Features, Highlights, MCS FOCUS

Christmas at the Fort

Over four days, 13,000 people
came to CATF.

A Journey of Faith

Twenty-three years ago, at Christmas at The Fort (CATF) 1996, God answered the prayers of Wesley Methodist Church (WMC) and miraculously stopped the rain during the two practices and the three-night event at Fort Canning Park. It poured only on the day after the event.

Fast-forward 23 years to 2019 where CATF was held for only the second time in WMC’s history, and God once again showed His power over the weather. This time, there were persistent heavy rains and thunderstorms for several days just before CATF from 19 to 22 Dec 2019, and the weather forecast for the duration was “100 per cent rain”. But miraculously, during those four days, it rained for a grand total of only 41 minutes on the third evening.

Even the heavy downpour during those few minutes did not dampen the overall mood or wash out that night’s performances; it merely delayed the start of that evening’s programme by half an hour. And it unexpectedly provided volunteers and staff from Wesley with the divine opportunity to spontaneously warm the hearts of our guests by giving out ponchos, groundsheets and umbrellas, and engaging them in casual conversations.

And the faith of many of our members soared as we witnessed what the Lord has done for us in answering our prayers. The church had embarked on a weekly prayer for CATF for 10 weeks from 31 Aug to 8 Nov. When this ended, we started a 40-day Prayer Countdown to CATF. And throughout this period, and during the four CATF days, we had prayer intercessors praying unceasingly.

CATF was a journey of faith that started even before we knew it. Charis Lim, chairperson of the CATF Taskforce and Associate Lay Leader at TRAC, said: “If I could trace the beginning of CATF, I would say that it began with our efforts at Celebrate Christmas@Cathay in Dec 2018. WMC had been conducting Sunday worship services at one of the Cathay cinema halls since May 2017.

“I remember how everyone chipped in. Over 250 volunteers—children, youth, adults and seniors volunteering across multiple ministries—stepped up to serve. Christmas@Cathay showed us what God can do through us when His people rallied together in unity.

And so, when the invitation came for his Cathay core team to lead the church in the CATF project, Charis felt that Celebrate Christmas@Cathay had merely been a prelude to something bigger God was preparing and equipping us for.

CATF was in line with WMC’s theme of “Impacting the World” for 2019–20. It was also in support of Singapore’s Bicentennial celebrations. When WMC’s Pastor-in-charge, the Rev Stanley Chua, first heard the CATF proposal in December 2018, he said, “God is always at work before we even plan or conceive to do anything for Him. All we need to do is to observe what He is doing presently, in and around us, and then we partner Him.

“From what I observe of all the events that have unfolded thus far, I believe God is already at work. When we planned (in 2016) for 2019–20 to have our thrust on ‘Impacting the World’, who among us knew that 2019 would be the Bicentennial celebration of Singapore? I feel this is a perfect opportunity that God has laid before us on our doorstep—a perfect opportunity to fulfil our last thrust of our Directions 2020.”

CATF is the biggest public event that WMC has ever organised, involving multi-ministries and members young and old. It featured many of WMC’s top musical talents, including the orchestra, choirs, contemporary band, dancers, singers as well as ukulele, angklung and bagpipe players. Guest performers included well-known Singaporean artistes Charlie Lim, Haneri, Olivia Ong and Joanna Dong.

Over the four days, 13,000 people came, despite the uncertain weather. Among them were our special guests—1,200 beneficiaries from social welfare organisations and homes. And in the Spirit of Giving, several of our food vendors opted to donate a portion of their earnings during CATF to two charities: Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund, which is supported by our partner The RICE Company.

In the run-up to CATF, we had also seen God’s hand at work in raising close to 2,000 volunteers, the largest number we have ever mobilised for a single project in the history of WMC. And we saw God’s glory in binding Wesleyans together in perfect unity, reflecting His light on Fort Canning Park as we bore witness to the nation about the greatest story ever known—and the greatest gift ever given on Christmas!

Carols at the Fort.
Some of the many volunteers.
One of the guest performers,
Olivia Ong.

Alvin Tay, now joyfully retyred (read: retired), is the Communications Chairperson at Wesley Methodist Church. He is also the Vice Chairperson of the CATF Taskforce.

Photos courtesy of the CATF Media Team.