Features, Highlights

Aldersgate SG Celebration Service

Love God by Loving Our Neighbour

Aldersgate SG Celebration Service
Clockwise from top left: Rev Dr Niam Kai Huey (Pastor-in-Charge of Sengkang MC); Dr (Mrs) Teo Li Bee (President of GCWSCS); Mr Jeffrey Lim (General Conference Secretary); Rev Stanley Chua (TRAC President); Rev Dr Gregory Goh Nai Lat (CAC President); Bishop Dr Gordon Wong; Rev Philip Abraham (ETAC President)

The Aldersgate SG service was livestreamed on 22 May 2021. It is available for viewing at https://aldersgate.methodist.org.sg/livestream.

“The Greek New Testament five times tells us to greet each other with a holy kiss,” said Bishop Dr Gordon Wong at the opening of the Aldersgate SG Celebration Service on 22 May 2021. “The fact that I cannot even give you a holy handshake—even those who are here in the Sengkang Methodist Church [MC] sanctuary—is a reminder of the difficult times that all of us are going through during this pandemic.”

Aldersgate SG is organised annually by The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) to celebrate our Wesleyan heritage and what it means to be Methodist. The last time congregations from the various churches gathered in person was in May 2019. Aldersgate SG 2020 was held in the thick of the “circuit breaker” and thus the service was pre-recorded and screened on the Methodist churches’ online platforms on 23 May 2020. This is the second year running that Aldersgate SG has been held online due to government-mandated COVID-19 restrictions.

Planning for the Aldersgate SG 2021 took place during Phase 3 of Singapore’s COVID-19 re-opening. Churches could have up to 250 congregants and congregational singing with masks on was allowed. The plan then was to have a hybrid Aldersgate service with pastors and representatives from the 46 Methodist churches gathering at Sengkang Methodist Church, which was hosting the service, and the rest of the congregations joining in online.

But when community cases of COVID-19 surged and measures were tightened, together with consideration for congregants’ safety, a decision was made for the event to go purely online.

Coming together while physically apart

“It is easy to be tired and discouraged during this time,” acknowledged Bishop Dr Wong. “We long for the day we can see [each other] face to face again.” At the same time, he pointed out, coming together as a Church does not necessarily mean having to be together physically.

The livestreamed service was put together by the pastors and members of the three Annual Conferences: the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC), Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) and the Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC). The Emmanuel Thuthi band and the Methodist Festival Choir (MFC) recorded performances for the online service. When the physical service was cancelled at the last minute, Kampong Kapor MC stepped in to record some of the hymns sung at the service. The technical crew of Faith MC assisted Sengkang MC with the livestream.

At press time, the service has been viewed more than 6,600 times. Bishop’s recorded sermon was also screened by churches during their Aldersgate Sunday services.

What is a Methodist?

Bishop Dr Wong’s sermon, “Love God by Loving Our Neighbour”, was based on 1 John 4:16–21. “[John] Wesley wanted Methodists to insist that there is fundamentally nothing special in being Methodists which might distinguish them from true Christian disciples,” he said, referring to Wesley’s essay, “The Character of a Methodist”. “A disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who is committed to what Jesus Christ says is the great and most important thing in life: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself [Matt 22:37­–29].”

As for the “perfect love” the apostle John referred to in 1 John 4:18, Wesley wrote: “By perfection I mean the […] love of God, and our neighbour, ruling our tempers, words and actions.” Bishop Dr Wong also referred to 1 John 4:20—“For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

“The practical expression of loving God,” he explained, “[is] by loving our neighbours.”

“The motivation for loving God and our neighbour is not because we are afraid of God’s punishment or judgment against us. God wants our love for God and neighbour to be motivated not by fear of punishment. […] We love, because God is love, and God’s love lives within us.”

 Bishop Dr Wong shared some practical ways Methodists could love God by loving their neighbours. Small groups could “adopt” residents from MWS nursing homes and take turns, in groups of two or three, to visit their adopted “uncle” or “auntie” once a week.

It might not take much effort for the volunteer, but for long-term residents, especially if they are bed-ridden, the visits are definitely significant.

He also shared a video narrated by eight-year-old “Caleb” about his experience of being in a foster family. While his foster parents took on the main responsibility of providing a home for Caleb, their church cell group loved God by loving Caleb together. They showed love and support in practical ways—picking him up from school, driving him to classes and therapy sessions, taking care of him when his foster parents were busy or at work, and celebrating milestones such as birthdays together.

Three Conferences, one Church

The three Annual Conference Presidents—Rev Dr Gregory Goh Nai Lat (CAC), Rev Philip Abraham (ETAC) and Rev Stanley Chua (TRAC)—prayed for the Church, the world, and the sick, needy and suffering. They prayed that we would do whatever we can, with whatever the means we can, to show our love for those around us.

Dr Benjamin Leong, CAC lay leader and member of Queenstown Chinese MC, was accompanied by members of his church in a recorded performance of “Lord, You are Always There”. The words of the hymn were written by Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon, and produced and arranged by Justin Yeo and Leong Shengyu.

Long-service awards were presented to the following pastors: Rev Dr Niam Kai Huey (Sengkang MC); Rev Vincent Goh (Paya Lebar MC); Rev Gabriel Liew (Methodist Church of the Incarnation); Rev Kenneth Huang (Kampong Kapor MC); and Rev Alvin Chan (Trinity MC).

The service closed with Bishop Dr Gordon Wong and the three Annual Conference Presidents pronouncing the Benediction from Numbers 6:22­–24 in Chinese, Tamil, English and Hebrew: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

And as the choir sang, may “God be with you”, our fellow members of MCS, as we wait in anticipation “till we meet again”.

Behind the scenes at the livestreaming of the service
A multilingual time of praise
The Emmanuel Thuthi band

Sheri Goh is the Editor of Methodist Message. / Screenshots courtesy of the MCS Communications Team