The Methodists are often noted for being so methodical—we are well organised and our church programmes reflect the many methods we employ to do God’s work.
However, it must be noted that the “method” in “Methodism” does not have to do with strategies, techniques and programmes as it has to do with the Person of Jesus Christ. In fact, the word “method” comes from two Greek words—meta (after) + hodos (a way). It means “following after a way.” In this regard, it is to be noted that in the Gospels, our Lord described Himself as “the Way” (Jn 14:6). The way in “method” is therefore ultimately a person—Jesus. The heart of authentic spiritual method is therefore a relationship—between Jesus and us. The method in Methodism, therefore, has to do with Jesus Christ our Lord. As John Wesley wrote, a Methodist is “one who lives according to the method laid down in the Bible.” And that method is knowing and walking with Jesus.
Thus the theme of this song is being a people of the way.
The first stanza makes it clear that the way refers to the way of Jesus, of loving and following Him. It goes to the roots of our faith in Jesus. It also mentions the roots of Methodist spirituality as contained in the lives and writings of the Wesley bothers in the 18th century—John and Charles. The sermons of John and the songs of Charles both contain the Methodist doctrine and devotion. We are rooted in that tradition which goes back to the teachings of Scripture. Knowing our roots and spiritual heritage is the basis for our faith, self-understanding, and spiritual lives.
The second stanza goes back to the history of The Methodist Church in Singapore. It began in 1885 when Bishop James Thoburn and the Rev William Oldham arrived with two others in Singapore in February to plant Methodism in our shores. They immediately held evangelistic rallies for two weeks, preaching the Gospel. As a result, those who responded to the preaching were organised to form the first Methodist church in Singapore, which exists today as Wesley Methodist Church, along with 45 other local churches. We continue on this God-given journey.
The third stanza focuses on a vital theme in Methodist spirituality. As we follow Christ, we remember what He taught about the central commandment taught by Scripture. When asked to point out the greatest commandment in Scripture, Jesus said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:37–40).
In The Character of a Methodist, John Wesley defines a Methodist as “one who loves God with all his heart and loves his neighbour as himself.” Wesley spoke of Christian perfection—understood as a perfection in love. In other words, the spiritual methods of Wesley were means to an end, which is loving relationships. This stanza highlights this heart of Wesleyan spirituality that focuses both on personal and social holiness. We are to love God wholeheartedly and join together in Christian service as we reach out to others with God’s love and truth. This is also the theme of the 135th anniversary celebrations of the Methodist Church in Singapore.
While each verse highlights how we are the People of the Way, On the Way, and In the Way of holiness and love, the Refrain refers to the fact that we are also the People of the Flame. The flame of the Holy Spirit has been a Methodist symbol, reflecting the Spirit-filled life that we are to live. The Holy Spirit enables us to recognise our calling as God’s people and to be united in His love as we reach out in mission and evangelism. We are not the only children of God, for in our ecumenical understanding, we recognise other Christian brothers and sisters, and are committed to work with them in God’s mission.
The words of the song total up to 135 syllables, which symbolises that this song has to do with the 135th anniversary of The Methodist Church in Singapore.
The People of the Way
We are the People of the Way,
The way of Jesus Christ our Lord;
We follow Him in all our ways,
As John and Charles did in their day.
We are the People of the Flame;
On us the Lord has placed His claim;
His children called Methodists,
With others we will spread His Name.
We are the people on the Way;
When Thoburn, Oldham came to us
To preach the Good News of Jesus,
And left a spark of Spirit’s fire.
We are the People in the Way,
The way of love for God and man;
We love our God with all our heart;
Together serve and do our part.
Words: Bishop Emeritus Robert Solomon, 2019
Music: Jusuf Kam
Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon was Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore from 2000 to 2012. He wrote this song for MCS 135.
Picture by shutterstock.com