Seeing others in church

How COVID-19 restrictions have changed what church looks like at Kachhwa Transformational Ministries

We gather outside, faces are masked and chairs spread out. Youth volunteers are seated at the entrance, greeting arrivals with hand sanitiser. Young children and the elderly are noticeably absent. A typical Sunday sees 80-100 gather, about a third of the number pre-pandemic. In this strange new context, individuals have somehow become more visible.

Ujwal has always stayed in the shadows, perhaps unsurprising for a teenager with acne and a learning disability. Following invitations, week after week, from one of the pastors, he started attending the after-church youth group, a few months before COVID-19. Still he stayed in the shadows. What a surprise when he volunteered to participate in the Christmas drama, and what a joy to see him arriving early each week, greeting people as they arrive and sanitising their hands!

Vishwas is a quick and enthusiastic learner, though small for his age and from a community despised by many. In the time that we have known him, the only hint of lack of confidence or shame was in his silence when his family’s inability to pay his board registration fees meant he would have to repeat a year of school. When we heard, how we wished he had told us! Any number of us would have been delighted to help him. And that was possibly the only time he was silent. His quick and frequent answers in the after-church youth group display knowledge and insight. In this strange new context he has become visible in another way as well: taking the initiative to arrive hours before anyone else to sweep the ground and make the seating arrangements for church.

Three generations of Dadi’s family attend church, each generation more visible than the one before. Her granddaughter is often part of the singing team and is one of the youth leaders. Along with a few friends, she took the initiative to visit other youth from church in their homes to read the Bible, pray and sing together, when control measures restricted gatherings to small groups. Though her granddaughter and daughter-in law are now attending church again, Dadi, aware of her age and vulnerability, has not returned yet. She was among the widows invited to join a midweek prayer and fellowship group.

Though she has fairly constant pain and difficulty moving, she comes regularly. The first week, she proudly introduced herself as “Geeta’s grandmother”. She may have felt invisible and unknown before, but she is now seen!

Elders, deacons and lay leaders share responsibilities for the church service and small groups. Some focus on a particular demographic (e.g. youth or widows), some are family-based groups, while others gather believers of all ages and different families in a particular locality.

Vikas and Utkarsh have been part of the leadership team for some time. They have long been seen leading aspects of the church service, be it singing, reading the Psalm, prayer or the whole service. They also work behind the scenes, including preparing the weekly song sheet. Now they are seen preaching. This is a very exciting development, especially given Vikas is a young local man who has been trained and mentored by the church’s senior leaders. Raising and nurturing local leaders for the church continues to be one of our strong desires.

Prathana is another local becoming more visible as a leader. During church she has long been seen kneeling in prayer and she is often heard singing songs of worship while she works. At a gathering of women for Christmas, she was seen leading the singing as well as one of the small groups. A widow herself, she now leads the small group of widows along with a couple of others.

We rejoice in the growth in the people we see but we know there are many more that we are yet to truly see. How good that our God is El Roi, the God who sees each and every one of us.