Stepping inside Balwyn Baptist church (BBC), caressed by her bright and free-flowing space, you will be forgiven for not being able to tell that this is actually a mixed marriage of an ageing wooden hall built over a century ago, a beautiful high ceiling brick worship place built between the two world wars, and a concrete extension built in the eighties of last century when the interest rate reached a crazy 18%. That’s the image you might summon when you think of BBC facing the unprecedented COVID-19 challenge, where her diversity in age, race, culture and traditions turned into amazing and enriching unity by God’s grace.
The current pandemic has had an effect on everyone, regardless of age, race or religion and everyone’s perceptions and responses have differed. There is no “correct” way to react to the COVID-19 outbreak. The community at Balwyn Baptist Church has always been diverse, with worshippers ranging from Anglo- Aussies, to China, Mauritius and the Middle East. Fellowships that frequent the BBC schedule have assisted in developing strong trust and understanding within the church. Facing the pandemic together has only further highlighted that despite the many differences, there is unity in diversity.
During this time, it has become even more important to stay close to God and His word. However, with health and safety regulations, Sunday church services were put on hold. Turning to online services like many others, BBC worked hard to keep the congregation connected via Zoom. This drastic change inevitably leads to some challenges within the church; most notably, the use of technology. The BBC community has been blessed with a notable variation in age. Some members of the church less familiar with the usage of technology have struggled with the conversion to online services.
Specifically, we witnessed the love of Jesus reflected in the actions of a member from BBC. Upon hearing that a member of the congregation did not have a device to operate Zoom on, she bought an iPhone 5 online and a 12-gigabyte sim card. This action of love and generosity has been echoed throughout the church with other members lending laptops to those who need it and helping each other learn how to use the program. Although the use of technology is still a challenge, the help that the church has willingly offered to each other has been a direct reflection of how differences have brought us together.
It is inevitable that the reactions towards COVID-19 will differ. There are members who respond with a greater level of caution, and others who are more relaxed. The church has overcome the many differing viewpoints, and through God has been given the ability to converse in love and understandingly. It has been moving to witness the immense support and empathetic responses during this time. The controversial issues surrounding the pandemic which frequent the media and the perceived cultural stigma’s have not impacted the dynamic within the church, but instead through prayer and praise, the church has united in unwavering faith to provide support to each other.
Although it is often perceived that diversity and unity are at opposite ends of a spectrum, God has the ability to link our differences. Through Him, BBC has been able to unite in current circumstances and embrace the diversity. It is these differences that have been a blessing to the church.
By Victoria Li
Year 11 student, BBC church member