‘We are to be a lighthouse.’
Veronica Poore –
is Chairman of the Board of Presidency of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference and a member of Tamil Methodist Church.
In his inaugural Presidential Review, given at Ang Mo Kio Tamil Methodist Church last year, Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) President Rev R. Prabhu steered the Conference to focus on the task at hand, setting as priority the theme selected for the quadrennium: “Making Disciples of all Nations” (Matt 28:19).
The sub-themes for each year are based on Isaiah 54:2 – “Enlarge the place of your tent” (2013); “Stretch your tent curtains wide” (2014); “Lengthen your cords” (2015), and “Strengthen your stakes” (2016).
Some of the issues which President Prabhu addressed in his Review included pastor supply, lay participation, reconstitution of the Methodist Youth Fellowship, expansion of missions, call to discipleship, and the never-ending challenge of evangelism.
With the small supply of pastors in ETAC, the President highlighted that each pastor often had to provide pastorate to more than two churches at a time, with assistance from retired pastors. However, thanks to the support from laity, the ministry in each of the eight ETAC churches has not suffered.
In some instances, resources are pooled between various Boards and the respective local church committees. The Rev Prabhu commended this strategy, but cautioned that church programmes must not be merely events, but on-going opportunities for involvement of members and people in the neighbourhood, and eventually an avenue for growth.
He was also happy to note that the ETAC Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) has been reconstituted, with MYF groups now functioning in almost all the eight churches. This shows effective engagement with the youths. He expressed the hope that these MYF leaders will find new opportunities to minister to Indian youths around their homes, schools and workplaces, and draw them to church.
Another piece of good news was the healthy growth of the Singapore Telugu Methodist Church, as well as the genesis of their new Women’s Society of Christian Service chapter.
The President noted that we have a mission to the Indian migrants at our doorstep, but must not neglect looking after our own. He encouraged more regular visits to the elderly and the housebound, and hence there was a need to grow our pool of Social Concerns volunteers. Evangelism within the neighbourhood has to be a reality. This is in line with the 2014 theme to “stretch our tent curtains wide”, through evangelism and organising new outreach preaching points.
The Rev Prabhu encouraged us to step out of “maintenance mode” and propel ETAC forward with the need to identify, nurture and equip young adults to prepare them for leadership positions within their churches, and at Annual Conference and General Conference levels. This will have to begin with concerted prayer, one-to-one interaction and retreats, with persons who have shown the desire to enter the ministry. The President highlighted that it was the duty of parents and mature members of our churches to draw our youths into the ministry.
The 2014 theme is especially a challenge to the laity – evangelism and planting new outreach preaching points will be vital to church growth, not just in numbers, but in quality.
Said the President: “God has placed a burden on ETAC. We are to identify and establish new locations for worship and education, where there are significant groups of migrant Indians. Just as two new outreach preaching points [at Bedok and at Jalan Teck Whye] have been established in 2013, we need to see the possibilities in the Punggol, Woodlands and Boon Lay areas.”
There is a role for each and every member of the laity, as ETAC explores opportunities for new ministries. The Rev Prabhu challenged the churches to “be the lighthouse” to those who are in search of the truth and happiness; it is his prayer that the Holy Spirit of God will make us – pastors and laity alike – powerful witnesses wherever we are placed.
Remembering Richard Tambyah
A minute’s silence was observed at the ETAC Meeting and tribute was paid to Mr Richard Thurairasah Tambyah who entered into glory on August 25, 2013. A faithful Christian, an able leader, a quiet gentleman and passionate servant of God, Richard was a member of Tamil Methodist Church, and a founding leader of ETAC. He had been instrumental in providing guidance and leadership to the Conference in a variety of capacities, including the planting of new churches.
A Colombo Plan scholar and a graduate of the University of New Zealand, he had served in the Ministry of Education.
Richard had a heart for disadvantaged people, and was one of the pioneers of Methodist Welfare Services which started in 1976, serving first as its Chairman and then as a Board member for over 20 years until he was unable to continue. Along with other Tamil-Indian church leaders, he also helped set up the Navajeevan Centre for rehabilitating Indian drug addicts.
He has previously served in the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore as the Chairman of the Council of Christian Social Services.
His love for God and his concern for people did not diminish even after his retirement from active service. He made a silent but strong impact on those who came in contact with him.
Richard leaves behind his wife Angeline, daughters Christine and Jasmine, son Peter, and grandchildren.
‘Ministers and laity as one’
Grace Toh –
is the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message and has been a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church for most of her life.
“It is imperative,” said the Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung, “that ministers and laity work as one.”
As President of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC), he was giving his Address at the Conference’s 38th Session, held Nov 11-14 last year at Ang Mo Kio Chinese Methodist Church.
