methodist message Vol 116 No 4 • April 2014
“He has risen. He is not here.” Mark 16:6
The Methodist Church in Singapore
ISSN 0129-6868 MCI (P) 199/01/2014
Dr Roland Chia: Soundings Religious Kitsch
Prison Fellowship Singapore Meeting Christ in Prison
Dr John Ng Confronting our Weaknesses
Easter encounters BISHOP’S EASTER MESSAGE
very now and then, I hear the remark that a person has had “an encounter with God”. This is said to account for the noticeable change that has taken place in that person’s life. Often the conversation refers to a person who had been a nominal Christian, a sceptic, or even one who did not believe in God at all. To point to an encounter with God as the cause for change in a person’s life would be an empty claim if not for the message of Easter. Continued on page 3...
Details on pages 2 and 4
May 22 – 25
COMING UP aldersgate.methodist.org.sg
Website goes live on April 4, 2014
May 22 – 25
A Matter of Heart and Life
DISCIPLESHIP in the Wesleyan Tradition
With Special Speaker: The Rev Dr David Lowes Watson
WORLD VISION SINGAPORE
Aldersgate Convention 7.45 pm • Toa Payoh Methodist Church
Thurs, May 22:
30 Hour Famine Camp June 13 – 14, 2014
“Born of the Spirit” Fri, May 23:
“Salvation and Discipleship” Sat, May 24:
Aldersgate Service, with a final lecture by Dr Watson on
“Anointed by the Spirit of the Lord”
Aldersgate Seminar 9 am to 1 pm • Aldersgate Methodist Church
Sat, May 24:
Registration required – http://tinyurl.com/covenantdiscipleshipseminar or contact Mr David Chan: 6773-1964, firstname.lastname@example.org
Aldersgate Praise Festival 7.30 pm • Toa Payoh Methodist Church
Sun, May 25:
A Celebraton of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs
EASTER GREETING methodist message
Design & Production SNAP! Creative Pte Ltd
Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) 60 Barker Road, Singapore 309919 Register by May 18, 2014 $45 per person (after March 31, 2014) Live out the roles you read about or only see on TV – as refugee, disaster relief worker, trafficked child and more – in Singapore’s largest and longestrunning camp. Make your own rules, chart your path, and overcome problems with ingenious, yet practical solutions. And remember, every choice you make has its repercussions: it could lead to a celebration, a simple roadblock or worse, a disaster! This June, join more than 1,000 youths at World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine Camp and Experience More Than Hunger! Sign up now at: www.worldvision.org.sg/1/30hourfamine/ index.html For further enquiries, please contact Ms Sheryl Huang at email@example.com or 6922-0133.
Methodist Message wishes all readers a blessed Easter. “Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!”
The official monthly publication of The Methodist Church in Singapore. Published material does not necessarily reflect the official view of The Methodist Church. All Scripture quoted is based on the New International Version, unless otherwise stated.
Editorial Board Adviser and Publisher Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup, Chairman, Council on Communications
Editor Ms Christina Stanley
Methodist Message • #06-04, 70 Barker Road, Singapore 309936 Tel: 6478-4793 • Fax: 6478-4794 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org MM website: message.methodist.org.sg Church website: www.methodist.org.sg
Assistant Editor Ms Grace Toh Sub-editor Ms Tan-Ngooi Chiu Ai
BISHOP’S EASTER MESSAGE
... continued from page 1
Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2012. He has been a Methodist pastor for 29 years.
This was the experience of Apostle Paul. His life took a radical turn for the better when Jesus met him along the road to Damascus. He knew how important this was when he wrote to the church at Corinth:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve … Last of all, as to one untimely born, he also appeared to me.” 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 (ESV)
It is important to hear the message that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose on the third day. That must always remain a priority, the first thing we communicate at the earliest possible opportunity. Yet the message does not really sink in, and often the motivation to grow does not happen, until there is a personal encounter with the risen Lord. There may be an initial burst of
grateful enthusiasm at the recognition that our sins have been forgiven and we have received eternal life. However, when our hearts burn like the disciples’ following their extended conversation with the risen Lord, then like them we will rise up to spread the word about Him (Luke 24:27-38). This encounter can take place in various ways. An encounter like Paul’s on the Damascus road would be a dramatic experience forever etched in one’s soul. It becomes an essential and frequent reference point in one’s testimony to the power of God, like it was for Paul (Acts 22:4ff, 26:12ff). There are many today who can share similar (though not identical) experiences of being touched by the Holy Spirit in a personal, tangible and spiritual manner. Some can feel it in their body, see visions, or other kinds of experiences that understandably keep them excited about their relationship with God. However, less exciting, but nevertheless of equal if not greater significance, would be to encounter the Lord in the Scriptures. Twice in the above passage, Paul refers to the events as “in accordance with the Scriptures”. The Scriptures not only mention the Lord Jesus Christ; He also said “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63, NKJV). When we read the Scriptures, we are not merely coming face-to-face with printed words. We also meet the One who is Word, and Life (John 1:1-4). Our Lord wants to meet us. He will conjure unexpected ways and places for that to happen. John Wesley did not have a Paul-like encounter. Nor was he even reading the Scriptures. What he heard were words read from Martin Luther’s preface to the book of Romans. Those words warmed his heart in a strange, yet transformative way. He was assured at that moment, and cleared of any doubt that he might have had about his salvation. It would be wonderful if one were to have an encounter like Paul, or even Wesley. The reality for the vast majority of us is that it would be rare, if it happens at all. The regular meet-with-Jesus occasions are within-the-Scriptures type. Honestly, I prefer these times to the Damascus road events, which in any case we cannot orchestrate. So rejoice when such things happen to us. Then let us move daily to meet the risen Lord in the Scriptures. n
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
ALDERSGATE SG 2014
METHODIST MESSAGE (MM) IS HONOURED TO HAVE THE REV DR DAVID LOWES WATSON, OUR SPEAKER AT THIS YEAR’S ALDERSGATE SG 2014 CONVENTION, GIVE US A PREVIEW ON “SALVATION AND DISCIPLESHIP”, THE SECOND OF HIS THREE LECTURES THIS COMING MAY. A PREVIEW OF HIS FIRST LECTURE, “BORN OF THE SPIRIT”, WAS PUBLISHED IN THE MARCH 2014 ISSUE OF MM, WHILE THE MAY ISSUE WILL CARRY THE PREVIEW OF HIS THIRD LECTURE: “ANOINTED BY THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD”.
Dr Watson writes
Salvation and Discipleship:
A privilege and a challenge ...“Come, sinners, to the gospel feast, let every soul be Jesus’ guest. Ye need not one be left behind, for God hath bidden all mankind.”
