COVID19 Update

Dear Grace City,

In light of the current spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the climate of fear surrounding it, I am writing to update you about Grace City’s response to the virus, the precautions we are taking and how we plan to communicate internally about the situation as it unfolds.

PERSPECTIVE

Let me begin with a bit of perspective. The world has a virus far worse than COVID-19. It’s called sin. It infects 100% of humanity and it leaves no survivors. Therefore, humanity’s greatest need is not a vaccine for COVID-19 (as important as that is), but salvation from sin. Without a Saviour, there is no hope.

Thank God for Jesus Christ!

In Christ, there is salvation. In Christ we have hope and the confidence that no matter what happens, God is working for our good and his glory. With that in mind, can I encourage you to use this situation as an opportunity to show the world the difference that Christ makes in your life? Don’t give in to fear. God is good and in control. Therefore, let’s ask him for opportunities to love others and speak of the solid hope we have in Christ.

CHURCH SERVICES

Until further notice, our Sunday services and Community Groups will continue to meet as usual. If the advice from the Sydney Anglican Diocese ever suggests that we stop this, we will do so immediately. They, and we, will also be monitoring updates from the Australian Federal Government and NSW Department of Health to help inform our decisions in this area. As for now, no such advice has been given. With that in mind, I want to encourage you to keep gathering with our church family on Sundays and during the week, while taking sensible precautions to minimise the risks of the virus spreading.

PRECAUTIONS

Personal Hygiene

Part of loving others will involve sensible precautions, particularly with regards to personal hygiene. Good hygiene includes:

  • washing your hands often with soap and water – this is better than hand sanitiser
  • using a tissue and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • avoiding close contact with others, such as shaking hands or kissing on the cheek


From next Sunday (or when stock is next available), hand sanitiser will be available at both front and back entrances to the building as well as at the entrance to the Freedom Hub. Hand soap has also been restocked in the bathrooms. There’s also plenty of toilet paper! 

Cafe Food

At Grace City, we love good food and coffee because it helps to create an environment in which we can grow together in Christian community. With that in mind, we’re going to continue serving food and coffee, but the type of food and the manner in which we serve it may need to change over the coming months. At this stage, these changes will primarily involve our café teams wearing gloves as they prepare and serve food, but further changes may become necessary in the weeks and months to come.

Self-Quarantine

As of yet, there is no evidence of the virus being present within the Grace City community. To ensure that it remains that way, the key aspects to consider remain (1) flu-like symptoms (these include having a fever or respiratory symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, runny nose or sneezing) and (2) the contact you have had with people who have been traveling from countries affected.

For the sake of loving others in our community, I would request that you self-quarantine and do not attend our Sunday services or your Community Group in the event that:

  1. You have been to mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Italy and South Korea within the last 14 days
  2. You have been in close contact with someone who has recently returned overseas from the above countries in the last 14 days. (‘Close contact’ is defined as living in the same household, 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting, or sharing a closed space with a person for more than two hours.)
  3. You or your children are or have been unwell with flu-like symptoms in the last 14 days and you have not been specifically cleared of Coronavirus by a doctor.


In the event that you develop flu like symptoms, 
or have been in contact with someone travelling from affected countries, please visit your doctor and get tested. However, your doctor may decide not to have you tested. You should operate on the basis of your doctor’s recommendation, as your doctor is the best and most qualified person to make a determination in your case. So, if your doctor clears you, or doesn’t think you need to get tested, please gather with us on Sundays and in Community Groups!

For those who are unable to attend Sunday services, I would love to encourage you to make use of the Live Stream. For some time, we have been streaming our Sunday services through Grace City’s YouTube channel (you can access this under the Resources tab on the website). That being said, we are currently exploring options to improve this service as a way of caring for those unable to join us in person due to sickness or geography.

For Parents

Here’s a quick note to parents from Brie Pattison, our City Kids Coordinator:

“While children appear to be less vulnerable to the impact of the virus, we always want to ensure that City Kids is a safe place and that we follow good hygiene practises to minimise transmission as much as possible. Many of these practices are already things that we do at City Kids! As always, if children arrive at City Kids with a fever, cough or cold symptoms, you will be asked to keep them in your care. Hand sanitiser is available in each room and is used by leaders as they arrive. Our teams sanitise all toys and equipment after use on Sunday with antibacterial wipes. Children’s hands are wiped before eating, and food is served by one leader into individual children’s bowls to ensure that children don’t touch other’s food. Please make sure that the water bottle you send with your child is clearly labelled with their name. To minimise touching shared surfaces, leaders will now also offer to sign your child in for you on the tablets.”

