“If our view of the Good Life is focused on accumulating consumer goods and experiences for ourselves, instead of looking for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others, we could totally miss what this journey is really all about. We are indeed called to live under God’s rule, practicing economic generosity and justice-making with all that God has entrusted us. We are invited to join so many who have gone before in discovering that the good life of God is to be found not in seeking life but in losing our lives in service to God and to others.”
– Tom Sine
I heard a wonderful story this week: one of the Parish Missions within Sydney Presbytery was considering when they would open for worship (once it was allowed again), and decided that their regathering criteria would be focused around when the people who could not prove they were vaccinated were also allowed to attend. Many people who visit the congregations and services of this Parish Mission do not have mobile phones, or fixed addresses. They do not have means of identification or ways their immunisation status can be proven. And so, gathering for worship will be a thing again when these people will not have to be turned away.
The NSW government is revealing its ‘roadmap’ to opening from lockdown. What they are saying is that when we have reached 80% vaccinations, those who are fully vaccinated (and those with medical exemptions) will have greater freedoms than those who are not vaccinated. I have heard and shared the concerns many have expressed to me about what that might mean for worship services — how can we turn people away if they cannot prove their vaccination status? How is this modelling the call of Jesus to make all welcome? And, conversely, how do we keep all people safe which must also be our goal?
I will admit that I scrolled quickly through the ‘roadmap’ to where the easing restrictions are listed under “Weddings, funerals and places of worship,” and was delighted to see that no one would be excluded. Churches and places of worship can open (with one person per 4 square metres and no singing) once we are at the 80% fully vaccinated target, and those who are not fully vaccinated will be allowed. Masks will continue to be required for all indoor settings.
Reading further through the ‘roadmap’ to the changes that will take effect from 1 December 2021 (with the target of 90% fully vaccinated), all residents of NSW, regardless of vaccination status, will enjoy the same easing of restrictions. And what they are listing for Churches and places of worship is that there can be one person per 2 square metres, masks will not be required (unless you are serving food) and singing will be permitted! While I’m sure there will be more guideline updates to follow, this sounds like such wonderful news for our Christmas services and activities.
Returning to the story from the Parish Mission, what really warmed my heart was how they are a living expression of Jesus’ teaching — inclusive, welcoming of all, and holding in high value those whom society tends to exclude. Their embodiment of the “Good Life,” losing their lives (in this context, their life together as gathered community to worship God) in service to God and others, has inspired me this week, and I am deeply grateful.
Perhaps you are dusting off plans for gathering once more to worship together, perhaps you are beginning to think in a different creative space for Advent and Christmas worship, perhaps you are still considering what the ‘roadmap’ might allow for your community — wherever you find your thoughts and planning, I hope and pray you will lose yourself in God that you might find yourself serving to the utmost of your ability the people amongst whom God places you. There we will find life together.
Blessings and Peace,