Rosemary Schaffler, Pastoral Leader at Turramurra Baptist Church, has been running live online services from her loungeroom during the pandemic. When asked if she had any experience with Zoom before Covid-19 hit, she laughed: “Not the foggiest idea!” And jokingly whispered: “I’ll tell you – I’m getting on a bit! I should have retired long ago! For me to even be confident on a computer is good going…But Zoom was something totally on another planet.”
The Turramurra Baptist congregation is predominantly elderly, and therefore vulnerable, so getting back to doing church in their building won’t happen for some time. But thankfully, the group have built up the confidence to navigate Zoom – and are really enjoying it! The church’s most senior couple have no Zoom connection themselves, so they’re receiving help from their son…which means all three join the service each week!
Rosemary makes the most of technology by downloading a variety of music clips from YouTube (gathered she’s covered by CCL Licensing) – from Hillsong music to English choir boys – and says that everyone is enjoying the different types of singing from what they’d normally have in church. One Sunday, someone said ‘we haven’t had any jazz yet’, so Rosemary found a beautiful jazz tune called ‘My Hand is on you’…And this week, they’re doing ‘country & western’!
She also leads a time of prayer. The church focuses on world needs, thinking further afield than their own backyard, before inviting people to chime in on their personal prayer requests. Next, they have two Bible readings, and Rosemary speaks for about 15 minutes. People then like to linger and chat for about half an hour, which Rosemary says is “the equivalent of church morning tea – except the cups of tea are around our computers!”
Even the church’s annual ‘Blessing of our Pets’ service, where Rosemary prays for people’s pets, was able to go online during the lockdown. Members of the Port Macquarie Dachshund Group, run by Rosemary’s daughter, were also in attendance. “We’re always trying to reach out to the community in a variety of ways…We had all these people attend with their pets, including someone from the local news, who did a little write-up about it.”
The Zoom service is also attracting people who are at a distance and wouldn’t be able to attend church physically. Rosemary says: “Some of these people have said, ‘When things go back to normal, we’re really going to miss this’. So I’m thinking that, when things do go back to normal, I could do a short mid-week bible reading/prayer Zoom service for those who would otherwise miss what I had to say. Since I have the hang of it now, I might as well make the most of it!”
The online services have full attendance each week. Rosemary shares: “A few times people have said, ‘Sorry I’m still in my pyjamas’, and I say, ‘That’s great – because if you’re still in your pyjamas at this hour, it means that if we were meeting in church physically, you probably wouldn’t have turned up!’.” The group also enjoys the little extras that have come about, thanks to Zoom. “One of the girls knows how to change her screen background, so she’s at a different place every week, which introduces a bit of fun.”
It’s clear that for Turramurra Baptist Church, the Covid-19 lockdown has been a blessing. Rosemary concludes: “It hasn’t done our church any harm whatsoever. Quite the opposite.”
P R A Y //
· Rosemary told me: “If we’re going to be fishers of men, we need to see ways of spreading the net wider.” (She then laughed: “There’s a play on words! Spreading the inter-net wider!”) Thank God for the ways that Rosemary and the Turramurra Baptist community have embraced technology for the sake of the Kingdom. Pray that they would continue to reach more people in their local area.
· Praise God for a member of Turramurra Baptist who struck up a conversation with someone in the community, got his contact details, and sent him the Sunday service Zoom invitation. Pray that this man would join in, and hear the good news of Jesus. Pray that others in the church would also consider who they could invite.