Blair Athol Church, Op Shop and more

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1 February, 2021

For many people, the Covid 19 crisis has been a ‘struggle and a half’ – and it has been so for our Church to some degree. However, at the same time, our Church at Blair Athol has been receiving many blessings. As a Board we decided early on that we would seek out what God is saying to us during this pandemic time. The upshot is that we have been led into many changes which are proving to be very positive and fulfilling, not only for us as a church but for the community we try to serve.

FRIDAY CHURCH: At the beginning of Covid and when our attendance numbers for worship services were limited, we began ‘Friday Church’, where the worship plan for Sunday is followed, but the service itself is more casual. There is an average attendance of around 10-12 people – comprising both regulars and ‘newies’, people who have been with the Lord for many years, and those who’ve begun attending recently, and those unfamiliar with worship. We sit at tables, almost in a circle, which means we are able to have eye contact with most people. There is no sermon as such, but we discuss the Bible reading, its context and what we believe God is saying to us. The freedom of asking questions and the interaction has led to a more personal depth to worship, but the leaders do have to make sure we keep things on track!! This interaction has also meant that we realise more how God is speaking to us as individuals, and it keeps us on our toes! Our ‘prayers for others’ have been more intimate and instead of just naming people or situations, we are updated each week on the different circumstances of those we are praying for. This leads to much deeper fellowship, love and care. There is a wonderful feeling of ‘family’ and at this stage we have no plans to discontinue our Friday Church when Covid restrictions are lifted.

FOOD HAMPERS: For years, the church has run a free community lunch on a Monday, called ‘Free79’ (a take on us being at 379 Prospect Road). CoVid, of course, stopped that – but there was still the need. So now, instead of people coming for a meal, they are given a bag of food to take home. The food is available through Foodbank, Oz Harvest and 2nd Bite, and Port Adelaide/Enfield Council kindly donated 2,000 bags. A few wonderful volunteers sort the food into the bags, and between 60-80 bags are given out each week. Due to higher unemployment in the area, a more pastoral ministry and one-to-one care has opened up amongst those experiencing greater loneliness, domestic violence and homelessness. This is a wonderful and rewarding ministry but at the same time we find our church is really being stretched, as we are very short of ‘experienced’ Christians.

OP SHOP: Our Shop is on the same premises as the church – in fact you walk through a door of the auditorium straight into the Op Shop! Our major aim is always to share the love of Jesus with the customers. Subsequently, the shop has become a wonderful means of outreach and evangelism. Our aim is that whoever comes into the shop is made welcome and treated with respect. If people ask, it is strongly emphasised that the Op Shop is part of the church and all are welcome at any time. So, because of the kindness and encouragement of our Op Shop volunteers, and the blessings of the Lord, many customers have become part of our church family - loved and accepted and so important to us. 

Sadly, Covid meant we had to close our Op Shop (and collection bin) for a time however, the minute Covid restrictions were lifted (albeit just a little) our dedicated volunteers returned to tackle all the sorting, ready to re-open when we could. In re-opening, it was decided that the hours would be reduced; with a careful watch on the numbers in the shop and a Covid Marshall on patrol! Even with shorter opening hours, we have not lost any customers.

The Op Shop takings play a large role in the running of our church. Amazingly, since re-opening and even with shorter hours, our takings have been really encouraging and the Op Shop ministry continues to grow. What a great God we have!

There are other areas within our church during this CoVid time, in which we are seeing God’s ideas, guidance and encouragement. So, hopefully, we will be able to continue on with the Blair Athol story another time. Many thanks for the opportunity to share this year’s experiences within our special church and share of God’s amazing grace towards us.

Janet Mugford. (Chair)

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