Words from Rev Jon Phua

Annual Report – Sept 2020 – Rev Jon Phua

Since commencing with EFCA English Ministry (EM) on the 4th February until now, it has been a blessing for me to join in the ministry and the church family of 11am EM! The welcome was warm and appreciative that I had come, especially as EM had been without English pastoral staff for over one year. The EMT with guidance from Rev Tse had managed EM well yet were receptive to pastoral input from me as the new Adult Pastor. There has been a great balance between the EMT and myself, as they have maintained their diligent responsibility of their portfolios, allowing me to ease in, give input, and not for me to be overwhelmed to have to do everything!

Both EMT and cell group leaders have been responsive to my suggestions for matching sermon and bible study series. So, John 13-17 bible studies in the leadup to Easter, then a matching Genesis 1-11 sermon and bible study series, followed by two: Christians & Climate Change sermons with matching bible studies. The feedback has been mostly positive: people appreciating the reinforcement of learning with sermons and bible studies on the same points, solidarity across groups with doing the same material. Having leader’s meetings has allowed briefing on these series, as well as pastoral care training (on 28th April).

Since the COVID-19 pandemic required all ministries to go online from 22nd March onwards, naturally this has been frustrating and hard for all of us in different ways. It has slowed the building of relationships for my family and myself with EM people. Yet fellowships and ministry has continued online: my wife Lika has joined the EM women’s morning teas. Our daughter Joanna continues with online SWITCH, our son Joshua joins in with online Kid’s Church with Lika and other families. I have made phone calls and had video chats with people, more recently having lunch with EMT members, and look forward to meeting more people in person as restrictions continue to ease.

EM have shown great patience and resilience through numerous glitches and evolutions in our online Sunday services.  Gradually, more elements have been introduced: Kids Spot, Peacemeal, interviews, songs, Q&A so it resembles more typical services with plenty of input from various people. In my observation: cell groups have adapted quite well to the Zoom format, using breakout rooms for sharing/prayer, having games for fun & fellowship. Kid’s Church & Switch have also worked hard to send material, engage people online, be creative to have fun and make it enjoyable. Our recent Kid’s Church bible training session (27th June) back at church made us appreciate physical fellowship again, and we look forward to more group meetings/training sessions at church again soon.

Our next move, once NBN is installed at church, will be to livestream Sunday services from church at 11am. Due to social distancing, the size of our building will not allow enough of us to meet in Sunday services to make it worthwhile at this stage. So, a maximum of 50, no Kid’s Church, nor SWITCH is possible.  Hence it seems most are content to wait until social distancing lifts sufficiently to allow for enough advantages in meeting again physically, to outweigh the disadvantages of doing so. In this transitional time, I’m confident that EM has much cohesion and loyalty to wait and stay together, for in the 12 months without English pastoral staff, there was not many members leaving for other churches that have pastoral staff. Under God, I believe that as most members have supportive relationships through cell groups, there is a strong cohesion. Even with the 5pm service closing at the end of 2019, specific transitional follow up of people helped to re-integrate them into 11am quite well, that very few people left EFCA. I look forward to the continuing work of the Lord amongst EM.

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