Kyneton Baptist Church has recently celebrated 160 years of ministry to the people of Kyneton and the surrounding Macedon Ranges. Even though the doors of the church building have been closed for perhaps the longest time in its history due to the global pandemic restrictions, the ministry of the church has reached far beyond its ‘normal’ congregation, as the online Sunday ‘Living Room’ sessions reach people in the community, and further afield, that have never set foot in the church.
As restrictions were introduced earlier in the year, the church moved to meet in home groups and then eventually, in an attempt to keep connected as restrictions increased, the church launched online Sunday morning ‘Living Room sessions.’ Choosing to pre-record their sessions, they were creative, involving many of their congregation in the content of the services. Facebook proved to be a powerful community connector with the word about the ‘Living Room’ soon spreading around the tight knit Kyneton community.
On average in recent years (pre-covid), the total church congregation has been around 300 people with around 120-150 people attending each week. Online audiences have consistently been in the high hundreds and topped over 3000 views at Easter. The online presence has stuck a chord – Simon Burnett, Pastor at Kyneton Baptist, says “COVID pushed us into the community more than ever as we entered living rooms on a Sunday morning all around town.” Simon and other members of the congregation are recognized by community members in the supermarket and around the town from the wide distribution of the online sessions. “We have even seen between 20-25 new people engaging in the life of the online church for the first time who have now joined small home groups and a small number have even come to faith”. The strange thing is, as Simon describes, that “the broader congregation don’t even know these people as they have engaged in a time when the church congregation hasn’t been present”.
Through lockdown the church has also published resources including sermon and devotion series to maintain engagement and each week they bring creativity to their online sessions.
On the weekend of the 160th church anniversary, the Living Room looked back through the eyes of 96 year old Tim, who told of his long heritage with the church and his desire to see it continue to flourish long into the future.
The congregation then all took part in an organized ‘Zoom Communion’ where a member of the church broke bread in the church followed by many volunteers packing and delivering bags of communion elements to each household on the church’s database so they could eat and drink together.
Although the church (its congregation) have been physically separated through COVID lockdown, the ministry and connection of Kyneton Baptist Church is very much alive and well.