South Africa has not been spared the turmoil and loss resulting from COVID-19. During 2020 the country fluctuated between varying levels of restrictions. Come March 2021, the country will have spent a full year under national restrictions on movement and gathering.
It was into these dramatic conditions that Common Ground Church launched its 11th congregation into the Cape Town metro in early 2020. The new plant, named M5, would be lead by Steve and Candice Bonaconsa.
Steve explains the M5 moniker, “M5 Common Ground is the name of our church plant. M5 originates from one of the main roads in the area where we felt God leading us to plant; an area where we were already seeing many Common Ground ‘footprints’. The M5 cuts through areas in Cape Town that are rich in culture and diversity. Rather than be restricted to one area or suburb, our heart was to broaden our missional reach. In Cape Town’s past, railway lines and roads were used to separate people by class and race. Our heart was to counter that through the name M5 by rather seeing it as a way to draw people together; to build bridges creating a common ground.”
Steve and Candice joined the Common Ground team five years ago serving in the pastoral ministry, as well as Rondebosch AM eldership team.
“The opportunity to plant a congregation came five years into our journey of committing to our local church. The road signs along the way were a supportive eldership team, equipped by completing the Advance Church Planters’ Course and our whole family confirming our call to plant.” recounts Steve.
Launching just 8 weeks before the severe national lockdown, which confined people to their homes for 6 weeks, the M5 team found themselves in unfamiliar territory for a new plant.
“We started meeting in the school of Bel Porto in the area of Lansdown. Bel Porto is a school for children with mental and physical disabilities. We met for just under two months when we landed up in level 5 of lockdown due to COVID-19. What a time to plant a church, right!”
“We had strong support from committed Commongrounders who joined us for the plant. During lockdown, we were able to build a strong foundation together and provide each other with support and encouragement – all be it on Zoom. A relationship was also quickly built with Bel Porto school providing us with opportunities to serve the children and their families as well as the school during lockdown.”
The early days of a church plant are typically charged with enthusiasm and energy. Planting teams, often long in the making, are finally released to their new neighbourhoods, full of faith and eager to implement the ideas and vision they have developed for the new Gospel outpost.
“In the build up to the plant and the two months after the launch meeting, the energy levels were very high, and the volunteer signup forms were full of people who wanted to serve. It was at this time I felt the Lord say that we should ‘WAIT’ before we get going with any ministries.”, says Steve.
This decision to keep the calendar clear and new programs to a minimum gave the planting team more time for simple fellowship and relationship building.
“As I reflect, I believe it was the time we spent together on a Sunday in our meetings, around the coffee station and in each other’s homes that kept us connected during 2020.”, says Steve.
As restrictions have eased, and periods of gathering have been permitted, the M5 team has evolved its activities to further serve their new congregation.
“With a committed core of wonderful people, M5 has been able to launch life groups, teenage, prayer and pastoral care ministries online. A huge thanks for the support from our larger Common Ground family!”
The M5 congregation continues to meet online weekly, waiting for South Africa’s second wave to subside and a further easing of lockdown measures before they begin meeting again.