By Rev. Ana Fletcher, NZCMS Intercultural Communities Enabler
You may have heard the phrase “adapt or die.” But it suggests that adapting merely leads to survival. What if, instead, we enlarged our imaginations to adapt in order to thrive?
In this time of transition and change we need to believe that God is still building the church. Where is the Spirit nudging us to do things in new and creative ways? Many of the different faith communities I’m in touch with through the Intercultural Communities Project have seized this opportunity and are reaching new people and making new disciples as a result.
At St James in Lower Hutt, a Mandarin-speaking small group has formed over WeChat, some of whom are new to faith or had not previously been involved in church. This is the first time the group’s facilitator has stepped into this kind of leadership role – and within a few weeks they are getting ready for their first baptisms. At St Mary’s Silverstream, through the commitment of its Chinese ministry leaders some of its existing Mandarin-speaking activities have moved online with additional gatherings to discuss Sunday services and intentional discipleship grounded in scripture.
In other places, lockdown has acted as a catalyst to be more intentional about gathering together. Rev James Vinod had been running a prayer and study group for Hindi speakers around Wellington – but numbers were inconsistent because of people’s busyness. In the past two weeks they held their first meeting over zoom and 17 people attended! Not all those who attend the group are Christian, but within this group they are being discipled in the ways of Jesus.
Similarly, Anglican Chinese Mission has begun offering its services over zoom, and seen a number of people join who were previously unable to. Rev Henry is also offering weekday gatherings for bible study and Q&A together with daily offices of prayer. As Rev Jimmy Luey says “technology and lockdown have enabled some things to happen, which normally would not.”
These are just some of the ways that our faith communities have responded to the challenges presented over the lockdown. Some thoughts to ponder.
- What would it take for your local faith community to adapt in order to thrive in this new context?
- What are new and creative ways that the Spirit is encouraging you to engage with and disciple people – especially those who were previously ‘outside’ the church’s walls?
- How can you make disciples who make disciples during lockdown and while physical distancing remains a reality?