9 October 2021

The Dean's Message

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We are thankful to God that the pandemic situation is improving in our country. Our vaccination rate is very high and this has led to the rate of infection dropping, and the rate of very serious infection dropping still further. We are thankful to God for the technology that has enabled this. I would personally encourage everyone to be vaccinated unless there is a medical reasons why that is not advisable for you.

At the same time we cannot be complacent. It is still possible (though less likely) for fully vaccinated people to fall ill and to pass the infection on, and it is still possible (though less likely) for fully vaccinated people to die from Covid-19 – especially those who are elderly or have comorbidities. We have had elderly people in our own Cathedral community who have died from Covid-19 despite being vaccinated. So while we are glad that things are heading in a positive direction, we cannot let our guard down yet.

Our physical safety is important but our spiritual well-being is even more vital. Our brothers and sisters who were faithful to Christ but have died in the pandemic are with him now, which is better by far, and will rise again when Christ returns. But those who have turned away from Christ are lost forever, unless they repent, even if they survive the pandemic. So as much as we are careful with our physical health, we must be even more careful with our spiritual health.

Let us therefore remember that Christ has done everything needed to bring us to the Father. He has died for our sins, taking the penalty on our behalf so that we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. He has risen from the dead to be the King who loves us, and leads us by his Spirit through his word. He changes us now, by that same Spirit, into his likeness. And one day he will come again to bring us to glory with him.

Let us therefore never neglect Christ or be complacent about all that he has done for us. As we emerge from the lockdown, let us not allow the world to crowd Christ out of our lives. Let us keep loving God and loving our neighbour in response to God’s love shown to us in him. Let us keep seeking to live lives of holiness as he is holy. Let us keep making him known to those who don’t know him, and let us keep helping each other to press on in loving him and serving him, even when things are tough. Let us keep reading his word and coming before him in prayer. And let us keep looking forward with hope to the future we have with him in glory. And whether we meet onsite or online, let us not give up meeting together, to encourage one other and to spur each other on to love and good works as we wait for his return.

While online ministry will certainly continue into the foreseeable future, we are now taking steps towards opening the Cathedral building for onsite ministry while still observing careful limitations to minimise risk. As always, the motivation for all this is love.

Main Church Services

We are planning towards having our first onsite regular services this weekend (Mandarin on 9 October and English on 10 October). Livestreaming of onsite services will commence the following week.

On the English side, we will start with a liturgical service this Sunday at 10.00 am, and then add a Contemporary Service next Sunday at 5.00 pm. So in the first phase of reopening, from 17 October onwards, there will be 2 English onsite, livestreamed services. More services will be added later. You can book to come for these services at stmarys.my/booking from 2.00 pm the previous Sunday until noon on the Friday beforehand, unless they are booked out first. Our BM and Iban services, God willing, will begin next month.

Our own strict SOPs will be followed for the onsite services, as they were previously, to maximise the safety of our brothers and sisters who are there. To manage the numbers, those who intend to come will be required to book online beforehand.

We will also ensure that we comply with the relevant Government SOPs at the time. At the moment, this would mean that only people who are fully vaccinated are allowed to come. We have suggested through the CCM that in the future SOP revisions, the Government should allow unvaccinated people who have done a negative RTK test within 24 hours of the service to come as well, as with that, they will provide less risk to others than people who are fully vaccinated without an RTK test. We will wait for the outcome of that suggestion. People who have fever, cough, or other Covid-19 symptoms will not be allowed to come for the safety of others. We will all wear masks and keep sanitising our hands. Toilets will be open but only one person at a time will be able to use them. All our staff who will be at the Cathedral for services will be RTK tested the day before to minimise any risk to the congregation from interacting with them. Nevertheless, we still advise people who are elderly or have significant comorbidities to wait a little longer before coming. The decision, however, is with them.

Onsite services at the moment will be different from what we remember from before the pandemic. We will all need to wear masks whenever we are on the Cathedral grounds and keep physically distanced. We won’t be able to eat and drink together (apart from at Holy Communion), we won’t be able to sing together and we won’t be able touch each other. So it still won’t yet be the way it was. We won’t be using the air-conditioning for now so as to maximise ventilation. And we won’t be able to linger inside the building to chat after the service. Do be aware of that and temper your expectations. What will not change is that we are God’s people, gathered in his presence, around his word, in love for one another. Where we previously expressed love in facial gestures, physical touch and shared meals, we now express it by minimising the Covid risk to each other. We still look forward to the time when we can do the former.