The Rev Dr David Lowes Watson is an eminent Wesleyan scholar, author and Methodist minister of the Tennessee Conference, The United Methodist Church.
e need to make a clear distinction between salvation and discipleship, since both words are often misunderstood in the mission and ministry of the church. This becomes apparent if we read Luke 14:25-33 where Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship, and then compare these verses with how we welcome people into church membership. If we were to make these words of Jesus the condition of church membership, not only would we have very few people joining the church, we would also lose most of the members we already have. So instead we tend to blend salvation and discipleship, resulting in a misuse of both words. To resolve the confusion we simply need to note that the ministry of Jesus had two tracks: for the people, and for his disciples. First, the people – who came to Jesus in their hundreds and sometimes thousands. He welcomed them, taught them, fed them, healed them, played with their children, and loved them. All of this was offered unconditionally, grace upon grace. By
contrast, his call to discipleship was blunt, even harsh, and it always carried the word “if ”. IF you want to be my disciple, then count the cost, take up the cross, and follow me. We need to make this distinction much more clearly in our congregations. The message of salvation in and through Jesus Christ is offered to everyone. As Charles Wesley put it: “Come, sinners, to the gospel feast, let every soul be Jesus’ guest. Ye need not one be left behind, for God hath bidden all mankind.” But Jesus did not call everyone to be his disciple, and when he did he made clear that accepting the call would be costly. There were those who were not ready to count the cost, and Jesus did not condemn them for not being ready; nor should we. We must welcome everyone and offer them the grace of Christ, which most congregations do very well, but we should not expect all of our members to be ready for discipleship. This clarification could greatly strengthen pastoral leadership in the church, both clergy and laity. It affirms the call to costly discipleship, but does not devalue church membership which is also a means of grace, just as it was for the people who came to him two thousand years ago to be fed and taught and healed and loved. n
SAYS THE TRAC PRESIDENT
Not just the icing on the cake The Rev Dr Gordon Wong was elected President of Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) in 2012 for the quadrennium. He has been a Methodist pastor for 28 years, and was a lecturer at Trinity Theological College since 1995. This article was based on the sermon he preached at the first service of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity held on Jan 21, 2014.
any of us tend to think of Christian unity like my wife thinks of icing. It’s nice and sweet, and it’s a luxury, therefore not really essential. It might even be detrimental (too much sugar!) to the real work of evangelisation and preaching the gospel to everyone. If our Christian churches are united in love, that is a bonus – the icing on the cake. But if we can’t have the icing, it’s not something to worry about. As long as we get the cake baked, we need not have the icing. Just spread the Gospel to everyone. But if Christian unity is the icing, then Jesus has a sweet tooth. Listen to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-21. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Four times in John 17, Jesus prays “that (his disciples) may be one”, perfectly united – the idea of being united was so important in Jesus’ mind that he repeated this four times. And in two of these four verses, Jesus makes unity the first step in helping the world believe that Jesus is the Son of God the Father. Once upon a time, a mother had two brilliant sons. Both were lawyers. The first became the founding partner of a large and successful law firm. The second rose to the position of Attorney-General. Both sons had beautiful families and everyone who knew them admired and praised them for the success they had made of their lives. Both of them also provided generously for their mother, making sure she had more than enough to live comfortably. But their mother was not happy. Oh, of course she loved her sons and was happy that they had done so well for themselves and their own families. Yet each day, she cries and grieves and prays for them. Why? Because her two sons do not get along with each other. Their childhood competitiveness had developed into a fierce rivalry as they grew older. While there were no longer any heated arguments, this rivalry has settled in to a permanent coolness and quiet separation, without unity or love. They are family by blood, and other than a reunion dinner once a year, there was no real conversation or warmth. The relationship between the brothers was now one of toleration rather than love, one of distance rather than unity. The fact that their mother was a much sought-after speaker and author of three bestselling books on “How to nurture loving families” was an irony, as her two sons proudly promoted these books to their friends and clients. This was particularly sad for their mother. She feels somewhat embarrassed that there is so little love within her own family. Her desire is for her sons and her grandchildren to love one another. This is what she has taught and written about her whole life. Her two sons respond, in agreement for a change. “Don’t be sad, Mum. What’s more important is that we each love you. We’re sorry we can’t really love or relate with each other as brothers, or that our children don’t relate with their cousins. But that’s not so really so important, is it? That’s only icing on the cake, and the cake is what really counts.” And so the two brothers and their children – and probably their grandchildren – will remain distant and, at best, tolerant of each other rather than united in love. And as for Mother? Mother remains sad. She always loved the icing. n
But if Christian unity is the icing, then Jesus has a sweet tooth.
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
YOU & YOUR FAMILY
Empowerment: A magic wand? Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
I am reminded of a short chorus that goes: “There’s a river of life flowing out from me; makes the lame to walk and the blind to see; opens prison doors and sets the captives free!”
cannot forget the scene. There we were, about a dozen social workers and counsellors mulling over how to assist a family with a variety of needs. The family, like many “disadvantaged multi-problem families”, had a single parent who had to raise her three young children. She had to contend with her own ill health, special needs for one of her children, and little support from her family or friends. On top of these, she had mounting debts and arrears, and had to deal constantly with threats of eviction and disruption to her utilities. For the last few years, they had approached various helping agencies. Now, the family had run out of options and if this mother could not house and care for her children adequately, they might be removed from her and placed in foster care. The sense of helplessness was felt by all, family and helpers alike. As we toiled over how to help this family, I made an observation: “How can we expect our clients to be empowered when we ourselves feel disempowered? If twelve professional helpers cannot render assistance to
this family, it’s a tall order to expect them to help themselves and be selfresilient.” Empowerment is a very trendy concept these days. We all want to be empowered and see it as a way of exercising more control over our lives. Some even perceive that it is our right to be empowered to make decisions over how we live and work. Empowerment taken to an extreme can be another expression of our selfabsorbed nature. For those of us who are involved in helping others, we may be tempted to see empowerment akin to waving a magic wand – and miraculously all problems vanish. But empowerment involves exercising personal responsibility as well. Paying the debts of a gambling addict does not stop this problem from recurring. No one can empower you unless you want to be empowered – unless you want to behave responsibly. Beyond personal mastery, the ability to choose and the responsibility to act, empowerment is also about social justice. For those who do not have the ability or the opportunity to choose, empowerment is about giving them access to resources and opportunity, and setting them free. I am reminded of a short chorus that goes: “There’s a river of life flowing out from me; makes the lame to walk and the blind to see; opens prison doors and sets the captives free!” This chorus encapsulates part of the Gospel message and the work of social justice. Many people are restricted by their disabilities, be they physical, emotional or mental. Some are blinded by their fears. Others are captives to lives of poverty and imprisoned by societal prejudices. We are called to set them free, just as Jesus has freed us from the penalty of our sins.
But some of us may ask: How can we empower others when we too feel powerless? I am reminded of the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (KJV) To be empowered, we must first allow His Spirit to fill us, to take full control of our lives. It was this filling of His Spirit during Pentecost that turned the fearful disciples to fearless disciples; from hiding behind locked doors to openly proclaiming their faith. Only with His filling can we then be propelled by His love for the downtrodden and the disadvantaged. Only through His indwelling can our hearts be enlarged to encompass the needs of others. Finally, to do good well, we must also apply wisely the sound mind He gives to us. God does not want us to simply be do-gooders. He wants us to do good well. If we can do this, the river of life that the chorus speaks of will flow out of us and out of those whom we touch. This enlivening experience is what the Lord states as His will for us to live life abundantly (John 10:10). This enlivening experience is another expression of being empowered and of empowering others. n
In But Not Of (IBNO) 2014 Conference
Discipleship in a ‘topsy turvy’ world In a world where good is called “evil” and evil is called “good” (Isaiah 5:20), we need a group of disciples who will turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6) Valerie Ching is a 21-year-old student who worships at Church of Singapore (Marine Parade).
