welcome in a ‘foreigner’, and actually become their friend.”SC SouthernCross
Just haven’t met you yet Make the link: (top) Life Anglican Church’s connect
card; (bottom) a website service ad for Glenmore Park.
n Palm Sunday, the Rev Mark Collins was preaching at a Life Anglican Church service – taking in the churches at Quakers Hill, Riverstone and his own church of Marsden Park.
He said to those viewing online that he would bring a Bible to their home if they wanted one. To his great joy, two people made contact: one a new Christian, and the other a person who had been trying church out in cyberspace. To his even greater joy, both have signed up for an upcoming Christianity Explored course that the parish will do online. The non-believer lives a short distance from the church at Quakers Hill, but had never been willing to walk through the door. Now, not only is he regularly watching church online, he is reading his new Bible with enthusiasm. “It’s a strange world that we’re in now,” Mr Collins says, “but in the midst of all that is happening, God is sovereign and his kingdom is growing no matter what.” At a big church like St Matt’s, Manly, keeping tabs on members – never mind newcomers – can UR
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HOW TO CARE FOR PEOPLE YOU HAVEN’T MET • Remembering that God is our strength (Psalm 46), make sure the shepherds in your parish are feeding the flock with God’s word and building resilience. This not only keeps the family of God strong but gives church members the impetus to help others (and amid all this, keep an eye on your church staff to make sure they are also well supported). • Provide a range of ways in which new people can make contact. Highlight an online welcome group, an email address or other options during your church service, and label contact links clearly on your website. • If you haven’t already done so, consider making the church services publicly available any time, on any day, so the greatest number of people can connect. • Whether supported by a care agency/local council or run solely by the parish, consider making a care ministry more public so the community knows where to go for support, and so God is glorified through our love for our neighbours. • Think in terms of relationship: whether you make contact by phone, social media, video link or a note in the letterbox, do whatever works best for that person based on their age and stage. • When talking to someone new listen well, seek to develop a relationship and ask them if they need prayer. • Ask if they need someone to shop for them. • Keep a pantry of emergency groceries at your church for contacts you make who may need them. • Offer to drop a Bible or New Testament at their home and provide them with the option of reading it with someone. • Remember that you don’t have to solve every problem they may be facing. You can bring issues back to the wider church community, and bring them to God in prayer.
be tricky. But online numbers suggest the parish is getting even bigger, thanks to COVID-19. Senior assistant minister and head of St Matt’s pastoral care team, the Rev Andrew Graham, says, “We estimate our numbers logging in online are up about 50 per cent… A conservative estimate for Easter Sunday was that we had more than 50 per cent extra people hooking in online than had turned up to services the previous year”. So, how do we, as a church and as individuals within it, make contact with all these new people and love them well? The answer will be different for each parish, as we seek to respond in a way that is most helpful to those around us – rich or poor, young or old, employed, unemployed or retired. Some parishes are offering a button to click after their online service if you want prayer, contact or other support; others are keeping spare groceries aside for when a phone call comes, or offering one-to-one Bible reading. Sometimes we can just be a good neighbour, workmate or friend of a friend and help people with what they need. The new rector of Glenmore Park with Mulgoa, the Rev Chris Braga, is aware that for newcomers, a Zoom experience at church isn’t filled with the delight of seeing familiar faces, because the relationships aren’t there yet. He says the parish plans to offer a group for those tuning in who aren’t already members so that,
Serve it up: The soup kitchen at St Matt’s, Manly goes on the road. after the service, “if you want to get online and if you’re new, I’m going to be in a welcome lounge”. “We still need to reach out,” he adds, saying that members are already sharing online services with people who don’t normally go to church, so an increasing number “are engaging with teaching from the Bible”. “[Normally] we have our doors open and we invite people to our church, and we need to maintain something of that same structure… to get out there and love other people, and we’ll see the benefit of that when our churches do gather together again.” Mr Collins says people still need meaningful contact that is relationally based, whether they’re already members of the church, on the fringes or experiencing it for the first time. “Some people want a phone call,” he says. “Others in the younger generation just want a Facebook Messenger chat or whatever… some sort of conversation mechanism. Ministry’s still relationships, it’s just that [COVID-19] has changed how we do relationships.” Back at Manly, Andrew Graham says each congregation has its own discrete personality, so this helps with care and follow-up. In addition, he leads a Bible study group for newcomers – and one couple that joined for the first time a few weeks ago has, so far, only met others online. Because of physical distancing, the parish has also taken its weekly soup kitchen for community housing residents and homeless people onto the street in a borrowed van, which has actually made the ministry more visible to the community. “The goodwill towards this sort of thing is immense,” Mr Graham says. “People walking past are saying, ‘It’s great the church is doing this’ and giving us little donations. And a local butcher has even said, ‘Every night you need meat I’m happy to give it to you’. It’s wonderful.”SC SouthernCross
How to love the senior saints in your church Tara Sing
eter and Pat Edwards (above right) were busy retirees. They caught up with others daily,
