“I am very happy to be a Methodist,” the Rev Dr Gordon Wong declared at the opening of his President’s Address at the 43rd Session of the Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) held at Pentecost Methodist Church in Pasir Ris from 19 to 21 November 2018.
“But what is a Methodist?” the Rev Wong continued. He quoted John Wesley, who said: “I preach the plain, old Christianity, renouncing and detesting all other marks of distinction.” The Rev Wong explained that for Wesley, Methodism is but basic Christianity, which is to love others with God’s love. He said, “A Christian cannot become holy by living alone in the desert where there is no one to show love to. We spur each other on to do what is good and holy.”
Secondly, the Rev Wong encouraged TRAC members to be homines unius libri—people of one book. He suggested reading the Bible together, and sharing among churches of the various materials and reading plans that they have developed.
The Rev Wong concluded his Address by reminding the delegates to commit to scriptural Christianity. He again quoted Wesley: “All that you teach should contain in it somewhere love towards God and love towards mankind for His sake.” Our preaching and studying of the Word, the Rev Dr Wong said, should make us more loving, kind and forgiving in how we treat others, such as by giving time, money and voice to The Giving Methodist campaign organised by Methodist Welfare Services, or various “Love Your Neighbour” activities during Lent next year.
The TRAC President reminded the ministerial and lay delegates from the 21 English-speaking Methodist churches that TRAC’s vision is to be “on TRAC together”, with the emphasis on “together”. In keeping with this, the opening Holy Communion service was a celebration of togetherness and community. Local preachers (lay people licensed by the Board of Ministry to preach) were recognised. So were the retiring pastors—the Rev Melvin Huang and the Rev Michael Tan, who have served as pastors for 36 and 25 years respectively.
The next three days of the 43rd Session saw reports from boards and councils, as well as a report from the MCS Structural Review Task Force. Delegates then conferenced in smaller groups, where they discussed concerns that had arisen over the last few days and exchanged ideas for the future.
The ordination and closing service saw the splendid participation of the Methodist Orchestra and Methodist Festival Choir. Mr Henry Tan was installed as Vice President of TRAC. Pastor Eddie Ho, Pastor Poh Zhi-Hui, Pastor Byron Teo and Pastor Timothy Yong were ordained as Deacons, while the Rev Adrian Ng was ordained as Elder.
During the closing service, the Rev Melvin Huang preached on “True Value” based on Matthew 6:21—“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He shared two quotes from Mother Teresa: [do] “not great things for God, but small things with great love”; and “God did not call me to be successful; He called me to be faithful.” He urged church leaders to put their hearts in the right place when preaching and serving.
Noting that the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5–7) can be read at a normal pace in 18 minutes, he advised church leaders to follow Jesus’ example of brevity, and “learn to earn the right to be heard”. He also reminded the congregation not to “have any illusions” about pastors, as they are only human and that pastors and their families “direly need your support and prayers.”
The underlying theme of the TRAC 43rd session was that of love—love for God, His Word, our neighbours, and for one another in the local church and wider community. As the Rev Wong said, “Few of us, on our own, can maintain the pursuit of this holy love, but together we can help spread scriptural Christianity throughout the land, so that Methodist Christians can be better known, can be primarily known, as a people who love God by loving their neighbours.”
“For the greatest of all is love.”
Sheri Goh is the Editor of Methodist Message
Photos courtesy of the Trinity Annual Conference