ETAC looking at new opportunities
IN THANKING GOD for the privilege of serving Him and His people as President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC), the Rev James Nagulan reiterated the Conference theme for the Quadrennium 2008-2012: “Building a Community of Saints” (Jude 1:20-23) and the theme for 2010: “Established in Holy Faith” (Eph.3: 16-17).
However, with the relatively small size of ETAC, the challenges facing it are perennial, although a number of programmes have been successfully conducted.
Among them, the Festival of Praise drew many participants and has become an annual Conference event for corporate thanksgiving and celebration of God’s love and grace. Revival meetings were well attended, as was a seminar on evangelism. The Board of the Laity organised several quarterly prayer meetings and retreats and camps, thereby bringing local church members in a closer fellowship.
In the area of Missions, short-term trips were organised to Myanmar while ETAC continues to support the Methodist Missions Society.
ETAC has the active support of the WSCS in providing leadership in Bible study. Those who have joined in these groups have gained spiritual growth. The women have also taken the lead in Missions, particularly in their work in India and with the MMS mission fields.
Some areas which are being developed include the introduction of a Youth Director to start Conference Youth Work, although it is hoped that local churches will come together to minister to the youth in a more meaningful way. The two Boards, Discipleship and Nurture and Archives and History, await new leadership.
Opportunities for an enlarged ministry continue to present themselves. For nearly 20 years, many of ETAC’s committed members, some of whom are full-time workers with the Asia Evangelistic Fellowship, have been ministering to the growing migrant church-population with regular worship services and visits to their hostels. New ministries catering to the Telugus, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis are envisaged.
Similarly, the challenge to minister to the international students and expatriate community continues to grow and the New Ministry Initiatives committee was tasked with the responsibility. Initial success in the first three years has been curtailed as the Conference is unable to employ a full-time staff to work among the students and expatriate community.
Yet another challenge is the 4/14 Window – teenagers who have been captivated by the world of media, and fed with messages that even children from strong Christian families may be turned away from the Faith. There is need to begin the ministry among children as young as four and to use new and creative methods to teach them how to retain Christian values and keep the faith in this world.
Moving beyond the local church and nurturing new leaders
IN HIS 40-MINUTE ADDRESS to Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC), President Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup (above) gave thanks for God’s grace in using the wide variety of personalities and gifts to build His church and move it forward.
Among the areas of special interest was the gradual transfer of social concerns from the Annual Conference to local churches which have the resources and experience to do so.
Some examples of these initiatives include the HOPE Fairs as mission beyond the local church by providing laid-off workers assistance in job opportunities, thereby serving the local communities and civic organisations. In fact, to continue developing relationship with the community, local churches may have to acknowledge, encourage and uphold in prayer their members who serve in grassroots community organisations.
Another new development is the concept of the marketplace ministry. The “Methodists in the Marketplace Conference” was TRAC’s way of addressing the imbalance in the lives of working members who spend more waking hours in their workplace than in church, family or even the community, and how they might be equipped to make disciples where they spend their working lives.
Closely related to this was the Rev Dr Wee’s reference to the nurturing of future leaders of the Methodist Church. Nurturing future leaders in the church must be an intentional effort of the present generation of committed leaders, he said.
There is a basic but important assumption, and this is that the present generation of leaders are selfless servants of the Lord Jesus Christ who are willing to submit themselves to one another in leadership teams, seeking to discern and fulfil the agenda that they have collectively discerned to be of God.
“It assumes that we do not have a personal or cliquish agenda competing for it to be fought out in the battlefield of the local church or that we out-manoeuvre all others and make our party interest the priority of the church,” added the Rev Dr Wee. One of the important strategies has been the TRACkers programme that provides young Methodists with an intensive and closely supervised approach to discipleship over a period of three months of learning and ministering together.
Although training does not automatically make leaders, it is an attempt to spot persons who are likely to be disciples who will be servant-leaders in the church and the marketplace.
