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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
- You have been to mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Italy and South Korea within the last 14 days
- 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.)
- 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.
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.”
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.
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.