Re-opening at St. Mark's - Term 4 2020

Summary

  • We will have a slow time of reconnecting between now and the end of the year, with attempts to gather for worship and fellowship as we are able under government restrictions.
  • This season is a time for us to reflect on our experiences this year and look forward to a new year ahead.
  • Go to our ‘Revision’ page for more information on how you can be part of this season of growth and change.

This is a letter to all the members of St. Mark’s as we approach Term 4 and look forward to the easing of restrictions that will lead to us being able to reopen our church for worship and other of our normal ways of sharing ministry and life together.

When we decided to close our public gatherings back in March I had no idea that we would be approaching October and still be in this position. It has been a very difficult year and I know that many among us have struggled emotionally, relationally and financially. I hope that as a church we have been able to provide some support that has been meaningful for you in this time, whether in terms of our online services, pastoral contacts, practical support or other ways of engaging in growing in your faith in Jesus. I greatly appreciate the support that you and the other members of St. Mark’s have shown to me and the rest of our church as we have worked through this together.

In understanding for myself how to interpret what God has been doing in us during the time of lockdown, I have focussed on the idea of the ‘dark night of the soul’, which is the insight of many Christians over the centuries that it is in times of quietness, loss and dryness that God is often working most deeply in us to change us into his image. In these seasons we learn what is truly important as other things fall away or are taken away. But I also remember that our faith is in Jesus Christ who rose from the dead, and we look forward to a new season of life after times of trial and darkness. As Psalm 30:5 says, ‘weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning’. I pray that you can experience the joy of a new ‘morning’ with God as we approach summer and Christmas together.

Given the uncertainty in the ‘roadmap’ put forward by the Premier, as a church we are refraining from making many plans for the rest of the year. There are also going to be many issues of being ‘COVIDSafe’ that will need to be dealt with as we reopen. However, if all goes well I hope that we will be able to gather for some times of worship and fellowship in the season of Advent before Christmas. We see our first priority in reopening as allowing for our community to reconnect with each other and take time to process this experience together with God, before moving forward to what is in store for 2021 and beyond. If you have any idea about ways to make our time of reconnection and celebration of Christmas more encouraging, please feel free to share them with me.

You may have seen through our newsletter or notices that I am inviting members of St. Mark’s to enter into a season of renewing our vision and strategies as a church. In light of the events of this year we have the challenge and opportunity to look again at our plans for the future and adjust them. My hope is that in this process the things we have learned during the COVID season will be remembered and we will be able to collaborate and empower each other to embrace the new things that God is calling us to do. I would love for you to be part of this, sharing your insights and where God is at work in your life. If you go to our website at www.stmarksemerald.org.au/revision you will find information about how to be involved.

If you are connected online, I would invite you to stay in touch with updates about our church by subscribing to our email newsletter (we can print and post/deliver it to you if that would be helpful), following our Facebook page or checking our website regularly, as well as watching our online services which are currently broadcast on Youtube. If you would like any help in connecting with us online please feel free to get in touch with me or with Mark in the office (info@stmarksemerald.org.au, 5968 4046).

I would like to finish with a word from the Apostle Paul that has been at the centre of how I understand the events of my life and the journey we are on as a church. While following Jesus is a path that often involved ‘taking up our Cross’ and experiencing the sadness and sorrows of this world, we have a vision of where this is leading that sustains our hope. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

 

I hope that I can see you again very soon.

 In Christ,

Andrew Bowles