Sight Magazine – “Spiritual sustenance”: Australian churches see new call to prayer during COVID-19 pandemic


Sydney, Australia

The Holy Spirit has prompted churches and congregations to pray during the COVID-19 pandemic, but ministers are still hesitant to label it as a revival.

The Anglican Church on Marrickville Road in Sydney. IMAGE: Supplied.

“I was like ‘Wow!’ I was the one who thought ‘I don’t know if we can do that – I mean, 12 o’clock, yes we could do that, but people aren’t going to get up at three in the morning, are they not ?’ But we said, “Let’s throw it over there” and it was booked very quickly. “

– Ross Ciano, Premier of the Anglican Church of Marrickville.

More than a decade after a small church was planted in South West Sydney, when a handful of people first gathered to worship at a cafe, the diverse congregation of about 150 people gathered preparing for their fourth 24 hour prayer vigil.

Times have been tough since the COVID-19 pandemic sent communities across the country on lockdown, but at Anglican Church of Marrickville, it also sparked a renewal and a desire to pray.

Senior Minister Ross Ciano said they held their first prayer meeting before July, when Sydney entered its second extended COVID-19 lockdown. Another took place in August, followed by a third in September. Preparations are currently underway for their fourth, which is scheduled to take place on October 23.

Twenty-four hour prayer events are nothing new.

Ciano had previously been involved in similar prayer meetings in the UK where he worked as a youth minister and elsewhere. When it was suggested that Marrickville could do something similar, it came as a surprise.

“I was like ‘Wow!’ I was the one who thought ‘I don’t know if we can do that – I mean, 12 o’clock, yes we could do that, but people aren’t going to get up at three in the morning, are they not ?’ But we said, ‘let’s throw it out there’ and it was booked really quickly, ”Ciano said.

All the half-hour prayer slots were soon filled – by young nursing mothers in the early hours of the morning, by senior members of the congregation whom Ciano calls “saints,” and by regular devotees as well as new Christians, including a father who prayed with his young son.

“Surprisingly, some people woke up at three in the morning, or 3:30 am, to pray; so the hardest thing I would have thought was 1hr-5h [time slot], and they’re the ones that usually fill up the fastest, ”he said.

At the first prayer event, he prepared a list of categories for the congregation to follow “and it went so well” that they decided to do it again when the lockdown occurred.

Pray in a church

PHOTO: Jon Tyson / Unsplash

Marrickville is not the only church in Sydney to be brought to a greater commitment to prayer, after the greater Sydney area and surrounding areas of the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong were forced to return to the city. church online.

Churches are reaching out to other churches, such as in the Castle Hill district in the north-west of the city and in the Sutherland Shire in the south of Sydney.

Prime Minister Eric Cheung of St Phil in Caringbah, at the heart of ‘The Shire’ as it is called parish, recently hosted an online prayer meeting that drew 1,500 worshipers from Sydney churches, some of whom have called from overseas.

“With regard to prayer, during the second lockdown in particular, we as a church just thought, ‘What do you think God is teaching us? “” said Cheung. “At the end of the day, we said, ‘Obviously, we’re not relying on God like we should; we don’t come to Him as we should – let’s pray first ”.

As a result, different prayer groups began to “appear” in the church, without Cheung’s participation.

“They started with a 6:30 am Zoom Bible study and prayer time. They would come with teary eyes, turn on their computers and just start praying together! he said.

Others went for a walk in pairs and prayed. “It was really encouraging that this was happening, and from there I thought if it was happening in individual churches, wouldn’t it be great if we all got together virtually and did the same? . “

He felt that if they didn’t pray as God’s people in response to the pandemic, “what should we do?” Saying it was the best thing they could have done, with the direct result to bring the church closer.

The Reverend Sharon Hollis, president of the United Church in Australia, said that as a denomination she has joined other Christians in a number of ecumenical prayer gatherings, both nationally and internationally. , since the start of the pandemic.

“In a time when so many have experienced loss, anxiety, fear and uncertainty, coming together in prayer has reminded us that God walks with us,” she said.
“Coming together in shared prayer reminds us that despite our physical distance, we are all held in the love of God and [it] is a source of comfort and connection for many.

Australia Melbourne Canterbury Uniting Church

Canterbury Balwyn Road Uniting Church in Melbourne. IMAGE: Google Maps.

Meanwhile, prayer is the order of the day in Melbourne Canterbury United Church which offers traditional Tongan services as well as in English. Reverend Salesi Faupula says they have held two national prayer events in 2020 and continue to hold their annual time of prayer and worship to dedicate themselves and their ministry to God at the start of the year.

Additionally, they come together online as a Tongan community nationally and internationally to mourn and worship during the funeral, which is also a more general prayer time when the church has proven to be the resource when families have started to organize prayer vigils.

“That sense of incorporating hymns, of having that prayer space and being able to get together with families from all over the world and participate in funerals abroad – they have become the places of these special prayers,” he said. declared Faupula.

“That feeling of incorporating hymns, of having this prayer space and being able to come together with families from all over the world and have funerals abroad – they became the places of these special prayers.”

– Rev Salesi Faupula, of Canterbury Uniting Church in Melbourne.

“There will always be an interest on the part of the community in being able to provide this; I don’t think anyone else in our community has one nationally.

“There is this growing sense of need for this spiritual nourishment that can come.”

When Ciano told other ministers about what they were doing on Facebook, other churches pledged to join the 24-hour session to pray for their denomination, community, city, and the world at large. .

“At first it was just us, then I said on a Facebook page and a few ministers, saying ‘we’re going to do it on that date, does anyone want to join us?’ And we got a few churches to join. Ciano expects even more churches to be involved in the coming vigil and seems both astonished and humbled when he talks about how God has used and developed the vision of prayer.

Both Ciano and Cheung are reluctant to put the “revival” label on what goes on in their ministry, but Cheung acknowledges that past revivals have always started with Christian prayer.

Cheung in particular would prefer to see smaller groups established in churches that meet daily or weekly to pray.

“People keep asking me if I have an amazing vision for this, and I said it’s really about bringing people together to pray… and when people keep asking why can’t- we don’t do more and more of these events, I say, [well] my preference would be for 10 groups in each church to do this every day or every week … but if that’s what God wants, we will.

“We are certainly more aware [that] there is more to this world than a pandemic, let alone the things we see day to day; we are actually more aware that God is doing something and we have to look to Him and rely on Him and fix our eyes on Jesus.


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