COMMUNICATION

As mentioned, the staff team will continue to monitor the information and updates from the Australian Federal Government and the NSW Department of Health and regularly reassess the action we take. We will email you with any updates, and if there is urgent information, you will also receive a text message to the number we have stored on Elvanto indicating that you have received an email requiring urgent attention. Please ensure that we have your correct mobile number here.

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I trust and pray you will understand why we as a church are taking these measures. While we don’t want to foster panic and are confident that the risk is currently low, it’s also important that we do our part to ensure that our church community stays safe, and that we care for the most vulnerable within and outside of Grace City. That’s important to remember. We are doing this not for our own benefit or to protect ourselves, but to love and care for others around us.

Therefore, let me finish with a final appeal not to waste this opportunity. As the world around us increasingly succumbs to fear and panic, we have an opportunity to be different. Sickness and disease are a tangible reminder that we live in a broken world and that we are desperately dependent on God. As a people who know the eternal hope of the gospel this is an opportunity for us to show Christ-like love, service and concern for others, and to share of the hope we have in Christ.

Tim Clemens,

Lead Pastor

What Is The Image Of God?

God said: “Let us make mankind in our image.” (Gen 1:26)

Many of us will know what the image of God does. The image of God gives us dignity as humans. It marks us out as different from animals. The image of God means that humans have a special place in God’s creation.

That’s what the image of God does. But what is the image of God? How would you finish this sentence: the image of God is _______.

A number of Christian thinkers throughout the centuries have answered that question differently. Let’s look at two possible answers and see if they stack up with what the Bible says.

 

The image of God and our minds

Augustine was a theologian who lived and wrote during the fourth-century AD. He proposed that the image of God is humanity’s capacity for reason and rationality—being able to think. Here’s what he said: “Surely not in the body, but in that same mind, was man made after the image of God.”

There’s something really helpful about what Augustine says. As humans, we have a unique ability to think and use our minds to make sense of the world. We write books, explore space and analyse economies. Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth-century emphasised the importance of the mind. René Descartes famously said: “I think, therefore I am.” If you’re someone who values thinking and the mind, you might resonate with what Augustine says about the image of God being humanity’s capacity for reason.

But there are some problems with what Augustine says. Firstly, the Bible teaches that the body matters, not just the mind. Jesus was raised from the dead with a real, physical body (e.g. John 20–21). Our bodies matter, not just our minds. Secondly, what about people who are intellectually handicapped? Do they have less of the image of God? The Bible teaches that all people are made in the image of God, regardless of their intellectual ability (Gen 9:6; 1 Cor 11:7).

 

The image of God and our work

More recently, some thinkers have suggested that the image of God is humanity’s ability to work, create and have dominion over the rest of creation. They want to say that the image of God is something functional—it’s something we do. They get this from the connection between “image” and “dominion” in Genesis 1:26 where God says, “Let us make man in our image… let them have dominion over all the earth.”

Defining the image of God as humanity’s ability to work and create is helpful in some ways. As humans, we are unique in our ability to build cities, create energy and grow corporations. This is true now more than ever. In the 1970’s, Paul Crutzen suggested that the current geological epoch be called the “Anthropocene” due to our ever-increasing impact upon the Earth.

But there are also some problems with this way of thinking about the image of God as something functional. Do we lose the image of God if we stop working and creating? What if someone isn’t able to work? Do they have less of the image of God? The message of Genesis 1–2 is that the high point of creation is not work, but rest (Gen 2:1–3).

 

The image of God and …?

What is the image of God? Augustine said that it’s our capacity to think. Others have said it’s our ability to work and create. There’s something to learn from each of these answers, but neither of them seems to properly stack up with what the Bible teaches about the image of God.

This coming Sunday at Grace City Church, we will be thinking into the image of God together and we’ll discover that the image of God is the way in which humanity is like God in a way that nothing else is. Put simply, the image of God is being like God.

