Collaborating to face challenges


In his final President’s Review at the close of his four-year term, Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) President Rev R. Prabhu called for ETAC churches and members to strengthen collaboration in ministry, in the face of the Conference’s many challenges.

These challenges include retaining members, reaching out to migrant populations, sustaining Conference programmes over the long term, strengthening financial support, identifying and nurturing leaders and volunteers, pastoral supply, and seeking places for worship.

The President noted that ETAC’s membership had yet to cross the 1,000 mark, and so “we have to encourage church-wide participation”. “Each and every local church has to have a workable plan to bring people into the fold of God,” he said. He was encouraged by the growing outreach ministries at Teck Whye by Pasir Panjang Tamil Methodist Church (PPTMC) with space provided by the Methodist Church of the Incarnation, at Punggol and Sengkang by Ang Mo Kio Tamil Methodist Church (AMKTMC), and at Bedok Preaching Point by Seletar Tamil Methodist Church (STMC).

Methodist churches in Europe, he shared, have attributed renewed church growth to their ministries to migrant populations, as reported at the World Methodist Conference 2016. He acknowledged ETAC churches such as AMKTMC, PPTMC, STMC, Singapore Telugu Methodist Church, and Tamil Methodist Church who have been ministering to migrants, as well as Jurong Tamil Methodist Church which has indicated interest to do so. “Now is the time,” he exhorted, “for these churches to co-ordinate programmes… so we should come together, share resources (including human resources), and ideas.”

This call for co-operation was extended to the area of Conference programmes. The Rev Prabhu noted that there was often duplication of programmes between ETAC Boards and local churches, and urged a review of Conference programmes so local churches can be more involved in the planning and implementation. He invited ETAC churches to come alongside sister churches who were struggling, such as Toa Payoh Tamil Methodist Church which has much potential for growth due to its prime location, but lacked resources as it had a small congregation.

Resources continue to be a challenge for ETAC as a whole, so the President called for prayer, noting it was vital “because we depend on God”. Financially, Conference commitments faced increases due to the revision of pastors’ salary, and cost-related raises in General Conference (GC) commitments and service charges. The perennial need for volunteers and leaders continues, not only for programmes but also to represent ETAC at GC level. The Rev Prabhu was encouraged to note that there were emerging leaders from ETAC’s Methodist Youth Fellowship and Women’s Society of Christian Service.

He also looked forward to the easing of ETAC pastors’ workload with the ordination of Pastor C. Saravana Kumar as Deacon at the Closing Service of ETAC’s 41st Session, and the acceptance of the Rev Vijay Joseph from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Malaysia (ELCM) to serve as an ETAC pastor, with the consent of the ELCM Bishop. In addition, the Rev Prabhu proposed that local churches organise ministry teams to reach out to newcomers and visit those in need, particularly seniors who live alone and may struggle with loneliness, depression and physical ailments. Thus, the whole church can be involved in such ministry rather than leaving it only to pastors.

Finally, he highlighted the need to seek alternative places of worship, noting that the leases for three ETAC churches would soon expire, and that some congregations worshipped in rented premises, facing frequent moves and increases in rental and maintenance costs. He encouraged churches to consider the possibilities being explored by the Singapore Government of church hubs in shared buildings for smaller congregations.

The Rev Prabhu closed by acknowledging that he faced challenges during his term as President, but that “the past four years have been years of grace and sufficiency in my Lord Jesus Christ”. He thanked his colleagues, fellow leaders and wife for their support, and said: “My ministry will continue as long as I am needed.”

Two ETAC Elders retired at the end of 2016: The Rev George Barathan, who serves with Operation Mobilization, Canada, and the Rev Rajaspuran Mannar, who serves with The Navigators® of Canada. They will continue to serve with their respective organisations after retirement.

Picture above: The Rev R. Prabhu delivering his President’s Review.

The Rev Prabhu congratulating the new ETAC President, the Rev James Nagulan (right).

Pastor C. Saravana Kumar kneeling during his ordination at the Closing Service (left), and being congratulated by the Rev Nagulan, Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon, and Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup (right).

Bishop Dr Wee preaching at the Opening Service on 10 Nov 2016.

Photos by Daniel Lie