Mr Edwards attended the gym, they ran errands and attended church gatherings. “And now, nothing,” says Mrs Edwards, of St Paul’s, Wahroonga. Thanks to COVID-19, “It’s all just a blank”. This experience represents the way many older members of our churches feel. The pandemic has been unsettling, as they adapt routines to socially isolate and shift to online processes. “Our world has shrunk physically – we feel shut in,” Mrs Edwards says. “We sit on our balcony looking out and wondering what is happening. But I can’t get out there. We are now relying on technology, but sometimes I feel bombarded. Things keep bing-ing and ringing. I’m more frazzled, more easily irritated and upset. There is paranoia. Have I washed my hands enough?” Mrs Jennie Everist (left), the pastoral care minister at St Luke’s, Miranda, says, “The important thing when seeking to care for older members of your church is to imagine what life is like for them now. “They may have downsized and left their homes. There is grief about losing their garden, their neighbours. Even down to, ‘My doctor has died and my hairdresser doesn’t cut hair any more’. There’s lots of stuff in life that begins to take effect, [like] long-term illnesses. Our seniors have been told, ‘Look after yourselves, keep moving, have good nutrition’ and that’s all compromised now.” Add COVID-19 and it’s a complex mix. So, amid these life challenges, Mr and Mrs Edwards and Mrs Everist share eight ways we can actively seek to serve older, isolated saints in our local church. 1 EMPATHISE Mr Edwards says a bit of empathy goes a long way. “Try to understand how we feel,” he says. “When I was in my twenties, it was difficult to empathise with what my friends’ parents thought about things. But one just has to be genuine.” 2 COMMUNICATE SENSITIVELY AND RESPECTFULLY “On a practical level, speak slowly and clearly,” Mr Edwards advises. “Don’t use too much jargon or colloquial language. Be respectful. Chatting to us like we are your 20-year-old mates is not respectful because we’re not. It’s very difficult to learn to use conservative language without trying to be formal, but that’s just the way we were brought up. In our childhood days, we always SouthernCross
referred to seniors as ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’, never by their first names. Younger people need to remember these things.” Mrs Edwards adds: “Be careful with humour. We’re slow, but we do have a sense of humour! But sometimes other people’s jokes can come across as flippant.” 3 BE PATIENT AND FLEXIBLE Mrs Everist says a patient and flexible approach with the elderly is best – to understand their needs and not push them further out of their comfort zone. “I thought about getting my mum an iPad so she could watch church online,” she says, “but then she asked me, ‘Can you remind me how to pause a DVD?’ – so out of the window went the iPad idea! We have to be creative and work with people to help.” 4 USE THEIR LANGUAGE “Listen and communicate in the language a person uses,” Mrs Everist says. “Older people won’t necessarily be online or in a Zoom room, although some are. Learn their preferred communication style, starting with telephone calls and writing letters. I’ve asked people in our youth service to write a card every week to an older member of our church.” 5 OFFER TECHNICAL SUPPORT “If younger people can be a ‘help desk’, that is a wonderful way to serve,” Mrs Everist says. “I helped one person do their online shopping, and another set up online banking. If you can help people in that way, do so.” 6 RECOMMEND BOOKS “Getting resources is a great thing, especially if this thing does go on for six more months,” Mrs Everist says. Ordering books online and dropping resources off, especially Christian ones, can be a great help when older people can’t go out. 7 FIX THEIR EYES ON GOD’S WORD “Give someone a call, have a chit-chat, and then ask, ‘How are you going?’” Mrs Edwards says. “Try and turn their thoughts to God. A lot of people are more receptive to God than ever before.” Adds Mrs Everist: “Swap your favourite Bible verse with another older Christian. Say to a person of faith a verse you have found encouraging this week. Share what has given you courage or strength. Ask them what they found encouraging as well.” 8 PRAY FOR AND WITH THEM Mrs Everist: “Don’t assume you know what is on their mind. They might be worried about their neighbour who doesn’t know Jesus. We ask and then, if we feel the space is okay, ask if you can pray for them right now over the phone, The important thing is to listen and respond to what is said. “If the vibe is right, ask them to pray for you, too. Saying something like, ‘Would you mind praying for me about my exams?’ or ‘I don’t know where God would have me serve next, can you pray for that?’. When I’m watching my older saints share prayer and their favourite verses with their younger brothers and sisters, it’s a great thing to see.” This information was originally presented at an MTS webinar on April 3. SouthernCross
Six steps to reaching out online
s I’ve talked with people over the past few weeks, I’ve been so encouraged by what has been
happening with church online. It has been great to see people’s desire to reach out and care for their congregations and the wider community. What an amazing job everyone is doing in such a tough time! Right now many are craving the hope, peace and comfort they can find in Jesus. I’ve been encouraged by how many people who aren’t yet Christians, or people who have never set foot in a church, are seeking to know about Jesus! There is much to praise God for. Can I suggest a few things for church leaders and members to be thinking about as they encourage each other to share the good news with their community: how we can actively live out Jesus’ mission to reach the lost.
2. REACH OUT
We know our good God hears and answers our prayers, therefore encourage your church to pray big, bold prayers, asking God to raise up more workers for the harvest field.
Having prayed, church members need to reach out to their friends. Contact people you have been praying for and keep chatting with them, asking them how they are going. Offer to pray for these contacts and think through practical ways to support them. People have never been so open to receiving phone calls and handwritten letters, along with texts, messages and video chats. Send invitations to all your contacts to come to your online church and include information to help them find out more about Jesus. Also include an offer of practical help, care or prayer.