In light of the multi-faceted challenges facing the Church today, ministers and laity need to have better understanding of and closer collaboration with each other.
Said the Rev Dr Chong: “Our society is facing relentless waves of postmodern thinking, and some groups are attempting to dangerously re-define the meaning of ‘family’. The church must hold fast to the Bible’s teaching for parents regarding their responsibilities to their family. These include serving as role models of faith for our children.”
Through nurturing their children in the faith, parents can revisit the foundations of their beliefs and strengthen their own sense of belonging in the church. The children will also grow into fine leaders for the church in the future.
The President brought up the example of the Rev Gideon Choi Gi Deug, who has been in Thailand this past year, studying the language and participating in ministry, in preparation for his commission as a missionary there. His daughter, Ms Peace Choi, was earlier introduced to the conference as a new Member on Trial.
During his commissioning at the CAC Closing Service, the Rev Choi expressed that he was not worried about his daughter remaining in Singapore while he was away, because he trusted that she was in the good care of the conference and the local church. This was a good testimony of ministers and laity working together to nurture youth and young adult believers in the ministry.
However, it is not just within the family or among the young that the Church is facing challenges. The Rev Dr Chong pointed out: “Today there are signs that the dialect ministry is waning, due in part to the declining levels of proficiency in dialects among pastors.”
Yet, ministry and discipleship among the dialect-speaking remains important. Thus, the President suggested setting up a unit under the Board of Witness and Evangelism that would provide networking, support and resources to the various dialect communities across CAC churches.
The number of pastors in active ministry has also gone down, with the retirement of several senior ministers over the past few years. The Rev Dr Chong expressed gratitude for their faithful service, trust in the Lord to raise workers for CAC’s future needs, and appreciation of the valuable pastoral care provided by retired pastors that continue to volunteer in churches.
He said: “I urge you to value and show concern and care for our retired pastors, and I encourage our young ministers to consult them and benefit from their wisdom and wealth of experience.”
Lay people are important in the ministry of the church, and pastors should share ministry with them appropriately. This will allow pastors to equip even more believers for God’s service. He said: “Believers today are blessed with a great variety of gifts and many have robust and mature spiritual lives. Together they have helped make the church more systematic and efficient.”
With pastors and lay people working together, more forms of practical outreach to the community can be undertaken. For example: Holy Covenant Methodist Church’s nurses’ ministry at Ruth Home, and the Missions Development Fund by the CAC Board of Missions to provide training for transient workers here to share the gospel when they return to their home countries.
Churches can also apply to the Johnny and Nancy Lim Fund to seed their gospel ministry, and to the General Conference for grants to develop their social concerns ministry.
“Whatever we do,” said the Rev Dr Chong, “we must be fully committed, and never neglect the heavenly vision given to us!”
Pastors Koh Chew Hai (kneeling, left) and Samuel Lee Wei Chieh were ordained as deacons during the CAC Closing Service on Nov 14, 2013. – Picture by Joshua Khoo
Pictures courtesy of the Chinese Annual Conference
During the CAC Meeting, a memorial service was held for three faithful workers who had passed away during the year: the Rev Lim Chong Heng, Mrs Fang Chao Hsi, and the Rev Ding Bing Hoe. Mr Gordon Aw, husband to the Rev Ding’s niece, wrote the below eulogy.
Remembering the Rev Ding Bing Hoe
On Oct 23, 2013, the Rev Ding went home to the Lord, whom he had served faithfully on earth for more than 50 years. His was a life poured out for Christ as he ministered first in The Methodist Church in Malaya, and later, The Methodist Church in Singapore.
After retirement in 2004, his ministry enlarged and he began serving across denominations and churches. Just as John Wesley considered the world his parish, the Rev Ding went among people with needs and continued to touch and build lives for God.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was concerned for the last, the least and the lost. He called the “sick” to repent and come to Him. In like manner, caring for those in need was a priority for the late Rev Ding. He rendered help at every point of need, demonstrating the gospel with living compassion and practical action to win people for Jesus.
Indeed, he was known less for words, but more for deeds. As a dedicated pastor, the Rev Ding’s primary concern was the well-being of his sheep and he gave his best to pastoral care, always encouraging and nurturing his flock.
The late Rev Ding was not only a faithful servant and caring pastor. He was also a filial son, loving husband, patient and devoted father of three, doting grandfather, and sincere friend. At his wake, hundreds came to pay their last respects. Many shared stories of how his simplicity and sincerity had moved them. Some gave the thumbs-up and told the family, “Rev Ding – good man, great pastor, best friend.”