s a student, I always had burning questions about human life and the postmodernist philosophy and culture, which often seem to stand directly opposed to the Biblical worldview. Thus, I was drawn to the In But Not Of (IBNO) 2014 Conference, which promised to address these difficult issues which many Christians youths like myself grapple with today. The conference, held on February 22 at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church, was put together by a group of university undergraduates and recent graduates who are passionate about being salt and light in our society. Its aim was to examine the meaning of Christian discipleship in postmodern 21st-century Singapore. I especially remember Professor Thio Li-ann’s talk on the call to discipleship. Dismissing notions of having a perfect and peaceful life on earth, Prof Thio emphatically spoke about true disciples setting themselves apart in purity, bearing the reproach of Christ on earth (Heb 13:12-13) and fellowshipping in His suffering (Phil 3:10). Will we belong to those who were called, chosen and faithful at the end? Those verses struck a chord in me, having run away many times in the face of danger when I heard God’s prompting for his disciples to stand in the gap (Eze 22:30). A Christian counsellor, Leo, shared from his experiences in dealing with common struggles faced by youths today, drawing also from scientific evidence such as how pornography affects the brain, increasing the addiction each time one succumbs to watching it. When Leo challenged us to renounce our past addictions and hurts, to renew and reclaim God’s standards of purity, many youths stepped forth and cried out to the Lord. I also saw others gathering in their own groups to pray for each other instead of heading for the free lunch outside. Truly, I felt the
presence of God manifest in the place! Chains were broken and wounds were healed. Hallelujah! Mr Jason Wong, Chairman of Focus on the Family and the man behind the Dads for Life movement and the Yellow Ribbon Project, spoke about fatherlessness in our present generation. His sharing centred on Malachi 4:6, that God would “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (NKJV). From his experience working with convicts, ex-convicts and families, he realised that the deeper roots of abuse, drugs, pornography and sexual brokenness stemmed from fatherlessness. It is sobering to know that generations of youth (even in church) are still left confused, their hearts crying out for affirmation and acceptance. Yet, we have the comforting assurance of the glorious liberty that comes from being a child of God. Some young adult Christians also shared their testimonies. They gave full and frank accounts of their intense and often long-drawn struggles with sin, the desire to be in AND of the world, and sexual lusts and eating disorders, which many in the audience could identify with. We heard of the amazing work that God had done in their lives, and could see the restorative work and healing hand of Christ through them. I also remember the heartwrenching, yet truly amazing testimony of Mr Vaithilingam Mohan, a volunteer at a community service organisation, who shared about his personal encounter with the Lord as
he made the challenging journey out of sexual brokenness. One thing I took away from his sharing was that we, as the Body of Christ, can minister to the sexually broken with grace and compassion, but without compromising on the truth, by helping them rebuild their personhood and identity in Christ – something I realised all of us must seek to do for ourselves. As the conference came to a close, we faced the sobering truth that to fulfil our call and destiny, we must not merely be casual converts but committed disciples of Christ. We have to follow the lead of the early disciples, who “turned the world upside down” with their message of the gospel and through demonstration of signs and wonders through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, bringing healing and setting the captives free. n
Will you answer the call to carry the cross in the 21st century? CHECK OUT u www.facebook.com/ InButNotOfSG
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
Story of MMS now told in Blessed to be a blessing Christina Stanley is the Editor of Methodist Message and has been a member of Wesley Methodist Church since 1987. This article was written with input from Juliette Arulrajah and KC Yuen.
BUY u Blessed to be a Blessing from the Methodist Missions Society at $10 a copy. For more info, contact MMS at email@example.com
he Methodist Church in Singapore has had a long history of missions and is itself the product of missions. It has received abundant blessings, and for close to 130 years, has forged a rich spiritual, educational and social heritage. It was on the foundations of this very heritage that the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) was established in 1991, led by the Rev Dr Clarence Lim. The story of how it developed as the first home-grown denominationbased sending mission organisation in Singapore and its integral role in Singapore’s calling as the Antioch of Asia is now told in a new book, Blessed to be a Blessing. The book is authored by Dr Robbie Goh, a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore and a member of Cairnhill Methodist Church. Dr Goh said writing the book was a “labour of love” and was important to him in human terms. It was something special since he loved doing missions and it took him out of his comfort zone. He paid tribute to Juliette Arulrajah who “did a lot of work” in helping him to complete his latest book. In the book, Dr Goh wrote on page 28: “To see what Antioch might mean to some of the evangelical churches in Singapore, let us look at a 2008 article for an evangelical newsletter, where Edward Pousson points to Singapore’s demographic qualifications as Antioch: a link between East and West, a multi-racial, multi-cultural urban centre, a thriving, growing, missionary-sending church.” Indeed, the book charts the journey of MMS through the years as it went about its main business – that of spreading the Gospel in countries across Asia: from Thailand to Indonesia, to Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Laos and East Asia. Much of this business was about strengthening horizontal and vertical connections, so that the “business”
belonged properly to the entire community of believers, all participating in various roles. The MMS has approached each of the different mission fields strategically, in order to deliver relevant benefits to each respective community. Far from taking a cookie-cutter approach, MMS sensitively customised the message of the Gospel with considerable social investment, finances, expertise and manpower while leveraging on Singapore’s resource deployment, professional expertise and the benefit of Asian cultural insights in relatively unreached areas. Blessed to be a Blessing was launched at an Appreciation Tea which MMS hosted for its volunteers on February 15, 2014. It was an apt occasion as MMS honoured more than 80 volunteers who have served in various capacities and have contributed much to what MMS is today – a catalyst for life-transforming change through the Gospel.
“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God.” In his meditation, Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup reminded all present: “This is a good time to check our motivation as volunteers, lest we slip into an entitlement mode.” Taking from the exhortation in Romans 12:1-8, he added: “We need to examine ourselves, whether our motivation has changed over time. Our attitudes may change and may no longer be what it was before.” A timely reminder, and well encapsulated in the slogan put up as part of the Appreciation Tea: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God.” n Book cover courtesy of the Methodist Missions Society
The social worker who walked in their shoes By the Communications team at Methodist Welfare Services.
s Cindy Ng is a social worker who knows first-hand what it feels like to be poor. Now the Assistant Director of Covenant Family Service Centre (FSC), Cindy remembers that at one point, her children almost qualified for the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which doles out $55 to $120 for school-going children from households with income of less than $450 per capita. These days, she is focused on fighting poverty with her clients, with whom she has a special affinity. “If God were to put me in my clients’ shoes, given their lack of resources and circumstances, I might have made the same decisions they made and gone through the same pain and helplessness. It would be too simplistic to blame the poor for being poor,” she said. “Issues of social injustice always had a huge impact on me. I have also always been interested in human behaviour. That led me to be heavily involved in volunteer work from the beginning. I think it’s the natural path for me to take (to become a social worker),” she added. Her own brush with poverty has fuelled her passion to advocate for those in need. In her work at Covenant FSC, Cindy developed a scheme – the Family Development Programme (FDP) – that has helped her clients get out of the red.
