It was a real highlight for me this past week when all our ministry agents met face to face (well, one via Zoom!) for the first time since COVID, at Kempsey UC.
The team shared lunch together thanks to the hospitality of Kempsey UC and particularly under the care of Lenore, Sharn and Richard. We took time to listen to each other’s various journeys, joys, hopes and challenges. We closed with prayer and celebrated Holy Communion together.
We have all done well these past months to keep in touch via Zoom, emails, and whatever other means, but face to face is always good. It is hard to be incarnational via a computer monitor.
As many of our congregations are still not meeting face to face under the present guidelines, we are looking at merging some of our presbytery Online church ministry with the Port Macquarie UC mob.
This ministry has been a real winner for us and is greatly appreciated by many, but it does take a great deal of time and effort. If we can combine the work of Rev Stephen and Rev Cherie and tap into a wider technology resource base, we can hopefully enhance an already excellent ministry.
I am reliably informed that in a little while we may well be able to ‘livestream’ our service so that smaller congregations can use Online Church as a worship resource.
Should you want to connect to our Online Church service contact Rev Cherie Strudwick: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0400 725 201 and she will send you the Zoom link.
Our services are recorded, and you can find them if you go to this Mid North Coast website home page under COVID virus: Mid North Coast Church Online Channel.
This COVID-19 time has been something of a curse, but we are still picking up the regular blessings of being forced to look outside of the traditional church box.
We have some 47 people attending next week’s PRESBYTERY RETREAT, which is very gratifying considering the prevailing circumstances. Over our few days together we will be considering the text from Matthew 19:27 – 20:16 and thinking about the vineyard that we find ourselves in, led by the team from Saltbush.
If you are unable to attend this year, please hold those attending in prayer for these few days together.
WHAT WILL TOMORROW BRING?
I have been asked by a few people what my plans are for the future as I set aside my Presbytery Chair role. Right now, I am quite uncertain. I think I would like to retire?? However, when I was ordained – not that long ago – I was given a life sentence. Ordination is not a career, but a calling. It is not a job; it is a vocation. Being a very naïve Christ follower, I am of the mind that when God wants me to retire, he / she will probably tell me?
I am tired of running meetings and checking regulations, as these two things have never been a part of my top ten life priorities. I think I would like to talk to people about how to BE church. We have good people in positions, where too often they have just been tossed into the deep end and told to swim, and sometimes they must feel as if they are drowning.
It would be good, if asked, to be able to offer some support and wisdom and foster a sharing of gifts: For I am longing to see you so that I might share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – or rather so that we might be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11, 12
As a sample, here are five points to consider if you are a local congregation leader, that I have worked around the word BLESS.
Be brave enough and confident enough of your calling to simply be. If you are confident in the being, the doing generally will take care of itself. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. 1 Thessalonians 5:24
Lead willingly, eagerly and humbly: tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it – not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not Lord it over those in your charge but be examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2, 3
Encourage those with whom you share ministry. There are more than enough people around to point out fault and blame, the church does not need to give more oxygen in this direction. Be an encourager. Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. John 1:51
Sow love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. Galatians 5:22, 23 Be a sower of hope in grace-filled soil.
Steer the ship of fools that you have been entrusted with! We are fools for the sake of Christ. 1 Corinthians 4:10 Do not be afraid to step up to the wheel and be confident that, by the grace of God, you will take them through these troubled waters, into a new adventure. The church can too easily default to wallowing around in the waters of life, but it operates best when it has vision and direction. Do not allow your people to wallow!
And always be aware that blessings often come in a whole bunch of colourful and surprising ways:
COVID note 6 Update
There has been a slight amendment to the latest COVID update received this week:
Only one soloist is now allowed for a pre-recorded or livestream situation and 5m physical distancing must be maintained. Previously we had been told 2-3 singers would be permissible.
No singing, except for soloist with 5m distance (Previously we had been told 3m)
READINGS FOR PENTECOST 15
Exodus 14:19-31; Psalm 114; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
THE RULE OF SEVEN
This week’s gospel reading prompted me to recall an article by USA author, Laurie Beth Jones, out of her book, ‘Teach your team to fish’. Below is a précised summary:
Seven is seen by many as a lucky number. In the Scriptures seven is significant. God created the world in six days and on the seventh he rested. Jacob worked seven years before gaining the hand of the beautiful Rachel. Egypt had seven good years and seven years of famine. Joshua was told to march around Jericho seven times, with seven priests and seven trumpets, before the walls came down.
When someone asked Jesus if seven times was enough to forgive someone, he said ’No! Seventy seven times!’ When he fed the 4,000, Jesus blessed and then broke seven loaves of bread.
Over and above any mystical / spiritual meaning for seven, perhaps we need to take from this the need for persistence. Some people give up easily. Two, three or four times is more than enough of an effort some will say.
There is a story of a man who started work on a building site and was given a sledgehammer and told to break up a slab of concrete. The man bashed away for several minutes; but apart from a few chips, he seemed to get nowhere. The foreman came along, and the man had to admit that he couldn’t do it. The foreman - a small slight man - took the hammer and after a couple of blows the slab broke apart. The new worker thanked him for breaking it; but his boss said, ‘I didn’t break it, you did. It just hadn’t come apart yet. You will find that if you want to break something, you need to keep hitting until it falls apart.’
Seven is also known as the complete number. Perhaps we simply need to hang in there and see it through. After Jesus had fed the 4,000 and people had been well fed, they cleaned up the scraps and filled up seven baskets of leftovers.
Perhaps seven can also stand for faith?