We’ll look at three pieces of evidence:

  1. The connection between “image” and “likeness” in Genesis 1:26.
  2. The fact that Seth is born after the “image” and “likeness” of his father, Adam (Gen 5:1–3).
  3. The fact that Jesus Christ is the true and perfect image of God because he is perfectly like God—and not just like God, he is God (e.g. Col 1:15–20).

 

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Is Church An Event? A Bus? Rowboat?

Taken from Tim’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 12 on 23 June 2019.

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Depending on how long you’ve been around church for, you’ll probably have a slightly different perspective on what church is. So for example, I can think of at least four different paradigms we might have to think about the church.

1. Church Is An Event

In this paradigm, church is the place we come to sit in the audience and watch a show. With few exceptions, the paid ministry professionals are the stars of the show, and everyone else is just a spectator. In this way of thinking, church is a static event that happens once a week but that’s about it.

2. Church Is A Bus

The strength of this paradigm is that it recognizes that the church has an identity and a purpose outside of the static event. That being said, the church leaders continue to be the ones who do all the work in this paradigm. Cause they say to people, ‘Welcome aboard, grab your tickets at the door and then take a seat’. So church is basically a spiritual sight seeing tour, where knowledgeable tour guides show you around.

3. Church Is A Rowboat

The strength of this paradigm is that it not only recognizes that church is going somewhere, it also recognizes that in order to get there we need lots of people to work together. So when people get on board they dutifully grab an oar and start rowing. Now, they may not have any idea where they’re going, and they may not be rowing in time with anyone else, but in general, they’re happy to jump on an oar whenever the roster tells them.

4. Church Is A Body

This is the paradigm of church that Paul introduces in 1 Corinthians 12, because it’s the primary paradigm we’re supposed to have when it comes to thinking about the church. Now we’ll get into some of the details of it in a moment, but one of the things I love about this paradigm is the way it highlights the unity and diversity of the different members within the one church, and the way that we each work together in various ways to help the church move forward.

So let’s come to our passage and start by reading verse 12:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

So Paul begins by introducing us to the metaphor of the church as a body, which he’s going to continue to use throughout the rest of the passage. He says in the same way that one human body is made up of many different parts (like arms, legs, hands, feet, head and torso), so too is the one church made up of many different parts (or members). Now you may notice that at the end of verse 12 he doesn’t say, ‘So it is with the church’ but ‘so it is with Christ.’ That being said, the context makes it clear that he’s talking about the ‘body of Christ’, which is one of his favourite metaphors for the church.

So he goes on in verse 13 to explain the source of our unity in the church.

For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

The word baptism simply means to be engulfed by something. So in the context of water baptism, it obviously means to be dunked or engulfed in water. But Paul here is talking about a Spirit baptism. We touched on this last week, so I won’t major on it for now. For today just note that baptism with the Spirit is simply a reference to what happens when somebody becomes a Christian, because that’s when God pours out his Spirit upon them. But according to Paul, the fact that Paul has done that to each and every Christian in this room, means that we’re not only united to Christ but we’re also united to one another.

Notice the emphasis on the one Spirit. We’ve each been baptised by one Spirit. We’ve each been given one Spirit to drink from. Because there’s one Spirit, we each form one body. Nevertheless, as Paul affirms in verse 14,

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

And so our unity doesn’t destroy our diversity. I think this is the major difference between viewing church as a rowboat and church as body. In a rowboat, aside from the person steering the boat everyone pretty much has the same job. You grab an oar and you pull it. If you want to be useful, that’s pretty much the only thing you can do. Anything else and you’re just dead weight. But with the human body, there’s all sorts of different roles that need to be performed. For example the eyes see, the ears hear, the nose smells and the hands touch. They each play a different part, but they all work together to help the human body function at its best. It’s exactly the same with the church! Church is a body with many gifted parts.

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Taken from Tim’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 12 on 23 June 2019.

Celebrating The Mums

Mothers Day

As we approach Mothers Day, meet Shell Varcoe, who has been part of church for 4 years. Her little boy’s name is George and she’s married to Matt. We asked Shell a few questions about her personal experience of being a mum. If you are mother, you are especially invited to Mothers Day at Grace City this Sunday at 9am or 11am.

