Coronavirus: Church doors close in Port Stephens but services move online, go mobile

HERE TO HELP: Reverend Kesh Govan from All Saints Anglican Church in Nelson Bay and Father Stephen Niland from St John's Anglican Church in Raymond Terrace say they're doing what they can to continue church services.
HERE TO HELP: Reverend Kesh Govan from All Saints Anglican Church in Nelson Bay and Father Stephen Niland from St John's Anglican Church in Raymond Terrace say they're doing what they can to continue church services.

Churches in the Port Stephens are making changes to ensure they can keep the community connected in light of the government's decision this week to close places of worship to slow the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, all Australian states shut pubs and clubs as well as cinemas, nightclubs, casinos, gyms, indoor sporting venues, churches and places of worship, while cafes and restaurants would only be open for takeaway.

It came almost one week after the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle had already closed the doors to its churches across the area, putting a hold on public worship, in response to health advice about the coronavirus.

"This is a time for Christians to be innovative in their ministries of care, worship and teaching. We live in an age of unparalleled technological resources to demonstrate love and care," Peter Stuart, the bishop of the Diocese of Newcastle, said.

"We shall make every effort to care for our church communities and the wider public, especially those who are isolated and vulnerable."

Reverend Kesh Govan from All Saints Anglican Church in Nelson Bay said the decision to close would be hard on the community but the church and its services are still remain open to people.

"People need to know, especially in unprecedented times like this, that they have somewhere to go. We want to let people know that the church is still here. The building is closed but the church is here," he said. "While we're not gathering, services will be online. I'll be streaming our services to Facebook.

"We're still caring for the community. We're keeping in contact with vulnerable residents, residents who access our food services and the homeless in our community who have phones. We're encouraging everyone in the community who needs help to phone us. We're happy to deliver food to families who are struggling."

Phone the church on (02) 4981 1839. In addition to the church, All Saints' hall and the op-shop in Nelson Bay is closed.

Across the Port in Raymond Terrace, Father Stephen Niland at St John's Anglican Church said he has been reaching out to parishioners to let them know about services moving online.

Fr Niland said is was "all new territory" to him and many of his counterparts to stream services to Facebook but added that it was "wonderful" that technology gave them the opportunity to stay connected with the community.

"The church hasn't shut down altogether," he said. "I am still ministering online. I want to let the community know that we're still a presence in Raymond Terrace and surrounds. We're still here to help."

Under the new government rules, funerals can still take place in churches but they have a 10-person limit and social distancing practices were adhered to.

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