Some of the saddest tragedies occur when hikers get careless.
Covid restrictions are easing. People can be seen openly shaking hands in public* (unthinkable last month). There is a general sense of returning to normal in Australia…except at church. We’re told “yes, 50 can meet in church—you just can’t sing and you have to sit in a grid and go through complex cleaning rituals”. We are caught between the world of lockdown and the world of normal.
In a few weeks time we will test how these new church meeting requirements work for us. Meanwhile, I can only imagine how difficult it has been for families with young children!
We have been at this for 3 months now. The novelty is wearing off, attention spans are waning and restlessness is growing. It may be tempting to wander off from our online gathering, thinking,
“we’ll just sit these next few out. Afterall, it’s hard going and we’re nearly there anyway. We can catch up later”
I make that comment not to induce guilt but because I think these next couple of months are the most dangerous time of all for us. It is the loose edges time.
In the world of hiking, leaving the trail for shortcuts to avoid the steep climb can lead to unexpected falls. The loose edges on our journey may be thought of as ‘increasing sense of disconnection’, or ‘formation of habits’ (like imagining that worship is just about listening to sermons, or even treating the idea of church as unnecessary).
‘Churching’ in whatever restricted forms Christians have had to endure is at the heart of the Christian life—whether in catacombs before dawn in the first century, or in living rooms in front of the tele in covid times. When we gather in our living rooms on a Sunday we are honouring not only the Lord Jesus, but honouring one another! We are saying “although I can’t see you, I am with you in the spirit of fellowship”.
Peter writes “be alert” several times in his letter. Also this,
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” 1 Pet 4:7-10
In this last part of the journey we want to arrive together and celebrate. Over the next few months watch out for those who are tired and falling behind, and watch out for those loose edges in your own walk.
Right now it will be very helpful to do three things toward that end
1. Please check your elvanto details are correct so we can contact you to invite you back for staggered sittings for church. It’s hard for our office team if we don’t have your current phone number, address and email. If in doubt resend your details to Robyn or Mel on the office email (email@example.com) and they can check and update for you.
2. If you can, invite someone to share Sunday church in your home.
3. When we return we will need cleaning teams between services. Please indicate to Robyn or Mel on the office email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you can be part of a team.
FAITH, HOPE & LOVE,
Geoff Thompson, Snr Min
*despite health advice
How’s Covid life going? We’d love to hear what’s working, what’s not, especially for our online services to help us all get to the finish line together (which is still a little way off).
The feeling right about now might be that things are ‘unravelling’ a bit. Online church just isn’t the same as it was when it was new and different (and to be truthful, it’s a challenge with kids)… The fridge light beckons too often… That bottle of wine is not lasting as long… Those initial long walks have started to become infrequent… Tiger King is starting to make sense… Procrastination is winning! The ‘unravelling’ factor is a thing. After nearly three months, new and different is being replaced with tired and boring.
Holding fast to healthy habits is key right now, both in your physical life and spiritual life.
A small thing is set a goal or a task or two to tackle so that at the end of the day you have a sense of achievement. In your spiritual life, continue the habit of being in God’s word, praying at intervals of the day, and on Sundays set aside your normal time for church. Staying in the habit of coming to church will be so important over the next month. If you are feeling the unravelling factor then it will be too easy to say to yourself “It’s too hard right now. I’ll just take a break until we are physically back together. I’ll come back to church then”. Chances are you won’t! The habits we cultivate in this season will have an impact on who we will be within a few months. What is the old saying… “21 days to form a habit”? Actually the magic “21 days” number turns out to be a self-help myth that over-simplified some scientific research.
“Phillippa Lally is a health psychology researcher at University College London. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit. Some people chose simple habits like “drinking a bottle of water with lunch.” Others chose more difficult tasks like “running for 15 minutes before dinner.” At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers analysed the data to determine how long it took each person to go from starting a new behaviour to automatically doing it. The answer? On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact”
That would indicate that right about now the real habits are being formed. In fact is, those first 3 weeks didn’t really change us at all—those were the novelty weeks. The question is, “who will we become by the end of the Covid season?”
The writer to the Hebrews warns,
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”
Meanwhile, in the calendar of the church this Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. This was the day the Holy Spirit was poured out and the disciples tumbled into the Jerusalem streets with boldness proclaiming the Good News about what God had done through Jesus. Pentecost is often called the Church’s birthday.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” Acts 2:1-4
Happy birthday, church.
