Rev. Dr Jason Kioa, Minister at Mascot Wesley Uniting Church and a Being a Multicultural Church Panel Member
Since the shut-down of our churches for worship activities because of the restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic, Mascot Wesley Uniting Church in Sydney has experienced a new way of being in worship space. The congregation chose to use our website and our Facebook Page as the medium and platforms for our worship and communication.
Every evening at 7pm, I have livestreamed through our Facebook Page Mascot Wesley Uniting Church for half an hour of devotion in both English and Tongan languages. This allowed the congregation and others in the wider community to be connected in worship every day. They are also able to respond during the livestream with their own comments online.
We chose Facebook because the majority of the members are on Facebook, and even those who were not on Facebook before were able to go on Facebook.
In addition, we also livestreamed our two services on Sundays, English at 10am and Tongan at 11am. I prepared a corner in my own manse and dedicate it as a little chapel for this purpose of livestreaming, using banners from our church and worship symbols that people could recognise as those from our church.
We began this practice of Sunday worship on 25 March 2020 and we are still going, recognising that we don’t know how long the restrictions will last.
In addition, we meet as a Church Council and Elders every week on Messenger livestreamed to catch up and update pastoral care for our members. The Elders are given a group of families to look out and report back to our weekly catch up on how everyone is travelling.
As far as stewardship is concerned, we encourage memberships to do their weekly offering electronically through direct debit and we bless the offering during our Sunday worship.
This experience of being church in a strange and new environment hasleft us pondering over the future of the church. Is this how church will be in the future? The positive side to this is that we can reach out to more people and into their lounge rooms which are a safe and healthy place.
The downside is that our communities are used to sharing in fellowship face-to-face and celebrations of food, dancing and singing. We are not used to being isolated in our communal gatherings. It is hard work under these conditions, but I have valued my experience over many years working as a radio announcer not only in Tonga in the 1970s, but also in Melbourne for the last 18 years in community radio.
It is my hope that the experiences we are having now will be useful in our engagement with how to be church in the future.