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Book on Asian Methodism unveiled

Sparks of Grace rounds off MCS’ tercentenary celebrations of John Wesley’s birth

THE Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) is releasing a just-published book on Methodism in Asia entitled Sparks of Grace.

Written by Associate Professor Robbie B. H. Goh, Deputy Head of the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore, the 210-page book was published last month under the auspices of the Bishop’s Office of the MCS. Dr Goh is a member of Cairnhill Methodist Church and was a member of the Singapore delegation to the First Asian Methodist Convention in Seoul, South Korea, in June 2002.

His book was to round off the MCS’ tercentenary celebrations last year of John Wesley’s birth.

Other celebrations in the year included the hosting of Aldersgate Convention from May 20-24, the publication of another book, The People Called Methodists, which was launched on Aldersgate Day, May 24, also to mark the Official Opening and Dedication of the Methodist Centre at Barker Road. The Dedication of the Methodist Centre itself was part of the year’s celebrations.

The People Called Methodists is a colourful 180-page commemorative book. Unlike a history volume, it seeks to tell the story of The Methodist Church in Singapore through its heritage, life and mission.

A Study Guide based on the book was subsequently published.

Sparks of Grace originated from an idea of Bishop Dr Robert Solomon’s which he expressed in an article in Methodist Message, and which, Dr Goh said, he was “convicted by the Lord to undertake”.

In his acknowledgements in the book, he said: “Bishop Dr Solomon’s burden to chronicle the work of the Methodist Church in the countries of Asia, initially and throughout the progress of this book, was an inspiration. His influence and support extended to the choice of book title, reading and commenting on drafts, providing information and data, and in many other ways.”

The book has two sections. Section One is an overview of Methodism in Asia, and Section Two profiles country histories.

Section One discusses the origins, trajectories and developments of Methodism in Asia as well as a comparative overview of social impact, institutionalisms, and the politics of culture.

Section Two profiles the histories of 12 countries – Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. There is an additional chapter on “Other Missions and Presences”.

The title of the book was taken from one of Charles Wesley’s hymns, “See How Great A Flame Aspires”.

“For truly the story of Methodism in Asia is the story of sparks of grace that had lit up spiritual fires of personal and social holiness in many parts of Asia,” said Bishop Dr Solomon.

Giving a background to the idea of publishing the book, he said that the connection of Asian Methodists took a new form when the Fellowship of Asian Methodists Bishops was formed as an informal episcopal gathering in the 1980s.

In one meeting in Kuching in February 2001, it was felt that an Asian Methodist Council should be set up as a formal entity to enable Asian Methodist Churches to work together more closely so that the mission of the church could be better accomplished through partnership and connection.

After a few more meetings, the Asian Methodist Council was formally established on June 15, 2001 at the First Asian Methodist Convention in Seoul.

Bishop Dr Solomon had earlier shared the need to produce a history of Asian Methodist Churches in a single volume so that their connection can be recognised and their identity strengthened.

Sparks of Grace is the fruition of that idea.

To be retailed at $13 a copy, including the 5 per cent GST, it is available at the Church and Community Relations Department of the MCS at the Methodist Centre, 6th floor. For orders, please call Peter at 6478-4780 or Li-Ern at 6478-4782, or fax 6478-4794.