Weekly Letter – 10th July, 2020

Dear Friends,

This is to say goodbye and thank you to all those kind people who made my stay among you a joy and a pleasure. Your new acting rector will be Deryck Howell, a fine minister and wise leader. Happily for him, I think his coming will be around the time when services and other activities will begin to assume their normal pattern.

From my observations I believe St Peter’s and St Andrew’s are very well placed to move forward under a new senior minister and with the prospect of major property upgrades to better equip you for outreach in the years ahead.

Of course if there is to be forward movement, this will involve looking at new ways of doing things as well as consolidating proven ways as well. Change is a prospect to be embraced as you look to the Lord for help and guidance. Given what I have seen and learnt, I think the congregations that make up the CACs will take up these challenges with great enthusiasm.

Heather and I will be following your progress in our prayers.

My last word to you is to remember the word of the Lord as we heard from the Book of the Revelation. Two aspects of this come to mind: The words of encouragement from Jesus to the seven churches in chapters two and three. They are always applicable not matter what age we live in.

Secondly, there is the glorious future that awaits us in the heavenly community of the New Jerusalem. We have already begun to experience the first-fruits of this in our fellowship as members of Christ’s body here on earth. But always remember, the best is yet to come. Always keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and what pleases him, do that and he will keep you close to himself as he changes you from one degree of glory to another.

God Bless you.

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 5th July, 2020

Dear Friends,

Unless something like what is happening in Victoria happens here, it looks like churches will be able to hold services with members gathered together in the not too distant future.

Of course when that happens, it will still be necessary to follow the rules to safeguard all who come. The same thing applies to other church meetings onsite.

To this end a new body has been formed, under the chairmanship of Jason Manning, called the COVID Safety Management Sub-Committee. The task of the committee is to absorb the ever-changing rules and advice and then to advise the Acting Rector and the wardens on what it thinks will be the best way forward.

Working alongside them is the production team in charge of producing the weekly services. They are aiming to stream the services live so that those who cannot be present (due to limits imposed by the rules) will be able to share in the service in real time.

The deliberations of this committee and the decisions of the Acting Rector and wardens will be conveyed to you as and when needed.

My only regret is that when all this happens I will not be around to share it with you. The lockdown caused by COVID-19 occurred just weeks after I arrived and that robbed me of the opportunity to get to know you and share in real fellowship with you.

The new Acting Rector will be the Rev Deryck Howell and he will be commencing his ministry with you on July 20. He knows this area well, having been rector of Rosemeadow for some years. Before that he was Archdeacon of South Sydney.

In the meantime, please make the appointment of your new Rector a matter of earnest prayer.

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 26th June, 2020

Dear Friends,

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that I will be finishing up as Acting Rector on Sunday July 12. My replacement will be the Rev Deryck Howell. He is a very experienced and able minister, known to some of you from his time as Rector at Rosemeadow.

Looking back over the last four months, my greatest regret is that the Covid-19 shutdown deprived me of the opportunity to get to know you better and limited the opportunities to serve you in many more ways than those circumstances allowed.

At the other end of the scale, the best thing for me was to have a very a small share in the advancement of the Master Plan for the development of the St Peter’s site so that the parish can better reach out to this growing and dynamic community.

Last Monday night the Standing Committee of the Diocese unanimously passed an ordinance that opens up capability for this great vision to become a reality.

The credit for this progress belongs to your wardens. They have laboured hard and long to bring this project to its present position. You are indeed fortunate to have such capable and dedicated leaders.

It is now up to you to support them and step-out in faith to see this vision to a happy and successful conclusion. Heather and I will be remembering you and your endeavours in our prayers.

Apart from that, the other great opportunity for you lies in the selection and welcome of your next rector. It won’t be easy but with your love and support his coming will usher in a whole new chapter in the history of this significant parish.

Please remember in your prayers your nominators and the other diocesan officials who have the responsibility of finding and inviting your new leader.

