Note: This is a slight adaptation of an article that was originally written by Lauren Martin from the Salvation Army, and given to us by Brad Blacker
COVID-19 caused the closure of many businesses. But for ‘The Cupbearer Café’, located on a main street in the village of Helensburgh (south of Sydney), the pandemic resulted in a 60% uptake from locals. ‘The Cupbearer Café’ is a missional expression of Helensburgh Baptist Church, operated by volunteers from the church, and overseen by Lead Pastor Bradley (Brad) Blacker. “The Cupbearer is about the church building trust with the community,” says Brad. “Through genuine friendship and healthy relationship, we are breaking down any barriers that people have between them and God and the church.”
During the height of Covid restrictions, when many people were working from home, The Cupbearer was interacting face-to-face with about 12% of the local community. “We had to put extra volunteers on to make sure each of our customers was able to experience a one-on-one conversation that goes as deep or as light as they are wanting,” Brad shares. The cafe also expanded into the adjoining office space, creating more space for socially-distanced seating and a separate room for one-on-one meetings and prayer.
And when a COVID-19 testing facility was erected in the carpark next door, a member of Helensburgh Baptist Church went to The Cupbearer, sat in the window, and began praying for community members as they walked in and out of the clinic. “She just had a heart to pray for those people…that God would somehow bring himself into that situation,” says Brad. These days, community members visit the cafe to ask for prayer (as well as get their caffeine fix). Additionally, there are now three small groups that operate from the café, with a men’s Bible study group also about to start.
And Helensburgh isn’t the only church using cafes for Jesus during Covid. Wallsend Baptist have a strong partnership with BaptistCare. In their HopeStreet complex (i.e. community drop-in centre), the church meets upstairs while BaptistCare clients hang out at the cafe downstairs. This cafe is their space, where they feel comfortable, and can access a whole range of services and carers. So, Wallsend Baptist decided to bring their online church stream down into the cafe so that BaptistCare clients could be part of their service. “For many years we tried to get them to come to us, with limited success. Now, the idea is we’re going to go to them,” says Lead Pastor Dean Moore (in an interview with our Public Engagement team).
How have you been reaching people in creative ways during the Covid-19 season?