“They feel empowered now to take charge of their family financial situation and they become more committed and confident,”
The seeds of the scheme were planted when she was pursuing her Master of Social Work during a two-year hiatus to take care of her two young children. While researching on the United States’ Individual Development Account, which helps the poor build up savings, she thought, “If dollar-for-dollar matching can be done for savings, why not for debt payments?” Upon returning to Covenant FSC after completing her Masters, she developed the FDP to match every dollar that the client earns to clear his or her arrears, not including the current month’s bills, coupled with credit counselling workshops. For example, a client had arrears of $500 with Singapore Power and the current month’s bill was $70. If he paid $80 to Singapore Power, $10 would go into clearing the arrears. The FDP would provide a matching subsidy of $10 to help the client further whittle down his debt. The FDP ultimately aims to help clients reduce their debts and build up sufficient savings to ride out some of the rougher storms they may face such as loss of income or unexpected illnesses. Six clients were chosen for the pilot run of the FDP and after just eight months, the programme has seen promising results. All six clients made progress in reducing their arrears, mainly with Singapore Power and the Town Council, while two of them cleared their debts completely. While encouraged by the improvement in the financial state of her clients, Cindy was more thrilled at the psychological impact of the programme. “They feel empowered now to take charge of their family financial situation and they become more committed and confident,” she said. The nascent success of the FDP has led to its extension to other Methodist Welfare Services’ FSCs, namely Daybreak FSC and Tampines FSC. Cindy is currently working on improving the programme by monitoring and studying the progress of the clients to find out which components make the programme tick. She notes: “Taking charge of debt is the beginning of recovery. It motivates them to take care of the rest of their lives.” n
DONATE u towards the Family Development Programme to help families in need break out of debt. Email Methodist Welfare Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Ms Bernadette Sandra at 6478-4709. Ms Cindy Ng (right) began the Family Development Programme out of her passion to help her clients clear their debts and pull themselves out of poverty, which she has personally experienced.
Picture courtesy of Methodist Welfare Services METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
A mosaic of disciples We continue our series of profiling local churches from our three Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church in Singapore. As we come to have a better understanding of each other’s history and ministry, there may be opportunity to forge cross-church partnerships and collaborations. The Rev Bernard Chao is Pastor-in-Charge of Holland Village Methodist Church.
t Holland Village Methodist Church (HVMC), we’ve decided to focus on becoming a church of disciples who are disciplers. We want to be a mosaic of disciples – a faith community that calls persons of all walks of life to believe and follow Jesus seriously, where loving God and loving others matter. HVMC is almost two years old – we became the 45th Local Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore on July 8, 2012, with 132 founding members. HVMC had begun as a preaching point in 2007 planted by the joint efforts of Barker Road Methodist Church and AngloChinese School (International). While relatively young, we have already established growing and vibrant work through our Outreach and Social Concerns Ministry, Filipino Ministry, Children’s Ministry, a strong Women’s Society of Christian Service chapter, and a growing ministry to the students, parents and teachers of ACS (International) which is our primary mission field. Sunday attendance has grown about 35 per cent since we first started.
We see our church as a mosaic of people drawn from different situations and experiences to a shared faith and purpose centered on the Lord Jesus. That is why our logo is formed by a mosaic of different shapes, and our church magazine is called MOSAIC. Every mosaic reflects the design and intention of its creator. The way we fit together – how we journey together in unity of heart and mind – reflects God’s design. Because this is so important, at HVMC we have identified five areas of activity that should exist in the life of every disciple who desires to live in obedience and love. A ccountability for discipleship – taking sin and faithful living seriously R everence for God – worshipping God with both praise and the witness of our lives I ntegration of God’s Word – where the Bible infuses and shapes our attitudes and actions S haring of life – being involved with each others’ lives, leading to real family intimacy E ncouragement of service – doing good works in the church, community and marketplace Together, these activities form the acronym ARISE, reflecting our hope that Isaiah 60:1 will be both our experience and witness, as a church that reflects the glory of God.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”
HVMC actively expresses love through events such as last year’s Christmas Outreach to rental blocks in the area – inviting neighbours to a lunch with performances, a “100% discount” pasar malam and giving out vouchers for groceries.
Just like no mosaic is comprised of only one piece, but a pattern of myriad pieces, being a disciple means being part of the body of Christ – the church. For us to ARISE, we need meaningful relationships within our faith community. At HVMC, we want to encourage flexibility and variety in our small groups. We recognise that the church draws people into community at different stages of their faith journey and in different seasons of life. We can have small groups of three, five or fifteen persons. We can have groups composed of a family or families, youth, or young adults. We can have women’s or men’s groups. There is no compulsory form, just a common commitment to nurture disciples into disciplers for whom loving God and loving others matter, and to be actively working towards the disciple’s five areas of activities. Because of the Great Commission, every group should be ready to welcome and care for new persons. n
Holland Village Methodist Church (Trinity Annual Conference) 61 Jalan Hitam Manis, S(278475) Sunday service: 10.30 am (English) Contact: 6476-7795 or visit www.hvmc.sg
PRAY u with Holland Village Methodist Church, and encourage us to follow Jesus seriously.
Pictures courtesy of Holland Village Methodist Church
SAYSSoundings THE PRESIDENT
Religious KITSCH This month, we begin a series of essays called “Soundings” that, like the waves of a sonogram, explore issues in society, culture and the church in light of the Gospel and Christian understanding.
Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College. He worships at the Fairfield Preaching Point in Woodlands.
n his insightful book entitled Contending for the Faith, Ralph Wood, Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University, describes a sweatshirt on sale at an annual Christian Book Fair designed by a Christian T-Shirt company called Living Epistle. Labelled “The Lord’s Gym”, it depicts Jesus Christ as a muscle-bound body-builder. He presses himself on a pile of rocks, with a huge cross on his back and a caption that reads “The Sins of the World”. Beneath him is another caption that challenges anyone to “Bench Press This!” On the other side of the sweatshirt is a picture of Jesus’ nailed-pierced palm and a caption with the words: “His Pain, Your Gain”. Wood describes other interesting pieces of paraphernalia like a bumper sticker that declares “Real Men Love Jesus” and a soccer ball keychain with the slogan “Jesus Is My Goal”. For many years, theologians have noted with alarm what may be described as the kitschification of Christianity – the barbaric debasement of the Christian faith by pop culture. Webster’s dictionary has a rather pedestrian definition of kitsch as “shoddy or cheap artistic or literary material” that fails to bring out its corrosive nature. The word “kitsch” is probably derived from a German word coined in the 19th century which means “simulation”. Kitsch is therefore a crass imitation of the good and the beautiful. It is a substitute pretending to be the real thing. But kitsch is not just an illusion of the original – it is its perversion.
