INSIGHTS ON THE PANDEMIC AND CHURCH LIFE IN AUSTRALIA:

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:7

The NCCA meeting of Christian Church Leaders was held on Thursday 28 May 2020, via Zoom. Coming together like this provided a time of prayerful sharing and support during this unprecedented period of isolation and social distancing.

SUMMARY NOTE OF THE MEETING

1. We are very grateful that good leadership has contained the spread of infections in Australia.

Our sympathy and prayers continue for those suffering. Our ministry and international pastoral links make us poignantly aware of this suffering each day.

We spoke especially of places in our Asia - Pacific region which will need our ongoing aid.

2. We shared many positive reflections on our Churches response, thus far:

* The creativity of on-line ministries have connected many more into worship than was anticipated.

And this has included people who “would never darken the doors of a Church normally”.

* Many of our new resources and services are receiving appreciation across the country and internationally.

* The slow-down has given busy clergy and laity the opportunity to go deeper in prayer and reflection.

* Faithful souls have taken wonderful initiatives in care for others - phone calls to parishioners; outreach to strangers; new community and neighbourly collaboration.

We have seen the decency and kindness of people, long influenced by the Gospel.

* Even on- line services with lots of silence are working!

* Disabled people; the ageing, families with young kids express gratitude for resources, both printed and emailed, which help them worship at home.

*As schools offer devotional resources for students at home, perhaps some parents are having their faith renewed.

* Pastoral services on-line are heavily subscribed because of a greater anonymity.

3. There are also complexities:

*Ours is an incarnational faith. We miss each other’s company at worship.

* The liturgy of the Eucharist (Holy Communion/Mass) is fundamental and has been painfully missed.

* Closing churches in shutdown may have been easier than opening them up again - given the restrictions and confusing messages from some authorities.

Moreover, will people have lost the habit of congregational worship, become a little complacent?

* Can we keep providing worship and study resources both as during shut down and now as we re-open? There are financial implications and key staff are getting tired.

“We will not be able to sustain what we have been doing. Plus, now, the cost of delivering services may be higher.” The matter of financial viability sits on the horizon.

4. A Conclusion?

*Our conversation was warm and thoughtful. We prayed, using the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials and then enjoyed a conversation that conveyed our unity.

* We will keep in touch as we try to hold on to the somewhat unexpected benefits of these recent weeks.

* We are also aware of the cost of leadership after months of crisis management. Hence we keep in prayer for each other, for national and state leaders, for health sector and community leaders.

* We are mindful that the problem of COVID19 is with us, as experts say, for at least the next 18 months or two years. We are learning as we go and really cannot see too far ahead.

* Hence the importance of a continuing conversation, such as we enjoyed this Thursday.

With prayers of gratitude,

Bishop Philip Huggins 

President, National Council of Churches in Australia 

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