Good Afternoon Congregation.

Please read this message as a measured collaborative response from the HillSide leaders and myself.

On this note I have valued and appreciated the various inputs and directions from our church community leaders on this Corona Virus pandemic and subsequent our response and actions as a church community.

I am aware this has been a difficult, disrupted week for most of us, in business and in our families, and I am not unaware of a certain kind of low or high level anxiety in most of us at this time. Please keep yourself and others in prayer.    

We as a HillSide interconnected community (being always aware of our more elderly members) have decided to adopt the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach. While this virus of course has a high infection-low mortality rate we do not want to put anyone at risk. We would not want to follow government directions of limiting groups of 100 people while this virus knows no such boundaries.

We are getting a sense we need to keep our response simple for now. Measured simplicity is key here.

We are also aware that there are drastic changes being made every single day in our world at the moment, the effect of the virus is fluid and difficult to predict, so our decision on this week’s services and meetings may change if we hear further news on the spread of the virus. We will be in constant communication as we watch how this all unfolds.     

For now, this week, we will hold our regular 9h00 service while we strongly encourage people to stay at home and follow our live streaming services online.  (There will be no HillKids classes and no tea and eats after the service).

 We will hold and run our Sunday service LIVE STREAMING ONLINE and recorded the service in audio for those who cannot access live streaming. The only people who may be at Nobel on Sunday may be HillSide staff, the worship team, those recording the service, and possibly a few others who feel the need to be with others in church at this time.

Even at Nobel with the few…we will still follow strict health procedures. Nicqui will prepare communion with gloves and a mask and strict protocol of washing hands will be placed.

It being a communion Sunday, we invite you to join us for online communion. (So please purchase some elements of bread and juice for use at home as we will have online communion together).

Communion will not be handed out at Nobel, and hand cleansing facilities will be made available. While you wash your hands we encourage you to remember your baptism, remember the cleansing of our hearts and minds while worrying less, and while washing your hands remember to pray for and think of safe ways to care for others who may be more vulnerable.

Children’s Church material will also be made available for our children to work on during the live streaming of the sermon.  (They are of course also welcome to watch and listen to the sermon; I will make it understandable for all ages where possible).   This will be sent out with our regular Friday email.

On Sunday we will suspend our Life Beyond Life preaching series this week and I will bring the message regarding a spiritual response to what is going on around us.  How can we respond to God at this time?

Just as important, we encourage you to continue to be generous with your tithing and giving to our church through EFT’s and donations, but money is in no way our main focus at this crucial time of all of our lives.

I have already offered our pastoral services to the most vulnerable and elderly amongst us. We will of course also suspend our planned meetings, courses and fundraisers for now as we measure the effect week by week.

On a personal note, where possible can we be witnesses of Christ in our attitudes of peace not panic, faith not worry, and offer a controlled measured faith-filled, scientific response to this. Please do not hoard or succumb to panic buying of essential items. You and I can make two mistakes here:

  1. a) Communicate that all we need to do is trust Jesus and put ourselves and others at risk.
  2. b) Communicate there is so much to worry about and panic and stress and overreact.

Our faith here at HillSide is one that takes measured science and measured faith seriously. So keep yourself safe where possible, but also trust in the Lord and pray.

Please do not only pray for the health ramifications of the virus, but for the effects this virus will have on our lifestyle, our small businesses, employment, disruption of schools and lives and don’t forget to pray for small businesses amongst us. 

In case you were wondering I am still at work (I might not always be at the office) and I am available to visit or care for individuals who may need it to pray or care. My suggestion as your pastor at this time is that we as a community commit to memory and action this challenge from Romans 12 verses 9-13: (Please hear this as a Word from the Lord to us all today)

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

There is so much here we can commit to but I think God is calling our particular attention as a church community to verse 12, it is great practical advice at this time:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. And don’t forget your hospitality.

Thank you again.

Brian

PS: Live streaming is planned through our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HillsideMethodistCommunityChurch/?ref=bookmarks

The audio recording of the sermon will be uploaded to our website – a bit later on Sunday morning: https://www.hmcc.org.za/sermons/