PROFILE: Citywide Baptist Church
Bridging the Gap . . .
. . . from One shore to the Other
Citywide Baptist in Hobart spans two campuses, and stretches across Southern Tasmania. Senior Pastor Matt Garvin explains some of the new initiatives that make it all possible.
Matt’s reflection is followed by a longer-term overview from long-time member Raie Semmens. She and Trevor made the move to the Eastern Shore with a young family back when the Tasman Bridge went down!
What’s Citywide up to?
Pastor Matt Garvin reflects on the Work of Citywide Baptist in the Hobart community and beyond.
When someone asks me how Citywide is doing, I never quite know how to answer.
For a start, most people think about a church being a congregation of people who meet at a certain time every week. In contrast, Citywide has three distinct congregations, along with a pioneering church plant in Levendale, and a growing number of people who are connected online.
Many people also confuse Citywide with our Mornington Campus (the old Eastern Shore Baptist church), but the truth is that the Lenah Valley and the Nepalese congregations are just as much a part of Citywide as Mornington. As well, our Nepalese congregation is by far the fastest growing.
The central question that drives us as a church is what does it means to equip and encourage each other to follow Jesus in every aspect of our individual lives?
Supporting other churches
Our pioneering church plant at Levendale, too, is very much part of Citywide and central to our longer term plans. Small, and local, churches are the most effective way to minister in Tasmania. But running a small church is increasingly complicated.
We hope to use Levendale as a trial to see whether bigger churches can provide enough support to rural churches. Hopefully, each can thrive in their own context. If the experiment is successful we hope to extend the offer of support to other existing or new rural churches around Tassie.
The central question that drives us as a church is what does it means to equip and encourage each other to follow Jesus in every aspect of our individual lives? It is this question that means we are continually coming back to the FOLLOW, BLESS and SHARE practises, which you can read more about HERE.
These are also why we are pursuing forms of online communication which help connect people with the message of Jesus every day. We are hoping to step more intentionally into this space in the coming year.
We want to organise our church around equipping our people for their works of service (Eph 4:12) which we understand means helping them discover and pursue their calling. This is why we have reorganised our facilities.
to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.Ephesians 4:12
What was the Pastor’s office is now our Meeting room; and the Associate Pastor’s office is now our Counselling room. Our former general office is now our Lounge/informal meeting space. As well, our staff team work in a big open plan office alongside anyone else from our church who is seeking to pursue some kind of ministry or expression of their calling. The meeting spaces are available to our whole church family.
Our Nepalese congregation is such an important part of who we are. So because so many of our Nepalese members have strong connections back to their country, it is clear God is calling us to step into mission in Nepal. We are currently in discussion with Baptist Mission Australia about the shape of that emerging frontier for us.
Looking beyond our own backyard
In addition to rural ministry, Paul Dare is also leading our church (and Tasmanian Baptists) in moving forwards in our relationship with Tasmanian Aboriginals, and facing the implications of our state’s complicated history. Our Aboriginal Sunday service on the Queens Domain was a real highlight, and we expect to make a habit of engaging with this question as a congregation in different ways two or three times a year.
We also focus on what it means to love our neighbours, and towards that end we cancelled our Sunday service in order to participate in Clean Up Australia Day in March. In addition, we encouraged our people to connect with their neighbours on Neighbour Day, and we are partnering with the Lenah Valley RSL for a Family ANZAC day commemoration.
We also focus on what it means to love our neighbours
In addition to all of this, it really seems as though God is at work in the remarkably strong relationships building between churches in Hobart, and particularly the Eastern Shore of Hobart. We are gathering across churches to pray semi-regularly and partnering in lots of different ways.
So how is Citywide doing? We are moving forward but we are conscious that we still have a long way to go, and we are trusting that Jesus will continue to lead us.
Our Last Few Years
By Raie Semmens
New arrival, new fervour
July 2017 saw the arrival of the new pastor, Matt Garvin, whom God called back to Tasmania from Canada, with his wife and family, to minister at Citywide.
At that time, the church was challenged afresh to be authentic followers of Jesus, and to think about our impact on the wider community. To begin with, Matt encouraged many to participate in the Foundations Course, resulting in a large percentage of the church looking at the basics of our faith and witness.
A direct outcome of Foundations was an outreach to the Lenah Valley community. We held an ANZAC Day festival for families following the local RSL’s ANZAC Day march and service. People enjoyed free food, games and activities, and the RSL appreciated all the work done.
It was very encouraging for those who planned the event, and involved under Matt’s leadership, to see the response from people of all ages. The media also reported positively about this event. Since then, the church has also put on Carols in the Paddock on Christmas eve for the community at Mornington.
Tech solutions pre-Covid
With our two campuses, Lenah Valley and Mornington, skilful tech people began live-streaming Sunday worship services from either venue. So when Covid-19 struck, with necessary Public Health precautions, Citywide was ready to share worship and teaching times.
Our YouTube channel enabled a wider audience with Baptists, and other Christians, in Wynyard and Marrawah. Across the state, they connected for fellowship, music and teaching. People who needed assistance to access the technology and engage in the sessions received one-on-one help and encouragement.
A time to evaluate
A re-assessment of the church’s property and resources have shown how to best serve the church and the community. As a result, we have increased the size of the office space. This provides work stations are available for use to anyone who needs a base to work from. As well, people from the Nepali congregation manage the church café area. Pastor Paul Dare planted a church in Levendale. Plus, we provide practical help with things like printing carol sheets for the local service, as well as prayer and support.
I thank God that over the last five years we have been challenged to reach out to others. Now, we use our gifts and abilities in many different ways to serve others. These are just a few ways we can share our love for Jesus and his love for the world.
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