At the moment, St. Mark’s is closed for services, programs and meetings, and our office is not opening until further notice. Please go to the contact page on our website to get in touch.

We recommend everyone look for reliable sources of information at the moment about the coronavirus and how to respond.

Here is a great document for where to go and how to decide what information to trust:

Coronavirus Info Sheet

 

Update 24/03/20 – Closure of Church Office

For your information, as of Tuesday the 24th St. Mark’s Office will be closed, in order to avoid non-essential gatherings at this time. Our staff will be working from home until further notice and can be contacted on their usual emails and phone numbers. For information about current activities at St. Mark’s the best place to go is our website – www.stmarksemerald.org.au.

If you have a pastoral emergency or need a conversation about spiritual issues or a referral, or need to speak to someone about organising a funeral or wedding, please call our ‘On-call’ number on 0460 961 802 to speak to one of our ministers – Andrew Bowles (Vicar), Jerome Dias (Associate Minister), or Vivianne Dias (Assistant Minister).

If you would like to contact our ‘Care Co-ordinator’ (Alison Thompson) about organising practical support for someone or learning about how we can help those in need at this time, the number is 0487 944 674.

For any administrative enquiries please email our Parish Administrator Mark Lockwood-Porter at info@stmarksemerald.org.au.

Thank you for your continued support of St. Mark’s at this time and we pray for God’s comfort on our community.

Update 22/03/20 – Cancellation of public gatherings including small groups

We have received advice from the Archbishop of Melbourne that from Monday March 23rd we are to suspend all public gatherings for parish activities. This includes worship services, all events and programs, and small groups that meet in under our name in the local area.

We would ask all our small groups to cease from meeting formally until further notice. Any informal gathering would be at your own discretion and risk.

As of this date we are still able to conduct baptisms, weddings, and funerals with immediate family members only in attendance, as long as the gathering complies with government restrictions.

COVID-19 Update 17/03/20:

Closure of Public Gatherings and Services

The leadership team of St. Mark’s would like our community to know that, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, as of Wednesday 18th of March St. Mark’s will be cancelling or phasing out all of our public gatherings, events and programs. This will continue until further notice.

This means that:

  • All of our public worship services will no longer be meeting, including our Sunday morning services;
  • All of our childrens and youth programs will be cancelled, including Powerhouse Kids, the 5/6 program, and our Playgroups;
  • The Emerald Op Shop will be closing its doors for a season. The last shopping day will be Saturday 21st of March, and after that it will not be operating or accepting any donations.

This is a response that we believe is measured and appropriate due to the increasing risk to our community from public activities where people may pass on the infection. We are particularly concerned about the many vulnerable and at-risk people who use our facilities and attend our activities. We are also aware that many of our volunteers are intending to isolate themselves at the moment and we wish to give them the confidence to do so if they wish.

What’s Next?

This is a very anxious and confusing time for most of us and we might feel as though everything is closing down around us.

However, in this time our church will still be up and running! Having made this decision to close public gatherings we are now working hard on the ways that we might respond positively to this situation and continue our service of our local Hills area and our life as a Christian community. Like everyone in our community we are still figuring out what to do in this confusing time so we ask for your patience and engagement with us, and for your prayers for everyone who is connected our church in some way.

Please go to the front page of our website as a first port of call for updates and how to stay involved.

Some of the things that we will be working on are:

Worship

We will be making available opportunities to attend worship services virtually through a video streaming platform. Go to our front page at 10am this Sunday for our first online worship experience of many.

We will also provide opportunities most days to have virtual gatherings for prayer.

Our social media and blog will be updated regularly with reflections on faith and life and different ways to engage with God for people of all ages.

We will produce worship resources to post or deliver to members of our church who are not connected to the internet, and visit those who are not isolated and able to receive that kind of care.

Small groups that continue to meet may wish to reframe themselves as ‘worshipping communities’ and include worship times when they meet together. Our staff will support our groups in this.

Relationships

We are encouraging our members to continue meeting in small groups, either the formal St. Mark’s groups that exist or informal groups of friends and other church members. We will be organising new groups where we can and providing resources for people to use when they meet.

We will also be working on social media and other platforms that can enable connections between people who are not able to leave home, and looking to organise safe and healthy activities for those who are no longer able to go to work or school. It is important for all of us to have opportunities to be connected with others and to have positive and life-affirming activities in this season.

We will provide guidelines to groups for safe meeting practices and pastoral responsibilities. It is important that all gatherings of any size observe proper hygiene including around physical contact, social distance and cleansing of hands and surfaces. Anyone who is sick or at risk should not attend a group.

Please follow any public health advice about appropriate types of gatherings and hygiene. In the event that we are advised that small gatherings are considered a risk we will discontinue these types of meetings as well.

