Listen: Hope Afternoon's Ben McEachen chats with Steve Bartlett about how the Baptist Church is serving local communities during lockdown
How have our churches been helping local communities during lockdown and what lessons have they been learning? Hope Afternoons has interviewed church leaders across Greater Sydney to find out how God’s people are loving their neighbours, and each Sunday and Wednesday throughout October we are sharing what they had to say.
Steve Bartlett is Director of Ministries for Baptist Association NSW and ACT.
Steve, what has your church learned during lockdown?
“A few things: certainly, the need to reimagine what it means to gather, to do community together, to do worship together. What is actually important in all of that?”
“As we have been unable to do those things face to face, it’s forced us to think through what is the essence of worship or community?
“How can we do that online? How can we do it in ways which still are life giving and nourishing. Technology is obviously key in that.
“How can we do that online? How can we do it in ways which still are life giving and nourishing. Technology is obviously key in that,” – Steve Bartlett
“Some of our churches were already doing that to a great degree anyway; for others, it’s been a steep learning curve. But there is a sense that the technology [aspect] is here to stay in a way we couldn’t have imagined 18 months ago.
“There is also is a learning around that this is not so much about coming to a particular place at a particular time, to do the church thing. Instead, this is about what happens in all the rhythms of our lives, and we have the opportunity to share care and the message of hope to others in our everyday lives in ways that are perhaps more powerful than inviting someone to come with us on an hour on Sunday.”
How have Baptist churches been helping their local communities during the pandemic?
“In some cases, it’s been an extension of what’s already been going on. We’ve seen ramped up need for welfare and social assistance, and food banks, and other need-meeting ministries that a number of our churches do.”
“We’ve had at least one of our churches used as a vaccination hub in western Sydney.
“We’ve also been in positions to advocate for those who are really vulnerable [such as] refugees, international students, asylum seekers and other migrants. That’s been in partnership with other faith groups as well. And some of our local congregations – when they know there is a concentrated population in a particular area – have got alongside them and worked with them on the ground. To provide for them, when they have slipped through the cracks.
“At a faith leaders level, it’s about engaging with government to ensure people who might be unseen become seen, and become cared for. It’s been great to see the way the government has responded in some of those spaces.”
Steve, can you offer us a word of encouragement?
“This is a season where everyone will have an unique journey with the challenges of COVID. For some, it’s loneliness. For others, it’s loss of livelihood or pressures and uncertainty of lockdown at home. But the wonderful reality in all this is we have a God who promises his close presence to us and we don’t need to feel alone in those challenges.”
“COVID has not taken God by surprise.
“He wants us to know him, his presence, his encouragement and his empowerment in the midst of what is a really strange season. And he wants us to reach out to him for help.”
Please, pray with Steve.
I bring to you my uncertainty of this time.
My tiredness, my impatience with lockdown.
My concern for my family and friends.
In this moment and for the future, I hand these things over to you.
Lord, fill me with your peace and your strength to reach out to others, so I might be a strength and support.
May this season draw me closer to you and your resources for life – and for living.
Feature image: Unsplash / Gregory Hayes