On TRAC together
In Word, Worship, Welcome, Witness & Wonder
Christina Stanley –
is the Editor of Methodist Message and a TRAC Lay Delegate from Wesley Methodist Church
Ministers, lay delegates and Christian ministry staff of Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) enjoyed the warm and generous hospitality of Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church over four days in November, as updates and reports were received from different agencies and councils.
Just as much as the Annual Conference was held to discuss “business”, time was put aside to catch up and fellowship with our pastors and other church members. At the Opening Service, Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup used a dental analogy to encourage us to “implant the Word” into our lives, so that the Word becomes an indistinguishable part of us, very much like a tooth implant. The Conference then ended on a high note with the newly-formed Methodist Festival Choir performing at the Closing Service.
Ordinations and Retirements
Eight pastors were ordained as Deacons or Elders at the Closing Service, during which TRAC President Rev Dr Gordon Wong preached an inspiring message (refer to Cover and Page 5 for a summary of this sermon). Bishop Dr Wee presided over these ordinations. In addition, the Conference took time to recognise two of our retiring pastors – the Rev Tan Cheok Kian who has served for 32 years, and the Rev David Wee Boon Hock, who has served for 26.
In his President’s Address, the Rev Dr Wong urged the Conference to come together, “on TRAC” in Word, Worship, Welcome, Witness and Wonder, citing Hebrews 10:24 – that we “stimulate one another towards love and good deeds” (NASB).
Social holiness was one area which the President addressed. John Wesley said that “solitary religion is not to be found there … the Gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness”.
In response to this, a Silver Surge Task Force was recommended by TRAC’s Executive Board to extend care and support to the elderly and their families, and to engage them to use their energy, expertise and experience to serve God, church and society. It was recommended that the Rev Dr Daniel Koh chairs this Task Force.
The Conference accepted these recommendations, and directed the Task Force to report at the Special Session in July 2014.
TRAC’s Executive Board also recommended the designation of a Conference Sunday, to promote TRAC unity. Scripture text and sermon theme will be decided by the Executive Board, with the sermon preached by a pastor from a sister church at each of the local churches. The TRAC vision will also be highlighted, and a specific song or hymn will be sung on that Sunday.
These recommendations were accepted by the Conference, which adopted November 9, 2014 as our Conference Sunday.
On encouraging the Conference to be “homo unius libri” (a person of one word), the President highlighted the need for a development group for pastors, and suggested for churches to set up “Teaching Tuesdays” or “Word Wednesdays”.
Bedok Methodist Church welcomed other churches to co-host and co-promote a three-week TRAC Teaching Tuesday series, tentatively in August 2014. Six “Word” songs were put forth, with other “Word” avenues like Disciple Agency and Bible Study Fellowship to be explored.
In the area of Witness, the President stressed that the world outside TRAC is also our parish, and we are engaged in this area through our schools, missions and welfare agencies. An area of greater concern is that of the shortage of pastors.
Questions raised by the Rev Dr Wong included what ratio of pastors to church members would be “enough”; whether there were potential benefits for local churches to designate some of their Lay Ministry Staff as “Lay Pastors”; how we could be better at discovering and inspiring more persons with the gifts and conviction to serve as pastors; and the possibility of re-hiring retired pastors or having “circuit preachers and pastors” who would then cover three or four local churches in a cluster.
Pastors who will reach retirement age (65 years) within the next three quadrennia (i.e. 2016 to 2028) will number 30, with 17 alone in the 2025 to 2028 quadrennium. The President asked whether Pastors-in-Charge and Pastor-Parish Committees would consider pilot initiatives like shared pastoral ministry under the supervision of a district superintendent.
Congratulations to our new Deacons and Elders, who were ordained by Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup at the Conference’s Closing Service.
“Increase within the life of these servants the gift of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ your Son, for the ministry of a Deacon in your Church. Give them grace to be faithful to their promise, constant in their discipleship, and always ready for the works of loving service. Make them modest and humble, gentle and strong, that, having the assurance of faith and rejoicing in hope, they may be rooted and grounded in love.”
Deacons (L-R): Pastor Wendy Sim Soek Mun (Faith Methodist Church), Pastor Clarence Lee Kwang Han (Methodist Church of the Incarnation), Pastor Raymond Fong (Wesley Methodist Church) and Pastor Shaun Chong Jiawei (Christalite Methodist Church).
“Enable them to serve without reproach, to proclaim the gospel of salvation, to administer the sacraments of the new covenant, to order the life of the Church, and to offer with all your people spiritual sacrifices acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
The Rev Ivan Tan Meng Cheng (Wesley Methodist Church), the Rev Joshua Loo Chee Keong (Bedok Methodist Church), the Rev Anthony Lee (Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church) and the Rev Chan Siew Chye (Pentecost Methodist Church).
Pictures courtesy of Trinity Annual Conference
[Updated 20 March 2014]