The Methodist Church in Singapore has a new Bishop – the Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung. (Read about his election on P1 of MM Oct 2016, and his consecration in P12-13 of this issue.) Bishop Dr Chong reveals his vision for the Methodist Church, and his motivation for ministry, in this interview with Methodist Message.
Methodist Message (MM): What is your vision for The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) in the coming quadrennium? How can we contribute to society?
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung: My vision for the MCS is for all Methodists to be “Together as one in spirit and purpose” – doing all that we do, whether for community or for church, with singleness of heart and mind that is based on our beliefs and our love for God. Together, we will be able to do more, do better and demonstrate God’s love more clearly for all to see.
Key aspects of our ministry are our schools, welfare services and missions. Many of our schools are more than 100 years old, being established very shortly after the first Methodist church was founded. They help build sound values from young, and equip people for improving their quality of life. Many Methodists are active in serving the community. Our welfare services reflect the social principles of Methodism and bring hope and relief to the poor and needy. In missions, we use the same strategy of improving lives through education, ministry and social enterprise.
John Wesley lived out two tenets in his ministry: Firstly, that the Bible’s message was not to be confined within the four walls of the church; and secondly, that the world was his parish. As Methodists, we seek to be an integrated part of the society we are in.
MM: What is one challenge that you foresee for the MCS? How can we face it?
Bishop Dr Chong: Our society is quite open to influences and the Internet allows access to various teachings and philosophies that may pull the Methodist community in different directions.
The MCS was initially organised into three Annual Conferences due to necessity in terms of different languages and culture. This has helped us to grow and achieve much of what we had set out to do. Moving forward, it is time for us to strengthen our growth as one community, looking for more commonalities in resource-sharing, programmes and mutual support. Coming together, we can draw on a larger pool of gifted members, to discern what is aligned to our beliefs and what is not, so that we stand firm on sound theological foundations.
MM: You have been a Methodist pastor for 32 years. How did you get started in ministry, and what keeps you motivated?
Bishop Dr Chong: I was born into a Christian family, and from a very young age I have been actively serving in church and sensed God’s calling. My pastor, Bishop Emeritus Wong Kiam Thau, left a deep impression on me as a role model and I aspired to be like him. The Rev Tan Phek Geok was also a wonderful mentor in whom I sensed a “shepherd’s heart”. She treated me like a son, saw me as part of the next generation of pastors, and demonstrated how meaningful it was to serve as a pastor and what it meant to be faithful and humble.
What keeps me motivated is simply the conviction that it is God’s work which I have been called to do, and the desire to pass on the flame to others.
MM: What are your feelings about stepping into the shoes of your predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Dr Wee Boon Hup?
Bishop Dr Chong: Bishop Emeritus Dr Wee was a very special bishop. He was focused, not easily distracted from what was set out for him to do. He was always well-prepared, whether it was to chair a meeting, preach a sermon or share a devotional message. He has a strong ecumenical spirit, and is well-connected to other churches. Yet, with all the things that occupy him, he is very careful to spend time in personal retreat, to give himself that space and quietness to pray, reflect and realign with God and His purpose. I am inspired by his example, and thankful for having an excellent role model.
Photo by Daniel Lie