Encouragement in the midst of a challenging year

“It’s important to take moments to stop and reflect in order to see the ways God has worked in our lives. We want to celebrate how God has blessed churches, sustained and expanded ministries, and grown his kingdom this year. Join us in giving thanks for the year that has been!…”

– At SydneyAnglicans.net, Judy Adamson reminds us there is much for which we can be thankful.

Singing and Not-Singing in COVID Season

“Of all the restrictions necessitated by the COVID pandemic, one of the most frustrating, at least for most Christians, is not being able to sing together – either because we’re unable to meet together or because it’s not deemed safe for us to do so even if we are able to be together. Of course, not being able to sing together hasn’t killed us, and it won’t. But it has deprived and diminished us and, understandably, is deeply painful to many. …”

– Rob Smith writes at The Gospel Coalition Australia.

Also published at Latimer Trust.

See also:

Review: Come, Let Us Sing – Christopher Idle, at Church Society.

(Image: Rob Smith at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, courtesy Anglican Media Sydney.)

In the US – Winter is coming: COVID-19 forces hard choices for Churches

“TGC asked five pastors how they’ve been using the relative safety of outdoors, how the weather is a challenge, and how they’re thinking creatively about the changing seasons…”

A good reminder to pray for churches in the northern hemisphere as the weather gets colder.

Image: Sam Ferguson, Falls Church Anglican, Virginia.

Churches, Give People a Message of Hope

“Tom Holland is the spiderman of historians. His latest conversation with Glen Scrivener is well worth the listen for it includes more than a few intriguing thoughts in the web of ideas.

I really appreciate his thoughtfulness and honesty. It was this reflection by Holland that especially struck a chord with me. He said,

‘I felt that over the course of this year the churches have been a let down. I think that the experience of pandemic, it sets you to asking why is this happening…it raises profound issues of theodicy.’…

Holland isn’t knocking churches for talking about their buildings, social distancing and COVID-19 plans. He notes that these things are important. The overall presentation of Christianity that he has heard and seen over the last 6 months (and keep in mind Tom Holland is a studious observer of Christianity), the message he’s received is overall bland and uninspiring and offers little hope to a world he says is desperate for salvation.”

– Murray Campbell in Melbourne writes at The Gospel Coalition Australia.

Mask and number restrictions easing in churches

“Churches can now open to up to 300 people, subject to the 4m2rule and masks are no longer needed in services after talks with the State government on COVID safety…”

– The latest from Russell Powell at SydneyAnglicans.net.

Photo: Anglican Media Sydney.

Obeying government and obeying God

“The Bible’s teaching on our relationship to human authorities is quite clear. Those who govern us are set in place by God. …”

– In his column in the October 2020 Southern Cross, Archbishop Glenn Davies considers the relationship of Christians and the government – in these ‘COVID-19’ times.

Hopeful signs

This morning, Archbishop Glenn Davies tweets,

“I met with Minister Brad Hazzard yesterday. I assured him of our prayers as we all work together to stop COVID-19. We spoke about inconsistencies in current rules and he assured me that an announcement tomorrow will help churches better serve our communities.”

Update, 21 October 2020:

“From this Friday, the number of people who can attend religious gatherings will be lifted from 100 to 300, subject to the 4square-metre rule.”

ABC News.

Victoria: Churches locked out of Andrews pathway from lockdown

Here’s a media release from The Australian Christian Lobby:

Churches locked out of Andrews pathway from lockdown

19 October 2020

Victorians are relieved to see lockdown restrictions easing, but whilst retail and hospitality sectors can open from 2 November, churches and other faith communities remain in the dark about their future.

“From midnight 1 November, metropolitan hospitality venues can host 20 people indoors and regional venues 40,” ACL spokesperson Jasmine Yuen observed, “Yet church communities can not hold an indoor gathering.”

“In today’s daily press conference Premier Andrews justified the disparity by saying hospitality venues were heavily regulated. Allowing up to 40 strangers in a pub but zero members of a church community inside their own building is nonsensical and unjustifiable.

“The longer this trampling of freedom of worship goes on without making the specific epidemiological justifications public, the more it highlights how desperately religious freedom reform is needed.