I am convinced that the right man, with the strong support of the members of this lovely church, will be able to make great strides in building this church to become the great hub of activity for the gospel that it ought to be in the strategic location.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve you, albeit in this reduced capacity due the shutdown, and look forward to following your progress in the years ahead.

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 19th June, 2020

Dear Friends,

As you will be aware, events relating to the opening up of church related activities are moving very quickly. For the period up to July 1 the Archbishop has advised that:

Gatherings such as Bible studies, can now resume in peoples’ homes. As up to 20 visitors (not including residents of the households) are now permitted to assemble. Although there is no 4 square metre rule for gatherings in homes, it would be prudent to encourage people to continue to practice social distancing and hand sanitation in home gatherings.

In our case, we are leaving it to the discretion of Growth Group leaders as to the extent to which they wish to take advantage of this, with the additional request that they use caution, register attendance, and exercise social distancing. Whatever else may be allowed will depend on future government and diocesan decisions.

As for the return to live services, arrangements are being made for this to occur as soon as practicable. These will involve quite complicated procedures to safeguard people’s health and safety.

Please be assured that as soon as it possible we will be meeting together again and resuming normal life as a vibrant and loving church family.

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 12th June, 2020

Dear Friends,

Last week many Australians were caught up with the search for a 14-year-old autistic boy lost in the freezing and dense undergrowth at Mount Disappointment in Victoria. As the time went into the third day I must admit I was starting to lose hope. Then around lunchtime on Wednesday a lone searcher happened upon him cold, but well, (although later reports suggest he may have broken a bone I his foot). The joy and relief was felt all over Australia, and even in the UK where the BBC also covered the story. The picture of him being carried into the first-aid post will stay with me for a long time.

As I watched on over the three days, two thoughts came to my mind. The first was how we humans instinctively react to a situation like that, so much so that hundreds and hundreds of people will give up their time to join in the search and the rest of us watched on, willing them to find that lost boy. Why do we react like that? We wouldn’t react like that if it was somebody’s pet, but we will, if it is another human being.

Even people who don’t believe that God made humans in his image and therefore occupy a special place in the scheme of things, still feel intuitively that humans are more than just another ‘animal, species, the result of blind, unplanned evolutionary processes’. I believe this ‘inconsistency’ points to something God has planted in our hearts that even the effects of the fall has not completely destroyed. Furthermore, that people still intuitively believe in ‘right and wrong’ is another remnant of this implanted sense. Romans Chapters 1 and 2 have something important to say about this. If you want to know more about this idea, look up C. S. Lewis’ Book, Mere Christianity for a brilliant exposition of this very important truth.

The other thing that struck me about the search for the lost boy was the mother’s anguished cry for help. She said at one point that she was not a praying person but that she is praying that they will find her lost son. We don’t know if she gave God thanks when he was found, but I certainly hope she did.

This raises the whole question of prayer in time of need, or even crisis. The scripture encourages us ‘to cast all our cares upon God for he cares for us.’ Jesus encouraged us to keep praying and not give up, as the parable of the persistent widow teaches.

A friend of ours emailed us a week ago to say that her dying husband asked the Lord into his heart. She wrote to tell us this because she knew that we, along with many others, where praying for him. She added, that it shows the importance of never giving up. He passed into the presence of the Lord on Thursday night.

Many people’s prayers were answered last week when they found that lost boy. We can all think of other circumstances when God has graciously given us what we asked for. So, never give up!

One last word; sometimes we don’t get what we ask for. What about that? Then we remember the words of Jesus in the garden, ‘Father, if it is your will, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will but yours be done.’

The faith required to face that outcome is often much greater than when we receive what we wanted. The ultimate outcome for our own walk with God is often much deeper than the particular troubles we might be facing at any given time. Hebrews 12: 1 to 11 has much to help us in these times, especially where it says, ‘For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.’

Never give up!

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 5th June, 2020

Dear Friends,

As you know the Archbishop and the Government announced that it might be possible to hold face to face services in churches for up to a maximum of 50 people provided all the safety regulations are observed.

