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Looking back to move forward in Covid-19 times

Pastor Luca Zagara says Covid-19 has forced many Adventists to rethink their way of doing and being a church and suggests we look to the first-century Church for answers.

Luca Zagara completed his MA in Theology and Postgraduate Certificate in Ministry and Mission at Newbold in 2020. In March 2021, he received the call to the Welsh Mission and is currently ministering to congregations in the Newport District of Churches.

“My wife and I had Wales on our minds well before we received the call to go to Newport, even before I began my studies at Newbold,” said Pastor Zagara, “We always knew in our hearts that Wales was going to be a place of importance in our future. So, when the call came, we had no doubts and said yes straight away, and it’s been a great blessing.”

Despite his enthusiasm, Pastor Zagara began his ministry during one of the most challenging periods to affect British society in recent history, lockdown, a time when all churches across the United Kingdom were closed. “Worshiping on Zoom was less than ideal, but the most difficult thing during that period was getting to know people in person,” he explained. “I like to mingle with people, talking face-to-face and getting to know their stories.”

In his article entitled ‘Diaconal church in COVID-19 times’, published in the January 2022 edition of Ministry Magazine, Pastor Zagara observed that many local congregations had to “rethink their way of doing and being a church” during the pandemic. They had to find alternative approaches to connect with local communities. He suggests that by assessing and understanding the characteristics of diaconal ministry in the first-century Church, congregations today can be empowered to increase their impact on the wider community in various situations and during a crisis.

“I based the article on a paper I wrote for an ecclesiology module at Newbold,” said Pastor Zagara. “This isn’t theory but something I experienced in Watford while working with One Vision, an action group, part of the Community Chaplaincy Service at Stanborough Park Seventh-day Adventist Church, which began way before the Covid-19 pandemic. One Vision provides safeguarding courses, mental health first aid training, and meals for the homeless. It set the stage for various ministries to meet the needs of those affected by the pandemic. It is linked to the ecclesiological side of the Church, how we link serving others (diakonia) with living as a community (koinonia).

“When we look at what the Bible says about what it means to be a deacon or deaconess, you’ll see it is more than opening the church’s door each Saturday and saying, ‘Happy Sabbath! Welcome!’ or setting out chairs and cleaning the church. It’s about looking at the real needs of the people in the community and the church. It’s about restoring people’s hope and meeting their spiritual needs.

“We can do everything possible to help others with their physical, mental, and spiritual needs, but we can also have a community where we welcome people. We can say, like you, we have our struggles too, but we are all united by one God who loves us, and we want to share this fellowship with you. It’s not simply about going into the streets and being friendly and kind to people, but offering them a place of refuge, which can be in the church or a group in someone’s house – it’s about creating a safe space where they can come to learn more about God.”

Summing up his ministry to date, Pastor Zagara pointed out that many people spent time reviewing their lives during the lockdown. “I have had people approach me saying, ‘Pastor, I had more time to study the Bible, to pray, and now I see the need to be baptised.’ While some of us struggled with our faith during the lockdown, others experienced a renewal of faith,” he said, and continued, “We’re going to have our first baptism in two years at the end of April, and it is going to be special.

“I think the Adventist Church in Wales needs a revival. The other day, I heard someone on the radio saying, ‘Revival comes when we read our Bibles.’ I agree we need to return to our Bibles and grow with our knowledge of Jesus. However, it’s not just about knowledge. It’s about having a personal relationship with God each day. Once we’re ‘re-Bible-lised’ – a term I’ve just made up – I believed we will begin to see a genuine revival.”

Luca Zagara Profile Photo

Luca Zagara, MA

Luca Zagara is a Newbold alumnus and pastor serving the Newport, Hereford, and Llandrindod Wells Seventh-day Adventist churches in Wales, United Kingdom.