“The sentiment of faith groups is clear, from a joint petition of 10,000 people of Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian, Muslim and Hindu faiths, to 300 pastors and leaders who wrote to the Premier, all urging him to allow them to open. Faith groups provide an essential service for community health and mental wellbeing.

“Indoor church services with COVID-Safe Plans and contact tracing are safer than gatherings in public places. Churches have cooperated with the government for a long time to comply with the various protocols on food, hygiene, child safety, fire safety & emergency management et cetera. There is no reason why they can’t open in a COVID-Safe way just like restaurants and pubs.

“COVID-Safe church opening now is vitally important, particularly when people have been so lonely and isolated.

– ENDS.

Related:

295 church leaders urge Premier to open churches – 08 October 2020.

Capitol Hill Baptist case — COVID restrictions on gatherings unlawful

“Most of us are chafing under restrictions on gatherings imposed by COVID-19 laws.

Getting the balance right here is hard, and we want to give the government as much leeway as possible; but the restrictions have been very difficult for churches, and the rules adopted in some jurisdictions seem to discriminate against church meetings in comparison to other activities which are now allowed.

These were the issues at stake in the recent decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Capitol Hill Baptist Church v Bowser (Case No. 20-cv-02710 (TNM), McFadden USDJ, Oct 9, 2020). …”

Neil Foster at Law and Religion Australia comments on the Capitol Hill Baptist Church case, and also notes the current circumstances in New South Wales.

The DC Mayor Doesn’t Get to Define Church

“Since the spring, Christian commentary on COVID-19 restrictions and church closures has focused on the authority of government. Do we as Christians believe the Bible gives Caesar the authority to ask churches to cease gathering in times of emergency?

That’s a conversation worth having. Yet an equally important theological question has quietly lurked in the shadows, which many Christians have missed: What is a church? More specifically, must the members of a church gather on a weekly basis to be a church?…”

Jonathan Leeman writes at Christianity Today about the nature of “church”. It’s a good question to consider as we seek to encourage Christians to gather.

(Photo: Capitol Hill Baptist Church.)

Victoria: Christians celebrate a basic liberty retained!

Here’s a media release from The Australian Christian Lobby:

“Victorians can now breathe a sigh of relief with the Andrews government relenting on its grab for controversial detention powers in its COVID-19 Omnibus Bill.

‘The Australian Christian Lobby welcomes the government’s move to delete this unwarranted measure,” ACL spokesperson Jasmine Yuen said today. “The government wanted to appoint anyone as an ‘authorised officer’ to detain people, without warrants, for indefinite periods of time if they are considered ‘high-risk’ and likely to fail to comply with emergency directions.

“The Christian community in Victoria, including Christians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, expressed grave concerns that the Bill left all Victorians’ freedoms open to abuse. As Christians, we are concerned when the state curtails freedoms. Often the first freedom to be impacted is freedom of religion.

“Some of our migrant Christians have come from – or even fled from – their home countries where their religious freedom no longer exists.

“The Christian community in Victoria have been doing what they can to fight for their hard-earned freedom and were determined in their opposition to these draconian measures.

“We are pleased that, in this instance, the Andrews government has heard and respected the voice of its citizens.æ’”

Source.

Four surprising ways to cheer your Covid-stressed Pastor

“Some while ago I wrote a short blog about how to put a spring in the step of your pastor.

Here is a Covid update. How about this for four ways to cheer your pastor in these pandemic days? Each arises partly out of conversations I have had with pastor friends. …”

Christopher Ash shares some encouragement at The Good Book Company in the UK.

See also:

Stop! Think Twice Before Switching Churches in 2020 – Ivan Mesa at The Gospel Coalition.

“No pastor ever took a seminary course on pastoring amid a pandemic, so be patient with them.”

Capitol Hill Baptist shows how to fight for Religious Freedom in a Pandemic

“Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC), an 850-member church led by TGC Council Emeritus member Mark Dever, has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel E. Bowser is violating the First Amendment and facilitating discrimination by allowing large anti-racism protests while severely limiting worship services. …”

– Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition looks at what Capitol Hill Baptist Church is doing and why.

See also the CHBC website. (Screenshot: CHBC website.)

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