 

1. What’s been a joy in motherhood? 

It’s been an absolute joy watching George grow and develop and learn new things for the first time. It’s amazing to see how many things that are second nature to us take so much thought and trial and error at the beginning. Take eating as an example. To know something is good, be able to pick it up, bring your hand to your mouth without dropping it, but then let go of the food when it is in your mouth, chew it and swallow it is surprisingly difficult! It so lovely watching his personality develop. It’s exciting to think about how that will continue to develop into his own uniqueness. He is fearfully and wonderfully created by God!

The other biggest joy has been watching Matt become a father. He has absolutely loved George and I with a love that is selfless, patient and joyful. It’s been beautiful watching him bond with George.

In case of no effect levels in organism it causes estrogen operating machinery which requires clomid site cannot be used for next intake by your schedule.

 

2. What’s been hard about motherhood? 

I have found the uncertainty or little fears/anxieties really hard – why isn’t he sleeping? Is he getting enough milk? What if he gets sick? What if he dies?

Motherhood also brings a strange form of loneliness where you’re almost always with your child, but needing to feed/settle/care for them means you can’t always be with your friends having meaningful conversations.

At times I’ve also found it hard that George is completely dependent on me, and so I can’t just do what I want when I want anymore!

 

3. What’s one funny thing George has done recently? 

George has recently started to learn to crawl, and it’s been super fun, but also funny, watching him figure out how his body works to get him somewhere. Most of the time at the moment his best intentions to move forward have only resulted in moving backwards further away from what he wants.

 

Meet Shell’s husband (Matt) on the staff page

 

4. Are there are words in the Bible about motherhood that have helped you?

For me, motherhood has been an amazing insight into our relationship with God, and a reminder of what Jesus has done.

At different times in George’s short life so far, he has often not understood what is best for him and fights what he really needs – whether that’s refusing sleep when he is tired or breastfeed when he is actually hungry. I can get so frustrated at this, but then I’m reminded that we do the same thing with God! Jesus says “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10), and yet we search for life everywhere but through Jesus! This doesn’t necessarily give me the answers in how to help George to do what he needs to, but has helped me to have empathy and patience for him, and helps me to turn to God to repent from rejecting his good gifts, and ask for the strength to accept how He has designed us to live.

The Bible also helps me to recognise that being a “good mum” is actually unattainable in my own strength. I fail every day – at loving Matt, George and others more than myself. I fail to be patient, organised, wise, kind… the list goes on! But the Gospel reminds us that in all things we are not good enough. We can never be perfect in our own right. But Jesus came so that we could have His goodness. His death and resurrection secures our forgiveness for all of our failures. This frees me up to not focus on and stress out about how I fail to be the “best” parent. Rather I can focus on God and His grace and the fact that He is making me more like Jesus. He is helping me to be a better parent.

 

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5. What’s one misconception about motherhood? 

I think the biggest misconception about motherhood that both mothers (including myself) and others fall into is making “the mother” into the first and foremost (and sometimes only) identity a woman has. In reality, I’m a child of God first and foremost. I’m a wife, a friend, a daughter, a woman with interests and passions outside of motherhood. I think I forget this – and allow a season of life which is rightly filled up with lots of “motherhood” things to absorb my entire identity to the point where I can believe that some tasks are more important than 5 minutes reading God’s word. Others can forget this (and I do the same thing) by only asking how George is going, and forgetting to ask about how I am, how my walk with God is going or how my marriage is going.

 

Join us on mothers day at Grace City Church at 9am or 11am.

 

Environmentally Conscious Faith

Meet Paul and Soph, two members of church, who have been thinking deeply about how faith affects our approach to the environment.

We got married in December 2016, and moved into a tiny space which meant we had to drastically reduce our possessions to fit in. At the time, neither of us had given much thought to environmentalism, but as we realised how much stuff we had accumulated that we just did not need, we began to think about the impact we were having on the world.

Specifically, we were looking into some of the impacts of the first world’s consumption habits and I stumbled across a group of people who were trying to live without waste (“zero waste”). The OG in this world is probably Bea Johnson, whose book Zero Waste Home I borrowed from the library (and later bought), and whose talk we both attended in July last year. I hadn’t realised what was possible, and I also hadn’t realised what a terrible state our planet is in. For example:

The Stats

  • According to the Global Footprint Network (click here or here), earth’s population used up all of last year’s renewable resources by August 1, 2018. Ie. Humanity used up 12 months of resources in just 8 months!
  • Right now hundreds of coastal cities face flooding and according to the World Bank, 143 million people may soon become “climate migrants” (see here, here or here).
  • The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation have reported that the decomposition of food waste – particularly in landfill – contributes 8 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country (a strange thought, I know), it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of its impact on global warming (see here or here).
  • Studies estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. And research suggests microplastics in the oceans are entering our food-chain and even impacting our nutrition.
  • And the list goes on and on.