Pray we would be the answer to our prayers – that God in his goodness would use us and give us courage to speak words of hope and light into the lives of those around us, who are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Pray that God would open many hearts to hear and respond to the gospel during this time. SouthernCross
4. GET SOCIAL
Encourage each other to be bold in inviting people to watch our online services. It has been amazing to see so many previously unreached people venturing “into” church in recent weeks. What an opportunity! Can I encourage leaders in sermons and music to be aware of this. Check your words for jargon and assumed knowledge. Include clear explanations of the gospel in each service, giving people opportunities to respond and find out more. Invite people to do Word 121 together (see https://www.theword121.com/ get-started). This is an excellent evangelistic resource to read with someone or for them to work through on their own.
Encourage members to think through positive ways to use social media. For example, they (and you as a church) can regularly put Bible verses on Facebook with a brief comment. Many not-yet Christians have been responding positively to this. Post thoughtful, well-written, encouraging or challenging articles or talks. Email them to friends and family. Put them on your church Facebook page. In your services and on your social media accounts you might offer to put a Bible on people’s doorstep or in their letterbox, or other resources such as The Essential Jesus, Two Ways to Live or the Why Easter? booklet. This is the time many people are more likely to read something about Jesus. They’re also extra happy to have something free delivered to their door!
Wouldn’t it be great if God brought many more people into his kingdom at this time!
5. FOLLOW UP
Offer groups via Zoom to watch some of the excellent, well-produced online courses that are available for free, such as Christianity Explored (www.christianityexplored.org). There is some great material with excellent short interviews, answering many of the big questions people ask.
For people who don’t mind reading, you can suggest helpful books such as Confronting Christianity – 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin, or Lost and Found – How Jesus helped us discover our true selves edited by Colin Hanson. These are wonderfully encouraging and helpful, will spark lots of conversation and encourage people to seriously consider Jesus.
Put these links upfront on your church website and Facebook pages so anyone can access the resources for themselves. Church members can also forward course links to their contacts and start an online discussion group.
I pray in this tough but exciting time that God would continue to work in and through all of you for his glory and for the salvation of many.
The Rev John Lavender is a Sydney minister with a passion for sharing Jesus who has recently joined the staff at Evangelism and New Churches. SouthernCross
Wade through mud for Jesus’ sake LESSONS FROM MISSIONARY LIFE FOR THOSE WITH CORONA CULTURE SHOCK
ulture shock! Many of us have experienced it, or at least heard of it. Culture is the set of ideas, customs, social behaviours and worldview of a particular people group or society; the “shock” comes when a person from one culture finds themselves living and operating in another.
The culture in Australia – our way of life – has changed dramatically since the onset of COVID19, and we haven’t travelled anywhere! As a nation we are in culture shock. Missionaries are in the business of changing cultures. They train for it and do it deliberately to take the message of Jesus to another culture. So what do they know that could help us in a time like this?
THE INITIAL SHOCK Changing cultures is physically exhausting. During their first year in a new location, missionaries invariably report how tired they feel all the time. When adapting to a different culture our brains are working very hard to process all the changes and work out how to operate in the new environment. We tell new missionaries to be kind to themselves and to have realistic expectations. In the weeks prior to and following a change in culture, a person is said to be in “transition”. Missionaries report that during such a transition routines are very difficult to maintain. SouthernCross
An important routine for Christians is regular prayer and Bible study. This, coupled with the difficulty accessing normal spiritual support structures (such as regular prayer partners and a regular worshipping community) means most missionaries find transition is a time of spiritual dryness. At such times we must be deliberately proactive about maintaining spiritual disciplines and looking for creative opportunities for prayer and fellowship with others. Changing cultures leads to increased stress, and this can negatively impact emotional health, relationships and the ability to cope with day-to-day tasks. If this sounds like you in our COVID-19 world, you won’t be alone! We must take account of this extra stress, plus its effect on our relationships and our spiritual and emotional health. We must be aware that we have increased anxiety and we should give special grace to others – just as they will need to give special grace to us.
LIVING LONG-TERM IN ANOTHER CULTURE Most would expect that in time the new culture will feel as comfortable as home. It is helpful to remember that, although the new culture can be quite fun, we are hardwired to live in our own culture. There will always be mysterious elements to the new culture that we can never quite comprehend or learn to navigate. One missionary friend described long-term, cross-cultural living as permanently wading through mud. I was a missionary in the centre of DR Congo on the Congo River and I know about mud! We lived in the second biggest tropical jungle on earth and it rained a lot. I have travelled
Going through mud for Jesus: Malcolm Richards and his wife Elizabeth take a snap from their motorbike in DR Congo.
for 40km on a motorbike in mud as deep as the top of my gumboots, and have fallen (with my motorbike and wife) into a deep, sticky mud hole. Operating in mud means there is resistance all the time, in every activity, with a cloud of uncertainty about the possible dangers ahead. That is what we are facing even after the initial culture shock has passed. It’s vital that all those living cross-culturally concentrate on staying healthy so they are up to its ongoing challenges. This means actively maintaining spiritual health, relational health and physical/emotional health.
HAVE A PURPOSE Missionaries volunteer to cross cultures for a purpose: to share the good news of Jesus. They make plans well in advance so they can be successful in doing tasks in the new culture to which God has sent them. They have language learning plans, culture learning plans and strategies for making friends and forming relationships. In our current situation, many Christians are struggling with the same questions. What is my purpose in all this? How can I honour my employer? How can I honour the Lord Jesus? How can I look after my family? Whatever our role, our overarching purpose in this Corona time is to serve Jesus. Finding out how to do this well takes prayer, thought and planning.
