COVID-19 Precautions and Plans
Dear BPCWAians, What a tumultuous week it has been in Australia and also around the world! Even before worship last Sunday, many of you had already heard about the government announcement to stop gatherings of more than 500 people, and the requirement for all travellers to go through 2 weeks of self-quarantine. During Session meeting the day before, the implications of tightening COVID-19 requirements had already been discussed. And 3 days later, further tightening measures were announced. What are they, how do they affect us as a church and our ministries, and what will we do? I want to take the opportunity to discuss this a bit more in today’s Pastoral.
Current government restrictions. There is no time frame stipulated to these restrictions, and it is possible that it may last for several months, perhaps longer unless things improve. As of 19 March, this is a brief summary of the measures announced. 1) Non-essential indoor gatherings must be limited to fewer than 100 people. Essential activities such as health care settings, pharmacies, food shopping, schools, workplaces, and public transport are not included in this restriction. 2) Outdoor events of less than 500 attendees can proceed. However, there are general precautions that all events should follow. 3) Aged care facilities must take extra precautions when it comes to visits. This includes allowing no more than two visitors at a time and ensuring there are no large group visits or gathering.
How they affect us. 1) Church meetings in person. The immediate and greatest impact to us as a church is the limitation of indoor gatherings. The most pronounced impact will be on our Sunday Worship Service. We thank God for His providential provision of livestream which we have been using for some time. This will enable all worshippers to continue to worship God during this time via the internet, without actually coming to church. We hope that the elderly who may not be as familiar with the use of handphones or the internet will get help from their families to start the livestream services. While God has given us the ease of technology, what is needed now is the discipline of individual worshippers to join us through livestream and to watch this with undistracted attention. Livestreaming will also be the approach that we will use for Tuesday Prayer Meetings and Friday Fellowships as well, due to the group size. For other smaller group meetings, we will review the situation again in 2 weeks’ time. If it is feasible, it is our desire to be able to continue to meet in these smaller groups, albeit in more controlled settings to meet social distancing guidelines. However, these will be decided on a case to case basis. In some cases, even though the group size may be small, we may assess the risk and decide not to hold such gatherings because the majority of the participants are the more vulnerable elderly. 2) Tithes and offerings. The inability to come to church will affect our returning of tithes and offerings to the Lord. So, we are also providing worshippers with details of our church’s bank accounts so that God’s people can continue to return to Him their tithes and offerings through online means. 3) Upcoming special events. An uncertainty right now is our Easter Sunrise Service which is held outdoors. At present, we are still retaining our reservation for our booking of the Melville amphitheatre. But we will need to monitor how things progress by then. We hope very much to be able to hold the sunrise service, as this may give us the much- needed opportunity to gather to worship our Lord, though we still need to be conscious about social distancing, even if we did so. Let us pray and see how God leads in this case. 4) Nursing home outreaches. With the new regulations in place for aged care facilities, all the homes that we regularly visit have cancelled our visits indefinitely.
What should you do in the meantime? 1) Be prayerful and thankful. Php 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Above all, let us all unite together in prayer to our Sovereign God that His people will once again be able to assemble safely together in worship. Let us remember with great fondness the privilege that we had when we were able to meet as God’s covenantal people every week. Often, it is not until it is taken away that we realise its importance and preciousness. Let us never, never take for granted again any opportunity to meet as a fellowship or as a church. Pray for the pandemic situation, but more importantly, pray for one another’s spiritual walk. I must admit that my greatest fear through this is the spiritual backsliding of God’s sheep. God permits us to assemble together so that we can “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb 10:24). BPCWAians, let us not be so concerned about falling sick to the physical virus that we forsake the greater importance of our spiritual walk with God as individuals. 2) Participate diligently in the online Worship Services and any livestream meetings. Keep the Lord’s Day’s worship faithfully. We must remember that praising God by singing to Him is important, whether you are worshipping Him at home or in church. Take notes of the sermon. Discuss it during your family worship. Keep your children still and undistracted. Don’t talk amongst yourselves and daydream during the livestreams ie attend it as if you were present in church because you are truly present before the living God. Basically, treat it as a worship service, though you are at home. 3) Return your tithes and offerings faithfully. I urge all worshippers to continue to give your tithes and offerings to the Lord. God intended these for the upkeep of His house and His work. When you have the means to do so, let us not be found robbing God of His tithes and offerings. It is not wise (Mal 3:6-12). 4) Use your time wisely. Eph 5:16 reminds us, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil”. Do not spend your time on social media and watching TV to pass time. Use your time to watch the church’s YouTube channel to learn as much as possible from God’s Word. God has given us this extra time to do that instead of spending our time worrying.
We live in unprecedented times and situations. On everyone’s lips and mind is the 14-day quarantine period. But let us not lose the true perspective. There is an even greater problem around us – the problem of sin and an eternity in hell. I close with a reminder of Christ’s words which are especially important today:
Mt 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Yours in our Lord’s service,