Opinion  |  ,

Dear church leaders and pastors, thank you

I’m a big fan of the Church. And I really do mean The Church. The ‘big C’ global one that comes in many shapes and sizes.

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I’m a big fan of the Church.

I believe it’s a biblically-established ‘God idea’ and I’m convinced of its potential to equip Christians to do their work of extending Christ’s love to a world that desperately needs it. I know it has fallen short of this potential countless times. Nonetheless, a believer I remain.

My enthusiasm is probably the result of having had great church experiences in a range of different churches, beginning as a child.

I grew up in a small Baptist Church – Ermington Rydalmere Baptist Church, under the faithful leadership of Pastor Rob Silver. It was a roll up your sleeves and serve your community church, with all hands on deck. It felt like the families of all my friends were involved in everything the church did. I helped set out mugs for morning tea, clean bathrooms and vacuum when our family was rostered, and prepare craft for Vacation Bible School. Our church’s annual family camp – with its hilarious talent show – are some of my best childhood memories.

Later I attended a big Baptist church in Baulkham Hills and attended an Anglican School. These days, I attend Hillsong Church. And I occasionally pop in to the lunchtime Jesuit mass near my work.

As a lover of churches great and small, I’ve been particularly encouraged to see how well the vast majority of congregations have responded to COVID-19’s challenge and found ways to be the church without gathering.

Some churches, like mine, Hillsong, were obviously more equipped to deal with social isolation restrictions, given that they already stream services.

Yet even our team, that my husband oversees, pushed themselves to do their very best in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Aiming to do as much as they could to re-create online the sense of community that gathering physically allows, they fast-tracked the development of a prototype and launched a completely new online platform that not only integrates with other streaming platforms (like YouTube and Facebook), but also allows volunteers to meet, and “attendees” to access translations, chat, submit prayer requests and be connected to someone if they make a decision to accept Christ.

At my dad’s church, “online church” has looked a little different.

At my dad’s church, though, “online church” has looked a little different.

He’s the part-time pastor of a small church congregation of beautiful, mostly elderly people. Figuring out how to pastor them during this pandemic, when they can’t meet face-to-face, presented him with an obvious challenge. This isn’t a group that’s going to watch a slick online service and take part in a group chat whilst zooming with their connect group.

On the one hand, my Dad simply gets on the phone to talk and pray for his church members individually, as he often does already.

But he also wanted to offer them something that would replace their Sunday service in a meaningful way. He’s spent many years doing biblical study and faithfully preparing a weekly sermon that is crafted with his congregation in mind. And his congregants appreciate it. So what now?

The solution we came up with for my dad’s church was nothing like the whiz-bang online platform my husband and his team built for our Hillsong Church.

Dad writes his sermon, then records it using the ‘voice memos’ app in his iPhone. Then he texts it to me. I upload it into the Apple iMovie program that comes standard on my laptop, pop some music around it, throw up a few titles and a nice photo as a background, and upload it into a YouTube channel I created for his church. Then I send him the link and he emails it and texts it individually to his church members.

Thank you, to our church leaders and pastors and teams. We see your hard work …

As far as “church online” goes, the two church’s solutions could not be more different. Yet, I’m struck by how both have resulted from the same pastoral desire to serve and care for their respective congregations.

It’s the same kind of care I’ve seen in the vast majority of churches across Australia and the world. Pastors and church teams from all kinds of churches have gone above and beyond as they’ve tried to figure out the best way to serve the people who’ve been entrusted to their care.

Some have decided church online isn’t for them. Others have created extensive online resources. And, of course, there’s been everything in-between.

And in the eyes of this Big C Church-loving girl it has been a remarkable and praise-worthy effort. So thank you, to our church leaders and pastors and teams. We see your hard work and we’re grateful for the way you’re serving us.

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