Throughout the Old Testament we can find God calling on the Israelites to remember past events as a cause for repentance and thanksgiving. In Deuteronomy God calls them to remember how they were once slaves in Egypt and the many  years of exile. In the book of Joel we find the Israelites were called to remember a plague of locusts which brings about a famine. Not only are they called to remember, they are also called to pass down the memories of these events.

“Hear this, you elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.”

Joel 1:2-3

It is with the theme of remembrance and the desire to pass these memories on to the next generation that the RPCA held a joint congregational worship service for all three congregations of the presbytery on the 5th of March, 2023.

This was the first joint service since the beginning of the SARS CoV2 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. The purpose of the service was to provide a time of repentance, thanksgiving and remembrance concerning the pandemic and the events that occurred.

Rev. Andrew Stewart opened the evening reading from Joel 2 where everyone was reminded that the Israelites were also called together, even the little ones, to remember a locust plague and so too should we also gather to remember difficult times and to reflect on God’s mercies.

Following the Call to Worship and singing Psalm 135A and Psalm 80A, Elder Ryan Cerbus read a Narrative of Events – SARS CoV2 Pandemic to allow the congregations time to remember and reflect on the sequence of events and God’s providence through what had transpired. Many acknowledged afterwards that it was difficult to hear this recollection of history. Many unpleasant memories were brought to mind, especially those concerning the lockdowns, loss of loved ones and other instabilities that this worldwide event brought with it.

Recording of the Service

Following the reading of events, Rev. Graeme Hart preached a sermon on our Saviour’s prayer for his disciples from the text John 17 entitled The Christian’s Relationship to the World. The congregations were reminded that they were chosen from the world to live in the world, that they are not of the world, but also that they are sent into the world. Graeme also reminded us of Jesus’ prayerful concern at the hostility of the world towards us as his disciples. He also reminded the congregations that the world is blessed through the presence of the saints: through their witness and their Christian living. After the preaching of the Word, Rev. Andy McCracken delivered a prayer of Humiliation and Confession which was followed by Elder Josh Feldman praying a prayer of Thanksgiving for God’s Mercies.

After the service a time of fellowship and food was shared among all. In God’s goodness we were reminded of Psalm 30 verse 5b, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” The years 2020 and 2021 were difficult for all, especially reflecting on the 264 days of lockdown that those in Melbourne endured. Some in the congregations lost loved ones, others became very ill with the COVID 19 disease. Some lost work and struggled financially, and still others suffered mentally. Yet despite all of this there was much rejoicing following the service. The congregations were able to remember together that indeed morning, or the end of the most harrowing and deadly portion of this pandemic, had come and times of thankfulness and reflecting on God’s mercies could be shared within the church community and with those outside of the church family. In God’s goodness some in the congregations have already been able to speak with their unbelieving friends and family about this service and the need for reflection, repentance and thanksgiving. Ad Dei Gloriam

Megan Fisher McKinnon RPC

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