In short, when you start to look at the impact humans are having on the world, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed.

Does your faith as a Christian change this at all?

Definitely! On the one hand, it keeps me grounded in a much bigger hope. Because if I’m honest, my first, gut reaction was anger and frustration rather than motivation. I was so angry that more people weren’t doing something, I was frustrated at myself every time I purchased packaged food and I was angry with the government and big industries for changing too slowly, and focusing more on profit and comfort than sustainability. That all changed because a Christian friend pulled me up and suggested my environmentalism may actually be overwhelming my faith. Then I began to seriously consider it from a Christian perspective. As Christians, we know that our hope does not lie in the condition of the planet. It does not lie in our ability to live sustainably or reverse the effects of climate change. In fact, if hope lay on our shoulders we’d all be stuffed. Jesus is our hope. He has redeemed us. He will claim us as his own, and we will live eternally in the perfect, sin-free (and waste free?) New Creation.

 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”. (1 Pet 1:3-5)

 

Taking the Environment Seriously

On the other hand, my faith inspires me to take this seriously! Environmentalism is a growing worldwide movement, and I think Christians should be at the forefront. Jesus said that the whole law can be summed up in love of God, and love of others (Matt 22:37-39) and for me, caring about the environment is one way of doing both of those things. God made the earth and he placed us in it as caretakers (Gen 2:15). So one way of showing our love for God by treating his creation with respect. And at the same time, fighting pollution and climate change is a way of loving other people, especially future generations. We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. We don’t know how long we need this earth to sustain people. Maybe he’ll come back tomorrow someone will say to me “ha-ha I told you so” and I’ll go “Awesome! Hallelujah!” But we don’t know. And so we should care and preserve.

Reducing food waste and eating less meat means lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing global temperatures, and loving those who are already being impacted by such temperatures. Caring about who made our clothes means loving the people who made them – from farm to factory. Caring about deforestation and ocean pollution means responsibly ruling over the creatures on the land and in the sea. So as Christians we can show our love for God and our love for others by caring about the environment.

 

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Incorporating 5 Rules

Generally living low waste means following five “rules”:

I’ve tried to incorporate these rules in different ways.

Firstly, I compost (rot) right down to compostable brain-winders (this is hard being in small spaces with no backyard – so I recommend finding a community garden or looking into a small worm farm or apartment composting system).

Secondly, I recycle, including taking my soft plastics to the Redcycle bins outside Woollies (though I find this harder to remember to take with me than my reusable grocery bags!!).

I reuse beeswax wraps instead of clingwrap, and cut up rags instead of paper towel. I take my own reusable containers to Naked Foods or The Source to buy nuts, rice, protein powder, etc.

To reduce what I’m buying, I avoid browsing in shopping centres, try to shop second-hand, buy quality rather than quantity, and find ethical stores for new clothes (chat to me if you want recommendations). Even just wearing the same outfit a few more times (apart from saving you money and time) can make a real impact (check it out here or here).

I intentionally refuse to buy fruit and vegetables that have unnecessary plastic packaging.

What Does That Mean For Your Life?

So on a good month, we produce one 20x15x15cm bin’s worth of landfill. But I’m still terrible at taking short showers and I love the air-conditioner in Summer. I introduced these changes gradually. It’s all about taking small steps and next steps. Work out what is next for you and do that. Not what is best, just what is possible. We spoke about how to make these decisions cost-efficient too, as we are living on a budget.

Finally, I try not to let it overwhelm me. I have learnt to put Jesus, relationships and hospitality first. Sometimes that means buying single-use-packaged goods (shock! horror!) to feed guests when I’m time or energy-poor. Sometimes it means just trusting that God is good and has a plan. I think it’s important to establish your ethical priorities because we cannot fight every battle. The good news that I rest on is that Jesus has fought the ultimate battle for us, and we’re on the winning side.