By Emily Ferguson
As the doors temporarily close on Sunday worship services and other gatherings, a number of Fresh Hope churches are shifting in tandem with the needs of their local communities.
Many are finding that engaging with existing relationships in new or more deliberate ways is the first step in exploring the mission opportunities God may be opening up.
Epping Church of Christ in Sydney’s north-west is discovering a new gospel pathway into its multi-cultural community: online, through the relationships they have built with the 150 families who are part of its Mainly Music children’s program.
“We have postponed Mainly Music but we are able to stay in contact with the families because we had connected them in an online WeChat or WhatsApp communication group, depending on whether they speak Chinese or English,” said Missions Pastor Jess Collins.
“Each team member has three people from our English-speaking group to message each week to see how they are and ask if they need prayer or help with anything. We have fewer team members who can communicate in Chinese, so the team is contacting those they have relationships with and communicating with that group as a whole.
“We want people to know we are still here supporting and loving them, and that they can reach out and share about what is happening in their homes. We want to send a message that there is still a God out there who knows them and is there for them, and that if they pray and reach out he can give them peace in this uncertain time.”
Kingsford Church of Christ in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs has hosted a fortnightly dinner for up to 60 people in their local community for the past eight years. In having to cancel the dinners, their primary concern is that their guests do not become even more isolated and vulnerable. They are determined to stick by them no matter what, finding new ways to represent the hope and stability of Jesus to them.
“We are hoping to pack dinners into takeaway containers for people to pick up along with free staples from our food bank – things like pasta, sauce, rice and long-life milk. We are going to add a Bible verse and prayer card into the bags to point them to Jesus, who is our stability, and who they can trust and rely on,” said Senior Pastor Victor Tee.
“The dinner ministry leaders have good relationships and contact details for everyone who comes, so they will be staying in contact with them. How we best do that, we will find out on a weekly basis. We will try our best to be salt and light in this strange time.”
Platform 9, a temporary and crisis accommodation ministry of Kingsway Care in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, works with people who already have existing trauma in their lives. Ministry in this season means deliberately and non-anxiously cultivating safety, love and compassion in their community, while humbly pointing to God who is present with His strength, comfort and guidance.
“We have to be extra diligent around safety and hygiene while trying to build community and compassion to help steer us through this,” said Kingsway Care General Manager Brook Stewart.
“We are emphasising the love we have for each other rather than the story of fear that is out there. Sometimes we have to say we don’t know what the answer is, but we can share that we have a great God in our life who helps us through things like this.
“It’s important our leaders and volunteers are ensuring they are not creating more fear and anxiety in people in the way we speak and act and respond. We need to keep a check on our behaviour so it continues to match our beliefs.”
Find more stories of Fresh Hope here.