EMMANUEL TAMIL ANNUAL CONFERENCE (ETAC) churches are making good progress in reaching out to the community and seizing new opportunities for ministry even as the conference is grappling with the issue of widening its pool of leadership.
These points were highlighted by the Rev James Nagulan, President of ETAC, in his Presidential Review on Nov 9, the second day of the 37th Session of the conference, held at Tamil Methodist Church.
He said that ETAC churches continued to reach out to the community through social concern ministries and evangelism programmes.
But he reminded the churches to honestly evaluate the effectiveness of the programmes and not conduct them for the sake of organising them.
He was pleased that churches were moving forward with different aspects of ministry work and were seizing new opportunities to reach out to the community.
Conference Boards of Missions, Evangelism and Discipleship & Nurture have done “exceptionally well in raising the level of participation” among the churches, he said, adding that the task force set up to look at intentional disciple-making and new pastoral supply had made some progress.
“We have had two models of training for Bible Study leaders. And Tamil Methodist Church has set up a scholarship fund for theological education to motivate its members to embark on this journey. The task force needs to follow up on this matter.”
The Rev Nagulan also touched on these new opportunities and projects:
• Seletar Tamil Methodist Church began outreach work in the Bedok-Tampines area early last year.
The Rev R. Prabhu and members of the church have committed themselves to this work and have reported rapid progress.
An average of 40 people worship weekly at the Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church, which has graciously opened its doors to ETAC without any financial obligations.
• Ang Mo Kio Tamil Methodist Church has met its target for the Building Redevelopment project.
The church has worked very hard to raise the necessary funds for the project.
It now has the task of moving back to Ang Mo Kio to reach out to the community.
• Jurong Tamil Methodist Church has embarked on a fundraising project for a permanent place of worship at Jurong Christian Church.
Church members are very excited about this new possibility and are contributing generously towards the fund.
This will be a great blessing to the church and the conference.
Turning to the challenges ahead, the Rev Nagulan said the conference must make a concerted effort to develop a road map for the youth to nurture them or risk losing them.
The conference also needs to be involved in more ministries such as the Boys’ Brigade, Methodist Welfare Services and ministries to schools.
Equally important is the need to find ways of integrating new members who have come from abroad into the local church setting.
Said the President: “We praise God for the many new members from overseas and other denominations who have joined us in the churches. They come from many different church traditions and polity.
“It is important to educate them on the Methodist structure and polity so that transition is smooth and effective. Lack of such a proper education has caused misunderstandings within the church and conference recently.
“We need to integrate our new friends into the life of the church so that we can grow into one Methodist church.”
Reminding the conference that “we have a limited pool of clergy but so many opportunities to do God’s work”, he said: “We have potential lay men and women who could serve as lay pastors. If they are so convinced, they would be able to lead these ministries and touch lives for Christ.
“John Wesley regarded the laity with much seriousness. He referred to the laity as: Called people; Gifted people; Trained people; Sent people.
“I think there needs to be recognition of our lay people to their particular calling. They need to be trained and sent as lay ministers.
“Perhaps, we need to reorient our thinking about the use of human resources to meet the needs of an urban church.
“I sincerely hope that in this conference session we will not shy away from facing up to these challenges, but will pray and seek God’s will and direction for the future of the conference.”