Less mud this time: Malcolm Richards
ready for another Congolese motorbike trip.
REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK This is the culture shock experienced as we finish our time in the “other” culture and return home. Most missionaries find that reverse culture shock is much worse than the shock experienced when they left home. It seems worse for a few reasons: perhaps a lack of planning, perhaps an unexpected return and, worst of all, the home culture has changed and they are trying to get used to a culture that is not the one they left! So, remember: when “normal” life starts again after COVID-19 it is almost inevitable that our culture will have changed in ways we cannot predict. Reverse culture shock awaits. While you continue to wade through mud for the sake of Jesus, remember that we have no idea how long this will last or what changes we will face in the future. But Jesus knows exactly what we are going through and what the future holds. He has promised to be with us until the end of the age.SC
The Rt Rev Malcom Richards is Sydney’s Bishop for International Relations and the head of Moore College’s Centre for Global Mission. MAY 2020
Why does God care who I sleep with?
Sam Allberry responds to a range of questions about the Church, sex and sexuality.
Don’t I need to have sex with someone to find out if we’re really compatible? A lot of people will naturally think, “In order to find out if I’m really going to connect with someone, I need to have a sexual relationship with them as part of that process of discernment”. You can have a lot of sex but not actually be experiencing intimacy. And you can also have a lot of intimacy that has nothing to do with sex. Intimacy, really, is being deeply known on the inside and deeply accepted and loved, and that doesn’t actually require a sexual relationship. There are lots of kinds of relationships where you SouthernCross
can experience intimacy that are completely non-sexual, but it also means you don’t need to have sex with someone to find out if you really, deeply connect with them. Sex is designed to be a vehicle for and an expression of deep connection and intimacy. It can’t by itself create that. And so, I think what we’ve done [in society] is we’ve turned things backwards and we’ve thought, “Well, I’m going to try and have that physical, sexual relationship with someone to find out if we connect”. And actually, the very fact that we’re having that relationship can prevent us from experiencing the real connection that we’re looking for.
Why can’t the Church just relax about sex? We’re at a really interesting point in Western culture where we’re beginning to realise that a lot of the things we’ve said and assumed about sex were insufficient and inadequate. So, we’ve said for a number of years, “It’s only sex. It’s only physical. It doesn’t mean anything”. This whole category of casual sex – we’re starting to see the ways in which that doesn’t work and it doesn’t fit as a way of thinking, and where we need more wisdom as a culture to navigate these issues in a healthier way. Everyone has boundaries about what they think about human sexual behaviour. Everyone does. The question is, where do your boundaries come from? What’s the rationale for them? And as a Christian, I can answer that by saying the rationale I have actually comes from the teaching of Jesus Christ. It makes sense. There’s a cohesiveness to it. It’s not arbitrary. We see in Jesus such wisdom. It’s not always easy teaching and there’s a sense in which it’s not easy for any of us. And yet there’s something deeply compelling and deeply wise and deeply dignifying that we need to recover in our culture.
If God made me this way, how can it be wrong? One of the great things about the Christian faith is this idea that God created human sexuality. He invented it. This is his idea. It wasn’t something we’ve made up behind his back, but that’s not the same as saying God created all the sexual feelings every single one of us experiences. Every human being, we hope, will recognise that they will have certain sexual urges that should not be indulged, certain cravings that are just not going to be healthy to indulge. We can’t just take every craving we have and say, “Well, God made that craving, therefore it must be right”. We have enough self-awareness to recognise that we’re more complex than that. Christians account for this by talking about the fall of humanity – that actually our desires have all been disordered in one way or another, so that we can’t just trust that our instincts and our appetites and our urges will be healthy and life-giving and right. So, someone may say, “Well, I was born with a particular set of sexual attractions. They seem so innate”. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right or they should be indulged. They could be hugely destructive.
Can’t we just let people love who they love? That Christianity has sexual boundaries is not unique. Everyone has sexual boundaries. The question is, where do we draw those boundaries and what is the basis for drawing them there? And most people today will say, “Well, the only boundary, really, is consent and that the other person be an adult”. Christianity believes in drawing the boundaries more carefully than that. What undergirds everything Christians believe about sex and boundaries and all those kinds of things is a deep conviction that Jesus Christ is good and, therefore, if he is our creator then he knows what is going to be best for us. He knows what is going to ultimately lead to our flourishing. Therefore, we want to live within the constraints he gives us, because those are going to be the constraints in which we can really flourish and live out our full humanity, and actually contradicting his ways is going to diminish our humanity in one way or another. So it’s not that there’s an arbitrary set of rules that Christians have signed up for, but actually that we believe that Jesus is so good that his guidelines for us, his teaching for us, is going to SouthernCross
lead us in much better paths than we would be going down otherwise. The Bible talks about him being a good shepherd. This is the way to the green pastures: to follow the ways that he gives us.
Are you trying to take my identity? Because sexuality is such a deep personal part of who we are, it quickly becomes something [in which] we find our identity… particularly because, in the Western world, we live in a culture that is very sexually charged, very sexually aware. I think it’s so drilled into us to be sexually self-conscious [that] image, sexual desirability, prowess, all quickly become issues of identity. We begin to define ourselves on those kinds of issues, and therefore we begin to find our identity in the sexual relationships that we want to have, that we desire to have or that we are able to have. How we feel our sexuality is going becomes one of the chief markers for us of how we’re doing at life. That’s a common feature of life for us in the West. I think it’s not a helpful one, because there’s so much more to us than our sexual feelings and/or our sexual desirability. But in a very social media, visual, selfie-taking age, these quickly become foregrounded as the primary ways in which we learn to see ourselves and other people.