With reference to religion, especially the Christian faith, the insidiousness of kitsch – its ability to corrupt – should never be underestimated. Religious kitsch is the disease of faith that reduces Christianity into “Kiddyianity”, a sugary stereotype. It is the profanation of Christianity’s highest values. Boorish and superficial, kitsch is unable to cope with the complexities of reality – its paradoxes, contradictions and ironies. It thus simplifies our varied experiences by reducing them to stereotypes, and in the process it trivialises reality itself. In the same way, kitsch is incapable of grappling with the vicissitudes (changes of circumstance) and struggles of life. It glosses over that which is part and parcel of human life – suffering, pain, and betrayal – and presents a sentimentalised and manicured version. Milan Kundera writes provocatively in his celebrated book, The Unbearable Likeness of Being: “[K]itsch is the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and figurative senses of the word; kitsch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence.” Kitsch has manufactured a souvenir faith that is pleasant, undemanding and very marketable. More importantly, kitsch reduces God to a docile and domesticated deity, emptied of his mystery, wonder and terror. In his remarkable book on beauty, Roger Scruton describes how the cancer of kitsch has caused the widespread degradation and desecration of art. Religious kitsch has done the same damage to our religious imagination by reducing the splendour, beauty and glory of God to sentimental jargon. In the same way, religious kitsch could not deal with the brutal barbarity of the cross, its bloodiness, gore and violence – its sheer ugliness. By replacing the beautiful with the cute, kitsch is simply unable to discern the strange beauty of God revealed in the ugliness of the cross – the beauty of his sacrificial love. Thus, this souvenir religion resorts to what it does best: it kitschifies the cross. The blood-splattered cross of Calvary is willy-nilly transformed into a piece of sparkling costume jewellery or a decorative kitchen plaque. In its inability to appreciate divine beauty, kitsch has vulgarised the cross and perverts its profound meaning. It would be a mistake to think that religious kitsch is associated only with the items like T-Shirts and key chains found in our Christian bookshops. Kitsch can infect every aspect of the life of the Church – its spirituality, worship, music, theology and preaching. Kitsch is religious junk food that dulls the spiritual appetite. Kitsch obfuscates the sacramental nature of reality by sugar-coating the true essence of things. Souvenir religion can cause cataracts to develop in the eyes of its adherents so that they can no longer perceive the presence, beauty and majesty of God in the world. Make no mistake: kitsch is an enemy of the Christian faith. n
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
PRISON FELLOWSHIP SINGAPORE
Meeting Christ in prison
Christine Tan was appointed Executive Director of Prison Fellowship Singapore in July 2013. A certified counsellor, Christine had volunteered with PFS before her appointment. Prior to this, she worked in different corporate communications roles in the private sector. She worships at St. George’s Church.
ention “prison ministry” and often the first thing that comes to mind would be: Why do I want to help people who have committed a crime when there are so many others that I can help such as the sick and the handicapped? So, why Prison Ministry? Elder Dr Lee Soo Ann of Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church had this to say: “While some of us go to church in our Sunday best, often to be seen, for prisoners, going to chapel on Sundays for Bible study or chapel worship is for an audience of one – God. “Going into prison as a volunteer with Prison Fellowship Singapore (PFS) to minister to the prisoners, I had to be bodysearched, and could not carry my phone, wallet or even my car keys. Having experienced prison visitations over the last three years, stripped of the material things we carry with us, I realised that I was in fact the one ‘in prison’, the ‘prison’ tied to the security of our cars, homes, comforts, families and what others think of us. “Within the prison walls, I sensed a greater ‘freedom’ to study and share God’s Word, and it is my prayer that without the distractions of the ‘free world’, God’s love will truly take root in those whom the PFS ministers to.” Ms Christine Wong, a volunteer from Christ Methodist Church, shared: “God called me into prison ministry in an unexpected encounter in April 2010 and shortly after, He showed me a vision during church camp. My father was an ex-offender and I felt led to help the least and the marginalised. God’s revelation through the late Rev Khoo Siaw Hua who faithfully witnessed to my father during those times and His love fills my life, and gives me the ability to reach out and continue to serve in prison ministry today.” Indeed, just like Dr Lee and Ms Wong, volunteers and churches who partner with PFS believe, as in Matthew 25, that it is in prison that they meet Christ. Are you ready to do the same?
Trophies of Grace Just as volunteers are blessed, so are the prisoners and their families. Forty-seven-year-old Jensen Lee is no stranger to life behind bars; he was imprisoned ten times between 1987 and 2010 for drug-related offences. It was not until the tragic suicide of his mother that the repeat offender finally found the strength with PFS’s Christian Intensive Religious Counselling Programme (CIRCP) to make a clean break from his dark past. It has been three years since Jensen left prison. Through PFS, he connected with a local church, took part in weekly aftercare fellowship sessions and became involved in ministering to exoffenders. In early 2013, Jensen responded to a call to fulltime ministry with PFS and now makes weekly visits into the prisons. Mr Sin Peng Chua accepted Christ during his last incarceration in 2005. He suffered a stroke while in prison, but today he can walk and do things by himself. He’s thankful that God healed him and restored his hope to live a normal life. He continues to attend PFS’s after-care support group and events. In December 1996 during the Christmas season, Mr Daniel Lee was confined to his single cell and planned to take his life. At that moment, he heard volunteer Christmas carollers singing “Amazing Grace”. He was touched and cried out to God for help. The love of God enfolded him and he began to feel a new sense of longing and hope. Daniel will be graduating from Trinity Theological College this year and is a volunteer at Tanah Merah Prison. PFS’s involvement in prison ministry has evolved in the past 60 years and The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) has played a significant part in this. When the Rev Khoo Siaw Hua, a Methodist pastor, became the first Prison Chaplain in 1953 (1953-1985), there was no “official” prison ministry. It only became official with the birth of
“Within the prison walls, I sensed a greater ‘freedom’ to study and share God’s Word, and it is my prayer that without the distractions of the ‘free world’, God’s love will truly take root in those whom the PFS ministers to.” Rehabilitation Life Limited (RL) in 1974, with one of its founding members being PFS’s current Chairman, Dr William Wan. RL was renamed Prison Fellowship Singapore in 1985 when it became part of Prison Fellowship International, which was founded by Mr Chuck Colson. The Rev Khoo was succeeded by his son the Rev Henry Khoo (1968-2006) and subsequently by the Rev Chiu Ming Li from Barker Road Methodist Church, who then took on the role of Senior Prison Chaplain in 2006 (20062011), likewise seconded from the MCS. Today, aside from the halfway houses, PFS is the largest of three Christian organisations that provide in-care programmes. On a weekly basis, about 1,200 inmates across the prisons attend our programmes. PFS remains deeply grateful for the commitment of its 400 volunteers, many of whom represent more than 20 Methodist churches, serving in PFS’s In-Care, After-Care and Family Care ministries. In-Care – Involves participating in chapel services, conducting Bible classes and one-to-one counselling in the prisons. After-Care – Volunteers involved in after-care befriend ex-offenders and journey with them through the men’s and ladies’ support group. They lead Bible classes, teach English and computer classes, organise outings and celebrations, and offer emotional support through pastoral counselling. Family Care – Here, volunteers reach out to spouses, parents and children of inmates. Children of inmates are also supported
through educational bursaries that were set up by donors to meet the academic needs of children and youths. Angel Tree Project – An annual programme in which churches and volunteers raise funds and deliver food hampers to families of inmates, with the objective of helping families to reconcile. Volunteers have been equally blessed by the stories of reconciliation that take place. A volunteer fondly recalled: “When we knocked on the door of the family, they told us to leave as they have severed ties with the inmate. However, we told them there was a handwritten letter we wanted to give them. When they read the letter, the parents broke down and said their son had never asked them for forgiveness before.” This was the start of that family’s reconciliation. Last year, a record 1,000 hampers were delivered to 850 families of local inmates. If you have a burden for prison ministry, we invite you to be part of this important ministry, and share our mission of bringing the Gospel and love of Christ into the lives of the last, the least and the lost. n
How you can help Prayer u To do all that we need to effectively, the PFS team, its beneficiaries and volunteers will need your intercessory prayers. Volunteers u We need more volunteers who are willing to befriend families of inmates. This means monthly visits to their homes and establishing a relationship of trust with these families who are often unseen in society. Churches u We seek support from more churches that are willing to welcome ex-offenders as part of the congregation. Funds u We are seeking to raise funds for our annual budget of $900,000 to run our programmes on an annual basis. In addition to our programmes mentioned above, the funds will also go towards the families and children of inmates through practical assistance schemes such as re-skilling, life-coaching, healthcare, transportation and housing needs.
