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COVID-19 Updates from the Elders

covid-19 Raleigh Street Christian Centre response

Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 

Elders Update #13

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever!

        Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,

whom he has redeemed from trouble

        and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.                 (Psalm 107:1-3)

Kia ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street,

This Sunday, our regular church meetings will begin again.  Many other ministries are in the process of reopening.  We thank our steadfastly loving God for this great mercy, and invite you to return to our facility and participate in a special celebration this Sunday.  In the past 12 weeks, some of our church family have experienced sorrows, others struggles, others joyful family times, and others times of restoration and recovery.  At this present moment we give thanks for all that is past, and commit again to gather weekly at the table of the Lord as a community of praising, listening, learning, loving people of God.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of Sunday:

We are starting an hour early – arrive at church from 9 am, grab a cuppa, and take some time to meet old friends and make some new ones, before moving through to the main auditorium by 10 am to begin our service.

We will all be together – on this first Sunday, we want to meet together as a united body across families and generations; children will be involved in the service rather than meeting separately.

You should keep a record of your presence – QR codes that can be scanned with the NZ Covid Tracer app will be on display around the building, and we will encourage visitors to note their presence in a visitor’s book.

We want you to keep practicing good hygiene – hand sanitizer bottles will be available at various points throughout the building.

If you are sick, watch the service online – if you are unwell, we would be glad to have you join us from home; the service will broadcast online for all those who cannot attend for health reasons.

A range of our usual midweek ministries have already opened or are beginning to open.  Ministry leaders will be contact with more details.  Thank you to all our dedicated ministry leaders and helpers as they resume serving both church and the wider community at this time!

At this point we also want to say thank you to all who completed the survey two weeks ago, and to those who attended the Koorero Round Table last Thursday.  It was really heartening to see so many participate.  Through these exercises church leadership have been able to gather a huge amount of data which we are still in the process of analyzing.  We will communicate further as soon as we can.

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).

Ngaa manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre

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Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre

Elders Update #12

Kia ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street,

As we approach being able to gather again as a church, we as leaders are prayerfully reflecting on what opportunities this disruptive period is providing. One of these areas is the opportunity to consider how we gather and what our gatherings are like. Many elements will not be negotiable as they are drawn from principles of scripture (opening and teaching of God's word, prayer, communion, singing). How these are practiced though along with other elements of our services are to be appropriately determined by the local church leaders and their communities. We are considering what changes could be made and the appropriate timing of these. Thank you to all those who have filled in the survey. The next step is the round-table korero (conversation) tonight (04 June) from 7-8.30pm at church. Attached is some discussion material that will help prepare you prior to coming. As leaders we are excited about the opportunities afforded by this disruptive period and look forward to the conversations.

Ngaa Manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre

CLICK HERE FOR ADDITIONAL MATERIAL


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Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 

Elders Update #11

Kia ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street,

“God defend New Zealand.”  Across our country, it’s a prayer uttered at every major sporting event and many school assemblies, as well as on countless other occasions.  Though this prayer has been sung less in recent weeks, our cries for divine protection have carried a new and heartfelt urgency.  And in his providence, God has so far defended us from decimation by Covid-19, and for this answer to prayer we give thanks.  Nevertheless, the economic and social impact of the current pandemic on New Zealand still constitutes the biggest shock to our society in many decades, perhaps unparalleled in 70 years. 

Throughout history, times of crisis have also been crucibles of change, and it’s probable that we will see changes emerging in our society in the coming months and years that are driven by this experience.  The church may also change.  And this might be a good thing.

Israel, the Old Testament people of God, experienced a great time of crisis early in their history, as described in the book of Exodus.  The book begins by describing a genocidal campaign against the Israelite people living in slavery.  Breaking into this dreadful time, God himself acted to liberate his people under the leadership of Moses.  What emerged from that crisis was better than what preceded it: a community joined to God by everlasting promises, living under law, travelling to their own land.  At times the people were tempted to return to Egypt, but it was undoubtedly better to keep moving forward than to fall back.

The major disruption we have experienced to our church life in the last few weeks is not a crisis on the scale of the Israelite struggle with Pharaoh, but nevertheless it has forced us to change.  We have had to learn and innovate, and in some ways the change has been good.  So, rather than simply falling back unthinkingly into old patterns of church, we believe this is a time for the Raleigh Street community to move forward in faith to whatever new things God has for us.  Among our church eldership we have begun a conversation about what the future of the church might look like; we want to reflect on what we have experienced, and make sure we learn and grow into the next season.

