EARNEST LAU (March 26, 1929 – March 5, 2011)
WHEN THE CONGREGATION sang the opening hymn, “O For a ousand Tongues to Sing”, at the funeral service of Mr Earnest Lau on March 8, it was a special moment because this was the favourite hymn of the well-loved educator and churchman.
The Kampong Kapor Methodist Church sanctuary was packed with his former students, colleagues, friends and relatives as they turned up to pay their last respects and wanted Mr Lau, who passed away on March 5, to be remembered forever.
To be “Remembered Forever”, based on the Scripture text from Psalm 112:1-9, was the title of Bishop Dr Robert Solomon’s message, in which he described Mr Lau as “one of the most illustrious members of our community” and a “legendary figure fondly remembered by so many”.
The 2 pm service began with the Processional during which the casket, draped in the flags of Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) and the 12th Company of the Boys’ Brigade, was carried in by pallbearers. It was a dignified moment as the congregation sang “Abide With Me”.
Bishop Dr Solomon said that a righteous man will be remembered forever (Ps. 112:6), and went on to expound the life of a righteous man: One who is passionate about God’s call (fears the Lord) and will (finds great delight in His commands); his family is blessed; others are blessed through his generosity; he is known for his integrity; and “his righteousness endures forever” – the very phrase used of God in verse 3 of Psalm 111.
Said the Bishop: “Mr Lau will be remembered for many things. He has served in so many capacities. Besides being a key Methodist educator and a legendary teacher and principal, having helmed ACS and, later in life, St Francis Methodist School, he was also an active churchman, serving at local church and at denominational levels. He was Chairman of his Local Church Executive Committee for many years, and Chairman of the Kampong Kapor Family Service Centre.
“He was also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) since 1993, and Associate Editor of Methodist Message. He played a significant role at key moments in the history of the MCS. He was one of the key laymen in the Restructure Committee involved in the formation of the MCS in the 1970s.
“At one point, in his role as our Archivist, he saved the MCS millions of dollars through his research when we sent him on a special mission to Drew University to dig up key documents.”
It is good to be remembered by others, said the Bishop, but “it is even more important to be remembered by God”.
Earlier, Trinity Annual Conference President Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup led in a prayer for Mr Lau. en came three eulogies.
The first was from Mr Richard Seow, Chairman of the ACS Board of Governors, who described Mr Lau as “a conundrum – so feared and yet so loved, a strict disciplinarian yet so revered, a scholarly and academic man yet so full of worldly wisdom”. Mr Lau was his Senior Assistant at ACS from 1975-76 and Principal from 1977-1978.
Said Mr Seow: “He is the standard for a principal at ACS – the very high standard. He is the very definition of a great principal and headmaster.
“His character was larger than life … The legend lives on in his writings, books, articles, even in social media but especially in what he inspired in each and every one of us.”
Mr Seow disclosed that several people have spoken of scholarships and buildings in his name. Others have mentioned naming a new house in the ACS school house system after him.
“All this might be a bit embarrassing for him, as I believe he never sought attention or reward but chose to live his life as a testament to Christ.
“Perhaps the most eﬀective way to honour him, which would give him the greatest pride and satisfaction, would be to take the lessons learnt from him and apply them to our own lives so that we may touch the lives of others the way that he has touched our lives. ‘To Pass It On’.”
Mr Wong Quek Hin, Chairman of the LCEC of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, said in his eulogy: “I would like to remember and honour him for showing me, by his words and deeds, the true meaning of Christian love and compassion for the poor and disadvantaged. Although he was a man of means, he lived a simple and humble life.” The third eulogy was given by Mr Benny Bong: “During his last few years at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, Mr Lau led a Bible study group called the Shalom Life Group. Among the many lessons he taught us, four stand out in my mind. ese are to live simply, to love generously, to care deeply and to speak kindly.”
The Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, Chairman of the Council on Communications of the MCS and Principal of Trinity Theological College, told Methodist Message that in the course of his pastoral ministry, he had many occasions to meet Mr Lau at Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) events. At Annual Conferences his distinctive comments on thorny issues often brought clarity to the discussions.
He said: “His monthly contribution to Methodist Message was only one of his many voluntary services to the Methodist Church.”
An earnest man, a humble man, aman of integrity
Peter Teo, the Editor of Methodist Message, has worked closely with Earnest Lau for the last 14 years.