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As COVID-19 restrictions loosen and gathering becomes possible again, what changes should we expect, and when? The short answer is: we don't know, but the elders have been contemplating some likely scenarios, and developing some loose plans. One guiding principle is to consider not only the legality of various options, but also the practicality in light of health and safety advice. Another is flexibility: we want to plan and prepare for the future, but we need to have loose plans that can be tweaked or even scrapped as new information comes to light. We also want to communicate well, keeping our members in the loop about what we've decided and why. We hope the following document will help with that.
UPDATED: 15th May 2020
Since April 14, Tasmanians have been required to stay home unless shopping for supplies, exercising, going to work or giving compassionate care. We've also been prohibited from gathering with multiple people, let alone meeting as a church. (See here for more info: https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/families-community/gatherings/gatherings-faqs)
On May 8, Australia's Prime Minister outlined a national three stage plan for loosening these restrictions. Stage one limits groups to 10 people including kids. Stage two limits gatherings to 20 people including kids. Stage three limits gatherings to 100 people including kids. Each state has discretion over how it defines and when it implements each stage.(For more information on restrictions and coronavirus visit: coronavirus.tas.gov.au)
As we transition to a new normal, there may be things we're technically able to do before it's actually a good idea for our particular circumstances. At present we don't have a date for resuming our normal gatherings on Sundays. We will review this at the end of term (July 19) when Tasmania hopes to have reached stage three restrictions.
Before resuming normal services, Crossroads would need:
Because we wouldn't want to turn people away, we might choose to wait for further loosening of the rules before meeting together again. When the above requirements have been met, and we've decided it's wise to meet again, we'll let you know through announce@ emails, our livestream, and via our Facebook pages.
On July 19, Tasmania hopes to enter stage three of restriction release. By then we should know more about what we can and can't do, and will update you on our plans. Our announcement might be: we're STILL not changing anything. Or it might be: we're changing some things back to face-to-face. At this stage we just don't know.
Under stage one of the government's roadmap, groups of up to 5 people are able to meet in people's homes, but because of various health and safety considerations, our plan is to stay on Zoom for the remainder of term two. In the meantime, we're asking growth groups to consider a special in-person (!) get together, subject to stage one restrictions and demand among their members. A large daytime group might split in two, with one lot going to the botanical gardens and the other meeting for a beach walk, while a smaller evening group might meet in someone's garden round a fire—leaders will consult with their members to make an appropriate plan, and no one will be pressured to attend.
When we do resume regular in-person meetings, each group will need to consider:
Distancing measures might mean some groups still can't meet, or require a new venue; larger groups might want or need to split in two.
Ahead of any transition, we'll keep you informed via announce@ emails, our livestream, and our Facebook pages. If you currently attend a growth group, your leader will also be in touch to discuss the plans for your particular group.
No. Meeting together will look different as we follow physical distancing and hygiene guidelines.
We're currently thinking through the many aspects of a Sunday service that will need to be adapted, and are open to your input.
Some questions we're considering include:
The livestream was set up when we couldn't meet together physically. We've since realised that some people who were already unable to come to church for various reasons have appreciated joining our livestream.
We will consider keeping this going for those who can't make it to church, but it may not be advertised or widely promoted.
Join in the Facebook livestream. Feel free to read and make brief comments to others during the service. Organise or join an online video/chat after the service. If you're single, or a couple without kids (and if legal restrictions and health and safety considerations allow), you might even consider joining with another household to watch together.
If you have children, do what works for your family. It would be great if families could enjoy the service together, even at home, but meeting online is different to meeting in person, so we need to change our expectations. It's better for families to be built up and encouraged by church, even if the kids don't sit through the full service, than for it to be a source of frustration and guilt.
In a normal Crossroads service, younger kids can leave for tailored content or creche while the sermon is preached. If you have younger kids, you might like to encourage them to join you for the opening songs and prayer, listen to the Bible reading, and then play or colour-in while you listen to the talk; or you might let them off the hook entirely, but pour extra energy into your family's regular bible reading and prayer time; or you might focus on the age appropriate resources on the Crossroads Kids' Facebook page. Again, do what works for your family.
As the songs are playing, some will stand and sing loudly. Others will stay seated and mumble along, or reflect on the words and sing in their hearts. There's no 'right' or 'wrong' approach!
For prayer, there's probably no need to change the way you would normally pray. If you normally close your eyes, close your eyes. If you typically say 'amen' at the end, continue to do so. We're praying to a God who knows our hearts and listens whenever and wherever we are.
At the moment we're not sharing in the Lord's Supper together.
Our Presbytery has directed us to hold off 'until we can meet together (if and when God wills) or until the mind of the church is more fully known'.
The Presbytery's thinking is that online 'church' is something new and novel and whether it's a genuine gathering of God's people is at least questionable. As a result, we want to hold off from taking this sacrament, at least for now—but remember: 'even though the bread may not have been eaten, or the wine drunk' (Anglican Prayer Book) our assurance lies in our faith in Jesus Christ.
Due to music copyright laws we aren't able to keep our recordings of services online. We will, however, aim to have the sermon, Bible reading and prayers available in the days following the broadcast.
© Crossroads Presbyterian Church 2017
25 Tasma St, North Hobart TAS 7000, Australia