Pastoral Care

We know that this will be difficult time for many people, particularly those who are isolated. We will be building a team who are able to reach out with phone calls or visits to people who might benefit from it.

We are also working on practical care initiatives such as food and other essentials that will be needed by many people in the coming months, and how to co-ordinate with other churches and services to help people access those supports.

Final Reflections

This is a time when there will be a temptation for us to turn inwards towards our own needs and concerns and look outwards with fear or suspicion towards others. We encourage everyone at St. Mark’s and in the community of the Hills to seek a positive attitude of hope towards the future and compassion towards each other. As humans made in the image of God we are blessed with the ability to lift each other up to higher spiritual heights than we could ever reach alone. As Christians we follow Jesus Christ in this understanding that to be truly great is to stoop down serve others.

We continue to pray for our whole community and look forward to engaging with all of our neighbours around how to journey through this difficult time together. Please stay in touch and reach out to contact us if there are ways that St. Mark’s can serve you at this time.

In Christ,

Andrew Bowles

Vicar, St. Mark’s Emerald

16/03/20: We have decided to cancel our Powerhouse Kids group and family dinner that was scheduled for tomorrow evening (Tuesday). We are concerned that this event would bring together a group of people that would be large enough to constitute a risk and the sharing of food is an infection risk as well. We are very sad to have to do this, and hope that we can help our families find other positive activities to share together in the weeks and months to come. We will see you all very soon.

COVID-19 and St. Mark’s – A Pastoral Letter
15/03/2020

We have all watched in recent weeks as the coronavirus (COVID-19) has had an increasing impact on the Australian community and the rest of the world. The government is progressively implementing measures to limit the spread of the virus, and other organisations including churches are also responding to the increasing risk and concern with their own measures.
This message is to outline the current and potential response from St. Mark’s to this situation. We are implementing these measures following government advice and direction from the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. Our highest priority is the protection of all members of our community, especially those who are the most vulnerable.
As of Sunday 15th of March we are still running our worship services and programs. Our measures in place in this time are around hygiene and protective actions.
• Those who are infected or suspect that they may be infected should seek medical advice and stay home from church.
• We will have hand sanitiser at the entrance to the church which you are encouraged to use, and tissues available.
• We discourage physical contact during the service including the ‘greeting of the peace’.
• Communion will be either served in individual servings with proper hand-washing by servers, or not at all.
• We will wash down surfaces after use.

It is possible that in the near future we will receive advice directing us, or we will decide, to suspend some of our normal gatherings, including worship services, until it is safe to resume.

We will communicate this decision to all our members. We are aware also that many people will choose to self-isolate during this time and prefer not to participate in public gatherings even if they continue to run.
However, in the case of this happening we want you to know that we are still a community of worship and pastoral care, and we intend to work out and provide alternative ways for people to stay connected to the church and receive the support and care that they need. These may include:
• Online streaming or videos of worship services and other teaching materials;
• Starting new or expanded small groups or running other services in venues where people can meet comfortably to worship and pray together;
• Organising a pastoral care team to check on and provide assistance to people in our congregations who are isolated and vulnerable;
• Co-ordinating with other churches and community services in the area to provide essential items to those in need.

In the event that we take these steps we would encourage you to stay in touch with our activities by regularly checking our website at www.stmarksemerald.org.au, and follow us on Facebook. Those who are not online can call our church office for information on 5968 4046 and we will attempt to make paper copies of any information available for collection or to post to those who need it. Our office will remain open until further notice and our staff will be working unless otherwise directed. In fact, they will probably be working harder than ever!

I would ask that our members please consider their financial giving at this time, as we recognise that there are some particular financial challenges that many businesses and individuals will be facing. We plan to continue our ministry as a church throughout this period and hope to continue strongly in our growth and vision after the crisis has passed. We recommend that you investigate electronic giving if you have not already done so as there may be limited options for giving through cash and envelopes as usual. You can find more information on how to set up electronic giving on our website at www.stmarksemerald.org.au/give or in the ‘Giving to St. Mark’s’ flyer in the foyer.

As we go through this time I encourage all of us to remember that, as Christians, after we make our plans and preparations we are invited to leave the outcomes to God. Jesus encouraged us to worry only about the day before us and the cares and opportunities of that day. We believe that God is still our Creator and our Saviour and that we can put our future in his care, whatever happens. This particular season is a time when we can put into practice the great commandment of Jesus – love God, and love your neighbour as yourself.

I pray that through this time we would experience what Paul hoped for his own church community:

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

Yours in Christ,
Rev. Andrew Bowles
Vicar, St, Mark’s Emerald