Features, Highlights

120 years of God’s blessing … and still counting

As Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church celebrates its anniversary it is reminded of the need to continue spreading God’s goodness

AFTER 120 YEARS OF REACHING OUT FAITHFULLY to the people at Telok Ayer and beyond, Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church (TACMC) is still called to be a blessing to others.

Indeed, that call, the church’s celebration theme, kept recurring throughout its 120th Anniversary celebrations at TA2 in Wishart Road on Aug 2, 2009 – from the Combined Holy Communion Service in the morning to the High Tea, to the sealing of a time capsule, to the 120th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service and the dinner that followed at the nearby Dragon Gate Restaurant in Harbour Front Centre.

“Called to be a Blessing”, proclaim the banners and all the celebration publicity materials. Still, the church members were constantly reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness and His outpouring of blessings upon TACMC which the church still needs to pass on. Genesis 12:2 reminds TACMC: “ … I will bless you … and you will be a blessing.”

At a simple, short ceremony near the church’s main gate to seal the time capsule, the Rev See Ping Eik, Pastor-in-Charge of TACMC, read from Ecclesciastes chapter 3 verses 1 and 15 and said that those who were still around 50 years from now, when the capsule was being opened, would remember the things that were put inside to remind them of God’s goodness. Among the many items kept were Bibles, hymnals in English, Chinese and Hokkien, and church publications and records.

In closing, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon prayed to God to “bless your people as they remember your goodness and faithfulness”.

There was joy all round, and the people started to stream into the cool sanctuary to await the start of the Thanksgiving Service. Promptly at 4.30 pm, the service – conducted in Mandarin, Hokkien and English – began as the Praise Choristers rendered the introit, “Rejoice, Ye Pure In Heart”.

From the processional hymn to the hymn of dedication, the entire service was enhanced by the lovely voices of the various choirs and accompanying music.

A hymn, “Called To Be A Blessing”, was specially composed for the occasion. It was sung by the congregation and later rendered as an item by the Hokkien Choir. The words of the hymn were written by Ms Esther Lee with the English translation by Mr Siew Yee Kit. The music was composed by Dr Emilia Wong.

In his congratulatory message, the Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung, President of the Chinese Annual Conference, said TACMC had an impressive record of evangelistic work, and added that it was generous in rendering help to other churches. He told the congregation in the capacity-filled sanctuary: “Indeed, this is a church that has been richly blessed by God, and it has blessed, and can continue to bless, others.”

Many people’s lives had been changed by “Telok Ayer evangelists”, he said. He believed that “that kind of evangelistic spirit and fervour is still present in TACMC”.

Bishop Dr Solomon, who preached the sermon entitled “God’s Healing Community”, told the congregation that God’s Word “both wounds and heals”. Basing his text on Acts 2:37-47, he said the words of Peter’s sermon cut the people’s hearts (v 37). “It is like a surgeon’s knife that brings relief and healing … never underestimate the power of the Word.”

The Church begins with preaching, he reminded the congregation, and it is a privilege to have the Word, which is God’s revelation.

The Bishop said that in the Scripture text, Peter urged his hearers to repent and be baptised. Baptism is at the heart of Christianity. It signifies forgiveness and a new identity. “Healing and transformation take place when we remember our baptismal identity.”

The Bishop then turned to his third point – Eucharist, which he described as a family meal. The Lord’s Table is very important to us as Christians, he said.

“It gives sustenance and heals and strengthens. Wesley saw this as both medicine and food for our souls. Don’t underestimate the power of God through the sacraments.

“We have to show to the outside world that the Church brings healing. My hope is to see that there is real spiritual healing in our Church. May God bless your Telok Ayer Church as you celebrate your 120th Anniversary and bring healing to others as well.”

The day’s celebration ended with a dinner which saw the restaurant packed to the brim with 106 tables of diners. More church members had wanted to attend but had to be turned away. Again, those present were reminded of God’s blessing and they responded joyfully with songs of praise, a harmonica item, skits, a fan dance and a recitation of Bible verses by senior members.

Those members who have served TACMC faithfully for many years were not forgotten. They were presented with tokens of appreciation.

The Rev Chng Siew Sin, who retired recently as the Associate Pastor, was also presented with a token of appreciation from Bishop Emeritus Wong Kiam au.

The Rev Chng had served the Chinese Annual Conference for 30 years, 16 of which at TACMC, the church where he grew up in. He had served as Pastor-in-Charge of Toa Payoh Chinese Methodist Church and later of Bukit Panjang Methodist Church. He had also served as a volunteer in the prison ministry for 25 years, and received an award from the Singapore Prison Service for his services.

Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message. Chng Siew Khoon is the Vice-Chairman of the Missions Committee of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.