This period of reflection and growth is something we encourage you to participate in.  God willing, in the next few days your family will receive a survey from the church leadership; please use this to share your thoughts about online and in-person services, and your ideas for the future.  Following that, the plan is to hold an evening hui at the church complex, during which we can gather more ideas and share some of the leadership’s thinking.  This is not to say we have any grand strategy – life is, after all, vaporous, unclear and confusing – but we do not want to let the moment pass for reassessing our trajectory as a church.

In the meantime, our church services continue as they are for at least another week.  We are considering whether to open up the church building as a size-limited venue soon, but in the meantime we remain online until further notice.  We encourage you to (safely!) gather in small groups on a Sunday to worship together in homes.  If you are wondering how to do this in a way consistent with government advice, please contact the church office (office@rscc.co.nz), who can supply you with the guidelines we have circulated to homegroup leaders.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Ngaa Manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre

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Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 

Elders Update #10

Kia ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street,

Before moving on to other matters, we want to acknowledge that last week’s Elders Update produced a sizeable amount of feedback – thank you to those who got in touch.  We thought it would be worthwhile to clarify and expand on some of the points made in that update.  We’ve done this through a video – if you’re interested, you can watch Nick and Jeremy discuss Brian Tamaki, human rights, the City of God and more by following this link: Jeremy & Nick Video

In this present update, we want to share with you some findings from Raleigh Street’s recent email survey (circulated on 7 May). 

This survey was mainly intended to find out how our community was feeling about opening up our midweek church activities during Alert Level 2.  We were pleased with the strong uptake – responses were received from 114 families, covering 367 of our people.  This means we can be confident the survey is reasonably representative of the wider Raleigh Street community.  The survey asked which midweek activities families typically participated in prior to the lockdown, and which of these they would be happy to attend in person during Alert Level 2.  Some of the key findings were:

86% of those who usually attend a homegroup indicated they would attend during Alert Level 2 (that is, 49 of 57 responses).

100% of those who usually attend the Raleigh St Youth Bible studies on Wednesday nights indicated they would attend during Alert Level 2; and 70% of those usually attending other youth events would do so during Alert Level 2 (23 of 23 and 14 of 20 responses respectively).

Overall, across the three primary/intermediate-age ministries (Amplify, ICONZ, Girls’ Rally), 65% of respondents indicated they would be willing to attend during Alert Level 2 (27 of 41 responses).

Overall, across the two preschool ministries (Mainly Music and Playgroup), 68% of respondents indicated they would be willing to attend during Alert Level 2 (13 of 19 responses).

For some ministries (Sunday worship nights, the Friends Café, and exercise groups), more people indicated a willingness to participate at Alert Level 2 than had previously been taking part!

Full results and graphs will be shared in the next Insight magazine, but it is evident that a high proportion of our community are ready to start meeting together once government guidance permits for this to happen.  Ministry leaders will be making decisions on reopening based on a range of factors, including the ability to run programmes in a way that is safe, and we recognize that health complications mean some will not join us for some time yet.  Nevertheless, we are heartened to see that there is an appetite across the church for meeting together and serving one another and our community through these ministries, once the time is right.

As well as answering these questions regarding attendance, people also took the opportunity to comment on a wide range of matters in their survey responses.  Some of you proposed ideas for church leaders to consider, but for many it was simply a chance to say thanks. Here is a sample of positive comments made:

“Church online is fantastic.”

“Thank you to all those involved.  Regular updates & online services are hugely helpful.”

“Keep up the good work you are doing to keep RSCC ticking over in these difficult times.”

“I have very much appreciated Sunday streamed services as they have been my only opportunity to worship the Lord with other believers… Thanks for the work you are doing on our behalf.”

“Am impressed with the improving technical capabilities of RSCC.”

“Thank you for the wonderful work you have all been doing.”

