I never expected the coronavirus pandemic to bring to the surface some of the issues that have arisen in our ministry setting in Far North Queensland. We have been living in an era of limited involvement by congregation members in our weekly services and very subtly and inadvertently we have become pastor-reliant, especially on Sundays. The reasons include family conflict issues and generally an increase in pursuing materialistic needs.
This has happened quite naturally, although there is an awareness that this is the case. It probably explains the reason I’m in among the people every day and, with the help of God, doing what is possible to turn this around to some degree. It’s the men who need to be onboard.
Along comes COVID-19, prompting every congregation – including ours – to seek new, creative and technological ways to reach people, especially on Sundays.
Well, that’s all okay, but it’s happened all too quickly, especially for someone like myself who understands the basics of communications technology with no real need to step up to the next level … until now.
Live-streaming worship on Facebook has been an effort involving two or three people, messaging on Facebook is required, tuning into YouTube helps and finding and downloading the hymns and gospel music for Sunday reaches into another relative unknown. All of this in a very shaky internet region!
Compounding this is the requirement for us to be locked into our small town of Hope Vale to remain safe from the virus. This means my basic technological equipment cannot be upgraded. In summary, it’s been a very steep learning curve and placing myself into the hands of numerous other people, I think I’m seriously out of control ☹. This is an unusual but probably a healthy – even refreshing – place to be.
As a result a new generation is stepping up because this little duck has needed help big time and he’s not afraid to ask.
Coleridge has willingly shown me YouTube. Learna has tutored us in the fine detail of live-streaming. Keithean has directed the ‘production’. Pam has control of the camera. Kerry has assisted with the music. Jayson has been in the background always ready to help. Cheryl is the music technician. Pearl, Esma, Estelle, Jemily, Cheryl, Lillian and Dora have all stepped into distributing printed material. Heather is the production consultant who advises the quality of the production. And too many to number, the increase in people ‘tuning in’ to the end result.
Any wonder I’m out of control, this flood of helpers has been the result of the dreaded coronavirus! Only three of them were previously actively involved.
God has chosen to work in another mysterious way. He has been my greatest teacher, rising to the occasion in so many unexpected ways. It is exciting, challenging, fulfilling and frustrating but, most of all, providing a major breakthrough to the next generation. This has also been very rewarding for all of those involved.
The encouragement we have received from dozens of Facebook viewers/listeners who have appreciated this in no small way has been the icing on the cake! We are getting a meaningful message to the followers not only from our beloved Hope Vale community but also far and wide, including other states.
During the lockdown we have made every effort to keep our essential service Op Shop open and with sufficient stock for the town. We are carefully following the government directives to maintain our good health. With the help of two transport companies and our precious family members in Cairns, who have willingly sourced our range of goods and delivered to pick-up points for the transport companies, we have remained open for business.
Why is this so important? In a place where there is no similar business, this has provided a form of mental health therapy and, for some, ‘retail therapy’.
God has been so good helping us to navigate our way through very changing times. Managing to keep the Op Shop open has continued to provide an income stream for our congregation that has resulted in four-fold the regular Sunday offering. How good is our God! And, just to be sure, God has guaranteed that: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5). Knowing this means I will never be ‘seriously out of control’.
I also take comfort from Joshua 1:9 – ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go’.
Pastor David Spanagel serves at Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal on Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland.