Over the last year-plus, since local churches were all affected by safety management measures when COVID-19 first hit Singapore shores, Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church (BBPC) by God’s grace has learned to adapt to the dynamic pandemic situation. A major positive outcome despite the challenges faced is that the situation forced the three congregations who worship on the same site at BBPC’s premise (namely BBPC-English congregation, BBPC-Indonesian congregation, and Providence Presbyterian Church-Chinese congregation) to work closer together, with the respective leaders communicating and interacting with one another more, to discuss and make decisions relating to respective worship services under safety management constraints. This has allowed improved relationships across the three congregations, and better understanding of one another’s needs. Pre-COVID, the three congregations operated more independently from the ministry standpoint. During this pandemic, new task forces have been formed across the three congregations to address various challenges and opportunities: safety management, community outreach, and the redevelopment and longer future of BBPC.
Since September of 2020, BBPC-English has been able to hold physical worship services, and more recently two worship services on Sunday mornings since February 2021. We have been uploading video recordings of the worship services all this while and began live-streaming services since physical services resumed in September of 2020. The leadership has worked hard to emphasise the importance of worshipping together physically while assuring worshippers that all safety precautions and measures have been implemented. It has been encouraging to see gradual increase in service attendance to over 200 persons, although attendance dropped significantly recently during Phase 3 Heightened Alert (P3-HA) period, to below the 50 persons per service limit. It was also encouraging to have newcomers to our services who continue to attend.
Earlier when worship services were suspended, the pastoral team produced mid-week devotional/Bible study videos to keep worshippers engaged and reflecting on God’s Word. Later, mid-week lunchtime prayer meetings via Zoom were introduced, to provide the opportunity to come together to pray for the church, the sick, the pandemic situation, world affairs, and for one another. It was in God’s good time that our communications ministry team introduced the Telegram channel platform to congregants before the pandemic hit Singapore, providing a valuable additional communication channel for timely updates and notifications, aside from our website and broadcast emails. It was encouraging to see many of our seniors adopting new technology platforms like using Telegram and Zoom.
Our key Sunday morning ministries in worship and children’s Sunday school have learned to adapt in such dynamic situation and be better prepared for changing safety management measures. Most of our other ministries have shifted online to stay connected due to social restrictions, such as our cell groups, Bible study classes, and fellowship groups.
Community outreach is an area in which the leaders from all three congregations have identified as opportunity for collaboration and synergy between the congregations. During the early part of the pandemic, BBPC supported the grassroots leaders to distribute masks to residents in the nearby Bukit Batok neighbourhood. Since June of 2020, BBPC and PPC have partnered with Singapore Red Cross to host three blood drives on-site at BBPC’s premise so far, with the intent to continue this partnership regularly. Grassroot leaders have been engaged for publicity to encourage blood donation, an act of good will that saves lives. BBPC was also shortlisted as one of their partner organisations to Singapore Red Cross’ ‘Virtual Hall of Fame’ for partnership with Singapore Red Cross in promoting blood donation in the community.
Last Christmas, BBPC-Indonesian congregation joined BBPC-English congregation in reaching out to nearby residents in HDB blocks and hawker workers, by distributing care bags along with Christmas greetings and invitations to our live online Christmas programme. A new task force has been formed with representatives from the three congregations to explore new potential partnerships with one another and outside organisations to have further penetration into the community around BBPC. BBPC-English has continued their Alpha course throughout the whole pandemic period, moving to a hybrid physical-online model, then to online-only during the P3-HA period. The Alpha team is already looking into launching the inaugural Alpha Parenting course at the end of this year for both in-reach and out-reach.
Despite challenges that came our way from pandemic restrictions, God has brought new opportunities and possibilities for BBPC-English, in collaborating with the other language congregations and building stronger bonds. The motto ‘unity in diversity’ has come to the fore in such times, to work together for God’s kingdom. The three congregations working together where opportunities present themselves can be stronger than each of the congregations operating independently. It is an advantage that across the three congregations, we have all three languages used in Singapore covered, from an outreach communications standpoint. God has shown us that trials present opportunities for growth, changing circumstances accelerate adaptability, and His kingdom works continue unabated regardless of circumstances.