FAITH, HOPE & LOVE,
Geoff Thompson, Snr Min
I’m writing on the eve of Mothers Day. Restrictions didn’t lift for NSW in time to celebrate with a big family ‘do’ for grandmas. Even so, we want to make a bit of a ‘do’ over mums and families over the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow will be a special Moms Day Service with a couple of our mums chatting with us as part of the sermon. Next Sun it will be dad’s and families. We are calling this mini series “Raising Parents”.
A nice reading suggestion is a book called “Disciplines of a Godly Family” by Kent and Barbara Hughes. It is tender and insightful. They write, “Parents, we must believe in our children’s spiritual potential. As young Christian parents we were absolutely convinced of this, though there were many times we wondered if our prayers, teaching, example and close attention were accomplishing anything. There were times we wondered if what our little ones needed was an ‘exorcism’ rather than discipline!”
[Kent describes how their 7 year old would climb in the dumpster at the community centre where they did church to drink the dregs of beer cans and smoke the cigarette butts with his Sunday School pal. A laugh or cry moment for any mum… What was worse, this minister’s son responded, “It’s not wrong. it’s only wrong if I get caught”.
“Times like these make parents despairingly question their actual influence in the lives of their children. They wonder if they are really getting through to their kids. But such events also remind us of our parental need for divine guidance and grace. No one can really know the mind of a child. No one apart from God can actually hear what a child hears when his or her parent speaks. We must understand that on the road to spiritual maturity, most children bring us to the end of our resources. We must also understand that children have an immense spiritual capacity. They can know Christ. They can ascend to remarkable spiritual heights. The way we raise our children must reflect our profound respect for their spiritual capacity which will motivate us to work at their spiritual development.”
I think Anne and I have experienced the range of joys and disappointments in our family journey of faith. Even though our kids ages now range from 23-30 we are still working hard on parenting intentionally, and pray for them everyday!
FAITH, HOPE & LOVE,
Geoff Thompson, Snr Min
“Week 6 or 7 Lockdown”—but who’s counting? This Sunday as we press on into ‘different’ we will talk about hope from God’s word. Does our hope really make a difference to ‘different’? We also want to include your family “hi” moment in the family montage moment in our service. Please take time to make even a 15 sec clip on your smart phone and send to me, email@example.com or msg to 0425 250 042.
I’m amazed at the way people around the world are fighting off cabin fever—Anzac Day at the end of the driveway was brilliant, afternoon tea on the front lawn another great idea. Fancy-dress-put-the bin-out…well ok, if it works for you!!!
Humour, jigsaw puzzles, exercise, footpath chalk art all have a place in getting through this. However, for God’s people this is more than a time to distract and amuse ourselves. The big words for us are ‘faithful’ and ‘intentional’. There are so many opportunities to grow in faith and proclaim hope in God, but sadly just as many opportunities to drift in faith as well.
Be intentional about every day. More time on your hands? Here’s 11 intentional ideas:
1. Do a Bible course (Robin is hosting PTC course right now; Anglicare are running an introductory pastoral care course online*)
2. Make a list of 5 people you can call on the phone over the week, or on a Sunday
3. Write a card a day to people from your congregation using the church directory (no need for a long letter just “thinking of you, praying for you”). Pop them all in the post at the end of each week
4. Have your ‘quiet time’ or ‘time alone with God’ consistently and pray through the church directory a few people at a time
5. Read a Psalm a day
6. Learn a memory verse each week for the next 6 weeks
7. Arrange a 15 min Zoom encouragement meeting for a few people from church
8. Read a Christian biography (missionary, martyr, evangelist) and get inspired
9. Send an email or letter to our mission link families (our missions group can help you)
10. Pass on the links to our services (people who will never come to church will watch in their homes)
11. Put chocolate in Geoff’s letterbox (ok maybe you can think of a better No.11)
The point is, we can either seize the opportunities for God’s glory in this ‘different’ season, or we can fritter away this unique time and amuse ourselves. Stay intentional, stay faithful, grow in you relationship with God and cultivate your church family relationships—we may never know such a time as this again!
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” Eph. 5:15
*The Anglicare Introductory Pastoral Care Course is going online. The next course is scheduled for the five Fridays 8th May to 5th June. This will be an online course (previously to be at Bulli Anglican Church). Apply online at
FAITH, HOPE & LOVE,
Geoff Thompson, Snr Min
No, this isn’t yet another message about hand-washing or social distance greeting. This Sunday is Palm Sunday. When you tune to our Sun Service channel on YouTube tomorrow you’ll see palm branches behind the preacher. Of course, palm branches were waved when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, signifying the king coming in peace. All of which leads us to Easter…next week!
