The beginning of 2020 was filled with excitement for the leaders and members of the Westgate Karen Baptist Community Church (WKBCC). The church’s 20th anniversary was coming up along with two weddings. The church anniversary was planned to be a large event held at a conference centre with over 500 expected to attend and speakers invited from overseas.
Sadly, COVID-19 restrictions meant cancellation of these plans. One of the weddings was conducted with just a few guests and the other was postponed. Expectations of how the year had been planned for the church were suddenly very different.
However, the church did not lose hope! As the Apostle Paul describes, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8, NRSV). I thank God for the way our leaders have been able to adapt to the changes during this challenging time.
When the first government meeting restrictions were announced, our Sunday service on 22nd March was held in the church building just with our worship team and camera crew who broadcast live through Facebook. When Stage 3 restrictions were announced, our leaders had to adapt again, this time to using Zoom for church services. Initially, this was difficult for our church community as many were not familiar with digital technology. Before the first Zoom Sunday service, my wife, our Church secretary and pianist contacted families to help them download and log into Zoom. On 29th March, at our first Zoom Sunday service, over 250 including children joined online!
On 5th April, 2020, our Church 20th anniversary was held via Zoom, with 80 devices in use and over 300 people joining in the celebration which included church members from Hamilton Victoria, Perth and the US. While we missed the opportunity to gather in person and feast together, it was nonetheless a significant event in the history of our church, one we will remember for a long time to come!
Since then, we have increased our church services from three on a Sunday and a mid-week prayer service to online services every evening. Numbers have increased during this time, from children right up to our older members. In fact, more of our older people are attending on Zoom than they were able to in person due to their age. Church members are enjoying the opportunity to chat to one another by Zoom before and after the services, helping them feel connected and less isolated. The church is also having 24 hours of prayer each weekend from Saturday evening to Sunday evening and this time is spent in prayer for all those affected by COVID-19.
In every circumstance, I thank God for guiding us throughout our church’s journey over these past months. May His name be glorified.
Pastor Ner Dah
Westgate Karen Baptist Community Church