Update regarding COVID-19

Wednesday 18th March, 2020

In the ever-changing environment we live in, feelings of uncertainty and anxiety are quite high. This morning our Prime Minister announced that indoor public gatherings have now been limited to a maximum of 100 people. Staff and wardens have been considering the next steps for St Matthew’s to ensure public safety and well being, ongoing fellowship and gospel proclamation. I write to inform you of the next steps and will provide further details in the next 12-24 hours.
Before I move on to the practical, I want to take the opportunity to remind us of three things I shared in the sermon I preached from Psalm 46 to three of our congregations last Sunday (available at http://stmatts.org.au/sermons/refuge).

1/ Our Creator Reigns

Our sense of being out of control in the current crisis is not a reason to think that God is out of control. On the contrary, Psalm 46 reminds us that God is present and powerful in this crisis. The presence of God gave the psalmist confidence and peace. During this crisis and the changes that are necessary, remember God remains present, he will be our help and strength and he remains on the throne.

2/ Do Not fear

The first two verses of Psalm 46 urge a fearless response, “God is our refuge and strength, an everpresent help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…”. That doesn’t mean we’re not sensible and prepared, nor that we don’t experience genuine human emotions related to being in a scary environment. But we do not fear. God is in this. We resist fear not because the situation isn’t real and scary, but because God is bigger than it; he will be exalted, his plans will come to fruition.

3/ Love

I shared on Sunday a brief version of a story of how Christians have loved in other pandemics. You can read a fuller version at https://tinyurl.com/r85yxps.  We love in real and practical ways. We lovingly share our resources. We lovingly drop supplies off to those infected. We lovingly refrain from panic buying. We lovingly care for those who are weak or ill or vulnerable. We lovingly pray for others. We lovingly ensure social connections to prevent social isolation while maintaining social distancing. We lovingly stand with those who are being discriminated against. If our small groups mobilise themselves for this sort of love in their networks, even if it is through online meetings and ministry, we will have a huge, loving, gospel impact. In all that is happening around us, let’s ensure we are a people who keep our eyes fixed on our great God full of trust, confidence and hope in him so we can display  his love in real and practical ways to a hurting, confused and anxious world.

Ministry at St Matthews

I will now turn to some broad brushstrokes about what is happening in ministries at St Matthews. Further details will be provided asap in the next 24 hours as staff, wardens and others work out the implications and ministry alternatives. Please be praying for us as we work through this process.

1/ Church Services

Effective immediately, all our public services will cease. Our goal is to have 2 prerecorded Sunday services (one in English, one in Chinese) that we will live stream through our website each Sunday. We hope to have some form of online congregational interaction at each of the service times, led by the congregational pastor, that will enable a sense of community and interaction. We will endeavour to provide online resources potentially matched with online community discussions for youth and children.

2/ Small Groups

All small groups will be cancelled in their current format effective immediately. We believe it is important to continue to meet together, but it will be best to have smaller meetings or move to online meetings. Even smaller gatherings would need to ensure social distancing. Further options for small groups will follow.

3/ Regular Church Ministries (eg. Youth, Children, Fuse, Matts4Mini’s, et.al.)

Whilst many of these groups could continue under current legislation, we will cease them immediately and look to provide alternative ways of gathering in a safe, online environment. This includes the planned camps for youth and the Asian congregation.

4/ Occasional Ministries (eg. Missions Night next week)

Mission has a high value in our church and hearing about the work of God around the world is particularly important at this time. Attendance at these events can reach over 100, and we have concerns about social distancing. We will explore ways of hosting this night in an online forum, involving live streaming or similar.

5/ Church Office

At the moment, the church office will remain staffed Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Please be conscious that the workload of the office staff will not likely be less, just different during this time. To assist us, please do not visit the office unless it is essential and if possible contact the office via email (offi[email protected]) Staff will increase work from home, and will reconsider how we meet with each other and engage in pastoral ministry during this time.

6/ New Communication Channels

We have a designated page on our website for all information and updates related to changes in ministry due to Covid-19. Please keep checking it for regular updates. We are also beginning a church wide closed Facebook group to enable easier connection and communication on church wide issues such as this - please keep an eye out for it and join it when it becomes available.

7/ Mission 2020

Today’s announcement has a huge impact on Mission 2020. I will update you as soon as possible. Please pray that we might all take hold of new opportunities around us to be sharing the gospel of Jesus, and that our communities will have hearts that turn to Jesus and find peace, hope and rest in his unfailing love. Late Final Addition: Mission 2020 postponed till Easter 2021. More info to come.

8/ HELP!

We have two new email addresses we would love you to use should you be able to provide help, or should you need help. As we implement these changes, we will need people to help those who struggle with technology. You may be able to help in other ways as well. If so, please use:

[email protected]

Alternatively, you may need help on a variety of issues during this time, from groceries to technical issues. Please use the following (but NOT for emergencies):

[email protected]

Obviously, we will all respond differently to this news. We want to be a community that lives as lifelong disciples of Jesus, engaging our world with Grace and Truth. In these difficult times, let’s keep eyes on Jesus, hearts united to each other, and attitudes concerned for the physical and spiritual welfare of those around us. As you will understand, implementing these measures will take some time and skill. If you are able to help in any way, or if you have suggestions of feedback, please let us know through the normal channels. If we do not get back to you in good time, please understand that we have heard you, that we will get back to you and that we are working to ensure that gospel ministry can continue with all the changes going on around us. Please be praying for our government, our medical sector, for our community and for our church. Pray that God will have mercy on us, restricting the impact and spread of this disease and providing a cure and vaccine. Mostly pray that God will use the anxiety in our community to turn people’s hearts to Jesus in whom they can find forgiveness, hope and peace.

In Grace and Truth,
Ron Irving


To download a pdf of this statement please click here

1 New Line Road,
West Pennant Hills NSW 2125

02 9479 3700
[email protected]

St Matthews Anglican Church, West Pennant Hills – Reflecting the generosity of Christ