Here’s a thought. Our homes could become neighbourhood billboards for Easter. If you have access to a few palm branches why not make a display, or just tie one to the letterbox with a sign that reads “Palm Sunday today…Easter’s coming! Good news—you don’t have to isolate from God’. We also would like to make a flyer available to put in your neighbourhood letterboxes inviting people to link to our Easter services via YouTube. Text me 0425 250 042 if you would like 20 flyers. We can drop them in your letterbox.
Easter is arguably the most important time in the Christian calendar, as we reflect on the wonder and meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Usually, church is packed on Good Friday. How different this year! Don’t get cheated out of Easter. Set aside time alone or with your family to read the Easter narrative from Mark’s Gospel. Create some crafts for the kids, pray and meditate. Set your heart on the cross.
Over the last few years we’ve held a service on Easter Thurs in the evening to share the Lords Supper—it’s called Maundy Thurs (yes it’s a thing, google it). We won’t be doing it this year, but you can in your own home. Here’s how, with a family:
1. Gather the the kids around, settle them down, and read Mark 14:12-26.
2. Explain what the Passover meant to Israel and the exodus, and how Jesus was bringing a new meaning to it, “blood of the NEW covenant”
3. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving, asking God for his cleansing forgiveness through Jesus’ death.
4. Share a small amount of bread and juice, saying simple words expressing the idea of “feed on him in your hearts by faith”
5. Arrange 5 tea-light candles on the table. In turn, read the 5 verses (*see below), and ask a child to blow out a candle after each (you might need to explain that we don’t sing happy birthday!)
6. When the last candle is blown out, the room will be dimly lit and the leader says something like, “Jesus is the light of the world. But a darkness was coming. Jesus would be betrayed and taken to die on the cross” (choose words that will be appropriate to the age and comprehension of your children).
7. Usually at a Maundy Thurs service the people leave quietly in darkness and silence, before they return together again on Good Fri. I’ll leave it to you how you mange the conclusion.
There are many creative ways to engage with the symbols and drama of Easter. Don’t miss the new opportunities to bring to life this special season. Ask God how he will use you to pass on this extraordinarily good news in this extraordinary Easter.
FAITH, HOPE & LOVE,
Geoff Thompson, Snr Min
* 5 reading ideas to go with the candles, for families. Adults may choose longer readings:
Exodus 12: 12-14
Hebrews 1:1-3 or 13:11-16
COMMUNICATION: In the interest of streamlining our communication, all messages to the wider church will come from one source, myself (Geoff, senior minister) while messages to particular ministries, such as GrowGroups, Kids Ministry, etc, will continue to arrive privately. We will continue to answer member’s concerns privately by phone, text and emails, as we can. I will limit my church-wide communications to prevent overload, however, I may need to update previous messages within a short space of time as the landscape changes rapidly. Our main communications will be via email and facebook and the weekly all of life newsletter, we will also keep the All Saints website as up to date as possible”. In the meantime, please make sure your details on Elvanto are up to date – and that you have checked the box that says ‘receive general emails’
CHURCH OFFICE: Please DO NOT attempt to come to the church office until further notice.
GROWGROUPS: GrowGroups are moving online. All physical face to face meeting of GrowGroups need to be suspended now. This includes term 2 as well. Please communicate this with your GrowGroup members. However, and this is important – wherever possible we would like groups to meet online.
SUNDAY SERVICES IN HOMES: Church Home Groups are no longer able to meet to watch the Sunday service together (given the health warnings regarding ‘gatherings and groups’). If you need clarification for your situation please contact me (Geoff) privately.
SUNDAY SERVICE RECORDINGS: We weighed the benefit of a ‘pre-recorded’ service versus ‘Livestream’ and have decided to deliver a simple ONE-CLICK ‘pre-recorded’ service for 8am and another for 10.30/5. We will follow last Sunday’s model of ONE-CLICK LINK to YouTube, which most found simple to access and reliable. New emails with ONE-CLICK links will be issued each Sat afternoon (check your email inbox regularly). For those without internet we are working on a DVD delivery service. We are also considering ways a minister can visit for communion during this period of self-isolation.
LIMIT ON FACE TO FACE MEETINGS: Our team meetings now take place over ZOOM. This is our preferred platform and may be helpful for your group too. Download the free app before you need it, https://zoom.us/docs/en-us/covid19.html
MINISTRIES: All ministries are now in recess until further notice, except for ASCC and Mobile Community Pantry (as a service to those suffering economic impact). We continue to operate under strict guidelines given to us by Anglicare.
WEBSITE: The excellent decision making tree that Robin produced to help us make the right decision for how to be involved in a Sun service, is now sadly obsolete (the govt and health dept have made the decision for us). However we will shortly put an FAQ page, COVID 19 page, and a Pastoral Care page up on the church website for helpful information.