As an eldership, we want to join with others in saying a heartfelt thank you to all those who have stepped up with leadership, creativity and energy during the last two months, not only through Sunday services, but in many other ways, such as Zoom calls and Facebook challenges for our children, phone calls to one another, and prayer gatherings.  Your efforts are precious and appreciated.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers [and sisters], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Ngaa Manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre

Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 

 #9 May 14

Kia ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street,

This has been a week of mixed emotions for many of us.  Yes, we are moving from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2, and this is a cause for celebration and thanksgiving.  But the strong limitations that remain in place for religious services (i.e. gatherings no larger than 10 people) have been unexpected, and therefore have led to feelings of anticlimax and even resentment for many.  Some Christians, including within our community, are wondering at what point civil disobedience is justified.  Brian Tamaki has been a high-profile spokesperson for those who feel government is being overly restrictive.  On 12 May he stated that the rights of churches under the New Zealand Bill of Rights “are being violated,” that churches can open responsibly, and that spiritual wellbeing is lamentably low on the government’s priority list.  Speaking about his own large church, he says: “We could reclassify ourselves to be a cinema for a season, so we can have more than 10 people.  Or maybe we could open up our school or café on Sunday, so we can have more than 10 people.  Or perhaps we could turn into a sports venue, where we can have more than 10 people.  But why should we have to?  A church meets essential spiritual needs.”  Tamaki’s church is planning to physically open this Sunday.  Other church leaders around New Zealand have expressed similar sentiments.

What are we to make of this?  Our view as elders is that there is some truth in what dissenting church leaders are saying.  We offer the following observations regarding the ongoing closure of in-person church services:

Our society venerates many things ahead of God, and the current situation confirms it.  We recognize that economic activity is important, and yet there is something back-to-front about a world in which diversions such as movies and rugby are more central to the operation of society than worship of the living God who gives us “life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).  It’s right to be indignant on God’s behalf that New Zealand is like this.  As Christians, we feel outrage not on our own account, but on behalf of the one who is worthy to “receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12).

Jesus Christ is, we might say with all reverence, an “essential service.”  Churches are frail and fallible institutions, but to the degree that they proclaim and show Jesus to the world, they are absolutely essential.  We yearn that New Zealanders would turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:10), because Jesus alone has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).  What could possibly be more important?

Jesus Christ is our primary political leader, not Jacinda Ardern, and every Christian must therefore be prepared to say, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) if circumstances demand it. 

And yet, our advice is still to be patient and to comply with what government is asking.  It is open to debate whether we are opening up too slowly or not, and all are entitled to their opinion.  But online church is still church.  We have not been forbidden to worship.  Admittedly, the situation is frustrating and can feel unjust – but when we feel weak and under attack, our example remains Jesus.  As the Apostle Peter says: “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23).  Jesus changed the world through sacrificial and suffering love, not through self-seeking rebellion against the politics of his day.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

Ngaa manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre

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Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 

#8 May 8
One of the elements that has been pronounced through this lockdown period is a sense of caring for one another. As we have all gone through this together we have had a sense of a shared experience and so have an empathy and desire to care for one another. Caring for one another in the church began with Jesus calling us to love one another as he loved us (John 13:34-35). Pastoral care within the Christian tradition is tied to the biblical image of the shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalmist declares (Psalm 23:1); “I am the good shepherd,” Jesus informs his hearers (John 10:11) as he describes the care role of the shepherd and the characteristics of his followers the sheep. The Lord is not just like a shepherd; the Lord is my shepherd. In the company of the Good Shepherd the human soul is nourished, restored, comforted, kept and guided. At its most basic level, pastoral care is the outworking of this remarkable claim. It is about the care of souls. This distinguishes pastoral care from social work, counselling and other helping activities and professions. Graham Redding notes ‘It is not necessarily the case that pastoral care, or the care of souls, has a spiritual dimension that these other activities and professions lack, but rather it is an active and intentional sharing, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the pastoral work of the Good Shepherd as he shepherds his flock, which is the church. As such, it has a clear and distinctive focus.’

Pastoral care will take many forms within a community. In the current environment we have been limited in some of the normal ways that we care for one another. Through many other means though we have checked in with those around us to provide a listening ear, words of encouragement and practical help. The form of our care will be varied but also the areas of our beings being cared for are wide-ranging too. One of the key models in scripture to describe the holistic nature of what God is restoring is shalom (often translated peace). Shalom is when mankind is restored to the rightful relationships starting with God, with ourselves, with fellow humans and with the environment we inhabit (God’s creation). Pastoral care therefore looks at all of these relationships relative to the shalom that God is taking his people back to. We cannot in this fallen world restore all of these but we begin the process that will culminate in the renewal of all things. What a privilege to be a part of the grand story of what Yahweh is doing.

