Bridging a gap in understanding

Bishop Dr Chong speaks at the One MCS Methodist Leaders’ Fellowship with the Rev Raymond Fong translating

One MCS Gathering: Methodist Leaders’ Fellowship

On 5 Feb 2020, Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung and the three AC Presidents gathered pastors and laity as One MCS at the Methodist Leaders’ Fellowship. The objective was to strengthen our sense of identity and belonging as Methodists so that we may share one another’s visions and uphold each other in prayer.

COVID-19 notwithstanding, 83 pastors and leaders from 36 local churches and WSCS came together at Toa Payoh Chinese Methodist Church (MC) for a time of worship and fellowship.

Henry Tan, lay leader at Wesley MC and member of the core team of the Structural Review Task Force, recounted, “Spirits were high as we worshipped with one voice.” As the gathering was held during the Lunar New Year period, there was a lo hei session, followed by dinner.

Toa Payoh MC member Dr Seow Bee Leng facilitated the World Café activity, where participants shared their thoughts and feelings about One MCS as they moved among different groups. In such a setting, participants said they felt able to voice their opinions freely.

Bishop Dr Chong drew much empathetic laughter as he explained why he found it more challenging to discuss One MCS with the clergy than with the laity. Laity, he said, tended to be much more enthusiastic in their discussions as they considered collaboration on matters of outreach and ministry such as evangelism; family life and children; and care for the needy. Clergy, on the other hand, had to consider more complex issues: the selection of pastors; standards of shepherding and pastoral care; remuneration and development of pastors; and church property and priorities.

Expectations from members may also differ between Annual Conferences. For this reason, One MCS cannot progress as quickly as some would want.

But Bishop Dr Chong urged that the discussions must continue, especially regarding ministry areas, while conditions remain favourable. One participant shared that before he became a leader, he was concerned only about his church, and had no idea of the larger Methodist family. This was something that Bishop Dr Chong said he could empathise with. As bishop, he has had the opportunity to visit and preach at all three Annual Conferences, and join them in their worship. He wished that all Methodists could share in that “wonderful feeling, as if finding and being welcomed to one’s extended family”.

Moving forward, there were calls to build a stronger sense of identity in and belonging to the larger MCS family. There were suggestions of a Methodist Anthem, of pulpit exchange across Annual Conferences on a more regular basis, and of joint ministries by churches that are in close proximity. Chan Fook Kay, who gave an update on the progress of workgroups, observed that, by the end of the session, “People are ready to start doing something to bring One MCS to the next level.”

One MCS will take a lot more work and resolve but participants say that they look forward to the day. God, hear our prayers!

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It was a time for Methodist leaders to gather, praise, lo hei, eat and share

By the Structural Review Task Force

Photos courtesy of Lynn Tan