By Rev. Liam Miller, Growing in Faith Panel Member
I am working in the Northern Hub of the Sydney Central Coast Presbytery, where there are three churches. I am the one ordained minister in the hub, in a presbytery placement as New Growth Minister. When the various restrictions and regulations were put in place the main activities of my week fell away (two community cafes, drop in times, breakfast programs). Additionally, a key to church planting – which is my main charge – is meeting lots of new people, how do you do that when no one can leave their homes?
Because of that, and because of the needs of the local churches, we decided to shift things up a little. It was decided that rather than the three churches in the area trying to develop devotional and discipleship resources independently (and thus in all likelihood doubling up and burning out), we would centralise those activities and I would provide leadership. This would allow the lay leaders of the individual churches to concentrate efforts on pastoral care and community connection.
Given the demographic of the hub a decision was made to make the baseline devotional/discipleship resource a written “service for the home”, which could be emailed or hand-delivered. Online engagement would compliment this, and there would be the occasional live-stream service.
I wish to share some learning or insight from the production of these services for the home.
- We kept it brief. We have limited the services to 2pages (which when printed two-sided can go out on one sheet). This has forced us to be economical about what is included, how much needs to be said, and how best space can be used so as not to overwhelm the eye.
- Providing opportunities to dive deeper. Each service contains a suggestion for an activity or discussion. One week we encouraged people to search for paintings of the Triumphal Entry online, to consider the various ways artists have presented the scene, how they represent, interact, contradict, or embellish the biblical accounts, and how those choices speak to us – the questions they raise and teaching they utter. Providing scaffolding for people to wrestle more closely with the readings.
- Sharing how people engage – several people have contacted me to share how they have used the services (with the family around the table, alone with a journal, etc.). We have in turn shared that on to help people discover different ways they might interact with the material.
Finally, a thought on helping people read the Bible. This is certainly not the case with all – and I hope it is not the case with most – but from my own experience with people in mainline churches, many have not felt equipped, empowered, or expected to develop personal devotional practices wherein they develop confidence to read the Bible alone (or with their family) as a way to experience a nearness to Jesus and deepen their understanding of the faith. Right now, many people are picking up bibles without their familiar frameworks of liturgy and the proclamation of the word. Many are picking up their bibles without someone with the standing of ‘expert’ or ‘professional’ to aid their reading. There is a part of me that wonders if this (somewhat) informed the rush to proliferate resources and provide online services of all varieties. I think we need to work with our communities to develop practices, questions, rhythms, etc. that empower them to grow their faith through healthy, fruitful, and accessible relationships with reading the bible.
Liam Miller is a mission resource worker with the Sydney Central Coast Presbytery. He is also a candidate for Minister of the Word. He completed his MDiv through Pilgrim Theological College and his work has been published in Pacifica, Studies in World Christianity, and in a forthcoming edition of Black Theology: an International Journal. He is the host of the Love – Rinse/Repeat podcast which you can access wherever you get podcasts. He is a panel member of the Growing in Faith Assembly Circle. He previously worked in University Chaplaincy and as a pastor in a church plant on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.