Cessation of gathered worship at Mark the Evangelist

20 March 2020

Sisters and brothers in the Congregation of Mark the Evangelist,

last night the Church Council met to consider the meaning of the current COVID-19 crisis for our life together at MtE. Taking into consideration the necessity of containing the virus and the growing anxiety in the community about even those social gatherings which are still permitted, we resolved that the worship service this coming Sunday March 22 will be the last gathered service for at least four weeks, and likely longer. This will include the Holy Week and Easter Services. We believe this to be the most appropriate step with respect to our common worship under these circumstances. The service on March 22 will be as usual, except that the Eucharist will be received only by the celebrant, we will space the chairs out more than usual, and we will not serve morning tea afterwards.

We recognise that this is a dramatic step, although we are mindful that a large number of churches have already or soon will also cease gathered public worship.

We are aware that some MtE members have already decided no longer to attend worship under the present circumstances and that others may also be feeling that they don’t want to attend this coming Sunday. Please act in relation to Sunday’s service in whatever way feels most appropriate to you.

While we will no longer gather for worship, it is our intention to continue to deliver a weekly worship service online. The details around this are yet to be finalised. We hope that at least an audio recording of the service will be available even from this Sunday, although there is a steep learning curve to ascend to perfect this! We will let you know when these online services are available and how to find them on your smartphones or computers.

Most meetings and study groups will no longer take place face to face but via an online platform – ‘Zoom’ – which has already proven efficient and easy to use over the last few days; we will help anyone who needs to use Zoom to get it working. Operations in the church office are still largely normal but we will be shifting to more work being done from home. The Hotham Mission staff are thinking through how to continue to maintain as much as possible the Mission’s programs.

We are in the midst of something new to us all, and quite disorienting. As we are forced to distance ourselves from each other for ‘natural’ reasons, so must we also strive to draw closer to each other in every way we can, for love’s sake.

I encourage you to be carers of each other in word, deed and prayer.

I encourage you to let others know when you are in need, when circumstances mean you can’t help yourself.

Please let me or your elder know if you are free to assist others, should the need arise (some help has already been offered, if you would like to ask for assistance).

The Church Council will, of course, continue to monitor the situation closely and, as we await changes for the better in our circumstances, we will do whatever we can to maintain as much as possible the common life of the congregation towards the ends of faith and hope and love.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.