Heart of God Church Decentralises in Response to the Coronavirus7 min read
“3, 2, 1!” shouts a small group of youths counting down with the on-screen timer to the start of Heart of God Church On Air, our online church service.
In February 2020, Heart of God Church decentralised our services in light of the evolving COVID-19 situation. Members would meet in small groups all around Singapore to run mini “services”.
SAFETY AND SUSTAINABILITY
With the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Heart of God Church responded by decentralising our regular weekend services into small group meetings. We called this #HOGCdecentralised.
“The plan must be sustainable because this situation might go on for a long time. Decentralisation allows us to protect our members, meet their spiritual needs and serve the community.”Senior Pastor Tan Seow How
We wanted to run our services in a way that would work even in the long-haul, while adhering to safety guidelines set by our local government.
PROTECTING YOUNG PEOPLE & PEACE OF MIND FOR PARENTS AND FAMILIES
We decentralised knowing that 70% of our congregation are below 25 years old. Protecting our young people is our utmost priority and that’s why we kept our meetings and activities to small groups.
Besides looking out for our young people, we also understand that parents and families of our members may be concerned about large-scale gatherings. Decentralising services is also for their peace of mind.
SERVING THE COMMUNITY
By decentralising services, the 500 volunteers who run services every weekend are freed up to serve the community.
Our young volunteers spearheaded the Heart For Our Heroes initiative to love and encourage those serving on the front lines.
In collaboration with various mosques and temples, our young people prepared and gave thousands of care packs to frontline workers: medical professionals, frontline workers in the Singapore Civil Defence Force, hawker centre cleaners and others.
In a Heart For Our Heroes initiative, our youths created 22 art pieces, one for each of Changi Airport Group’s 22 partnering agencies. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority commander was so touched that a church and mosque came together for this initiative that he said, “This can only happen in Singapore!”
PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES DURING DECENTRALISATION
Precautionary measures are followed even when we decentralise into small groups.
The iCODE App
As part of HOGC’s precautionary measures, we developed the iCODE (Individual Contact Tracing & Declaration) app.
iCODE acts as a personal declaration for people to fill in prior to entering church premises and activities. The app also records attendees’ seating location in the event where contact tracing is required.
Recognising the need at a national level, HOGC is currently customising the app for a mosque. We are working to make this app freely available to other religious organisations.
Personal travel and health declaration via the iCODE app
The iCODE app makes it convenient for our members to find out if they are cleared to join church activities even before they step out of their homes.
iCODE declarations are inspected and temperature checks are done by small group leaders before members are admitted into a decentralised service or activity.
The HOGC COVID-19 Safety Task Force
The Task Force monitors the situation and government advisories on a daily basis. They advise and oversee the implementation of our precautionary measures.
The team consists of doctors, healthcare professionals and crisis management specialists, including a professor who is a leading expert in public health.
BENEFITS OF DECENTRALISATION
ENRICHING YOUNG PEOPLE
HOGC On Air has been a hit with youths!
Messages shared over HOGC On Air include ‘What to Do in a Crisis’ by Pastor Cecilia Chan and ‘6 Responses to Take Advantage of Tough Times’ by Pastor Tan Seow How. We believe that young people can grow if they learn how to face adversity. Messages by our pastors have helped our youths to grow in their character, maturity and resilience.
EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE
As the situation evolves, our young people have been empowered to come up with creative solutions for our decentralised services.
HOGC On Air is put together by a team of young people, including an IT team of mainly 17 to 22-year-olds. They are given opportunities to build various elements of programming, video production and interactivity on the platform, e.g., live chat, live voting and interactive games.
Together with the inspiring messages by our pastors, all of the elements combine to deliver a unique, engaging and enriching online experience. The best part is that the young people learn new skills and grow creatively in the process.
“I’m so glad that Heart of God Church youths are using technology for enrichment and empowerment, not just entertainment.
Because our captivating online content is created by youths for youths, it is both relevant and uplifting.
In this crisis, both our young content creators are empowered, and the other youths are consuming healthy, enriching content.”Senior Pastor Cecilia Chan
In Asia we have the unwelcomed benefit of being hit with the virus several weeks earlier. As the number of cases outside of Asia grew, pastors especially from western nations reached out for insights into our decentralisation model.
Pastor Tan Seow How and Pastor Cecilia Chan recognised the urgent situation that these pastors were in. They shared the mechanics of decentralisation through the “Coronavirus Series” on pastorhow.com.
The series—which is read in over 80 countries—gives pastors navigating the COVID-19 crisis tiered approaches and ideas for church mobilisation. Beyond that, Pastor How and Pastor Lia share how churches can be an example to the community in this unprecedented time.
The articles have been read by over 1,200 pastors and some of them have graciously volunteered to translate the articles into their country’s native languages.
DECENTRALISATION FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE
As reported in The Straits Times, “Decentralisation may now be the default, prompting Christians to reflect on the essence of worship.”
We recognise that the situation is fluid and unpredictable. As a church we will respond by keeping ourselves nimble and flexible. #HOGCDecentralised allows us to continue meeting the needs of our congregation and be a blessing to the wider community.