By Grace Toh
“IT IS NOT JUST a brick-andmortar building we are consecrating, but hearts of flesh,” declared Bishop Dr Robert Solomon in his sermon at the Consecration Service of 1 Ang Mo Kio Street 21 on Nov 17, 2012.
The venue, which houses Ang Mo Kio Chinese Methodist Church from the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC), Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church from Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) and Ang Mo Kio Tamil Methodist Church from Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC), recently underwent a two-year redevelopment project which is now complete. The redevelopment cost $19 million, raised by the three congregations, and has doubled the building’s capacity.
The service was conducted in three languages – English, Mandarin and Tamil. There were three worship leaders: Mr Lim Biow Chuan leading in English and Mr Anton Moses in Tamil, with Mr George Loh Chee Ping speaking in Mandarin and later interpreting the Bishop’s sermon in the same language. A brief sermon summary in Tamil was provided by the Rev R. Prabhu, President of ETAC.
In the introduction to his sermon, the Bishop appreciated this linguistic diversity as he noted that the Ang Mo Kio church was unique in the local Methodist connection because all three Annual Conferences were represented in this church. It was reminiscent of the Pentecost experience of the early Christians, where people heard the message of God in their own language – something he hoped would also happen in this consecrated building.
He drew from Genesis 26:25 three things that Isaac did when he set up camp in Beersheba, similar to the churches setting up their ministries in the redeveloped building.
Firstly, Isaac called on the name of the Lord. The Bishop said: “It was important for the Patriarchs to know who they were and whose they were, so everywhere they went they called on the name of the Lord.” Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:2 also said that the church is a community of saints who call on the name of the Lord Jesus.
It is important to call on God’s name because when we call on the name of the Lord, we are saved (Romans 10:13). It is also in God’s name that we worship (Matthew 18:20), pray (John 14:13-14), and serve (Acts 9:15-16). The Bishop noted that these corresponded with the names of the three sanctuaries in the Ang Mo Kio church – the House of Prayer on the ground floor, the House of Worship on the second level and the House of Ministry on the third storey.
Secondly, Isaac dug a well. Bishop Dr Solomon pointed out how Isaac dug new wells, synonymous to dealing with new challenges, but also re-opened the wells his father Abraham dug, that had been covered up. This was significant as it showed us the value of looking at our own heritage, where church fathers such as Martin Luther, John Wesley and Charles Wesley read the Scriptures and found “old wells” from which living water came.
However, he warned the congregation not to succumb to traditionalism, which is blindly following tradition without knowing the reasons for it.
Thirdly, Isaac built an altar. The Bishop said: “What is important is not what the altar is made of, but what is on the altar. Isaac knew about altars because his father once put him on one!” Altars, he continued, are not for decoration but for consecration. We cannot advance without sacrifice. He quoted John Henry Jowett, who said: “Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing.”
It is pointless, said the Bishop, to consecrate the building if the people’s hearts are not consecrated. “It is important that we go away not just consecrating the building but consecrating ourselves, to live life on the altar. Then God will do wonderful things, and this church will be salt and light in Ang Mo Kio and beyond.”
Grace Toh is the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message.