28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
Dearest SWEC family,
As we stand on the verge of officially re-opening our church, after almost exactly six months since we have had to close our doors and go online due to COVID-19, those words from Romans 8 are even more precious.
Somehow, in some way yet unknown to us, God is working for the good of those who love him. Somehow, this will result in Kingdom growth. Somehow, this will make us as a church, and us as individuals, shine even more brightly to reflect the image of Jesus our Lord.
So with faith, let's look to the future, uncertain as the next weeks and months might be.
God has been so kind to us in Australia and NSW. As I write, our COVID-19 community rates have been consistently nil for almost two weeks. Even Victoria has been experiencing a reprieve. God-willing, these numbers stay low, and another wave of transmissions will be avoided in our country.
It's been so great to see people gathering again. It's been particularly wonderful for those among us who have been able to gather in small groups - whether for church, Bible study, or just for fun.
For the majority of us, it's now time to come back to our buildings in person on Sundays. Our leadership have been working really hard to make sure we are COVID-safe for the whole family. Our children's ministries will be ready. Our services will be ready. Even our mid-week gatherings on site will be ready. We hope and pray that you are too.
Adjusting to new ways of gathering
There will be a period of adjustment to new ways of gathering. There will be kinks to iron out. Sadly, there is still no congregational singing for now - and that is perhaps the biggest change for our gatherings. But with your help, let's remain vigilant to keep COVID-safe rules (including the way we interact and chat on Sundays before and after services) so that we can see more and more restrictions lifted in the coming weeks and months.
If you are a Kingsgrove 11am congregation member, pre-registration for services is a must due to numbers, so please do so before each week at go.swec.org.au/preregister. And if for any reason you cannot come in person (if you have high-risk members of your family, or have any cold or flu symptoms, or have recently returned from Melbourne or other hotspots), we will have all our services live-streamed until you are ready to return.
It will feel like we are rebuilding so many things over the first few weeks of our return, and so we will need every member of the SWEC body to enthusiastically contribute to this restart - even if it's just making the effort to come in person as much as possible.
SWEC Annual General Meeting
One more thing as we look to the future. Our postponed AGM is going to be held on Sunday, November 15, at 1pm. At this AGM there will be a number of really important motions for our church partners to vote on.
1. Appointment of new elders
During 2020 we have been vetting and preparing two very godly brothers to join our eldership board: John Fang from Mandarin, and Stephen Ko from 11am. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
John is a return elder - having served previously from 2012-1016. Stephen is a new elder candidate, and I believe that his heart for people and his humble service over the last decade speaks for itself: a whole generation of our youth and young men have been positively impacted by Stephen.
I, and the whole Board, commend both of them for your prayers and your vote at the AGM.
2. Mandarin pastor Stephen Fei up for ordination
Our Mandarin pastor Stephen Fei is being recommended for ordination, whereby he will be appointed as an Associate Pastor of our church. Pastor Stephen has been a part of our Mandarin ministry since 2013 - firstly as a Bible college student minister, and then as an assistant. Since 2018 he has been the congregational pastor of our 9am Mandarin ministry.
He has been a great co-worker for me during these years. His humility, willingness to grow, heart for people, and sharp mind and teaching gifts have been greatly used, and I believe this is such an important step for him and his growing ministry among us and for the wider growth of the gospel in our city among Mandarin speakers. Once again, our Board unanimously commends Pastor Stephen to you for the upcoming AGM vote.
3. Update to our doctrinal statement
The third major motion will be a much needed update of our church's doctrinal statement (or statement of beliefs). Due to the changing nature of anti-discrimination legislation, particularly surrounding beliefs about Biblical sexuality, it is important for churches to state clearly our Biblical commitments in these (and other) areas so as to be covered under religious exemptions.
We have updated our doctrinal statement to reflect this, as well as 'filling out' and clarifying other tenets of belief that have needed updating. Church partners and regulars will receive more information about this in coming days, but once again, this is an important item we commend to your vote.
(We will be holding this AGM in person and on Zoom due to number limitations and all voting will happen prior to the meeting via electronic means.)
Our mission remains the same
All of this is to say that we as a church are now 'pivoting' once again: this time to face the future. The things I have written about (and I'm sorry it's so long!) are all vital to our future as a body of Christ both in Kingsgrove and Bankstown. We still have a mission to make, mature, mobilise, and multiply disciples of Jesus in Sydney's south and south-west, especially among migrant communities. Whether it's returning to face-to-face gatherings, or these important AGM decisions, it is our future that we are looking towards.
So now more than ever, will you partner with your church, join in fervent prayer, and look ahead with us to the greater purposes that God is somehow working out for the good of those who love him.
With love, your brother and servant in Christ,