Isn’t sex just another physical appetite? As with other physical appetites, we need to learn healthy ways of taking responsibility for the appetites that we have. And that means, actually, we need to learn a measure of selfcontrol. If someone always eats when they’re feeling any kind of physical hunger, if they only ever eat what they feel like eating, we know that’s going to lead to all kinds of health issues. And similarly, if a person indulges every sexual feeling and urge they have, that is going to be very damaging to them and to other people. That leads to all kinds of sexual addictions. It can lead to very deeply destructive patterns of behaviour. So, although these appetites come from within us, they’re not always healthy, and we need to learn how to exercise self-control. One way of thinking about this that I think can really help is, it’s like fire. If fire in a fireplace is warming, it’s pleasurable, it’s so great for the room, fire outside the fireplace can be massively destructive, and the same is true for sex. When sex is enjoyed in the right kind of setting and the right kind of safe context, it can be such a wonderful gift. But just like fire outside of that context, it can be massively disruptive. So, if we just assume all of our innate sexual feelings are right and we just need to run with them, actually that can be incredibly destructive. And I think we’re becoming more and more aware of that in our culture today.
Why are Christians so uptight about sex? Probably the biggest misconception people have about Christianity and sex is thinking that Christianity is basically disapproving of sex – that it will just about tolerate it in one or two contexts: “Hold your nose and just allow it”. But, actually, that is a misconception, because the Bible is far more comfortable and effusive talking about human sexuality than we often are. The Bible for many people has a surprisingly positive vision of human sexuality. God’s idea was to make us sexual beings, and actually the Bible has a positive celebration of human sexuality – but when it’s rightly understood and rightly practiced. So the Bible, again, isn’t squeamish about human sexuality. It’s very sober minded about the dangers of abusing it and misusing it, but it also paints this really beautiful picture of what sexual intimacy can be and is meant to be.
Should church leaders talk about sex more? Christian leaders need to recognise this is, I think, one of the biggest questions people have about the Christian faith today. The area where people are most likely to think that Christianity is bad news, that it’s just bad for the world, is the Christian understanding of sexual ethics. SouthernCross
There’s no way for church leaders to avoid this issue, because it’s constantly going to be talked about. It’s constantly going to be asked about. That means Christian leaders need to engage with these issues and we need to listen really carefully to the questions people are asking us and we need to speak into it. We can’t afford to have no message on this, otherwise people are only going to be taught by the culture around them. And our culture is often much better at discipleship than we are. So, there’s no option to have no answer. What we need to do is to think through how we can commend the goodness of Jesus Christ to people in this area of life. The Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”, so how can we taste and see that Jesus Christ is good news when it comes to human sexuality, sexual ethics, the definition of marriage, all those sorts of things? If we can’t do that we’re going to lose serious credibility in our Christian witness.
Shouldn’t church leaders avoid the controversy of talking about sex? Some Christian leaders will understandably feel as though this is just too highly charged an area to go into. They don’t want to talk about issues of sexual ethics because it’s so controversial… no pastor wants to get that kind of email on the Monday morning after church! So a lot of pastors think, “Well, maybe we’ll just avoid talking about this issue”. The trouble is you can only avoid talking about this issue if you avoid the teachings of Jesus Christ, because he does talk about it and the whole Bible talks about it. The apostle Paul, when he finished up in the city of Ephesus – having been there for a very long time – said goodbye to the Christian leaders there, and he said that he had a clear conscience because he taught them the whole counsel of God. If we don’t teach on an issue that God has spoken about so deeply and so richly in the Scriptures, we’re failing in our responsibility as Christian leaders. And, actually, we’re depriving people of the goodness of God in this area of life. We’re simply letting them be led by our culture. So, it’s controversial, but it’s worth it.
Why do we value sex so highly in our society today? Sexual freedom has become a de facto prime human right in the Western world. One of the reasons it’s become such a fierce, aggressively pursued goal that one has to have sexual autonomy is, I think, because in a secular world we don’t officially believe in any kind of transcendence in terms of a religious category. But the human spirit is still looking for transcendence. I think we’ve turned sex into this ultimate means of self-expression and selffulfillment precisely because we know we’re made for transcendence and this feels like the place where we might find it. The Rev Sam Allberry is an English Bible teacher, pastor and author who speaks widely on issues of sexuality and identity. His new book is titled Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? and this is an edited version of a video Q&A. You can watch the video here.
