GC WSCS 11TH SESSION QGM
The Trinity Annual Conference President greeted them as a “mighty throng” (referencing Psalm 68:11, NIV). They minister to persons with visual impairment, at-risk youths, and home-makers re-entering the workforce. Their goal is to add value to the ministry of local churches. Who are they?
I caught an inspiring glimpse of their heart for the Church when I joined the vivacious women of the General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) at their Quadrennial General Meeting (QGM) from 26-28 Nov 2016, held at the Renaissance Hotel in Johor Bahru. Through observing their decisions and having heartfelt exchanges with individuals, I began to understand and better appreciate the unique role played by the WSCS in the ministry of the Church.
Firstly, women are already an integral part of church ministry – the Rev James Nagulan, President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference, noted in his greetings that “women play multiple roles as wives, mothers, church leaders etc.” in addition to their careers.
It is challenging to manage these multiple roles well, and therefore women need to come alongside and support each other. Then-Bishop (now Bishop Emeritus) Dr Wee Boon Hup shared with the delegates his prayer for them to “share the fellowship of sisters across the conference”, that they would find encouragement through exchanging stories of successes and lessons learnt – what men call “war stories”.
Two such “war stories” brought tears to my eyes during the beautifully vulnerable Ministry Night on the second day of the QGM. Mrs Eunice Yeo from Holland Village Methodist Church shared about God’s miraculous provision in the setting up of a WSCS chapter there, and how the process led her to build and treasure friendships not only at the local church level, but also at the Annual Conference and General Conference levels of the WSCS. “I realised,” she said, “that we’re part of the sisterhood, and we’re encouraged by each other… It’s about friendship, how we connect to another woman, how we treat our own sisters.”
“And women need women!” she added. “We had so much fun letting down our hair last night” – referring to the previous day’s Fellowship Night, which saw delegates dressing up in brightly-coloured Indian costumes, having fun with dance moves, and learning to flip pratas (see picture below). “We can’t do that in mixed company; sometimes we just need this. Because we serve together, we become good friends. This is what WSCS can do! I can add value to a WSCS sister, I can show her that she’s loved, so she can love another sister. Don’t think about what it will cost me to reconcile with another sister, to make time for another sister.”
Eunice continued: “We must have the joy of serving so that it will flow out of us; so it will be automatically obvious that we are here to add value to the church, to the sisterhood, to so many thousands out there. We can’t just say ‘WSCS is important’, our ministry needs to be felt.”
It was certainly felt in the life of Mrs Lily Chan, who shared how participating in her church’s WSCS chapter helped mould her, and provided experiences that she could list in her resume when she sought to re-enter the workplace after 18 years as a home-maker. She obtained a part-time position at a Voluntary Welfare Organisation caring for mentally-challenged patients, and through it had the opportunity to minister to the family of a patient who passed away unexpectedly. “WSCS equips us to minister not only locally,” she said, “but also to go out and reach out to others in the church and in the marketplace.”
Ministry to others continues to be a key focus for the GC WSCS. One of the major decisions made at the QGM was to continue partnering the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) in running Residence @ St. George’s (RSG), a hostel for female youth-at-risk, for a further term of three years after the existing Memorandum of Understanding expires on 19 Jan 2017. A fund-raising dinner is being planned for RSG in 2017 when it celebrates its 5th anniversary, and the hostel is sourcing work attachments for residents, as well as suitable alternative premises before its extended lease expires in 2020.
Urged Ms Dorothy Lim, outgoing President of GC WSCS: “Don’t just show your hands [to approve these decisions], show up at RSG also to support them! At the very least, pray for them. The staff will be blessed, the girls will be blessed, and we will be blessed as well.”
The GC WSCS Outreach & Social Concerns Coordinators also put out an appeal for volunteer drivers, to assist with transporting beneficiaries to and from the Gospel Mission to The Blind in Geylang for their weekly fellowship meetings on Saturday mornings. WSCS chapters were also encouraged to contact MWS to run its Poverty Simulation Exercise for their members.
In her President’s Report at the close of her maximum of two terms, Dorothy stressed that the WSCS is a good ministry where women can be trained, be equipped and serve. “Continue to engage not only young ones but also older women,” she said. “Let’s pray that by God’s grace, WSCS will be able to raise women in all Methodist churches that have passion in doing God’s service.”
“Aside from praying, what can we do? Our programmes should be able to build up women to be an asset to the local church, so that WSCS means value-added ministry. WSCS Presidents need to be in dialogue with Annual Conference Presidents and local church pastors. I believe God knows our purpose is to build His church together with His people. GC WSCS will continue to review our programmes, provide training and stay relevant. By the grace of God, we will strive to be faithful to our call, to challenge women to grow.”
Much material for reflection and growth was provided during the QGM by outgoing Bishop Dr Wee, who preached on passages from Ephesians 5 and James 1, in addition to a highly practical teaching session on ‘The Marks of A Spiritual Leader’, and a message on ‘The Essential Ingredient for Christian Leadership’ during the Closing Service. The newly-elected Executive Committee was installed at the Closing Service, led by the new President Dr (Mrs) Teo Li Bee and Vice-Presidents Ms Deviki James and Ms Katherine Foo.
Other major decisions made at the QGM included the adoption of a new GC WSCS Finance Manual, the raising of Conference dues with effect from 1 Aug 2016, and raising the maximum limit of GC WSCS’ investment funds. The GC WSCS also celebrated the 40th year since its 1976 re-constitution with a festive cake.
For me, there was no better symbol of the QGM than the clay vessel resembling a candle-holder which each participant received during the Ministry Night, to decorate with a Bible verse that would direct and bring focus to our lives with regard to the QGM theme, ‘Walk in Righteousness and Truth’ (Eph 5:8-10). It remains a stirring visual reminder for each of us to be vessels of God’s light and truth, in solidarity with our fellow brothers- and sisters-in-Christ, and in united ministry to our community and the world.
Grace Toh –
is the Editor of Methodist Message and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church. She is secretly obsessed with patterns, and her favourite plant has leaves parallel to each other.
TOP PIC CAPTION:
Bishop Emeritus Dr Wee Boon Hup leading in a prayer for Dr (Mrs) Teo Li Bee after her election as GC WSCS President for the new quadrennium.
Photos courtesy of the General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service