This is a very complicated matter and we are actively considering if, how, and to what extent, we might be able to take advantage of this new situation.

We will be hastening slowly so that whatever we do, it will be done properly, with absolute priority given to the safety and health of everybody. More information on this will be made available as soon as possible.

In the meantime, ministry continues to happen, albeit on a, quieter basis. The staff are working hard in their various areas of responsibilities, especially in the production of the Sunday services online.

The wardens are also working very hard in addressing the complicated property and financial matters and also in their negotiations with the Diocese over how to make it possible for the necessary property developments and ongoing maintenance to continue. When you think of the parish and its challenges in your prayers, please remember these folk who are working so hard on your behalf.

And what is this all for?
One way or another, it is all about taking the gospel of salvation to the people of Campbelltown. The reality is that we stand safe in the arms of Jesus because of his mercy, so the mission left to us is to take his love to the uttermost parts of the world, especially our patch. It is not about us, it is about those, to quote
Mark 1, who have yet to hear.

When we do come back together again, hopefully in the not too distant future, let it be with a renewed sense of commitment to each other and a renewed sense of commitment to the salvation of those all around us.

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 29th May, 2020

Dear friends,

2020 has been a year like none other but we remain thankful for God’s goodness and sovereignty which never changes. We are thankful that our church has been able to continue, in a different way, but with the same message of life found in Christ alone.

These are difficult times for everyone as we are all asked to change habits and behaviours for the sake of containing the virus. The ministry staff, wardens and parish council continue to monitor changes in regulations and we would like you to know that the Diocese continues to feed us with advice and guidance as each week offers fresh insight for the plans going forward.

In that regard, and as you may have heard in the media, the Government has just this morning announced that churches will be allowed to hold services for up to 50 people, depending on social distancing requirements. For your information I am including in this letter extracts from the Archbishop’ letter sent on Thursday night:

Dear brothers and sisters,
I am glad to be writing to you so soon after my last letter, as I have just had a fruitful conversation with the Minister for Health, the Hon. Brad Hazzard.

It was kind of him to ring and inform me that our representations have been heard and that from 1 June, we shall be able to accommodate up to 50 people in a church service, appropriately socially distanced (apart from members of the same household) and using the 4 square metres per person rule, in accordance with the method for calculating the maximum number of people, which I outlined in my letter yesterday. Maximum numbers at funerals will be increased to 50 persons, but weddings will only increase to a maximum of 20 persons (apparently the exuberance of wedding celebrations is a risk!).

NSW Health will provide guidelines for the application of this updated Public Health Order, which align fairly well with the summary I provided you yesterday. In particular, note that no congregational singing will be allowed, though one or two singers at the front, distanced 3m from the congregation will be permissible.

Of course, you may still decide to continue meeting online instead. There is no direction to hold public services. Each rector will need to make this decision, in consultation with his wardens, staff and possibly other members of the parish council.

We at Campbelltown Anglican Churches, are working on plans for re-entry to church when the time is right. It will not be done suddenly nor flippantly but with careful preparation so that when we do gather again in person, we will be able to feel safe and rejoice. We will be looking to send you weekly updates to keep you informed of this journey together. The guidelines will continue to be reviewed each week, however, the return to church as it was, is likely to be a slow process and we would like everyone to be prepared for that.

Please pray in these days for one another and for the church worldwide. Pray for God’s hand to guide us. Pray and rejoice for all that God is doing in opening up the gospel to the world! Pray for the vulnerable and scared who are finding these times very difficult. Pray for your neighbours, that they will seek the Lord while there is time. Friends, church has not stopped – it is just different.

Here is where we are at right now, broadly speaking, with regard to gatherings. Currently we continue to “do church” in the following manner.

 Sunday Activities

Whatever else we decide as a result of these latest developments, we will continue to offer church online each Sunday and the format and delivery of these services continue being refined. Please pray each week as we minister to one another through word, song and prayer that we do so for the glory of God.