From bane to blessing We are in a schedule of God’s timing to dramatically alter or realign our perspective, writes Steven Farrar.
ohnny Cash knew all about isolation. Change just one word and his iconic song “Folsom Prison
Blues” hits the spot for a nation – and a planet – filled with people physically separated from each other. “I ain’t seen the sunshine, since I don’t know when I’m stuck in COVID prison And time keeps dragging on… … Far from COVID prison that’s where I want to stay.” Right now, COVID-19 has locked us in our homes – and you can easily get sick of being enclosed by four walls, especially if you live in a restricted space and have no real corner to escape to. Moreover, looking after young, energetic children requires more than just doing a jigsaw. No wonder they are calling it COVID cabin fever! At the moment, we are feeling this in every aspect of our lives. In our spiritual lives it prevents us meeting in pastoral proximity and restricts us from going into the field and doing evangelism, sharing one to one. However, there is another opportunity: restoring our spiritual state so we would truly be people grounded in the essence of the gospel under any and all circumstances. In our exilic-type experience, God is still present and speaking to us (cf Ezekiel 1:1, 2:1-2, 3:23; cf Jeremiah 29:1-14). We might even say that inside every problem (bane) there is an answer (blessing). For those who have families, the answer is to restore worship. As a couple you can restore your life together. Pray together, read the word together. Discuss the word together. If you have children, you can involve them as well. Relay the gospel to the next generation. Teach them the salient points of the gospel. Train them in evangelism. Help them understand the person and work of Christ, following the example of Acts 5:42: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ”. The answer is to also restore yourself. Do some work on you. Now is the time for deep prayer, deep Bible reading, so as to strengthen yourself in the Lord. This is the time to organise the gospel SouthernCross
in your life, to personalise it for yourself (cf Romans 16:25). The gospel is not a theory that we espouse. Rather, it works itself out through application on the basis of redemption accomplished. The gospel restores lives of every race, at every fundamental level, as the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16-17). Brian Rosner, the principal of Ridley College in Melbourne, has written that the gospel brings God’s own solution to the world’s problems – including the world’s anxiety. So many of us are not truly secure in Christ. This is highlighted when we worry and fret over some situations and get easily upset or offended by others. Rather than living by faith in a sovereign God, we often live by fear. Can we say with St Paul, “I have learned in whatever state I am to be content’’ (Philippians 4:11)? If not, we need restoring. Use this time to understand the assurances and benefits you have in Christ. Restore your state so that you rest in the sufficiency of Christ (alone). When you experience the Christ of the gospel through the word and prayer, your imprint and nature begin to change. Once you know and learn Christ you can begin to enjoy Christ and share Christ. Your soul restores; you heal. Worries and anxieties will begin to dissipate as you realise that you, as a child of God, are within God’s complete and perfect love (1 John 4:15-18). COVID prison is part of the journey within God’s covenantal purposes. You won’t be staying stuck in COVID, but use it as a precious momentary opportunity for discipline and preparation for greater works on the other side (cf Isaiah 58:12). “Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake!” (Psalm 143:11a).SC The Rev Steven Farrar is rector of St Mark’s, Ermington.
Letters JOY AT ONLINE CHURCH
Like so many people self-isolating I have found great joy in being to go to church online. Obviously it is sad we are not able to meet in the building and enjoy mixing with fellow worshippers but there are several advantages of church at home, one being that you can choose your time when to “go” to church, but for me the greatest advantage is the pause button. When the sermon gets challenging I have the option to cop it or stop it! Barton Furse-Roberts Westleigh STRANGE TIMES
The current pandemic has been a reminder to many of us that the word of God is not confined. Livestreamed church services are reaching people who might not otherwise have considered attending church in a building. In this vein, it was good to see St Andrew’s Cathedral’s Easter Sunday service broadcast on 9Gem. While we can be very thankful that a television network broadcast the good news of the resurrection and why it matters, I had to wonder how we had two adverts for psychics and clairvoyants during the commercial breaks. These are strange times. Alfred Johnson Kellyville SouthernCross
Gone to Exmouth with BCA
It’s a pretty big jump to go from a parish in a Sydney suburb to one on the other side of the country – with two centres more than four hours’ drive apart – but the Rev Simon Roberts and his wife Alison aren’t fazed. “Both our girls have finished school now, so we thought that if we want to make a more radical move this probably wasn’t a bad time to do it,” Mr Roberts says. Of course, this was before COVID-19 made their move from Malabar in Sydney’s eastern suburbs to Exmouth in the Diocese of North West Australia something of an epic. But speaking on the phone from their quarantine location near Geraldton, Mr Roberts is cheerful and “just keen to get started”. “We’d been thinking for quite some time about doing something outside Sydney,” he says. “We’re aware that Sydney has great gospel needs, but we’re also aware that it’s hard to get people to places like North West Australia. When we had long service leave two years ago, Alison and I drove through a fair bit of the northwest… so that at least gave us some kind of idea of the context here. “Exmouth is predominantly a tourist town. It’s a beautiful part of the world – very remote and quite small. They needed a minister, and we thought we could fit there reasonably well.” The parish is at the southern end of the Pilbara region, made up of Exmouth on one peninsula and the even smaller town of Onslow about four hours’ drive away on another peninsula. Mr Roberts jokes that if you wanted to travel between the two towns by motorboat instead “you’d probably get there faster!” He describes it as a “missionary” area, explaining that “most churches in the northwest aren’t SouthernCross
self-sustaining and so need support – hence the large number of churches, like ours, that are supported by BCA [Bush Church Aid]”. As to how ministry will look when they get to Exmouth, that’s pretty up in the air right now. But he says what they really hope to do is grow disciples of Jesus. “I don’t think that really changes, whatever church you’re at – you want to make disciples and grow disciples. In Sydney you’re struggling to make time to get out into the local community, get involved and get to know people because you’re so busy. One of the advantages of a place like Exmouth is there’s plenty of opportunity to get to know people serving in the local community and do the work of evangelism.” It was hard to farewell to the saints at Malabar through cyberspace, Mr Roberts says, but while the congregation was sad to see them go after nine years, “they understand the needs over here”. It helped that on the final Sunday they had together before churches were closed the Bishop of North West Australia, Gary Nelson, was visiting Malabar. “He preached and talked about the ministry in the northwest, so they’ve got some sense of where we’re going and what we’re doing.”
