Founded in 1889, Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church (TACMC) celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. From its simple beginnings as a dispensary in the heart of the living quarters of Chinese migrants, it is today a church where approximately 1,200 people worship every week across two buildings and seven worship services.
On Sundays, there are about 380 worshippers at the Hokkien services, 400 at the Mandarin service, 300 at the English services, and 40 in a new Indonesian service. A further 80 attend a lunchtime worship service on Wednesdays.
The Rev Chua Ooi Suah, TACMC’s Pastor-in-Charge since January 2014, is no stranger to the church. He first began his pastoral ministry in TACMC from 1985-1986. At present, he is most impressed by the ministry amongst the Hokkien-speaking, one that has been a constant in TACMC’s history since her founding. He remarked that when people think of TACMC, its Hokkien ministry comes to mind.
The Rev Chua also sees the church’s emphasis on missions as a great strength, as it dedicates over 10 per cent of its annual budget to missions. Mission efforts are wide-ranging in geography and scope. They include countries in Southeast Asia, Nepal, and China. Be it teaching English, housing less-privileged children, supporting missionaries or providing medical resources, TACMC’s mission efforts have grown over the years.
Another distinctive is the church’s deep appreciation for liturgy. Also noteworthy to the Rev Chua is the sense that TACMC is like a large family, where it is not uncommon to have three generations worshipping together in one service.
Naturally, shepherding TACMC is not without its challenges. The church is ageing at a quicker rate than the projection for Singapore as a whole – more than 50 per cent of the worshippers are over the age of 60 and about 30 senior members pass away annually.
A related challenge is that of encouraging more members to remain engaged in serving in the dialect ministry. Even as Singaporeans become less familiar with Hokkien, there are still many others who are most conversant in it – dialect ministry remains relevant for TACMC to persevere in.
Adding to the complexity of the pastoral team’s daily ministry is the need to remain as one church despite having multiple worship locations, services, and congregations whose members are comfortable in different languages.
Looking ahead, the Rev Chua hopes to continue the good work that TACMC is already engaged in. The church’s vision is no different from our Lord Jesus’ charge to His disciples to make disciples in His Name. As the church continues to testify to God’s love in Singapore as well as overseas, the Rev Chua hopes that more members will be willing to give their resources, be it time, effort or money, to participate in the various ministries, especially those relating to social outreach.
PRAY for Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church * to persevere in ministry to the Hokkien-speaking * to sustain its missions focus * to have members willing to dedicate time, effort and money to ministries, especially social outreach.
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.
Photos courtesy of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church
Mr Koh Tiang Peng is a member of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.