Ways to donate:
u Cheques can be written to “Prison Fellowship Singapore
Limited” u Bank transfers can be made to DBS current account 025-901931-2 For more information, visit our website at pfs.org.sg or call us at 6475-6136.
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
HYMNS & SONGS
An ‘uplifting’ Easter hymn Christ the Lord is Risen Today Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia! Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia! Following our exalted Head, Alleluia! Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens and earth reply, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia! Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia! Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia! Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia! Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!
Judith Mosomos is Acting Director of Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
hrist the Lord is Risen Today” (UMH 302) is a classic hymn that is sung by both the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. It is published in 982 hymnals. The original Latin version of the hymn by an anonymous poet is traced back to the early 14th century. The text was later translated to German, then to English. The hymn highlights familiar Easter themes: Stanza 1 – all creatures rejoice in Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10); Stanza 2 – the work of redemption is complete (Acts 2:24); Stanza 3 – death is vanquished (Hosea 13:14, 1 Cor. 15:20-23); Stanza 4 – we have new life in Christ now (Phil. 3:10-11); and Stanza 5 – we praise the victorious Christ (Phil. 2:10).
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia! King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia! Everlasting life is this, Alleluia! Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia! Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!
It is interesting to note that in three hymnals – The Hymnal 1982 (the Episcopal Church in the United States of America), Lutheran Book of Worship and Breaking Bread (a Catholic guide to the Order of the Mass) – “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” has four stanzas but attributes only the fourth stanza to Charles Wesley. This fourth stanza, however, is not in The United Methodist Hymnal (UMH): Sing we to our God above, Alleluia! Praise eternal as his love, Alleluia! Praise him, all ye heavenly host, Alleluia! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Alleluia! Charles Wesley composed 11 stanzas, six of which are in the UMH. The hymn was first published in 1739 in Hymns and Sacred Poems (a collection by John and Charles Wesley). However, since John Wesley did not include this in his 1780 Collection, the hymn was used only in 1831 in British Methodist hymnals. It was sung to a variety of tunes until 1905 when “hallelujah” was added by later editors to match the present tune. In the 1935 hymnal, “halleluiah” was changed to “alleluia.” The alleluia is sung 24 times in melisma (singing a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession). It lifts us up from the sober, reflective and watchful season of Lent. It is a declaration of an exuberant celebration of Easter. If the ancient practice of omitting the “alleluia” and “Gloria” during Lent is observed, the dramatic movement from the quiet season of Lent to an exuberant season of Easter may be all the more pronounced. The word “today” in the first line of the hymn connects the past to the present. As we sing this song, we join the heavens and those who witnessed this event in proclaiming “Jesus is risen!” n
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
METHODIST MESSAGE, AuGuST 2013
One Body in death and new life
The Rev Bernard Chao, Pastor-in-Charge of Holland Village Methodist Church, drawing an ash cross on the forehead of a congregant at the combined service.
The sign of the cross on the forehead is a reminder of baptism where we are marked as Christ’s.
Picture by Daniel Lie
Grace Toh is the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message and has been a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church for most of her life.
rough wooden cross stood before the congregation. Members lined up quietly, stepping forward to pairs of ministers on either side of the cross, who dipped their thumbs in a mixture of ashes and olive oil, drawing a small cross on each person’s forehead while murmuring: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Repent, and believe the gospel.” This, my first experience of an Ash Wednesday service, was all the more significant as four Methodist churches – Aldersgate Methodist Church, Holland Village Methodist Church, Holy Covenant Methodist Church and Living Waters Methodist Church – came together in this combined service on March 5 at the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent). As Mr Joel Tan from Aldersgate MC later remarked, it was “a reminder that we are one universal church, in it together in preparing ourselves for Lent.” What is Lent, and what part does Ash Wednesday play? Lent, as noted in a commitment form distributed to the congregation, is a time to prepare for Easter – a necessary prelude. “The death and resurrection of Christ are true whether or not I prepare for Easter. However, without my heart and life being ready, I may not experience the depth and power of Christ’s death and resurrection.” Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. The ashes are a reminder of our mortality (Gen 3:19) and the oil a symbol of the Holy Spirit and
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Repent, and believe the gospel.” empowerment in Him. The sign of the cross on the forehead is a reminder of baptism where we are marked as Christ’s. Hence the ash cross points not only to our mortality, but also to our identity as Christ’s people (affecting how we live) and to the Easter resurrection life that will come. The combined service was a drawing factor for many worshippers, with members from other Methodist churches asking to join in the service as well. Aldersgate MC set the ball rolling in 2012 by inviting Holy Covenant MC to join them, followed by Living Waters MC last year and Holland Village MC this year. The Rev Dr Lorna Khoo, Pastor-in-Charge of Aldersgate MC, noted: “It is good for Methodists from the four churches to come together for the Ash Wednesday service. For many, it would be the first time their church is observing it. If they had it in their church, they might find only a small group of people coming for it and they might be discouraged from having it every year. But having a combined service means there will be a bigger community and shared resources.” Mr Allan Lee from Living Waters MC agreed: “The combined Ash Wednesday service provided another avenue where we can be reminded of the larger Christian body, and served as a reminder for us to ‘detach’ from the world and ‘attach’ to Him.” He was referring the sermon by the Rev Dr Khoo, who preached from Mark 10:17-22. She noted that the young man in the passage had asked Jesus what he must do “to inherit eternal life”. Did he sense a barrier endangering his chances or blocking him from inheriting eternal life? In Jewish culture, a son is only disinherited for having a different god. The Rev Dr Khoo postulated that the young man’s love of his “great wealth” could have become a god to him. She exhorted: “Look at your chequebook, your cell phone, your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and your conversations. What do you value most? That is your god or idol.” She noted that what Jesus asked each person to give up was specific to them: Nicodemus was to let go of his accumulated knowledge; Zacchaeus, his accumulated wealth; Paul, his accumulated reputation. “What is it that the Lord is asking you to surrender to Him?” “God is not a killjoy,” emphasised the Rev Dr Khoo. “He gave us gifts, and enjoys seeing us enjoy them. But surrender them to Him, and He will make something even better out of it.” n
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
Confronting our weaknesses Dr John Ng is the President of Meta Consulting, and is well-versed in the art of motivation and management. He is Chair of Eagles Communications’ Board of Governance and the Honorary Chair of the Eagles Mediation and Counseling Centre Board of Governance. A sought-after speaker, John worships at Pentecost Methodist Church.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
aving studied many individuals who have fallen because of particular weakness in their lives, I realise we are all human and weakness matters. Allow me to share two thoughts about weakness. 1. We all have weaknesses It is unfashionable to admit we have weaknesses, especially in our Asian culture. Admitting weakness is to lose face. Even when our failures are revealed, we often deny them and deflect the blame. We all suffer from one or more weaknesses. These could include deep-seated character flaws, personality weakness, competence weakness or over-utilisation of our strengths, or emotional weakness when negativity overwhelms our minds.
