We’ve now published half a dozen editions of Good News Saturday. As we’ve collected and documented these stories, we’ve been reminded of God’s goodness. We’ve been reminded that Jesus’ Kingdom stands firm despite COVID-19. His mercies are rich, in the good times and the hard times. In this week’s edition, we hear from a church families in Hobart and Melbourne. We also from a faithful saint—73 year old sexologist, Patricia Weerakoon. As you read, give thanks to the God ‘who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians1:6).
Teenagers and Technology: Instruments of Grace
Jenelle Coote is married to the minister of Croydon Hills and Wonga Park Anglican Church. They are a small church family but God is growing their numbers. Jenelle reports, ’We been blessed by many new members joining us in the last two years.’ God gave them the resources to transition online, during COVID-19. ‘Teenagers and their phones can be helpful!’, says Jenelle. By these simple means, God has sustained this church family.
There is a deeper sense of fellowship
‘We are excited to have more people watching and joining in our service, not just locally but from all over the world’, Jenelle says, ‘Zoom bible study has opened up so many possibilities and there is a deeper sense of fellowship.’
That is good news indeed. And, it echoes the kind of story we’ve heard again and again in recent weeks. God has provided his Church with what they need—be that a recording studio, a shed or a technologically able teenager.
Tassie Church Asks New Questions
Al Bain is the senior minister of St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Hobart. COVID-19 has not been an easy time for his church family—there has been a spike in mental health issues and Al worries for those on the fringes of church life, ‘I grieve for that.’ But, even in these difficult times, St. John’s has seen God act for his glory.
If God can speak hope and truth through a donkey, then who am I to say that he can’t also speak through a pixelated person?
‘I’ve heard from all sorts of people who don’t usually go to church that they’ve been watching the live stream. That means that I’m preaching to a much bigger, audience and I’m reaching many more non-believers than I normally would. If God can speak hope and truth through a donkey, then who am I to say that he can’t also speak through a pixelated person?’ Through Al’s ‘pixelated’ preaching, God is reaching more people with the Good News of Jesus. He is also deepening relationships within St John’s.
‘Following each live stream, we’ve been gathering in breakout rooms to discuss what we found helpful from the sermon, pray for the needs of one another, and generally catch up. We never know which breakout room we’re going to be put in, which means that we are now having serious spiritual conversations with people we might have known for decades, but who we’ve never really engaged with at that level. This has been fabulous to see, and I’m optimistic that when we are allowed to gather together again—our relationships might even be better than before COVID.’
Church via Zoom is convenient. And, Al is concerned about the longterm repercussions of this habit. Will people lose the discipline of travelling to church on a Sunday, especially on a cold Hobart morning? Yet, just as he has God work during the last few months, he hopes to see God work in the aftermath of COVID-19. ‘I think this will help us see just how foreign and alien it is for our non-Christian friends to give up their comfortable Sunday mornings and come to church. Perhaps we will be more sensitive to them in the future. If we can’t even get our Christian brothers and sisters to come to church, why do we think our non Christian friends will be any different? Will we need to consider new and different ways of connecting with the world? I’m excited about where those questions may take us.’
During COVID-19, God has been faithful to Al and the St John’s family. As Al preaches the Gospel to bigger audiences, he is reminded of whose Word is really powerful. As the church family is forced out of their comfort zone, their love for one another deepens. As our experience of church changes, there are new questions to ask. May the answers to those questions bring glory to God and many more people into his Kingdom.
If we can’t even get our Christian brothers and sisters to come to church, why do we think our non Christian friends will be any different? I’m excited about where those questions may take us.
New Work for Faithful Saint
At 73 years old, Patricia Weerakoon serves God’s Church with unrivalled energy. She is a professional sexologist, passionate about giving Christians the tools to think well about God’s design for sexuality. She’s a regular speaker, ‘2020 was to be a busy year. I had seventy talks planned between January and September’, she says. Then, COVID-19 hit.
‘How was I to serve God with my ‘talent’ locked up? Was God finally telling me to retire?’, Patricia recalls thinking. With all her speaking engagements cancelled, would God still use her in 2020? It seems the answer to that last question is an emphatic, ‘yes!’
A new area of service at 73 years old—I am blessed indeed
During COVID-19, God gave Patricia the time to focus on new projects. She is developing a Youtube channel, sure to be a wonderful resource for many of us. In recent months, she’s been filming videos for school and church groups. She’s also been accepting Zoom interviews, continuing to use her expertise to serve God’s people. ‘A new area of service at 73 years old—I am blessed indeed’, Patricia says. COVID-19 may have put a stop to Patricia’s plans, but it did not put a stop to God’s plans. The gifts he has given Patricia, for the benefit of his Church, are not wasted. Praise God for her faithful stewardship of those gifts!