Despite facing difficulties during a pandemic, Lithgow Uniting Church are making the most of the current situation.
For Lithgow, which lost some fifty homes during the bushfires, COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time. Lithgow Uniting Church’s minister, Rev. Matt Trounce, told Insights that his congregations had ties to virtually every person that had lost a home.
Rev. Trounce had been attending recovery meetings, and pointed people who asked how they could help to the Moderator’s Bushfire Appeal, which was a source of support for those who had lost everything.
“I do worry a lot about people who are slipping through the cracks,” he said.
Despite this concern, the situation has had its silver lining. Rev. Trounce told Insights that COVID-19 has proven to be a catalyst for the church to do better at keeping in touch with its membership.
The church, he said, had “sharpened contact lists and made an effort to keep in contact.”
For those who couldn’t attend any of the church’s online bible studies or discussion groups, Rev. Trounce has kept in touch, making pastoral phone calls as often as he can.
Lithgow Uniting Church has also used a letter box drop, sending weekly worship resources with bible readings, prayers, and questions for the congregants to consider. Rev. Trounce said that a number of congregants had been house-bound before the outbreak of COVID-19, and that the pandemic had served as the impetus to maintaining better connections with those who had previously missed out.
While a number of churches shifted to online services quickly, Rev. Trounce recalled an initial reluctance.
“We decided not to go with a recorded online service,” he said.
Instead, Lithgow Uniting Church has run a simple service, conducted via Zoom.
The online service has had another unexpected blessing, in allowing people from across Lithgow’s three congregations to meet, some for the first time. Rev. Trounce estimated that some thirty people a week attend the service, some of whom have never attended the church.
“Some people have found that helpful,” he said.
Lithgow Uniting Church’s Fresh expressions pastor Josh Bleyerveen has also launched a new YouTube channel, Living Faith in Living Love, as a place to share stories and resources.