Recent Critical Church Communication

Dear BPCWAians, A fortnight ago, we conducted an online church communication. It covered some very important changes that will be happening.

The communication was to update worshippers of the church extension, and of English and Chinese Worship Services. I later realised that some did not tune in due to various reasons. And some who did watch were not very clear about what was communicated. Hence, I felt it is important to give an overview of the communication here in my Pastoral today, even for those who did attend, to reiterate these critical changes that will be implemented when we return to church physically.

Revisiting the aims of our building extension. 1) Resolve the space problems we currently face. 2) Provide for separate English and Chinese Worship  services in a monolingual environment to help and retain worshipers and visitors. As our children grow up in Australia, we need to accept that it is natural for them in time to want to worship and grow in a monolingual English environment where they can settle with their future families and invite friends to. At the same time, we will have new people that will feel more comfortable in an only Chinese speaking worship environment.

Challenges encountered with the Church Extension plans. The architect has completed the design plans based on our original requirements for 2 worship halls to hold concurrent worships at the same time. But even so, we still have 4 challenges: 1) Insufficient funds to meet the projected building costs. Our previous budget (which did not include furnishings, purchase of additional Audio Visual equipment) is unlikely to be able to cover the costs of the building based on our original requirements, and there is still a big gap between our building fund and the budgeted building cost. 2) Parking space will still hinder church growth (even if we had more worship space) if services are concurrent. 3) Higher maintenance costs with 2 worship halls for concurrent worship services. The fact that this additional worship hall will only be used once a week also makes it a very inefficient use of space. These concerns were also highlighted by the other architects when we initially targeted to keep worship at the same time. 4) Concurrent Ongoing Worship Services would also not meet our objective of providing a monolingual environment in a church in a country like Australia. With this, visitors who seek a monolingual environment are less likely to feel comfortable to stay and continue to worship with us.

Holding English and Chinese worship services at 10 am and 1:30 pm respectively. In view of the above, the Board of Elders and Session decided that this would be the best approach. Worship services at separate times would be the most prudent use of the resources and avoid duplication of costly infrastructure while allowing for growth in both congregations. It immediately removes parking space issues too. Moreover, morning and afternoon worship timings also mean that a congregation finishing worship at an earlier time would not have to be hurried out to make way for an incoming congregation needing to begin worship on time. Importantly, this timing also better allows for the English congregation, after their worship, to continue to support the afternoon Nursing Home ministries which are conducted in English.

As much as we initially aimed to have worship at the same time, it became very apparent over time that we cannot continue to pursue it, given the issues stated thus far. Many long discussions were held in Board of Elders and Session meetings. After periods of fasting and prayer to seek the Lord’s confirming guidance for His own church, it was unanimously clear among all of us that we needed to proceed in this direction.

Pastoral care, BOE, and Session support for the Chinese congregation. These would naturally be the key concerns that will arise if we had a Chinese congregation worshipping at a different time. Effectively, the change in the worship time does not and should not affect the current organisation and structure. As the Pastor, it is still my responsibility to continue to oversee the whole  church  (both  English  and  Chinese  congregations).  Like  now, I will continue to reach out to both congregation members, so please do approach me for counselling, prayer requests or any other pastoral support that you may need. In fact, separate worship times better facilitate me being able to conduct Holy Communion for both. There continues to be only 1 Board of Elders (consisting of myself and Rev Paul) and 1 Session over the whole church. Yew Jinn, as a Chinese fulltime worker, has been assigned by the Board of Elders to preach during the Chinese Worship Service and teach Chinese Bible studies. Like presently, he will continue to serve under the purview of the BOE and Session.

Addressing your other concerns and questions. Together with this change, 1) Ministries and outreaches will be set up in the morning so that the Chinese worshippers can continue to serve God and evangelise on the Lord’s Day. 2) Do note that there will be English Children Sunday School classes during English and Chinese worship times. This means that our teachers will also need to teach an English Sunday School class for the younger children during the 1:30 pm Chinese worship. However, with an already stretched and limited pool of Sunday School teachers, we will probably need to reduce the number of classes during the Chinese worship. We will likely have only 1 Children Sunday School class during the Chinese worship. And since older children should transit to attending the English worship service in time, they can attend the Children Sunday School classes held during the English Worship. More details will be shared later on during implementation.

Next Steps. Moving forward, the Building Committee will continue to work with the architect to revise plans based on our new situation. Much of the work will still be re-used. With separate timings for worship services, fewer additions will need to be done to the 2nd level. A larger sanctuary will still need to be built to accommodate future congregation growth, while the current sanctuary may need to be renovated so that it can be used for fellowships or smaller group meetings.

These are not easy decisions. Furthermore, change is never easy, especially when it involves changing an individual or a family’s habits or schedules. There will not be one choice that will meet everyone’s individual preferences. I can only pray and hope that our worshippers will understand the real limitations that we work within, and request that we all work together to support and pray for these decisions to progress God’s work for BPCWA in Perth.

Ps127:1a…Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it

Yours in our Lord’s service,