Craving for unity in the church

Aaron Lim and Jonathan Lim – are friends from Anglo-Chinese School (Barker). Aaron is Methodist and Jonathan, Roman Catholic. Together, they attended the two services held during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year.

“Many of us tend to think of Christian Unity as the icing on the cake – it’s nice, it’s sweet, but it is not necessary.” The Rev Dr Gordon Wong gave this apt comparison in his homily during the first service of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held Jan 21 this year at Trinity Theological College. The congregation was gathered from various denominations and churches all over Singapore, coming together to affirm our unity in one God and one faith.

The small size of the congregation present seemed to bear out his statement. As we found by interviewing congregation members after the service, many of their fellow Christians had opted for “praying for unity at home” rather than attending the service.

However, the Rev Dr Wong, President of the Trinity Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore, pointed out: “If Christian Unity is the icing on the cake, then our Lord Jesus Christ also has a sweet tooth!” He demonstrated from John 17:20-23 that Jesus prays four times for the same thing – that His disciples would be one, and therefore “that the world will believe that You have sent Me”.

In other words, Christian unity is a prerequisite, the “first step” for helping the world believe in Jesus.

This theme was continued by Father John Joseph Fenelon as he gave the homily during the second service of the Week of Prayer, held Jan 24 at his home church, the Catholic Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea. He pointed out that Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21-24 foresaw that disunity would be a problem in the future spreading of the Gospel, as even His closest friends sought power and glory, and argued among themselves.

Father John noted: “A common witness is needed to respond to the spiritual hunger of many, to be heard and appreciated and contribute to the common good of society for people to accept and believe the faith.

“As Christians we should look at what we have in common and not at the differences, for example: our baptism, ascension, and oneness as a family through God our Father.”

Allow us to share with you our reflections after attending these services.

Aaron (Aldersgate Methodist Church):

Personally, I never really thought that Church unity was of much importance until recently, just after the passing on of both my grandfathers. Although my own family is Methodist, my maternal extended family are Bible-Presbyterians while my paternal extended family are Roman Catholics.

While observing the different wakes that were being held, lots of questions came to mind, primarily centred on this question: If we all worship the same, one and only, true God, then why is it that the way we worship and carry out our practices are so different?

This realisation originated not only from home, but also from school, as two of my closest friends are of different denominations – one Presbyterian and the other Roman Catholic – and they would often discuss their differences at an abstract level that I sometimes found hard to comprehend.

So for me, coming to this event was a real eye-opener as it not only allowed me to experience the various practices of different denominations, but was also a confirmation that we are all united in this pursuit for unity.

Jonathan (Church of St. Francis of Assisi):

This is the first time I’ve attended services of prayer for Christian unity, and it’s been a meaningful experience for me. I had the opportunity to see how a Methodist service was carried out at the first session, hosted at Trinity Theological College.

It was great to witness Christians of different denominations coming together to pray and worship, putting aside their differences and looking towards what we have in common, participating in the beliefs and practices that we share – for example, professing the Nicene Creed, which is what all Christians are called to believe and live by.

Later during the fellowship, I got to know and befriend many different people of unique Christian backgrounds. It was moving to see Christians of different denominations sharing in the joy of our unity.

I feel that if we could come together more often, and show the world this bond that we all share as Christians, others would come to see the faith, hope and love of our unity in God, and hopefully, by the grace of God, we would inspire others by our way of life by setting an example in which Jesus Himself has called us to live by.

I hope for, and want to participate in more of such events to be hosted in future.

Participating ministers from different denominations giving a joint benediction at the first service. The Rev Dr Gordon Wong is far left, and next to him is the Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, Principal of Trinity Theological College (TTC), and the Rev Malcolm Tan, Pastor-in-Charge of Barker Road Methodist Church. The Rev Dr Daniel Koh at far right is the current Chaplain of TTC.

Picture courtesy of Trinity Theological College