Pastoral Letter

22 Mar 2020 by William Tibben in: COVID-19 Updates

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you on behalf of your Church Council to let you know of the steps being taken to ensure that NIUC continues to fulfil its God-given mission during this unprecedented time of crisis. Following the very strong recommendation received on Thursday from the NSW Synod of the Uniting Church and the Illawarra Presbytery, your Church Council agreed that all public gatherings associated with the church would cease following the service held on Sunday 22nd March. This was a difficult decision to make but the Council believed that its duty of care to its people takes precedence over all else – particularly as many of us are amongst those who are at greatest risk.

However, this does not mean that NIUC is closing down. The worship centre may stand empty for the next few months, but the heart and life of the congregation will continue – with a slightly different form. Church Council has identified six broad areas that constitute the core ministries of NIUC and a number of related strategies to ensure that they function effectively. They are:

  1. Regular and timely pastoral support for all members and adherents.

Because face-to-face contact needs to be kept to an absolute minimum, the bulk of my pastoral visitation will be via the telephone. I will ensure that everyone associated with the church receives a call from me at least every fortnight.

Our wonderful team of pastoral carers, led by Rev Rob Nance, likewise will be keeping in touch with regular phone calls; and the prayer chain, coordinated by Val, will continue to uphold all who are in need of special prayer.

I also urge you to contact me anytime if you are feeling anxious or in need or are aware of anyone else needing pastoral care.

  1. An alternate weekly worship service streamed directly to your home.

We envisage this to be a thirty-minute service that incorporates music, prayers, scripture readings and a message, designed to provide the same sort of spiritual uplift as our usual services in the worship centre. More information later.

  1. A weekly Bible study and discussion group.

Bible study notes will be sent to everyone who wants to be a part of this group (via email where possible), inviting members to add their thoughts and comments as they’ve been accustomed to do in our usual Bible study group.

  1. Active, ongoing fellowship and information sharing.

Fellowship and caring has long been the life-blood of NIUC, and the Corona virus is not going to bring that to a halt. Mandy and Julie will continue to produce and send out the weekly newsletter Together in Mission, and there will be regular pastoral letters from me. But the most important thing will be your phone calls to people every time you think of them.

  1. A refocusing of NIUC’s outreach ministry in the community, keeping faith, hope and love alive.

Up until the present this ministry has centred on the Friday evening community dinner, the various craft, quilting and fellowship groups, the Spiritual Group and our association with Need a Feed. Apart from Need a Feed, these groups will not meet again until the pandemic is over. But the church’s mission outside of itself will continue. Members of the Church Council shortly will meet with Fred David, our community worker, to refocus his activities in support of those we currently care for and to initiate new forms of outreach.

  1. Ensuring effective administration and financial support for NIUC and its mission during the current crisis.

The Church Council, office volunteers, property managers and others will continue to oil the wheels that keep NIUC rolling and, because we’re entering new territory, will probably be working even harder. But, as I said earlier, NIUC is not closing down; it’s just temporarily reinventing itself.

And so we invite you also to be part of this challenge: by supporting the streamed services, being part of the on-line Bible study group, keeping in touch with each other, praying for the church and its people and, last, but not least, continuing to ensure NIUC’s viability by your regular offerings.

As you won’t be able to present your offerings at church as usual, we ask that you regularly put them aside and send your cheque to the church office; or to simplify things, complete the direct debit form that you will receive soon, which will ensure that your offerings will go seamlessly from your account to the church’s account, thereby ensuring that NIUC continues to be a force for good and for God in our community and beyond.                                                                                                                                                    

May God bless us all,

Rev Robert V Smith

22 Mar 2020

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