20 March 2020
Dear St Thomas Family
Pastoral Letter #2
Last night all clergy received communication from the Vicar-General in which he suspends all church services with effect from 23 March. This means that the services this Sunday are the last we will have, in person, until at least 14 April, at which point the situation will be reviewed.
This decision distressed me deeply, as my weekly highlight is my interaction with the St Thomas family. The decision also forced me, and the Wardens, to think creatively about how we can still provide spiritual guidance and encouragement for one another in these times of uncertainty. In a sense, it is forcing my thinking about how we can move the church properly into the 21st Century and to be part of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
While we now have to stop meeting face-to-face, we will continue to meet, as a church, as a family, in these ways.
1. On Wednesday and on Sunday the sermon will be posted online – on our Facebook page and on our website. In addition, these sermons will be shared by Email and on the WhatsApp broadcast.
2. I am looking into, and hope to have ready for Wednesday, Facebook Live for a live-stream (and recording) of the service. I have chosen Facebook because many people use it, even if only to stay in touch with family by reading what the family is up to.
3. Where there are folk living under the same roof (families, retirement homes) I recommend gathering daily and sharing a time of scripture reading and prayer. There are materials online, or simply use “Daily Bread” or “Faith for Today” or any similar devotional. If you don’t have access to any of these, work through the Gospel of John.
4. Members of the leadership will be checking in on parishioners on a regular basis, simply to talk and be a friendly voice and ear, but also to hear whether there are any needs. Needs will be communicated to myself and I will see how these can be met.
Our Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/StThomasDurban/
Our web page is: https://www.stthomasberea.org.za/
The Facebook Live sessions will be tested this Wednesday morning at 9:30. Please simply go to our Facebook page and yo0u will be able to watch the video, and possibly leave comments also.
It is vital that we continue to worship together, even if it is through technology, so that we can encourage one another as we hold the hope of Christ, and as we play our role of being salt and light in the world in which we find ourselves.
One way in which we can share hope, and God’s love, is to encourage those who are feeling down or at a loss because of the restrictions placed upon us. Encourage each other to follow a more structured day, essentially to create a rhythm of life, as per my example below.
Wake up – set an alarm to wake up at the same time daily. Have your breakfast as a start to the day.
Quiet time – alone with God, or shared devotion with family of folk around you
Exercise – engage in some form of light exercise, even if it is to walk around the block or something similar.
Academic time – read a book or make the time to learn something new. Possibly learn how some of the new technology works. This can also be a time for Bible study.
Creative time – do something creative e.g. make a scrapbook, make a collage, paint, draw, practice your music, do some gardening.
Lunch – all of the above should have stimulated your appetite
Chore time – do the dishes, go shopping,
Academic time – again
Exercise – again
Dinner – something light, to fill the hole after taking in fresh air
TV or movie time
Bedtime – keep this as close to the same time every night. A good night’s sleep is one of the best defenses against the virus, and also a good aid to curing it.
Hebrews 10 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
God bless you and keep you, God make his face shine on you and be gracious to you, God look on you with favour and give you peace.
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church
TEL: (+27) 31 201 2204 (Office) P.O. Box 50868
FAX: 086-662-5638 MUSGRAVE ROAD
E-mail: email@example.com 4062
Web Site: http://www.stthomasberea.org
My dear St. Thomas Family
I have consulted with the Parish Council, taken note of the communications by the Archbishop and considered what other churches are doing. I realise that we are unique in our make-up and thus cannot take another’s response and simply plug it in. The following actions and guidelines come from much thought and prayer beyond all the advice sought. Decisions have not been taken lightly and have been made with the protection of the health of the St. Thomas family as a whole.
Our Father, who is an Awesome God, cares for us and protects and provides for His people. Read Psalm 91, pray Psalms 23 and 121 and other prayers in which God promises healing and protection. It is not for us to have a spirit of fear, rather, we should stand tall and show the world that we have a spirit of hope, we have the Holy Spirit who empowers us and holds us close.
Together we will face and conquer this virus by looking after one another and by following the following principles:
1. Church services will continue on Sundays and Wednesdays.
a. We will adhere to the limit of 100, also applying some social distancing by not sitting on adjacent chairs, rather leave at least two chairs open between you and your neighbor. Couples may still sit together.
b. Please do not shake hands, hug or lay hands on one another. A small bow with clasped hands, or a wave will suffice.
c. On entering and leaving the church please make use of the sanitizer provided, rubbing both sides of thee hands until the alcohol has all evaporated (i.e. until your hands are dry). Also, please collect your own pew leaflet, sides-people will no longer hand these out
d. Use books only if necessary, and do NOT swap books with your neighbor. You should be the only one touching your books. Please refrain from touching your face during the service.
e. Communion will be with the wafer/bread only. I recommend sanitising your hands before you receive the bread, and also ask that you refrain from touching the altar rail, rather stand up to receive the bread. Also, I am no longer permitted to place wafers on your tongue, so please receive in your hands only.
f. If there is a call for it, I will gladly arrange for more services with fewer attendees.
g. Preachers will make their sermons available to all who cannot attend services but would like the encouragement and instruction.
h. No tea/coffee or toast will be provided after services. We are exploring ways of feeding the homeless who attend the services though.
2. ALL non-essential meetings are to be postponed until at least the end of April.
a. The Lent course material will be made available for use individually; or as a family. If you have the facility, groups can meet via Skype or Zoom.
b. Bible study groups can meet by technology, or simply take a sabbatical.
c. The Alpha course will be put on hold till the end of April. Sunday evening services from now to the end of April will be cancelled. PLEASE PRAY AT HOME during the time that you would be at the service.
d. Services at the retirement homes for April are cancelled, and subsequent months will be considered closer to the time.
3. Please be sensible.
a. High risk folk are the over-70 and those with pre-existing conditions such as asthma and other ailments that suppress the immune system. If you are in this group, please consider staying home, or away from the general population as far as possible.
b. Irrespective of age, please wash hands regularly. Soap and warm/hot water is sufficient, as long as both sides of the hands are washed. Use the guideline that you sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing. When you are out and about, look out for sanitizer and use it where you can.
c. Please sneeze and cough into your elbow, or into a tissue which is binned immediately in a CLOSED bin, and then wash hands immediately. If possible, keep your hands away from your face.
d. If you are not feeling well, irrespective of what it might be, please stay home until you are well.
e. If you believe you have symptoms of COVID-19 (dry cough, fever, general malaise) please phone your doctor first. Let your doctor decide and send the test to you.
4. Please communicate with me or the other clergy! If there is any need for assistance in purchasing groceries while isolated, let us know and we will make arrqangements to assist you.
5. Please let us know if you are isolated or have restricted movement so that we can arrange telephonic or technological support for you.
Revd. Michael Fourie
Rector: St. Thomas’ Anglican Church