We have set-up an initial team to look at how we respond at this time and address needs that arise in our community during the pandemic period. We are also looking at how this might shape the look and coordination of pastoral care at Raleigh St longer term. We have much pastoral care occurring within our community but what that is meant to look like and how it is coordinated is not well defined. The initial team consists of Jeremy Lind (Chair), Julie McKenzie, Celeste Sanford, Mags Johnson, Mark Forrest and Tim Perfect. We are in the process of contacting everyone listed in our directory to ensure people are connected and needs are being met. If you are aware of needs that arise within our church community then contact one of the pastoral care team. Going forward we will be looking at how to clarify what pastoral care should look like, coach so that we are equipped and coordinate to ensure everyone in our community is contacted and provided for.

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). May the love of Christ move us and show us how we are to love one another well at this time.

Regards

Jeremy
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Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 

#7 April 30

Kia ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street,

This week New Zealand moved to Alert Level 3.  For Raleigh Street Christian Centre and our church activities, this doesn’t bring much change.  For you personally, however, the change to Alert Level 3 may have brought some significant changes, such as the ability to reconnect with isolated family members.  For many in our congregation, the most significant change will be a return to paid employment, as numerous private businesses start trading again.  We have a number of police officers, health care professionals, teachers, food producers and other ‘essential workers’ who fellowship with us at Raleigh Street, and these are now joined in the workplace by tradespeople, retailers, manufacturers and others. 

All this means we are at a moment in time when we may be feeling frustrated by an inability to ‘serve the Lord’ through Christian endeavours, even as some have the good fortune of returning to ‘serve mammon’ through secular work.  This makes it an opportune time to contemplate again the value of secular work to God – because for the Christian, the daily tasks of this temporal life are much more than simply a way to replenish the bank account.  Approached rightly, these tasks have an eternal value also.

The Old Testament often talks about “serving” God, using terminology drawn from the world of hired labourers or household servants.  An example would be Deuteronomy 10:12, “And now Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”  Often in the Old Testament, language of service refers to the priestly service at the Tabernacle or temple, such as when Joel talks about “priests who serve at the altar of my God.” (Joel 1:13).  This temple “service” is a big part of the Old Testament worship of God, and these two concepts of service and worship are closely related.

In the New Testament, these ideas are taken over and transformed.  Serving God – in other words, worshipping him – is no longer an activity centred on temple, priests, and animal sacrifices; instead, the whole of life becomes an act of worshipping service and service offered in worship.  A key text in this regard is Romans 12:1, in which Paul urges Christians to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (ESV).  In the original language, the word translated “worship” here is one of those words commonly used for temple service: which is why the CEV translates the verse this way: “offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing.  That’s the most sensible way to serve God.”  Or, in the words of the traditional King James: “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”  As Paul elaborates his theme over the next couple of chapters of Romans, it is clear this “reasonable service” can involve serving others in the church through practical means, and similar gracious service to unbelievers.  Paul also notes that the government authority is itself “God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4).

When applied to our lives, this means that our whole selves, including our working selves, can be a sacrifice placed on the altar before God.  All aspects of life, including our work, are means to serve and worship God.  This is why Paul can counsel slaves to “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…  You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-25). 

So, as you begin your next working day, whether on the “frontline,” in your home office, in the family kitchen, or wherever you are: why not pray something like this?  “Father, I offer to you now this day of work.  As I serve other people, I deliberately seek to worship you through work.  May my labour be acceptable to you.  May it bring glory to your wonderful name.  Enable me this day to faithfully follow after my saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, who ‘offered himself without blemish to God’” (Hebrews 9:14)

We cannot at this time be in church leading preschoolers in song, teaching young boys how to build a trolley, playing basketball with young people, or doing a multitude of other normal church activities.  Nevertheless, we are free to serve the Lord today and in the coming days, in whatever our hand finds to do.

Ngaa manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre

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Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 

 #6 April 23 

Kia Ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street,

We are sure many of you will have been eagerly watching televisions and computer screens at 4 pm this past Monday, as we heard from government leaders about the outcome of their deliberations regarding Level 4 lockdown and what comes next.  The details that were revealed about the nature of Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3, and the timing for easing restrictions, have made the immediate future much clearer.

In terms of church life at Raleigh Street, the move to Level 3 will not bring any changes that we can presently foresee.  The church building will remain closed, staff and ministry leaders will continue their work from home, and midweek ministries and Sunday services will continue to be held online.  We expect everyone in our community to continue supporting the national effort to eliminate the virus, while looking for opportunities to serve our Cambridge community safely and encourage one another.  Your steadfast support so far has been wonderful.