How do you think we are going in this area? If you’d like to give feedback, or ask questions, please go to The Hub (https://hub.campbelltown.church) and use the “Weekly Check-In” button to let us know.

 Growth Groups

We continue to meet via Zoom in our existing Growth Groups. This will still be our method for a while longer, therefore, any groups that have struggled with this technology ought to reach out to Simon Twist for some help.

At Step 1, our current phase, homes are able to have a maximum of 5 visitors. As Growth Groups are an official ministry of our church, leaders will need to discuss this option with their members. Social distancing rules must be adhered to as well as cleaning the rooms used for the gathering before and after. Food must be managed hygienically. As is our practice already, names must be recorded of who has attended each week. These attendance records are to be kept for at least 30 days. We advise to use this option with caution at the moment.

Growth Groups have also been our primary network for pastoral care. Even members who have not previously been part of a Growth Group have been assigned to a group so that we can care for one another and stay in contact. If you would like to get into a Growth Group, please go to hub.campbelltown.church and use the “Weekly Check-In” button to get linked into one.

 Mid-Week Church Activities

The church buildings remain closed to all ministries at the moment. This includes youth and children ministries. The use of facilities on site are limited to staff and those invited by staff or wardens. We are making preparations for “Step 2” when we may be able to do more.

If you wish to ask further questions about various ministries and activities, please use The Hub. As time goes on, each of our ministry leaders will be invited to get on board with plans for re-entry.

Non-Church Activities

The church property is not able to welcome groups back at this stage.

 Staying Connected

As well as being part of a Growth Group, you can stay connected with what is happening in our church community on our Facebook Page, our Facebook Members Group, with our Friday weekly newsletter, engaging each week with the on-line church service and any Zoom meetings offered at those times and by giving someone a phone call, just to say hello.

Finally, how are you going? It is easy to feel a little ‘lost’ in these days. We’d love to hear how you are going, whether it is great or not. Do you need any help? Do you want to reach out and help others but not sure how? Please use The Hub to let us know how you are going.

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 22nd May, 2020

Dear Friends,

For the last several weeks Heather and I have been working our way the Psalms. It has been a long time since we have done this. I was reminded again what a mixture they are; some are angry, some are cries for help, some are very meditative and others a just wonderful songs of praise to our great and generous God.

This morning we came to Psalm 100. It is only short so let me put it here:

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who has made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

We do not know the particular circumstances in the psalmist’s life that led to this outburst of praise and adulation, but we do know that we, thousands of years later, have even more than he, or she, to celebrate.

We live under the New Covenant, with all the fullness of Christ in our possession.

He has taken away our sins. He has come to us through the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and helper. He has given us the sure and certain hope of the resurrection and the promise of eternal life.

The writer of Psalm 100 knew little of these things.

Of course we do share with whoever wrote these wonderful words the blessing of this life, only in our case, even more than any psalmist could have dreamt of back then.

It is good to be reminded of how wonderful is our God, and how much he has lavished upon us, especially in times of difficulty, which are part of life in this present age.

Far better is it to focus on the Lord, from whom all blessings flow, than to be captive to this world and its cares as if they represent the essence of our being and the fullness of all that our Lord Jesus has given us.

‘Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!’

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 15th May, 2020

Dear Friends,

Last week I received a circular email from Bishop Haywood about various matters relating to regional arrangements, mostly related to COVID – 19 matters. Towards the end he said what is reproduced below.

In the interests of full disclosure, the Marshall Ballantine-Jones mentioned is my son. Formally he was Rector in the parish of Earlwood and then in charge of publishing at Youthworks. He is the father of four children. For the last three years he has been doing a PhD at Sydney University on the subject of the impact on children of pornography, including the effects of the internet.

This is the part of the Bishop’s letter that introduces Marshall’s advice. I earnestly commend it to all parents.

