On the last Sunday evening of May, we are looking forward to having members from all three conferences of our Church coming together, to worship God in three languages as “one voice” – a foretaste of the heavenly banquet where “every tribe, every people, every tongue” will give praise to God our maker.
In previous years, this event was known as the Hymn Festival. This year, we have re-positioned it as the Aldersgate Praise Festival, where “praise” is a means to express admiration and commendation, and is a way of giving honour and glory to our Maker, the giver of the gift of music. As stewards of this “gift”, the Praise Festival will bring forth a variety of music styles.
The Praise Festival will include Wesleyan hymns and contemporary praise songs. A hymn is a song used to praise God. It is strophic – meaning it is sung to the same melody for all stanzas which can number from two to four or even more. The hymn has also been “labelled” as the music used in traditional worship.
In addition to Wesleyan hymns, there will be a selection of contemporary songs – “Come People of the Risen King” by Keith and Kristyn Getty, “Ten Thousand Reasons” by Matt Redman, “Love Without Reason” by Sophie Wong (Bedok Methodist Church), “Who is like the Lord our God, Psalm 113” by Wendell Kimbrough and Bruce Benedict, and “Take My Life & Let it Be with I Bring an Offering” arranged by the Rev Raymond Fong (Wesley Methodist Church).
The singing will be accompanied by the organ, a brass quartet and a timpani for the hymns and a contemporary band for the contemporary songs. This means everyone who comes to the festival will have to exercise hospitality to the various styles of music presented. Allow yourselves to keep an open mind, heart and soul, put aside your musical preferences and sing when all are called to sing.
The Methodist School of Music is taking the lead in planning for the Aldersgate Praise Festival. We have integrated three languages in to one Festival, bearing in mind the needs of our three annual conferences – Chinese, Emmanuel Tamil and Trinity.
While the festival is mainly in English, there will be stanzas in the hymns that will be sung in Mandarin or Tamil. The prayers and Scripture readings will be delivered in English, Mandarin or Tamil.
In keeping with the theme, it was also vital that we maintained cohesive flow from the Rev Dr David Lowes Watson’s three lectures to the Festival. The festival was organised around Dr Watson’s definition of discipleship: “Christian disciples are formed by shaping their lives according to the General Rule of Discipleship: To witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Dr Watson was happy with the order of the Festival programme, and he suggested including Charles Wesley’s hymn “Behold the Servant of the Lord”. He added that this could be done before the Bishop gives the blessing. Doing so, “it could send people forth with the two-fold emphasis of Heart and Life.”
Various groups and individuals have been given specific assignments for the Festival. The CAC, under Dr Eddy Chong, are translating the text. Dr Chong will also mobilise choirs to lead the singing in Mandarin. On the ETAC side, the Rev Philip Abraham is in charge. On the TRAC side, Pastor Joel Yong, Chairman of the Board of Worship, has coordinated with the pastors-in-charge to encourage their choirs to participate in the festival. A brass quartet has been formed and the Praise Band will be led by “Pilotheos” from Wesley Youth Ministry. The Methodist Festival Choir will be preparing two choral anthems.
This Festival calls us all to come together as the body of Christ with the common desire to worship. Through the prayers, Scripture readings, commentaries and the music, we pray that will step out with a deeper understanding of discipleship.
Judith Mosomos is Acting Director of Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.