At Level 2, we anticipate that some ministries will be able to resume meeting in the church building and face to face, so long as activities are conducted in ways that fully comply with government expectations.  This will mean, for instance, physical distancing and keeping a register of attendance.  We will give more details when that time comes.

At Level 1, we believe there will be considerably more freedom, and our current understanding is that our church can begin to physically meet as one body at that time.  When the time comes, God willing, celebrations will be in order!

In the meantime, the necessity of moving church online has brought some welcome, though unexpected, benefits.  We’re experimenting with new faces and new ways of doing things, and learning a lot in the process.  Other churches have also been engaged in their own experiments.  During this past week some of our elders were able to meet online with leaders from six other CCCNZ churches in the Waikato area in order to share experiences.  Of particular interest was the fact some churches have succeeded in reaching many outside their church communities using online services, in a way they never could through conventional services.  One Waikato church, which usually has no more that 100 people in a Sunday service, reported that a similar number continue to watch online, but that each service is getting 350 to 400 additional views during the week, largely from the non-church community.  That’s a 500% increase in attendance!  So be bold and continue to invite people you know to tune in to services – we are discovering that many are willing to participate online with a church they would not contemplate visiting in person.  This could be the start of a journey towards God for someone you know.

“To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever.  Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

Ngaa Manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre

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Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 

#5 April 16

Kia ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street,

This past weekend we have been celebrating Easter.  For most of us, our celebrations have not followed their usual course; in particular, not only our church, but Christian camps such as Finlay Park, Narrows Park, Mystery Creek and Totara Springs have been closed, meaning many young people are at home.  Easter recreational pursuits have been limited to home-baked buns and backyard egg hunts.  In terms of activities and travel, it’s been a quiet Easter, though that does not limit our capacity to worship and reflect.  In fact, our Raleigh Street community joyfully participated in two memorable and moving online services on Friday and Sunday, for which we offer our thanks to those involved in presenting and producing them. Both are currently available to view on the Raleigh Street homepage at www.rscc.co.nz (look for the black rectangles).

For some of our church family this has also been a time of mourning, as loved relatives have gone to be with the Lord in the past few days.  The pain is the greater for the fact that at this moment commemorations cannot be shared with others in the usual way.  Hence for some, Easter celebrations are mixed with sorrow, and our prayers are with these brothers and sisters, though we are reminded that as Christians we do not “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  It is in fact the events of Easter that reorient our experiences of grief; so while this Easter has been mixed with sorrow, we trust that in time our friends will testify that their present sorrows have been mixed with Easter hope.

At such a time, we want to share eight reasons why we take tremendous comfort in the good news of the resurrection of Jesus:

The resurrection gives certainty to our faith – Christian belief rests not on human philosophy or a set of ethical principles, but on a historical fact verified by 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6).  We believe in a historical event, not a clever system of thought.

The resurrection proves Jesus’ sacrifice was acceptable to God – the fact God raised Jesus from the grave gives us confidence God accepted his saving work on the cross.  Paul describes Jesus as “a man whom [God] has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

The resurrection means we have a living advocate – in the book of Hebrews Jesus is described as a perfect heavenly priest working on our behalf: “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

The resurrection means we have a ruling king – Jesus’ power does not lie in the past.  On the contrary, he is described in Revelation as the present and future “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).

The resurrection means we have a true teacher – Jesus predicted his own resurrection (Mark 10:34), and the truthfulness of this prediction confirms the reliability of all that he teaches.

The resurrection means we can trust the Bible – similarly, the resurrection strengthens our faith in the whole of scripture, since this event was predicted ahead of time in the Old Testament (Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10).

The resurrection means we can be personally renewed – Paul says it is already the case that we “have been raised with Christ,” having previously been “dead in [our] trespasses.” (Colossians 3:1; 2:13).  Because we are joined to Jesus in his resurrection, we enjoy new life now.  In similar terms, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

The resurrection means our own future resurrection is secure – the Bible promises believers that our present personal renewal finds its climax in future bodily resurrection.  “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality… then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

“Therefore, my beloved brothers [and sisters], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Ngaa manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre
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Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 
#4 April 9th 2020

Kia ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street,

During the week, someone posted a cartoon to Raleigh Street’s Facebook page.  It showed a church building with a noticeboard at the entrance, which read “The building is closed; the church is open.”  This is a truth that bears repeating – the church remains open, even if the bricks-and-mortar edifice at number 24 Raleigh Street is presently unoccupied.