PASTORAL CARE: The ministry team are working on a tiered approach to our pastoral care model, to triage member’s needs, from emergency down to technical and shopping requests. In your first instance, contact your GrowGroup leader. Our GrowGroups are pastoral care groups.
TECHNOLOGY: As we move many ministries online, we know that technology may be a challenge for some. If you would like help with setting up some of the technology, please get in touch. We are putting together a tech support team who can help you in your home. For example you may have trouble viewing the service on a computer, or joining a facebook group, or downloading the ZOOM App for online meetings. We have people who can help. We probably only have a small window to put this in place, so please let us know if you need assistance.
DEVOTIONS & CONNECTION: We are working on a daily devotional. Stay tuned for more!
GIVING: Depending on your circumstances there may be considerable financial impact on our members. Let us know if this is you. Meanwhile, All Saints must survive on its offertories which are no longer physically taking place. Many have asked how to get their offertory to church. The best way is electronic giving, and remember you can adjust your amount at any time. The account details are, All Saints Anglican Nowra, BSB 062-585, Acc 10117813. However, if you can’t go online please mail a cheque marked ‘wardens’, to 70 Plunkett St Nowra 2541. If you cannot give in either of these ways please contact Bruce Wright (Church Warden) mob 0408 218 842, firstname.lastname@example.org
LIVING IN GRACE: Finally, we are still the FAITH, HOPE, LOVE people, and what an extraordinary time to demonstrate who we are to our community!
This Sunday we begin a brief series in Mark’s Gospel. It’s quick, punchy and may challenge our preconceptions about Jesus. Mark will take us all the way to Easter and the cross. Then, during the Easter week we will host a dramatisation of Mark’s Gospel. The Mark Drama is theatre in the round for 90 mins, and the cast is made up of members of local Anglican churches including All Saints. Mark Drama is going to be a moving experience as we arrive at Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This year we will have 2 Good Friday services—8am (a regular service) and 10.30am for a dramatic service. Don’t forget our Nerriga Fire Recovery Fundraiser. We hope to raise money for those affected in the Nerriga and Sassafras community. Already through AnglicanAid and Anglicare we’ve made a meaningful difference in the recovery of our neighbours over the mountains. Both Mark Drama and Nerriga fundraiser dinner are for you to invite your friends.
FAITH, HOPE & LOVE,
Geoff Thompson, Snr Min
Are you coming to BIG DAY IN next Sat? (It’s actually a half day in). It’s a time of compass setting for our church for the year ahead, as we pray and praise God together, and hear from a key speaker. This year Peter Mayrick is coming from Sydney to speak to us. Peter works with churches, leadership teams, and in evangelism. Having had a career in marketing and business development he now invests his time in church leaders as director of PARTNERS IN MINISTRY and CENTRE FOR MINISTRY DEVELOPMENT. Partners in Ministry has been established to assist evangelical churches in their objective to grow their members (maturity) and grow the kingdom (numbers). Peter is consultant, coach, facilitator and trainer for Pastors. Peter will open God’s word to us as we step into 40 Days of Mission, as well as give us some his observations of the church in a changing Australian culture.
I really hope you’ll join us Sat 14 for a 9am sharp start. There’ll also be a kids program. Lunch will be $5ea and please bring something to share for morning tea. Register today after church (for catering) or call the church office Mon or Thurs between 9 & 1pm at latest.
Faith, Hope & Love,
CHECK OUT TODAY’S MISSION MOMENT
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1540315892790976/ . We are putting up videos of what you guys are doing for mission – it’s great to see! If you’re not on facebook, let me know if you would like to receive daily updates via email.
This week we set out on the first part of 40 Days of Mission—Praying. Hope you can join in our Facebook group each day for a different prayer point, and soon, some mission moment ideas from members.
You also received a little booklet outlining the shape of our 40 Days of Mission which kicks off March 14 at BIG-DAY-IN. The first 2 weeks of mission are about small mission moments you create involving one or a few people! The 3rd week revolves around some targetted events for youth and Jnr Jivers, plus a meaningful dinner event you’ll want to invite your friends to—“Nerriga Fire Recovery Fundraiser” at Coolangatta Estate. Your friends will want to be a part of this. In the final week of our mission we will host the Mark Drama right here in our church, in the round!
Over our ‘40 Days of Mission’ our sermon series will explore “The Jesus You Least Expected”, Mark’s Gospel. It will be ideal for those who are curious about Jesus.
Of course the real conclusion to our 40 Days of Mission will be our Easter services. Good Friday—definitely a service to invite your friends to! As we draw closer to March 14 the question is, “what could your mission moment be?”
Faith, Hope & Love,