Into the deep end...
Pastor Joel Pukallus had been installed in the Queensland regional country town of Dalby for less than two months when COVID-19 restrictions created an urgent need to re-imagine worship and fellowship. Intergenerational ministry had been at the forefront of the congregation’s thoughts, since beginning its Grow Coaching journey in 2019, but how could a church family continue to intentionally engage all generations without physical gatherings?
After some hurried calls and meetings, the decision was made to pivot the worship services online. Rather than a lone Pastor live streaming, the congregation launched a weekly edited video service. This allowed members from both St Mark’s and sister-congregation at Redeemer Macalister to provide videos and audio recordings of readings, songs and prayers to be incorporated with Pastor’s liturgy and message. Members up-skilled in music and video editing so that people of all ages (from about 8 years to 70+ years) were able to contribute from wherever they were in isolation. Vocals recorded in one place, piano in another, violin in another and all blended together to create an online “band”. St Mark’s also increased its use of platforms as Facebook, website, YouTube and Zoom (even hosting a Zoom “cuppa on the deck”).
At Easter time, gardens across the district were inundated with butterflies sparking 'Grow' group member Lois Strand to come up with an idea. The Butterfly Facebook Challenge was born. Pastor Joel encouraged people to photograph the butterflies in their backyards and post them on Easter Sunday, as a symbol of new Life. The engagement exploded, with members, past members, and new faces of all ages sharing their beautiful photos and comments.
Time for the kids and grandparents
Meanwhile St Mark’s children ministry team was keen to find ways to keep supporting young people in their faith. A separate weekly YouTube 'Kids’ Spot' was developed. Not bound by the walls of a building resulted in interesting settings to be used to share the gospel, from farms to a shed weights workout, to a walk that seemed to go on for ever. Using YouTube has allowed many more than just our ‘usual’ Sunday schoolers to hear the message.
Keen to continue intergenerational connections, the team developed ‘Bring a Grandparent to Zoom Sunday School’ allowing children to ‘show and tell’ their grandparents and creating a fantastic faith sharing opportunity. Where grandparents couldn’t attend, children were able to invite another special person or have a letter written by someone important in their life that could be read out on the Zoom call. This has been a source of joy and pride for St Mark’s children and a special part of their faith-walk.
Like so many Christian people across the world, St Mark’s is eager to get back together and worship as a church family inside our church building, while continuing to embrace the new faith sharing opportunities that have been uncovered. God’s light has shone through the darkness of isolation allowing God’s people to emerge from the cocoon. Like butterflies may we continue to flourish in the new life bestowed to us by His amazing grace.
You can look at the Butterfly Challenge and other stories from Dalby here.
This article was kindly written for us by Megan James, a member of St Mark's and the current QLD Grow Coaching Cluster.