Perhaps this cartoon could be modified to read: “the physical building is closed; the spiritual building is open.”  You see, Christ’s church is often described in the New Testament as a kind of invisible building.  In Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus, he says this: “Together, we are [God’s] house…  And the cornerstone is Jesus himself.  We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20-21).  Using very similar terms, Peter teaches us: “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple…  And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

We are used to the idea that the Holy Spirit lives in the believer – but many Christians do not realise that many references to the indwelling of the Spirit in the New Testament are focused not on the individual believer, but on the whole church.  Together we form a temple in which the Spirit dwells.  1 Corinthians 3:16, for instance, asks: “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” 

Isn’t this a beautiful picture?  As we connect with one another, we become an invisible temple in which the Spirit of God moves in power, breathes life, and speaks.  Those who serve in a physical temple may make animal sacrifices; but in our invisible temple, we “offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God” (Hebrews 13:15). 

We have now “gathered” together on Sunday three times since we last met face to face in the church premises, and the reality is that this has sometimes been difficult.  We miss the coffee catch-ups and hearing one another’s voices.  For some of you, taking communion at home with juice and crackers may feel contrived, even ridiculous.  But the church is not the auditorium, and God continues to build his invisible temple, even when we cannot physically join ourselves through handshakes and hugs, when we cannot stand shoulder to shoulder and sing his praises.  Therefore, we continue to gather remotely.  We continue to pray, plan and socialize online during the week.  We continue to seek ways to serve one another and our community.  We are living stones in the temple, and we cannot stop being what God has made us.

At this stage, the church leadership is heartened by the reaction of the Raleigh Street community to our situation.  Over the first two weeks of remote Sunday services, about 150 devices tuned in, equating to hundreds of people.  Numbers were somewhat less last week as we experienced some technical difficulties – but even so, most people persisted in staying tuned as the service proceeded in three parts.  Your faithfulness in attending is an encouragement to us. 

This coming weekend we celebrate Easter, the greatest festival in the church calendar.  Let’s not give up meeting together now!  In fact, let’s consider how we can encourage even more to join us, for our services this Easter weekend and on future Sundays, and in the many midweek opportunities we have to connect with one another. Online services in the coming days are Thursday 7.30pm; 10:00am on Good Friday and 10:00 am on Easter Sunday.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)

Ngaa manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre

________________________________________________________________________________

Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 

#3 April 2 2020

Kia ora e te whaanau o Raleigh Street, 

It’s now Thursday, and that means we have collectively lived through our first week of lockdown.  We are encouraged to see that new opportunities for Christian service are emerging.  Look out for more details in the Insight Magazine released tomorrow – and if you want to help, please sign up via the form on our website, www.rscc.co.nz.  It’s important that Raleigh Street Christian Centre’s community service is carried out properly as regards health and safety matters, so we are asking volunteers to register before helping.  This way we can ensure each volunteer is well briefed beforehand. 

While we see opportunities in this time, the lockdown is also frustrating, and temptations to breach isolation will only get stronger over the coming weeks.  We know that this will be a difficult time, especially for those alone, those with young children, and those in cramped conditions.  So we want to use this update to encourage all in our Raleigh Street church community to respect and abide by government directions aimed at keeping New Zealanders safe.  This is our duty, not only as New Zealanders, but as citizens of the “city that is to come,” “whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 13:14, 11:10). 

Because our “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), our motives for complying with government cannot simply be fear and the urge for self-protection.  Wanting to preserve our lives is natural and good, but if our sole concern is our own wellbeing, without regard for our neighbour’s welfare, we risk falling into sin.  The famous church reformer Martin Luther lived through a serious outbreak of the plague in 1527 that killed many throughout Europe, and shut his University.  During this crisis he was once asked “whether it is proper for a Christian to run away from a deadly plague.”  He replied that a Christian may protect themselves, but not if this prevented them loving their needy neighbour, through good deeds such as nursing them.  And anyone who will not take such risks “for his neighbour, but forsakes him and leaves him to his misfortune, becomes a murderer in the sight of God.” (Luther based these strong words on 1 John 3:15.) Our neighbour’s wellbeing comes before our own, in a plague as at all other times, and serving them may put us at risk.  We cannot simply run away. 

Nevertheless, while fear shouldn’t drive our behaviour, Raleigh Street leaders are asking you to stay in your ‘bubble’ as requested by government.  Here are three reasons why we believe this is right: 

Staying isolated is a way of loving others.  In this current situation, staying away from others to keep them safe is almost always the best way to love our neighbour.  Interestingly, the same Martin Luther who urged Christians to care for their neighbour during a plague also urged containment.  He counselled those who had become sick to “so act toward others that no one becomes unnecessarily endangered on his account.”  Everyone should “show themselves bold in their faith when a neighbour’s need so demands, and cautious when no emergency exists.” 