OTHER MOVES The Rev David Rietveld became rector of Dapto on April 21, after six years as senior pastor of the New Peninsula Baptist Church on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Before that he spent the previous decade as rector of Wellspring Anglican Church in Hobart, and prior to that was one of the assistant ministers at Figtree. Dr Emma Burgess was commissioned as the 7th principal of Danebank school on February 7, replacing Mrs Maryanne Davis, who retired last year. Dr Burgess was previously the head of Teaching and Learning at SCECGS Redlands. The Rev Rick Hall will become rector of Richmond on May 11, after more than 10 years as assistant minister at the parish of Thornleigh-Pennant Hills.
List of parishes and provisional parishes, vacant or becoming vacant, as at April 23, 2020: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Albion Park** Balgowlah** Bomaderry** Bulli** Campbelltown** Carlingford and North Rocks** Christ Church Northern Beaches** Cronulla Darlinghurst** East Lindfield** Figtree** Georges Hall* Gordon** Greenacre* Kurrajong
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
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Joy in the good news Tara Sing Some Good News New episodes each Monday on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/somegoodnews
hen the weight of the pandemic was getting too much, I turned the TV off and censored my social media use in order to prevent being crushed by Coronavirus overload. Sensing many others felt the same about the state of affairs, actorproducer John Krasinski stepped up and Some Good News was born.
Krasinski decided it was time to change the tone of worldwide reporting. From the comfort of his own home, dressed in a fashionable combination of suit and tie up top – and a variety of other options below – he began presenting a weekly YouTube show, highlighting the good that’s happening around us. He compiles uplifting videos of people recovering from COVID-19, celebrates essential workers, acts of kindness and humans going above and beyond for one another. It’s a warm cup of tea for weary souls on dark days. He features celebrity friends, interviews inspiring people and finds reasons to celebrate or make someone’s day. He throws a prom (to replace those cancelled in the United States) with musical guests in one episode and a potluck dinner with celebrity chefs in another. Most importantly, Krasinski gets it. He acknowledges that we’re all feeling separated and stuck. “The truth is, the overriding thing we all miss is being together,” he says at the start of episode five. He concludes every episode with the uplifting reminder that “There is always good in the world”. SouthernCross
The show has exploded in popularity. Some Good News debuted on March 29, and overnight gained 330,000 subscribers. As of April 27, that total had reached 2.5 million. People tune in from all over the world, and even out of this world (astronauts on a space station sent their greetings by video). The mass appeal of this series confirms that, in uncertain and chaotic times, we all need a little morale boost to carry on. REASONS TO BE THANKFUL Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a world with so much to be thankful for and to celebrate? There are lots of mixed emotions right now, and many are struggling in different ways. Yet, good things still happen. God still blesses and sustains us. He gives us plenty of reasons to offer praise. Christians are told to rejoice always, regardless of circumstances – an instruction written while Paul the apostle was in jail (Philippians 4). Psalms shows us that creation always finds things to be joyful about. Psalm 148 implies that the sun, moon, and even sea creatures have reasons to be thankful! As followers of Jesus, we recognise that every wonderful moment and uplifting act is a gift from God. And so it is good and right for us to see and delight in the good things in this world. Instead of bunkering down like so many, John Krasinski has used his time and talents to do something positive for the world, in a way that offers practical comfort and support to so many people struggling to cope. Some Good News works hard to highlight the good things that are happening and, as Christians, we recognise that it is God doing these things through his creation. We should give thanks for these moments of delight and joy, of provision and help, of laughter and morale, of goodness in humanity. WE HAVE MUCH TO DELIGHT IN, AND SHARE If you’re looking for something positive to keep you occupied while you bake banana bread or try and wrangle your schoolchildren to complete the tasks their teachers have set, Some Good News is the lighthearted entertainment you need in your day. It’s nice to be distracted from the heavier things in life with clips of singing delivery drivers, elderly people celebrating milestone birthdays, and guest appearances by Brad Pitt, the Jonas Brothers, Chance the Rapper and cast members from The Office. Our hearts are filled with joy at seeing displays of kindness, peace, self-sacrifice, gentleness and love. It’s a glimpse of what society could be without sin and brokenness. It’s how Jesus lived his life, in perfect obedience to the Father, full of compassion and care towards others and at great personal cost. Let’s be inspired and uplifted by Some Good News and, remembering the example of Jesus, go above and beyond to care for others. Let us help, not hoard, give without expecting to receive, be generous with our time and talents, and find ways to spread joy. In God’s kindness, he has provided us with both Jesus and memes! People of faith will enjoy the uplifting and heartwarming content of Some Good News as an added bonus to the living hope we have, which brings a deep delight that even the Coronavirus can’t shake. SC SouthernCross
Seeking God in COVID Robert Forsyth Where is God in a Coronavirus World? by John C. Lennox (Good Book Company)
here have been many different reactions to the Coronavirus pandemic. This is one of the more