Similar to lay training has been the Pastors’ Development Programme that is a learning experience between a number of lay persons and senior ministers who share their perspectives from experience and from which new insights are gained.
It is hoped that the first cohort that has finished the first course will be able to apply what they have learnt and thus provide the basis for future training sessions beginning in 2011.
An area of growing importance is the Ministry to Migrants. This ministry has biblical precedents. The Israelites had forefathers who were foreigners, living nomadic lives until God led them to the Promised Land. Hence, they were instructed to give special treatment to foreigners.
“We also have historical precedents, for those of us who are Chinese, Indian and Indonesian heritage,” said the President. “However, a more long-term perspective and strategy need to be applied to such a ministry.”
The Boards of Missions, Witness and Evangelism, and Outreach and Social Concerns are working together with other like-minded churches and agencies in Singapore to see “how we can move forward for the long term”. A conference on this ministry will be held next year.
The Rev Dr Wee said there are “new ways of doing church”, for well-educated and better-off Singaporeans as well as foreigners. The notion that churches need to be fixed in one permanent location may have to be reviewed, while preaching points offer a practical alternative that provides flexibility in various ways.
Churches, too, need not have to meet on Sundays. They could meet on weekdays besides the Friday and Saturday services that are currently available.
World ‘benefits from the life of God’s people’
TRAC PRESIDENT Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup has spoken of the impact of the life that comes from believers and the Church.
In a refreshing approach to delivering his sermon at the Closing Service of the 34th TRAC Session at Bedok Methodist Church on Nov 26, 2009, he began by asking the congregation to sing “Deep and Wide” with him.
His sermon, of the same title as the song, was based on the text from Ezekiel 47: 1-12. He said the point of the passage was not to dwell into the “how” of going deep and wide but the point was found in the question that Ezekiel’s guide asked him, “Have you seen this?”, or paraphrased, “Have you grasped the impact of the water of life?”
How do we measure the depth of our life, he asked. The sign of a person’s or congregation’s genuine spiritual depth is measured by the width or span of his or her transforming and redeeming influence, he said.
The extent of our life affects not just people and their livelihood, but the very source of what their livelihood depends – the fish in the sea, and the fruit from the trees.
Just how wide is this extent? The scripture passage shows the transformation that the water of life brings. The water flows east, and Ezekiel was told to follow it into the desert in that direction. The desert will be transformed, for not only will the river flow through it, but on both banks of the river there will be many trees.
Note also the redemption caused by that water of life. The water flows east into the Dead Sea, so called because it is so filled with salt deposits that nothing living can survive in it. But when the river of life flows into this sea, the waters will be healed and redeemed so that the Dead Sea could be what it was supposed to be – one where fish thrives.
The Rev Dr Wee said that when the people of God are transformed and redeemed, they affect the environment. The created world benefits from the life of God’s people.
At the service, Ms Lee Shuit Kuin was ordained as a Diaconal Minister and later commissioned as a Missionary of the Methodist Missions Society to East Asia.
Ms Loretta Lim Swee Gek and Mr Reuben Ng Lee Keong were ordained as Deacons, and six Deacons were ordained as Elders – the Rev Bernard Chao Wee Chun, the Rev Khoo Kay Huat, the Rev Edmund Koh Leong Swee, the Rev Leslie Lim Kok Seng, the Rev Fred Tan Hee Kok and the Rev Aaron Tay Tian Yeow.
The Rev Tan Cheok Kian was recognised as Missionary Pastor to East Asia.
Homosexuality ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’
TRAC has issued a statement on the practice of homosexuality. On Nov 24, 2009 – the second day of the 34th Session of TRAC – the Rev Dr Gordon Wong, Chairman of the Board of Ministry, read out this statement: “TRAC ministerial session reaffirms the Methodist position that ‘homosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth’ (The Book of Discipline Para 84: 3C) and also that ‘the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching’ (The Book of Discipline Para 535: 1-2). (Leviticus 18: 22; 20: 13; Romans 1: 26-32; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10).”