Staying isolated recognises our duty to obey government.  1 Peter 2:13 instructs us to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution... [including] governors.”  Christians are called to be agents of change, but not rebels. 

Staying isolated helps preserve the good name of the church.  In the passage mentioned above, Peter goes on to say we obey government so “that by doing good [we] should silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15).  Raleigh Street has a long history of positive community engagement in Cambridge that honours God’s name; we hope that our conduct at this present time will also help outsiders “give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen.” (Jude 24-25) 

Ngaa manaakitanga, 

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre 
________________________________________________________________________________

Weekly Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 
#2 MARCH 26, 2020

Kia ora Raleigh Street whaanau,

On a daily basis we continue to “pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2). 

This continues to be a season of almost hour-to-hour change for us all – it certainly feels as though a lot of water has passed under the bridge since this time last week!  Feelings of disorientation and disquiet are natural, but as a church leadership we encourage you to keep trusting God and keep serving one another in safe ways, as the Lord provides opportunity.  We also encourage you to abide by government directions during this time – this is one way we love our community and protect the vulnerable.

This message updates you on a variety of church matters related to Covid-19.  Below you will find information about:

  • opportunities for community service some church members have been involved with in the past week
  • what’s happening with Sunday Services and weekday ministries
  • contacting Raleigh Street Christian Centre over the next four weeks
  • ways Raleigh Street is planning to stay in contact with you over the same period
  • the church’s financial situation, and giving online
  • New teams forming to provide Covid-19 leadership and action.

Community Service in the Middle of the Pandemic

While it is certainly frustrating to see our quality children’s weekday programmes and other activities on hold at present, it is encouraging to see other avenues of service open up.  For instance, in the past week:

some of our people from Raleigh Street have taken morning tea to the local medical services, such as the nearby medical centre and pharmacy, and to staff at Fresh Choice Supermarket. 

on two occasions Fresh Choice have asked the church to provide volunteers to assist overstretched staff.  On the last occasion church volunteers were assisting the elderly and immuno-compromised with their shopping by sanitizing equipment and helping at the door.  This has been appreciated by both staff and shoppers.

some of our people have placed notes and contact details into their neighbourhood letterboxes in an effort to reach out with help and companionship to any who are isolated at this time.

before schools closed, one of our 24/7 workers teamed up with student leaders to run a fundraiser for the Make a Wish Foundation that went outstandingly well.  Money raised will help wishes come true for critically ill children.

one of our community has told us of an opportunity they had to pray in the aisles for a stressed worker at Mitre10 as level 3 came into force.  This stemmed from simply asking them how they were feeling.

many have been hurrying to deliver Hope Project booklets to our town before lockdown.  The booklets this year highlight the Christian contribution to healthcare.  One of our people has reported having their first conversation with a neighbour about Christian faith as a result.

Sunday Services and Weekday ministries

Because we have now closed our buildings and cannot bring together teams for services, Sunday service will look different again this coming week.  However, we still plan to stream a service at the usual time of 10:00 am Sunday morning, and you can access the stream as before, through the link on the church homepage, www.rscc.co.nz.

At this point all midweek activities and meetings have ceased, though individual ministries will be thinking about how to keep serving at this time.  Many people are now using Zoom software as a way to meet others online, so look out for invitations to Zoom meetings, which usually come as an email link – or schedule a meeting yourself and invite some others! We would encourage all our community to download zoom at this time and familiarize themselves with how it works.

How to contact the church.

You can phone:  The church building is now closed, meaning that when you call you will receive an automated message, from which you can select one of three options.  You can choose to speak to: a church elder for issues of pastoral care; or a church administrator for general communications; or the Office Manager for issues relating to office business and finances.

You can write to us online:  On the www.rscc.co.nz homepage, you will find forms where you can either offer help, request help, or request prayer.  We are monitoring these daily, so please feel free to get in touch.

You can use Facebook:  The church continues to communicate through our usual Facebook pages and groups, such as our main page, which you can find by searching Facebook for “Raleigh Street Christian Centre.” Daily information and fun stuff will be appearing on our Facebook Groups for Amplify and Raleigh Street Kids.  You can make contact and comment in the usual Facebook ways.

