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A pastoral letter for all of our sisters and brothers at the Kopanong Church.

Dearest Sisters and Brothers,

As you are aware, the Dutch Reformed Church, and the South African state, are encouraging us to take necessary precautions to protect one another from spreading the coronavirus (Covid-19). This virus is highly contagious and is easily spread through direct human contact, and on surfaces and objects (such as door handles, chairs, pew Bibles, hymn books etc.).

The ministers met yesterday and this morning and have decided that we should minimise all non-essential gatherings. This is a temporary measure for the next 3 weeks. We shall meet on 6 April to evaluate and reconsider what is wisest to do going forward.

Paul writes, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). As sisters and brothers in Christ we bear responsibility for one another’s wellbeing, and should do everything we can to be faithful to Christ and take care of each other. These steps may seem overly cautious, however, they are temporary measures to keep us all safe and do our bit to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus. We will still continue to connect online for worship and prayer during this period.

We have decided the following:

1. Sunday services: Following the UFS announcement to postpone classes until after the Easter weekend, we will not gather on Sundays for services. We will retake services from 19 April. We will, however, make use of Facebook (Kopanong Church) and Instagram (@KopanongChurch) to post content, Bible studies and short videos during the time of Lent and Easter.

2. Meetings and Church events: In order to limit other unnecessary contact during the week, we are asking all non-essential ministries and groups to suspend their meetings or gatherings for the next two weeks. This includes our Exploration Week (Relationshifts), Bron, fellowship groups, outreach meetings, office meetings etc.

3. Access to the office or Church building: Please don’t visit the Kopanong Church Building or Church office without prior arrangement with the office. The building will not be open for regular meetings or ‘drop in’ visitors. Please call Marius Louw on 081 219 3693 on weekdays between 8.00-13.00 if you need to collect anything from the Church buildings or office. Unfortunately, no access will be granted to the building or the office without prior arrangement. We are using this time to clean and sanitise our building thoroughly for your safety.

4. Pastoral care and prayer: Please contact the church office telephonically if you have any pastoral need during this time (please see point 3 above). One of the ministers will be in contact with you. However, we have asked our ministers to limit their physical contact with persons who display any symptoms of Covid-19 infection. If you are concerned that you may have been in contact with someone who has the coronavirus, or feel sick, please immediately place yourself under quarantine and phone your doctor.

5. General guidelines: Please maintain social distancing, avoid unnecessary gatherings, remain at least 1.2 meters from other persons, wash your hands regularly with water and soap, do not touch your face, avoid non-essential travel. If you feel sick, or think that you have been in contact with someone who is infected with the virus, please place yourself in quarantine immediately and call your doctor.

This was the Reformer Martin Luther’s approach as he faced the plague (Black death), which killed 60% of Europe's population:

"I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God." - Martin Luther in, The Annotated Luther, Volume 4: Pastoral Writings.

The Kopanong Team will reconsider these decisions regularly and decide how to proceed thereafter. Let’s be faithful in prayer, responsible in our action, and take care of one another in Christ’s love. Please share this message with all of our sisters and brothers in the Church, particularly those who may not have internet access.

Together with you in Christ,

Marius, Chris & Gerhard

* This statement was adapted from its original poster by the Coronation Avenue Methodist Church. We’re thankful for their helpful guidelines in this regard.

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