ALDERSGATE SERVICE: Planning for a Divine Encounter

A peek into what’s in store at the Aldersgate Service, May 24, Toa Payoh Methodist Church.

In the lead-up to Aldersgate SG 2014, Methodist Message (MM) catches up with Mr Jusuf Kam (JK), Music Director of Wesley Methodist Church, who is in charge of the Aldersgate Service. A musical veteran with deep Methodist roots, Jusuf is entering his 21st year of service with Wesley MC. He has served on the Aldersgate Organising Committee since its early days in 2001.

MM: What do you hope for this year’s Aldersgate Service?
JK: I am reminded of John Wesley’s experience at Aldersgate. That day of May 24, 1738, Wesley had already attended a service at St. Paul’s in the morning and in his words, he went “very unwillingly” for an evening meeting at Aldersgate. There, Wesley was surprised by God. God met him and his heart was strangely warmed by God’s life-changing presence. That divine encounter at Aldersgate was a spiritual breakthrough and changed Wesley’s life for good. God can pop up at the most unexpected places, and use unlikely circumstances, things we don’t anticipate. It is my wish that we be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting. If you sense He is drawing you to attend the Service, I encourage you to take that step of faith and come with expectant hearts to receive the Holy Spirit.

MM: How far in advance do you start planning?
JK: We start about three to four months before the event. Most of my time in the planning phase is spent recruiting members for the orchestra, choir and band. Finding the right people must be done before we can start choosing hymns and songs. The type of voices – be it alto, soprano or bass – we get together influences our planning. The same goes for the orchestra instruments. We need to consider what instrument players we have before we can even start putting together the material. Bringing together a group of willing and able volunteers is a carefully thought-through process. It’s a task I greatly enjoy.

MM: How do you select the hymns and scripture verses?
JK: I always try to include Wesleyan hymns as the Service commemorates John Wesley’s divine experience of God at Aldersgate. This occasion is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our Methodist heritage, remembering God’s grace and goodness to us over the years. There are several uniquely Methodist hymns – like “O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” or “And Can It Be”. With the team, I try to blend a selection of hymnal favourites and contemporary songs in line with the theme of the Service.

MM: To prepare for this year’s event, do you recommend any songs for our readers to listen to?
JK: I’m glad you asked. This year’s theme is focused on the Holy Spirit. “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” is one of the songs under consideration. I also recommend referring to our Methodist hymnal and meditating on the lyrics and tunes relating to the Holy Spirit.

MM: What is your vision for the future generations of Methodists?
JK: To me there’s no need to compartmentalise music – whether traditional or contemporary. Music is neutral and it’s the ear of the listener which decides whether it’s good. I really enjoy spending time with my teenage children Nadia and Jovan discussing music. They are both musically inclined, and while they introduce me to contemporary music, I share the richness of hymns with them.

Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns, and there is a hymn for each and every occasion. It is my hope that the younger generations will continue to appreciate and sing Methodist hymns, which is one of the components that celebrates our heritage and makes us uniquely Methodist.

Photo taken by Johnny Koh for Wesley Methodist Church
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As we prepare for Aldersgate Service, PRAY for:
* the Holy Spirit to guide the entire experience from planning to event day, from start to finish
* open hearts and spiritual revival for those who attend
* willing hearts and able hands for those serving in the choir, orchestra and band; for a rich and God-filled experience as they serve in this capacity

Andrea Low is a volunteer contributor who is passionate about story-telling and travelling. A PR communications professional by day, she worships at Christalite Methodist Chapel.