Letter from Gerard O’Brien

Dear Friends,

How good and pleasant it was this past week to have two wonderful opportunities for fellowship – the picnic lunch in St Leonards Park on Sunday, and the Central Discipleship Groups on Wednesday night. It was so encouraging to see God’s people speaking God’s word to one another and they are both great things to invite friends and new members along to. I am so thankful for our loving and welcoming church community. Thank you especially to Georgie Withane for organising the picnic, and to Luke Shooter for the mammoth effort he has put in to getting CDGs up and running.

This minister’s letter is for two important pieces of administration:

1. COVID Restrictions are Easing
COVID restrictions are easing the next two Sundays. It means this Sunday (20 February), the only restriction will be that everyone must wear masks (no more QR codes).

And from next Sunday (27 February) masks will no longer be required and we will be back to normal church gatherings. Please be considerate of others who may have a different level of concern to you and might want you to sit a little further away or wear a mask while you’re talking with them inside.

We have updated the COVID restrictions part of our website – view here.

We understand that there are some who will be nervous about the easing of restrictions, and so we will continue with the seats for vulnerable or concerned people at the back-left of church behind the sound desk. Please only sit in these seats if you are at least triple-vaxed, wearing a mask and social distancing.

2. National Church Life Survey
This Sunday (20 February) our church is participating in the 2021 National Church Life Survey. St Thomas’ has participated in this survey every five years since 2001 and it has produced very helpful data that has been influential in strategic decisions we make as a church. It is providential that this new survey is taking place as we think towards our vision for 2030.

There have been delays in this survey due to COVID, and there are now online options available. And even though we could do it separately online, we have decided to still do it all together after each church service on Sunday. This is because it is the way we have done it in previous years and, if we want to ‘compare apples with apples’ across the years, then we will get the most consistent data by doing it the same way. We will be doing it on our phones immediately after each service. There will be a limited supply of paper surveys available if you don’t have a phone.

The survey will ask you about your experiences of our church, your thoughts about our ministries and activities, as well as your personal spiritual beliefs or religious practices. It will take around 15 minutes to complete. We know that’s a substantial amount of time, but we think it’s worth it once every five years to get such helpful information.

There are two surveys: one for churchgoers aged 15 years and over, and one for those aged 8 to 14 years. This is the first time we’ve conducted the children’s survey, but Paul and I decided that, as we seek to grow the children’s and youth ministries in the coming years, it would be really helpful to get a baseline survey now. 8-14-year-olds will complete their surveys during the children’s programs. You can find more information about it here, or if you prefer to opt your child out, there will be opportunity for that on Sunday. Both surveys are designed by NCLS Research and are anonymous and confidential. They have ethics approval from Charles Sturt University. More information about the surveys can be found here.

In Christ,
Gerard