How Raleigh Street Christian Centre plans to stay in contact with you

While there won’t be physical copies of the weekly newsletter and Insight magazine available in the next few weeks, these will continue to be produced and circulated electronically.  If you are not already receiving electronic copies, please contact the church office (office@rscc.co.nz) to ensure they have correct email details for you.

We are also considering other ways of keeping up regular communications during this time of lockdown.  We expect to provide a Covid-19 update from leadership like this one at least once a week.  We have also asked some of our church family to prepare some short devotional videos, and we hope to be sharing those with you on a daily basis soon.  More details will follow.

Giving online

While many of you will be concerned about finances in future there will be others who may be in a position to help. Also, others of you who normally give in the bag on Sunday morning will need to use internet banking or save it under your mattress until the lockdown is over. While the finances of the church are difficult to forecast, we anticipate that we will be stretched in the foreseeable future.  We would also like to be able to help those who are going to be most affected by the pandemic. It is the end of the financial year so those who will obtain a receipt for giving during the year will receive a third back.  The leadership is appreciative if you are in the position to be generous in this way.

If you would like give using internet banking please contact gillian@rscc.co.nz.  She will give you our bank account details and an ‘offering number. Your gifts are receiptable so we ask that you obtain an offering number and put this in the reference. This is so that we can keep the amounts as private as possible and so we can easily generate the end of year receipts. Any questions and / or for help with this please text Gillian on 027 4872766 and she will ring you back.

Leadership teams

The church leadership has commissioned three teams that will take extra responsibility during this time. An overall Covid-19 response team chaired by Nick Goodwin (vice-chair Viki Johnson), a Sunday service team chaired by Aaron Hodgson and a pastoral team chaired by Jeremy Lind. We will update you further on these teams in subsequent correspondence.

A blessing

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace.”  (Numbers 6:24-26)

Ngaa manaakitanga,

The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre
_______________________________________________________________________________

Update on Covid-19: A Message from the Elders of Raleigh Street Christian Centre 
 #1 MARCH 18, 2020

We’re sure many of you have been wondering how we will respond as a church to Covid-19, especially after the government announcement on Monday regarding gatherings of over 500 people.  This message is intended to update you on our decisions, particularly with regard to church this Sunday and other weekday ministries and activities of the church.

With respect to our Sunday morning meetings, we will begin meeting online from now on.  Rather than coming to our physical premises this Sunday, please join us at 10 am for [email protected], a one-hour streamed church service you can participate in from your living room.  

In order to access the live stream, you will need to:
> Scroll down to the Stream Link (black image) at the bottom of the home page.
>> Push play.

While going online is a step into the unknown for Raleigh Street, meeting as church in people’s homes is not exactly new (see for instance Acts 2:46, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15).  As a leadership group we can see the potential for this development to prompt us into new avenues of fellowship and community life and service.  With that in mind, we encourage you to invite others to gather in small groups of no more than 20 in your homes to sing, take communion and meet together as an alternative to our usual large gatherings.  Over the coming weeks we intend to develop this approach further.  But for this Sunday we simply ask you to take the initiative and reach out to one another to make suitable arrangements.

At present (as on March 18th), all other weekday ministries of the church will be running at the usual times and places.  We will be taking extra hygiene precautions in order to minimise the risk of spreading disease.

As you will appreciate, decisions about what should continue and what should move online have not been taken lightly, but have been arrived at with much discussion and prayer involving the elders and wider leadership of the church.  Our primary motivation has been to serve the church and wider Cambridge community as best we can and be responsible in our approach.  We continue to believe there is great value in our community activities, such as ICONZ, Girls’ Rally and Mainly Music, and want to continue serving people in this way.  At the same time, where it is evident that our community will benefit more from our closing the doors temporarily, we are happy to do that as an expression of love and concern for others. 

Clearly the situation will continue to change; even this week we expect to receive further advice from government, so please be on the lookout for further updates.  If you serve in specific ways that are clearly affected, such as Raleigh Street Kids and Sunday morning music, we will be contacting you with further details specific to those ministries in the next few hours.  If you have further questions, please direct them to Julie McKenzie in the first instance (julie@rscc.co.nz).

We may live in uncertain times, but the uncertainty is human, not divine. We continue to trust in our all-knowing, all-powerful, unchanging God.  He uses all things for his glory and the good of his children, and it is in him we find our refuge.

Ngā manaakitanga,
The Elders, Raleigh Street Christian Centre

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, not height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

Romans 8:35-39



 

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