Re-opening at St. Mark’s
Greetings to all members of the St. Mark’s community. It’s great to be able to share with you about our reopening plans now that lockdown has finished. I hope that you are enjoying this new season of freedoms and opportunities, despite some of us being without power for the past week (!).
As we experienced last year, reopening after an extended lockdown can take some time and there are a lot of things to work through, both practically and in our feelings about the situation. Particularly since we are now in the season where we are learning to ‘live with’ the COVID-19 virus being present in our community in significant numbers. We recognise the different experiences, anxieties and hopes that people are going to have about what this time will be like, and we understand that people will have different ways of responding to what is happening.
I want to speak to you particularly about the reopening of our worship services at St. Mark’s. During the next month we are going to have what I call a ‘Slow-vember’ where we open up gradually and slowly learn what it is like to gather under these conditions. I invite you to participate as you feel ready.
November 7th – 21st
So, from this Sunday November 7th we will be opening up our 9.30am service again for people to attend in person. You are welcome to join us. However, for this week and the following two weeks up until the 21st we are still limited in the numbers of people that are allowed to gather in the church. So we are going to run the service as though we were continuing our livestream service as we have the past few months, but we invite you to join us in the building if you would like to participate and to share some fellowship and worship together in a time of prayer. For these weeks we will not be restarting our children’s programs yet. Think of the next three weeks as a ‘soft open’ where we get used to the procedures and organising our service teams again.
Reopening Sunday – November 28th
The date I would like our members to put in their diaries is November 28th. As restrictions ease further by then, on that day we should have no limits on the number of people who can attend our services, so we would like to make this our genuine ‘Reopening Sunday’. This is also the first Sunday in Advent and we begin our journey to celebrating Christmas. So we invite you to join us for that time of celebration and to give thanks in worship together. Our children and families activities will restart in an appropriate format at that stage.
COVIDSafe Guidelines and Vaccination
I do need to address ongoing COVID-related restrictions. We want to make sure that we are creating a safe environment for our members and all who attend our services. Firstly, at the moment all of us are required to wear masks inside at church, those of us from the age of Grade 3 upwards. We are also required to check-in, as you are no doubt familiar with from many other contexts.
Of course, the major new factor at the moment is that in order to have public gatherings like this we need to take into account our vaccination status. This is the case for churches as for retail, hospitality and other community organisations. We do encourage members of St. Mark’s to get vaccinated as a way of protecting your health and our community, but we also do respect that there are a variety of reasons why people may choose not to do that.
For the moment, to attend our Sunday morning service in-person will require that you be fully vaccinated (if you are over the age of 16), and to be able to show that when you attend. This is a government requirement for all of us, including our staff. I would ask that you be patient and understanding with our need to do this, and if you have concerns please share them with me before you attend worship. Everyone who volunteers in these services must also be fully vaccinated and we are required to keep a record of the vaccination status of our volunteers so we will ask you about that soon.
There are several ways to show your vaccination certificate. The easiest is through linking it to your Service Victoria app which you use to check in, and it will be displayed as part of that. Or you can use the Medicare Express app. Finally, you can download and print out a copy of your certificate from the mygov website. If you want help with that, please ask or we will leave links on this page and the newsletter.
It is important to us that we include everyone in the worshipping life of our church regardless of whether they choose to be vaccinated or not. We are permitted to have small gatherings for worship where vaccination status is not checked. What I would ask is that if vaccination status is an obstacle for you in attending church that you please let me know, or another member of staff, as soon as possible, so we can talk to you about how we can arrange appropriate worship opportunities. Our Wednesday 11am service will be one such opportunity, but we need to know the situation of our members so we can make good decisions about other services that might be needed. So please speak to us so we can work this through together.
I’m looking forward to being able to gather in-person to worship with you again, and I will see some of you this Sunday. I hope that you are able to join us soon – remember November 28th as our reopening date. I am also looking forward to continuing our online services or livestreaming which we will keep on doing from now on, and connecting with those who participate that way. This is now a permanent and important part of our community of worship.
Our other activities and programs will be starting up soon and there will be more information about to come.
I encourage you all to spend time in prayer this season for our church and for our community, that the healing power of the Holy Spirit would wash over our tired and hurting nation and bring unity, peace and restoration. And pray that we would grow in our knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ and God the Father, who is always leading us forward deeper and deeper into his eternal kingdom.
Andrew Bowles – Senior Minister
Instructions on how to add your vaccination certificate to the Service Victoria app can be found at the Service Victoria website.