'We're still here for Mandurah': Church services, youth programs hit hard by crisis

Eastlake Church pastor Josh Edwards. Photo: Justin Rake.
Eastlake Church pastor Josh Edwards. Photo: Justin Rake.

Mandurah's Eastlake Church will turn to online services as it faces crowd restrictions amid the coronavirus crisis.

The government's ban on mass gatherings has seen crowds for any form of structured event limited to less than 100 people, with the average service at the church drawing just short of 300.

Read more:

But in an innovative way to allow members to continue their worship, the church will now live stream sermons via their Facebook page and Youtube channel.

It's an initiative pastor Josh Edwards said is crucial if the church hopes to keep open communication with members who may be self isolating.

"These times are testing for everyone and when people are going through these things they often turn to their faith," he said.

"For us, it's so important that we both take this seriously and apply all the necessary health measures, but also still be there for our patrons and our community.

"So to be able to offer services online and have people continue to pray and attend church that way, it's important."

But the church has felt the sting of the coronavirus outside of just its standard services.

Several of its community programs have come to a grinding halt, including their Friday night youth program.

The weekly event usually draws in roughly 70 "non-church" children from around the area to the church car park, offering them guidance through mentors or even just simply putting on a sausage sizzle.

"That's one of the more tough ones for us to swallow," pastor Edwards said.

"These kids come here looking for a safe place once a week and it's a program we're really proud of, so to have to cancel that is tough.

"It's all well and good for us to deliver online services, but you can't deliver the safe place for those kids online.

"But what we can do is try to continue a relationship with them through video chats and things like that, just to let them know we're still here for them."

The church is also looking to set up an isolation support network, where those facing the issues that come with quarantining can turn to.

"The idea for that is that someone who might have extra supplies or can then deliver them to someone who needs them, or people low on food stocks or toilet paper can reach out through it," pastor Edwards said.

"We're still here for Mandurah, so we need to get creative and diverse if we want to continue helping out our community."