Lastly, I want to raise with you an important issue. In the Archbishop’s letter this week, he reminded us that home isolation could lead to increases in domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and pornography problems. Please take appropriate steps to warn your congregations about this. Furthermore, now would be a good time to encourage parents to review how they are keeping their kids safe from internet pornography and other dangers.

I commend to you this advice from Marshall Ballantine-Jones, who is the chair of the Archbishop’s Taskforce for Resisting Pornography.

The risk of damage to a child/teen from exposure to porn, sexualised media, and excessive social media use is now indisputable. The science is unambiguous – their brains are radically corrupted, their sexual systems are being ruined, and their long-term ability to develop self-control, not only in these problem areas, but in general, is greatly diminished. Parents must take this seriously. They are the first and last line of defence for their kids.

As a priority, Parents should up-skill in these three areas:
a.   Understanding the risks and harms caused by exposure to sexualised media and excessive social media use (noting that ‘social media use’ is not necessarily sexualised but invokes the same neurological systems as porn. Girls are much more at risk here, since they are more inclined to be addicted to such behaviours).

b.   Developing and practicing more open conversations about sexuality, technology and the online world. The first source of information for a young person should be the parent. Speak early, speak often, and speak well.

c.   Parents must control their child’s use of technology – both when, where and what! If they are not using filtering software like FamilyZone, with strict rules about tech use location (e.g. only in living rooms, NEVER in bedrooms or bathrooms, not more than an hour a day), and a constant monitoring of what they watch, say and do (including social media accounts), then they are kidding themselves. Young people’s brains do not have the biological development to withstand the constant dopamine-triggering algorithms that tech-companies unleash to create addictions to their apps. And once a teen has masturbated to porn, the inbuilt neural triggers become all-consuming.  Parents need to strategise and develop clear boundaries for all tech-related behaviours. Expect push back, and prepare for fights and tantrums.

The eChildhood website has excellent resources to assist parents in having age-appropriate conversations with their children about the harms of pornography.
For parents of children: https://www.echildhood.org/resources_for_parents_of_children
For parents of teens: https://www.echildhood.org/resources_for_parents_of_teens

In particular, I recommend the following:
a.   The Culture Reframed Parents Program for parenting Tweens and Teens. They are excellent, and cover a lot of the major issues parents need upskilling in.
b.   For problematic porn behaviours – consider the Fortify Program by Fight the New Drug. Also, professional counselling will be enormously helpful to help teens untangle confused feelings, compulsions, and develop life strategies.

Marshall Ballantine-Jones

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 10th May, 2020

Dear Friends,

With all the troubles that surround us during these difficult times, one thing stands out like a beacon of joy and beauty, that is the blessing of our mothers.

Of all the gifts that have been given to this world, I can’t think of anything that compares with that of a loving, faithful, patient and ever present mother.

I have always been touched by the way Jesus refers to the idea of motherly love to describe his sadness at what Jerusalem was soon to do to him; Luke 13:34, ‘… How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not.’

Speaking personally, I have never ceased to feel the pain of sorrow whenever I think of how I treated my mother during those terrible years of rebellion in my mid-teens. I learned years later how she would go to sleep every night weeping over what I was doing. Thankfully she forgave me, and the forty years we had afterwards were happy and close.

I suppose the memory of her absolute dedication to us three boys during those hard years when she raised us on her own has made me especially thankful for her as a most loving  and caring mother.

My own children, and my stepchildren, were fortunate enough to have had mothers of the same quality. I imagine you have the same feelings toward your mother.

Mother’s Day is a wonderful opportunity for us to show our gratitude and love for all they did or are still doing for us.

Of course, mothers do not ordinarily seek such appreciation, that is why it is all the more important that we show it.

For many, this year might not be as easy to be together as is usually the case, but as I have come to learn lately, there are other ways to make contact.

So, to all you mother’s out there, have a wonderful Mother’s Day and hopefully a break from all those chores that the rest of us might take for granted.

Your friend,

Bruce Ballantine-Jones
Acting Rector