Happenings, News

ETAC head: Our strength is in our conference programmes


EMMANUAL Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) is a relatively small conference with limited resources, but conference programmes provide excellent opportunities for churches to build unity, harness synergies and to be connected to one another.

ETAC President, the Rev James Nagulan, reminded his church members of this “strength” of the conference in his Annual Review at the 31st Session of ETAC at Seletar Tamil Methodist Church on Nov 10, 2006.

“The strength of the conference is always seen when we come together,” he said. “This smallness can be our strength if we are able to utilise our resources well.”

Bishop Dr Robert Solomon gave the sermon at the Opening Service. It was entitled “Go and Make Disciples” based on the text from Matthew 20:18-20.

The Bishop said: “Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord of the nations which need to acknowledge Him, Jesus is Lord of all of our lives, and Jesus is Lord of all time and eternity. God’s mission is sustained by His authority and His presence.

“We must return to God and His mission. We must recapture the breadth and depth of the mission of God.”

The service ended with the Holy Communion administered by the Bishop, who was assisted by the Rev Nagulan, the Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot, Chinese Annual Conference President, and the Rev Wee Boon Hup, Trinity Annual Conference President.

In his review, the Rev Nagulan said that programmes had been organised by the various boards to address the needs and concerns of the churches, but most of these programmes were met with average attendance. The lack of participation could be attributed to poor publicity and communication. Perhaps this was something that needed to be improved upon.

Another reason could be that some programmes did not cater to the needs of certain local churches. If this was true, he said, then it was also true that there was a lack of participation from local church representatives at the board meetings.

However, he was pleased that the ETAC Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) continued to serve the women of ETAC churches well. It has kept the women active through its various ministries.

ETAC WSCS has been regularly motivating and bringing people on mission exposure trips. This has inspired many to be involved in missions. The women’s ministry, thus, presents itself as an added stratum of strength to the conference.

The Telegu ministry continues to thrive under the leadership of Mr Reddipogu Anil Samuel, who has been issued with the local preacher’s licence. There has been a steady growth in the families who are attending this service. The regular attendance at the fellowship is about 80 to 100.

It is ETAC’s desire to see this ministry evolve into a congregation. This is now possible as Mr Anil is able to provide membership classes for the Telegu congregation. “This will allow our Telegu brothers and sisters to become members of the Methodist Church, and will be a great motivation to the ministry,” said the Rev Nagulan.

Turning to a new challenge, he said the influx of the migration population into Singapore has led the conference to rethink its mission in the coming years. “The reality of having more non-Tamil-speaking Indians coming to our churches and the rising foreign student population in Singapore can be captured as an opportunity to practise missions at our doorsteps,” he said.

Participants at last year’s 30th Session made a significant decision to enlarge the work of ETAC to reach out to the wider Indian population (non-Tamil-speaking). Thus, the New Ministry Initiatives (NMI) programme was launched on Sept 23, 2006.

“We are now blessed with a full-time personnel, Pastor Paul Asveen, who has joined the conference as a Member-on-Trial and serves as the Director of NMI. The main focus of NMI is to establish the work among Indian students and reach out to the growing expatriate population.”

The Rev Nagulan highlighted another challenge. He said: “One of the fundamental issues we face is the lack of desire for Bible studies. This can be observed not only among members but among leaders as well. This stifles the renewal of church leadership.

“It is of paramount importance that this trend changes. Church leadership should require men and women of wisdom and full of Spirit (Acts 6:3).

A few good men are worthier than a band of ‘feel good’ people.”

Closing his remarks, he reminded the conference that ETAC churches needed to develop mentors who could minister to younger leaders, and there must be intentional disciple-making in every church, and follow-up sessions for new converts and pre-believers.

Also, almost all ETAC churches struggle with the youth ministry. “We have few youths in ETAC churches, and they are no longer able to provide leadership for themselves. The critical mass is also not there to motivate the youths to come together. We urgently need to address the growing apathy among the youth,” he added.