helpful ones. In just one week, author and Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, John Lennox, has dashed off a short book he describes as the kind of thing he would say if someone sitting in a coffee shop with him was to ask, “Where is God in a Coronavirus world?” The result is a simple, easy-to-read defence of the Christian understanding of God in the face of what Lennox calls “a perplexing and unsettling time” when “most of our old certainties have gone”. The book’s strengths lie in his clear treatment of another version of the classic problem of evil. He frames the issue in terms of worldview – that is, “the framework, built up over the years, which contains the thinking and experience that each of us brings to bear on the big questions about life, death and the meaning of existence”. Atheism is quickly dismissed as failing because it ultimately posits a world without God, and without even good or evil. Lennox is sure this is simply not liveable. Most of the book is taken up with the question of how there can be a Coronavirus if there is a loving God. Lennox begins by noting that viruses, like earthquakes it turns out, have an upside for human flourishing as well. He explains the reality of what he calls “deep flaws” in both human and physical nature. Yet, debating what a loving, all-powerful God should, could or might have done leads to no satisfactory outcome. Lennox would rather his readers consider whether, in the face of a universe of beauty and deadly pathogens, there is any evidence of “a God whom we can trust with the implications, and with our lives and our futures”. The answer is found primarily in Jesus, whose resurrection is the guarantee of ultimate and welcome justice, and whose cross and resurrection offers “forgiveness and peace with God that can be known in this life and endures eternally”. Finally, Lennox offers a chapter on how Christians should respond to COVID-19. This extensively quotes C.S. Lewis on living with atomic weapons, a recent article about Christian responses to other pandemics, and the moving account of a sufferer of motor neurone disease, likening her struggle to the successful climb to the top of the mountain. In so brief a book so hastily written the weaknesses are also evident, if perhaps unavoidable. It gave me the impression of trying to cover too much material too quickly to be really satisfactory. Yet, in the right circumstances, it could still be helpful in provoking a reader to further reflection and exploration of the important questions it raises. SC Bishop Robert Forsyth is the previous Bishop of South Sydney and is an assistant minister at Church Hill. SouthernCross
Songs for the soul
“Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.”: Rob Smith sings during the Easter TV service.
or some, music is a core element of their worship. In addition to the sadness of not being
able to meet in person with God’s people, it can be hard to have a song in your heart when you’re anxious about the state of the world right now.
We’ve asked three Sydney songwriters to give us a list of 10 songs they turn to when they need encouragement in their faith, or during times of anxiety, pain and doubt.
ROB SMITH Music and song have a powerful ability to evoke emotions, affect emotions, help us express emotions and aid in the resolution of painful emotions. The power of song is even more pronounced, and Christian song most of all. For in Christian song, words of truth combine with the power and/or beauty of the music to enable a feeling of the truth. For in bringing together words and music, thoughts and feeling, intellect and affection, songs enable us to grasp not only the cognitive reality of words we’re hearing (or, even better, singing) but their emotional reality as well. This makes music a profound blessing, not only in seasons of joy but also in seasons of sorrow. In fact, as many of the psalms illustrate, faithful songs of sorrow are one of God’s great gifts for helping his children process their pain and awaken genuine hope in his sovereign grace. 1. It Is Well With My Soul Horatio Spafford (Emu Music version)
2. Great Is Thy Faithfulness Thomas Chisholm (Austin Stone Worship version)
3. 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) Jonas Myrin/Matt Redman
7. Our God is in Control Steven Curtis Chapman
4. He Will Hold Me Fast Robert Harkness (Sovereign Grace version)
8. Faithful Steven Curtis Chapman
9. Who am I? Casting Crowns
5. Abide with Me Henry Francis Lyte (Audrey Assad version)
10. The Perfect Wisdom of our God Keith Getty and Stuart Townend 6. Beauty will Rise Steven Curtis Chapman
MIKE BEGBIE Over the years these songs, and the albums theyâ€™re a part of, have nourished my soul. Some of them I have lived on daily for courage and hope during seasons of unrelenting worry and doubt. They are not perfect songs written by perfect songwriters, and I join that list of imperfect people looking forward to the day when we will join our voices together in perfect unity, praising our great God and Father and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Until then may they be a blessing to you. 1. Take Courage Bethel Music
4. God Moves in a Mysterious Way William Cowper
2. King of my Heart Bethel Music
5. A Christianâ€™s Daily Prayer Sovereign Grace Music
3. Surrounded (Fight my Battles) Michael W. Smith
6. Glorious Sovereign Grace Music
7. Way Maker Leeland
9. Your Love Never Fails Jesus Culture
8. Better Word Leeland
10. Sovereign Over Us Michael W. Smith
NIKI SHEPHERD The great joy of knowing our heavenly Father in this season is that we can bring every thought, fear, challenge and worry that rises up directly to him. As I reflect and listen to songs filled with his promises from his word, I am filled with a renewed hope and joy in Jesus the author and perfecter of my faith. 1. Forever Now a Crown Shelly Moore
6. Centre of All History Steffany Gretzinger and Matt Maher
2. We Will Feast Sandra McCracken
7. Jesus, Strong and Kind CityAlight (featuring Colin Buchanan)
3. His Mercy is More Matt Boswell and Matt Papa
8. Rock of Ages (When The Day Seems Long) Sandra McCracken
4. Lord From Sorrows Deep I Call Matt Boswell and Matt Papa
9. Give Me Jesus Fernando Ortega
5. Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me CityAlight
10. O Come to the Altar Elevation Worship
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