2. We are bound to fail I believe that no-one is spared from failure and we will fail sometime, unless we give time and effort to address our weaknesses. We all fail and falter but we need to recover. I would like to share with you lessons I have personally learned about transforming my weakness into strength. This will be a work-in-progress until the day I die. Weakness helps me recognise my humanness One of my areas of expertise is conflict management. I have trained literally thousands of mediators and conflict managers. I have done research on this subject. It is easy for me to advise parties mired in conflict to “stay calm”, “learn to listen” and “see the other person’s perspectives”. At work, people often see me as a professional. At home, I am but an amateur. When personally involved in marital or family conflict, I often lose control, become emotional and react negatively. I don’t manage my own conflicts well. Sometimes, I do it really badly. It is then that I realise that I am only human and need help. At one point, the conflict in my family was so bad that I had to seek professional help and see a psychiatrist. That was an important breakthrough in my life. Weakness helps me accept the gift of limits My weakness helps me appreciate that I have limitations and recognise that I am no superman. In the past, I thought I could do everything. But my weakness makes me recognise that I do have limits and cannot solve every problem. I must leave the role of “saviour of the world” to God. I have learned to actively seek feedback, both good and bad. Part of recognising our limitations must be a willingness to learn and accept bad news and correction from others. This helps us stay humble and keep improving. Weakness helps me laugh at myself A healthy way of handling our weakness is being able to laugh at ourselves. In fact, I believe that unless we can laugh at ourselves, particularly our weaknesses, we are not emotionally healthy. The principle is to take God seriously, not ourselves. This frees us from becoming too obsessed with our needs, idiosyncrasies, pride, or failures. My daughter Meizhi and I are incredibly clumsy. We trip frequently and have accidentally knocked over drinks. People tease us about our ineptness, and we often feel embarrassed, get defensive and sometimes, even become angry with them. We used to beat ourselves up inside over this weakness. The more we tried to be less clumsy, the more we failed and the more people would laugh at us. But now, we have learned to accept this handicap as part of our “givens” in life and to laugh at ourselves. It frees us to be ourselves and we can support each other, as well as keep each other accountable. Continued on page 20...
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
LEADERSHIP INSIGHTS ... continued from page 19
Weakness reminds me of the need for accountability We need communities of accountability to inform us and help us manage our weaknesses as well as companions to support us. I serve in a non-profit organisation, Eagles Communications. The Founder-President is Peter Chao and Executive VicePresident, Michael Tan, who has been my buddy since Primary One. We started working together at 14 and have served with Eagles for 45 years. We joke among ourselves that there is nothing Peter and Michael would not do for me – and there’s nothing I would not do for them. And for 45 years, we have not been doing “absolutely nothing” for each other! Peter is straightforward, candid and razor-sharp in his insights into people. He calls himself “the snake-slayer”. Michael is more thoughtful, slow to anger and less driven to act. He is our “snake-tamer”. Finally, I am more of a peacemaker, less confrontational and more willing to compromise and seek agreement. They call me a “snake-charmer”. We handle conflicts very differently. But we listen carefully and take each other’s advice seriously. We are not afraid to correct one another. In major decisions, we are usually unanimous. If we are not of the same mind, however, we delay making a decision. After a decision is taken, we are in full support of one another. We stand united. One of the secrets of our synergy is our companionship of support and community of accountability. I once made a most critical error in leadership – a younger leader whom I had nurtured turned against me. Michael and Peter were the first to be there to comfort, correct and support me – in that order.
God can be our guide, provider, and ultimate source of strength. For we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
It is through these checks and balances that we appreciate, trust and build up one another. Till today, we complement each other so well – we make up for each other’s weaknesses and enhance each other’s strengths. Weakness keeps us humble In my journey of leadership, I have learned humility. It is one of the hardest lessons to learn and to practise. Succumbing to flattery is one of my major weaknesses. To cultivate humility, I have learned to become more conscious in: • becoming more other-centred • accepting my own limitations and humanness • admitting wrong • learning to listen more, even to younger subordinates • leveraging on the strengths of other team members • managing around my own and others’ weaknesses • using my strengths and networks to help my staff succeed and raise their potential These are behaviors I measure myself against and have asked my team to hold me accountable for. Weakness helps me become more realistic, less judgmental and more forgiving One of the benefits of appreciating my own weakness is to become more realistic about other people. Now I am seldom surprised or grieved by leadership failures. I am more appreciative of leaders’ limitations and humanness, which has made me less judgmental and more tolerant of weaknesses and mistakes. Indeed, weaknesses can become our strengths if we care to acknowledge them, recognise the need to be held accountable and find people to complement what we lack. In all these, God can be our guide, provider, and ultimate source of strength. For we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). With His help, weakness can be transformed into strength! n
Ms Christina Ripp, winner of the Wheelchair Division of the 2010 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Picture by gkuchera/Bigstock.com
PAGE FROM THE PAST
Without doubt, these servants of the Lord are not to be merely mourned, but to be celebrated – their candles, I do think, continue to cast light through the legacy of their lives and service.
O death, where is
1 Corinthians 15:55
Christina Stanley is the Editor of Methodist Message and has been a member of Wesley Methodist Church since 1987.
am truly amazed. I recently had the privilege of stepping back in time. And my guide was the late Bishop Emeritus Theodore R. Doraisamy, or TRD as he was affectionately known (Methodist Message March 2014 page 18), who through his memorial and funeral addresses, introduced me to 43 servants of the Lord in the book he published entitled Candles of the Lord. Among them – the Rev L. A. Samuel, protégé and adopted son of Bishop William Oldham, founder of the Methodist Church in our region; Mrs Mary Dana, prayer stalwart; the Rev M. T. Fang (Fang Ming Teh), inspired by John Sung to give up the secular world for full-time Christian ministry; Mr Andrew Lee, initiator of the Aldersgate movement in the church; the Rev Daniel T. Niles, an advocate of mission and unity; Mr Waldo S. Reinoehl, “Mr Evangelism”; Dr Tan Joo Liang, devout servant of the Lord and husband to the late Professor Nalla Tan; Mr William S. Pakianathan, teacher at Anglo-Chinese School, football coach and advocate for the disadvantaged in Little India; Mrs Harriet Dudley, loving mother, church fund-raiser and president of the Women’s Society of Christian Service; the Rev Dr Paul B. Means, Rhodes Scholar, manager of the Methodist Book Room and editor of the Malaysia Message; Mr Francis Tambyah, “plucked in the flower of youth” at just 21 and so forth. So many stories encapsulated in each of these memorial addresses – yet each an inspiration to us, through the different facets of their lives, in seeking, serving and glorifying the Lord through their gifts and talents. If only TRD was still here for me to have a chat with him. In his preface to Candles of the Lord published by the Methodist Book Room in 1987, TRD’s main incentive in putting together this compilation was titled “Why Remember”. According to TRD, a minister had noted that a funeral service is an
occasion for celebrating “the particular gifts of particular persons”. This minister regretted that at a funeral service he attended, there had not been a single reference to the deceased’s love of music, though four pastors at her service had richly benefitted from her services as an organist. This set TRD thinking about the parable of the talents. He said in his introduction: “There was no one so deprived that he did not possess one particular gift. Jesus chose many disciples and however humble some of them were, they all had differing gifts and graces making a mosaic of service in the Kingdom.” TRD added: “Christian funerals are necessarily witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and the hope given us through scripture, song, message and witness. We are warned not to mourn as people without hope. The resurrection hope should not be reserved for discussion only during Easter and funerals, but should be part and parcel of Christian education and of attitude-building. “The hope we have loses its credibility in the way some people mourn, and whoever is in charge of the funeral can handle this sensitively, sympathetically and even firmly. The door must be kept open by mourners to the entry of the Comforter or Counsellor promised in St John 14:16.” Without doubt, these servants of the Lord are not to be merely mourned, but to be celebrated – their candles, I do think, continue to cast light through the legacy of their lives and service. Copies of Candles of the Lord are available at the Archives & History Library of The Methodist Church in Singapore, for reading and reference. The Library, which has materials dating back to the early years, when Methodism was introduced to Singapore, is located at unit #04-01 of the Methodist Centre at Barker Road. n Picture ©CreationSwap/Ard Huizinga
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
He is risen indeed! Betty Yap was a field worker in Christian Education, Northern Malaya District, in 1969.