Over the next few weeks, the number of services at the Cathedral will slowly increase. However, we are very aware that in any given week, there will still likely be more people meeting online than onsite for a significant time to come. If you are not able to come for the onsite service in any given week, may I urge you to keep the discipline of meeting online? It would be best if you followed the service in real time from your home – and can I encourage you to set the time aside each week to do that – so that whether you are physically at the Cathedral or in your home, you are still gathered with God’s people. As was the case previously, those who wish to share in the Lord’s Supper from home may do so in real time, preserving the temporal aspect of meeting together for the meal, even though they are not physically present in church. Those who prefer to keep the element of eating and drinking to when they are able to be physically present are also free to do that. Either way, we will continue to feed on Christ in our hearts by faith as we remember his death for us together.

May I also encourage you to be thoughtful and kind when you are booking to come for an onsite service? Places are limited so please make every effort to book early in the week. However, if you have already been onsite in any given month, may I suggest you wait a few days before you book to come again so that those who have not had a chance to come in are able to do so? I know that is what some of our people were doing last time we had a window of onsite services, and I am most grateful.

Small Groups & Auxiliary Bodies

All our Small Groups and auxiliary bodies are currently meeting online. If you would like to join an online Growth Group, you can do so by filling in this form: stmarys.my/smallgroups.

The Multi-Purpose Hall will be available on Thursday and Friday nights for our own small groups to take turns to come in and occasionally meet safely in a physically distanced way. Special arrangements can also be made for small groups that meet at other times. There will be strict SOPs around this as well. It is up to the small groups and their leaders if they wish to take advantage of this. Most of the meetings will remain online. Details of how to book will be forwarded to small group leaders in due course.

The Multi-Purpose Hall or Cathedral or even the garden will also be available for small Auxiliary body meetings, if needed. These will also be subject to strict SOPs. Auxiliary body leaders may contact the Cathedral office for details.

Other Services

The last time the Cathedral was open we had a number of people who were baptised. This time, we will also some baptisms but we will also have multiple services of confirmation. We have not had confirmations since the beginning of the pandemic and we have a lot of catching up to do. The Bishop has kindly given us multiple slots in November and December and we are a planning our confirmation services then.

Weddings are allowed according to Government SOPs.  We are now awaiting new SOPS that will soon be released by the Government.

Funerals are now also allowed with numbers limited according to our capacity.

Kids’ Church

Kids’ Church will remain online for the moment. If you would like to find out more about it, please visit stmarys.my/kids for more information or email kidschurch@stmaryscathedral.org.my to register your child or if you need support in discipling your child. While the discipling of their children is primarily the parents’ responsibility, it is made more difficult without onsite Kids’ church. We are grateful to our Kids’ church teachers who have been faithfully teaching God’s word to the children online and look forward to the time when they can meet in person.

Office & Book Corner

The office is officially open again with staff taking turns to come in and to work from home. You will need to make an appointment beforehand if you wish to come into the office to pick up something or drop it off. In the meantime, the office continues to function and you can still contact the Cathedral office on office@stmaryscathedral.org.my or call 011-5760-3484 during office hours. You can also contact the office to make arrangements to visit the Book Corner.

Tourism and Visitors

The Cathedral has been officially closed for tourism since the beginning of the outbreak. However, you can book an online tour from stmarys.my/tours. The Cathedral remains closed to visitors.

Pastoral Visitation

Pastoral care will continue to happen mainly by phone or online. However, where needed, pastors and pastoral visitors are now able to do visitation. Any pastors visitors who have not been fully vaccinated will do an RTK test before visiting. Do feel free to contact the pastoral team about arranging a visit if there is a need to do so.

Communication

If you are not already getting regular emails from us, please sign up to our emailing list. You will get updates, links for services, weekly Bible studies and more. You can subscribe at stmarys.my/subscribe.

Building Safety

The Council has asked the Building Board to look into what we might need to do to help improve the safety of our building from a Covid-19 perspective. Consultants have been appointed and we are looking into increasing ventilation as well as installing Upper-Room Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) where needed. Utmost care is being taken to prioritise the safety of our congregation in all this. We would like to be able to grow the number of people who can meet at the cathedral and also to be able to eventually renew congregational singing in a Covid-safe way. In the meantime, we may need to raise funds for this project.

Summary

We are beginning the process of moving onsite for various ministries and, God willing, this will grow. At the moment, most ministry remains online. In the medium term, we see that ministry is likely to continue in a hybrid of online and onsite activities. Either way, our role is to speak the truth in love as we seek to glorify God together in response to his grace by making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Concluding Thoughts

As we move into hybrid mode, we are thankful for the many people who are so lovingly working very hard to make this possible for us as a church together. We will need to continue to build an army of volunteers as the onsite ministry grows. We are grateful for the many people who have been loving and supporting each other through the pandemic. Please do continue to do this. We are grateful to have had the opportunity, as a church, to show practical love to our brothers and sisters from the refugee community. We continue with that. And we are grateful for the opportunities God has given us to lovingly speak the gospel to others during the pandemic. Online, or in person, let us continue to be a people who proclaim the glory of our risen Saviour who died for us, and call on everyone to turn to him.



Your brother in Christ,

Andrew


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