Photo: Gathering in a local park gave the Mainly Music group, run by Epping Church of Christ, a chance to reconnect in person.

By Emily Ferguson

Members of Epping Church of Christ’s Mainly Music group gathered in their local park last Wednesday, their first in-person meeting since coronavirus restrictions came into place.

With a ministry to 180 people and a hall that can accommodate only 44 people under coronavirus restrictions, the team started thinking creatively about new ways to reach out to their community.

“The vision for Mainly Music is to build relationships and bridges with our multi-cultural community, and they love it as it gives their kids an opportunity to learn English through song and dance,” said Jess Collins, Missions Pastor at Epping Church of Christ. “In this recent time we’ve needed to be adaptive and agile in order to continue building those relationships – exploring new avenues we didn’t think about before because we were trapped in old ways.

“We initially moved Mainly Music online to Zoom, but with restrictions easing it was no longer meeting a need and numbers started dropping. So we started thinking and praying about ways to show love to our community that don’t involve a program.”

Key to the growth of this ministry has been its focus on building relationships with and among members of their local community, connecting families into WhatsApp (for English-speaking families) and WeChat (for Chinese-speaking families) chat groups. In conjunction with regular barbeques for the Chinese families, the community focus has also enabled the establishment of Alpha groups, one of which has become a regular Bible study group of the church with most members having given their lives to Jesus along the way.

More recently, the chat groups have meant that the Mainly Music team have been able to ‘adopt’ and care for the families during the height of the pandemic, as well as invite them to their first informal get-together in the park last week.

“Because of the relationships that were built through COVID, as soon as the families saw us they were very excited. Pre-COVID there wasn’t the same level of warmth that we experience now, and it’s been the one-on-one care our team has given that’s made the difference.

“As well as showing personal pastoral care, one of the team came up with the idea of sending out care packs to the families, which included a scarf for the children to use during Mainly Music, as well as chocolates, colouring books and crayons, and activities for parents to do with their kids in isolation.

“In times of crisis it’s an opportunity for God’s love to shout louder than all other things. We’ve learned that if you strip away all the flashy programs and activities and planning and events, one of the most powerful things you can do is just show

genuine, loving care. It’s shifted our focus from being program-orientated to people-orientated.”

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