I stood that day away from the Cross-silhouette hill Afraid to look, yet aware of the figure so still– He was the one they called Jesus of Nazareth. Once a babe of lowly birth Then a man who walked the earth Teaching the worth of life And love’s win over strife. I stood that morning as women to his tomb did come (He whose memory was now but a grief-whispered name) With their spices, love’s last labour to perform. When hark! the echo’d voice “He is not here! He is risen!” Broke open death’s prison. An empty tomb–a sign to rejoice. I stand today in the dew-dappled dawn Awake from sleep, the night curtains drawn. This sun-rise day we meet And friend to friend I greet “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” And I know anew that a seed Must needs die to bring forth Life. Originally published in the April 1969 issue of Methodist Message. Reprinted in Candles of the Lord, 1987.
L USEFU HT G THOU
Drop your nets and follow Jesus
There are “nets” in our lives that stop us from effectively following Jesus. These “nets” may be found in our Positions, Prestige, Pleasure, Plans, Pain and People. Are you willing to drop these “nets” that can entangle us in following Jesus? ~ Based on a sermon by the Rev Dr Kow Shih Ming, Wesley Methodist Church
April “Joy in the Morning” services
Apr 12 (Saturday), 7 pm
Cairnhill Methodist Church, 16 Winstedt Road
Apr 26 (Saturday), 7 pm
St. George’s Church, 44 Minden Road
Apr 27 (Sunday), 7 pm
Barker Road Methodist Church, 48 Barker Road The Celebration Chorus, an ecumenical community chorus, presents “A service of worship, reverence and celebration” on three evenings in April. They are led by: Conductor – Tom Anderson; Organist – Evelyn Lim; Pianists – Yuko Kamimoto, Christina Tan. Doors open at 6.30 pm and the presentations are free and open to the public, although freewill offerings will be received. Organised by Celebration Chorus. For more info, visit www.celebrationchorus.net
Parenting with Confidence workshop (13-19 years old)
Apr 15, 22, 29 and May 6 (Tuesdays), 7 – 10 pm
Focus on the Family Singapore, 9 Bishan Place, #08-03, Junction 8 Office Tower Parenting is one of the most rewarding journeys in life. Yet in today’s culture, parenting has never been more challenging. Parenting with Confidence is a positive, practical and fun parenting workshop that provides tools and timeless principles for raising children to become independent and responsible adults. This series will inspire parents to see the possibilities and understand the unique opportunities in their teenage children.
Organised by Focus on the Family Singapore. $60 per adult; $90 per couple. Limited places – to register, contact Ms Joy-Anne Tan at 6491-0709 or JoyAnne.Tan@family.org.sg, or visit www.family.org.sg
Now Thank We All Our God Methodist School of Music’s 17th Anniversary
Apr 26 (Saturday), 7.30 pm
Foochow Methodist Church, 90 Race Course Road The Methodist School of Music celebrates their 17th Anniversary this year in a bilingual service. Come join them as they lift their voices to God in thanks! Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon will give the exhortation. All are welcome. Organised by the Methodist School of Music. A buffet dinner is provided at 6 pm; for catering purposes, please register by Apr 15 with Ms Margaret Mok or Ms Maryna Klymenko at 6767-5258 or email@example.com
For more info, visit www.msmusic.edu.sg
METHODIST MESSAGE • APR 2014
An inextricable link: Faith in God and that ‘theology stuff’ Dr Leow Theng Huat is a lecturer of Church History and Theology at Trinity Theological College. He is married to Cheng Ping, and they have three children. The family worships at Wesley Methodist Church.
Let us not draw any more false distinctions between “having faith in God” and “getting involved in the theology stuff ”. The two belong together in a healthy Christian life. May we not put asunder what God has joined together.
nce at a dedication service for some undergraduates who were going on a mission trip, one of the students made a comment that went something like this: “I have faith in God, and that is enough for me. I don’t want to get involved in any of the theology stuff ”. The comment was probably made as one of those officiating at the service was a lecturer in Christian theology, though I must clarify it was not me! This reflects a common way of thinking amongst Christians in Singapore today. The serious study of the Christian faith – as exemplified by the term “theology” – is viewed as unnecessary at best, and at worst, detrimental to one’s Christian life. This view or perspective, however, is fraught with numerous problems, and in this article, I would like to highlight two. The best definition of “theology” I have come across is actually a very simple one. Anselm of Canterbury, a church leader in the 11th century, describes it elegantly as “faith seeking understanding”. With this definition, he was making this point – that when we truly have faith in God, and love Him with all our hearts, we will quite naturally desire to have a better understanding of this God and His ways. This is the case in all human relationships. So the first problem is that choosing not to delve in to theology goes against the way we are wired as human beings. For example, when we develop a deep interest in a person of the opposite sex, we find ourselves compelled to want to discover more about that person: e.g. where he or she lives and what he or she likes to eat. Faith and love always serve to push us to want to understand more of the person we are in love with. The study of theology is simply a response to this imperative. Because of our faith in God and love for God, we work hard at understanding who God is and how He relates to His creation, depending always on what God has graciously revealed of Himself to us. As we understand more, we frequently find our faith and love strengthened. Properly done, therefore, the study of theology allows us to enter a virtuous cycle whereby our faith seeks understanding, and our understanding fortifies our faith. If we do not have the desire to understand the God we claim to have faith in, the nature of that faith we profess must be called into question.
The second problem is our naïve perspective that theology is unnecessary. What the student said appears to give the impression that we have a choice – to embrace theology or not. The truth, however, is that theology is unavoidable. Every Christian, whether we realise it or not, already has a perception of who God is and how He relates to us. Every Christian, in other words, already possesses a theology. In fact, the student who decried the role of theology was actually making a deeply theological statement. He was saying, in effect, that he understands God to relate to us solely in the realm of one’s personal experience, and that this God does not really want us to pursue substantive knowledge about Him. This is a theological position that comes close to that promoted by Rudolf Bultmann, a significant 20th century German theologian. My point, simply, is that Christians cannot escape from holding on to one form of theology or other. Therefore, the real choice facing us is not whether we should get involved in theology or not. It is whether we will have a bad or good theology; whether we will be guided by unexamined assumptions or beliefs which we dare to bring out into the open to test against the ancient faith of the Church. Let us not draw any more false distinctions between “having faith in God” and “getting involved in the theology stuff ”. The two belong together in a healthy Christian life. May we not put asunder what God has joined together. n