METHODIST students at Trinity Theological College converged on the South Buona Vista campus of the National Community Leadership Training Institute from Jan 18 to 20 in order to “Stay Tuned”.
The annual retreat, which drew 38 ministry and post-graduate students, was called “Stay Tuned”, with emphasis on faithfulness to the Christian leaders’ vocation, ministry and family. Besides quality input from the speakers, the students spent considerable time in personal and group reflections.
Bishop Dr Robert Solomon led the first session on Friday afternoon on the topic “Find us Faithful”. He spoke of being faithful to the One who calls us, “because God is the ultimate judge of our lives, not self or the crowd”.
Referring to the Christian writer, Eugene Peterson, he said that “busy pastors tend to be lazy pastors”, because “just being busy is often a sign of unfaithfulness to the pastor’s true calling”. Pastors, he said, must guard their devotional life.
On Saturday morning the Rev Dr Francis Ngoi, Director of the Oasis Family Life Education Centre, shared on “Faithfulness to our Families”.
With many expectations competing for the Christian leader’s attention, he stated that “faithfulness to our families is God’s preliminary call to all believers”. Married pastors, he said, need to be faithful to their spouses, and their spouses will need to support them. He encouraged the students to begin setting up family altar times, where all members of the family can share their walk with Christ.
On Saturday afternoon the Rev Dr Steve Emery-Wright, youth ministries lecturer at TTC, walked the students through several exercises to discover faithfulness in ministry.
The first exercise involved teams building towers of recycled materials. Following that, each team was given resources and a time limit to put together a Powerpoint slide show of a gospel presentation. By the evening each of the six groups shared their multimedia stories with laughter and appreciation.
STORY AND PICTURE BY GEORGE MARTZEN
The Rev George Martzen is Minister Attached to the Bishop’s Office.
How we should respond to HIV victims
I ATTENDED the Micah Network Conference entitled “Marginalised People – Our Christian Response” at Awana Resort from Oct 1 to 5, 2007. It was an inspiring experience. I had learned a lot from other social-conscious Christians. They are so innovative in their approach as compared to the “business as usual” approach to social service.
The conference started with a moving testimony by a woman named “Rose” who has contracted HIV. Her presence gave a face to the victims of HIV and showed how the Malaysian church accepted her and is helping her and her young daughter. This helps us understand the importance of reaching out to people and their families living with HIV.
Next, the Rev Wong Kim Kong, who was the founding chairman of Malaysian CARE, spoke on the “Call to the Church to respond to the Marginalised”. He literally embodies the message as he is a polio victim and spoke from his wheelchair.
It was also a time of celebration and affirmation as we sang social-conscious and spiritual songs led by award-winning composers and singers like Steve Bevis and Helen Mottee. There were devotions, stories, biblical teachings and a video presentation to help us respond out of brokenness to the vulnerable. We also felt the need for inter-faith dialogue and to look for creative ways to strengthen the church’s prophetic voice.
We were nourished by the various experts on the ministries to marginalised people such as people suffering from HIV, exploited children and the disabled. We also covered issues on social justice, gender equality, etc.
There were times for cross-cultural and mutual sharing when the 300 of us from 30 countries gathered in small groups known as Micah Café. Over tea and coffee, we shared our stories and appreciated the beauty of diversity.
I attended two workshops on “Theological and holistic approach to HIV”. I learned that awareness and education are a good way to start. To combat Aids, we need to educate the community at large. The church must not be too shy to talk about this topic. There is also a close link between poverty and HIV in the developing countries.
Can the church learn to accept those who are living with HIV and have compassion and not condemnation? Can we overcome our fears and welcome them to our churches to help them and pace with them? Can our church receive them into our fellowship as most of them face intense shame, discrimination and stigmatisation in society?
There are social agencies which we can network with to help them. We can visit them at the Catholic Aids Response Effort (CARE) and provide emotional and practical support to them and their families. The church needs a change of attitude towards this pandemic – and it needs to dispel the myths and silence surrounding it.
There was also the expected Cultural Night when countries showcased their talents. This would have been a fearful experience for us, Singaporeans. But thanks to our Malaysian neighbour who “combined” with us, we managed to come up with a performance.
I came away from this conference, challenged in my Christian commitment to promote human dignity, build a hospitable community and to make poverty history.
The Rev Gabriel Liew is Pastor of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.