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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 

#4 April 9 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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