We sometimes forget that we are not a loose association of independent churches, but part of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), which comprises not only of 46 churches but also schools and various agencies such as the Methodist Missions Society, Disciple Agency and the Methodist Welfare Society.
We are much larger than most realise, and serve the community in and outside of the church in many ways.
The Annual Conferences
After Oldham founded the church mission in Malaya in 1885, we became the Malaya Annual Conference in 1902. In 1976, we became The Methodist Church in Singapore. We are autonomous; we are affiliated with but do not report to nor come under other worldwide Methodist churches in the World Methodist Council.
As a local church, you would fall under the oversight of one of our three Annual Conferences (called Annual because they meet every year): namely the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC); Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC); and the Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC). Within each Conference, churches are grouped into Districts, and report to a District Superintendent (DS) who is an Elder of the Church.
The Annual Conferences were initially organised along language lines, but these distinctions have been blurred over time and local churches now conduct services and meetings in various languages.
Each Annual Conference has an elected President and Vice-President who hold the responsibility for a term of four years, and a Vice President for a term of two years, in each quadrennium. This four-year period is because the highest governing body of MCS, the General Conference (GC), meets once every four years. At these quadrennial meetings, a new Bishop of the General Conference is elected, as well as Annual Conference Presidents and other office-bearers of the Church.
The Bishop guides and represents MCS as well as represents her in various non-Methodist organisations and meetings. He or she is also concurrently the overseeing Bishop for some regional countries. (He oversees the overseas!)
The General Conference, Agencies and Social Principles
The General Conference oversees the three Annual Conferences and their churches (a local church is called a Local Conference) as well as various schools and agencies. Many members have attended the Disciple Bible Study, which is administered by the Disciple Agency (DA) and serves as a common Christian education curriculum for MCS. The Disciple Agency recently commemorated 30 years of ministry in Singapore with a Thanksgiving Service at Faith Methodist Church.1
Another Agency you may have interacted with is the Methodist Missions Society (MMS), which looks after all our missionaries sent out by Methodist churches here. Appointment, training, safety and ministry of the missionaries is coordinated, deliberated and prayed-over, and medium- to long-term planning is done for our various mission fields here. We in Singapore are the fruit of missionary work by Methodist missionaries.
Our Social Holiness is served by the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), which runs nursing homes, a hospice, family service centres, active ageing centres, senior activity centres, student care, a girls’ residence, as well as home care services. You may have participated in their many initiatives, such as Get Out of Debt (GOOD).
You would also be familiar with the Social Principles which have been updated and adopted by the General Conference.
Methodist Schools and Preschools
To develop the skills and liturgical knowledge of how to use music in churches, the Methodist School of Music (MSM) runs courses for musicians, dancers, worship leaders and pastors, choirs, as well as audio-visual team members. It is co-sited with the Trinity Theological College premises at the John Wesley Centre in Bukit Timah.
Our well-known schools come under the Ministry of Education, but we maintain a church in each school’s premises, and have at least one chaplain for each school. These chaplains are augmented by the Christian Ministry Staff (CMS) who work with the students in character, emotional and spiritual development. Religious Emphasis Week, Prayer Meetings and other nurturing activities are organised for students, staff and parents and are the unique characteristic of our Mission schools.
The Methodist Schools Foundation (MSF) helps to raise and administer funds to maintain the facilities and infrastructure of our schools, as well as provides bursaries, teaching equipment and other teaching aids to supplement our schools.
For early childhood education, the Methodist Preschool Services Pte Ltd (MPSPL) manages several kindergartens in church premises and seeks to provide holistic preschool education and care whilst constantly maintaining high standards through review, training and upgrade of staff and facilities.
We also have a Christian Columbarium at the Garden of Remembrance at Choa Chu Kang, where our ashes may be interred, or meetings and retreats held in beautiful meeting rooms amidst the serenity of the venue.
There are also ministries organised at the Annual Conference (AC) levels; ETAC and TRAC have AC-wide Youth Ministries. ETAC Methodist Youth Fellowship conducts a service for all youth on every third Sunday of the month at Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church. Apart from organising retreats, it seeks to develop youth into leaders of tomorrow within the church as well as in the community. Each local church in ETAC has its own MYF committee and regular fellowship gatherings. TRAC has TRUTHMIN, which is known for its three-month-long TRACkers Youth Discipleship Programme and the annual Fusion Conference. These have been instrumental in setting the hearts of participants on fire for the Lord.
The seniors are not left out, and CAC Seniors’ Ministry conducts weekly bible study and fellowship for seniors at both AC and local church level. Glowing Years Ministry (GYM) by TRAC also organises gatherings, worship and activities such as karaoke and outings to encourage fellowship and Christian growth for self, socially, spiritually.
All Methodist women are automatically members of the Women’s Society for Christian Service (WSCS), which is organised from the GC level down through the AC and the local churches. It has various programmes and activities across the three conference levels for women to be equipped in the areas of leadership and servanthood for the general ministry of the church.
Methodist Message is a publication of the General Conference, and produced monthly in both hardcopy and web-based media to keep all Methodists abreast of development and plans in the body. Our website and social media presence on Facebook and Instagram are also managed, in parallel to those of the local churches, ACs and other ministries.
Did you know that the annual Aldersgate SG event at the end of May is one of the highlights of the General Conference? It is open to all, especially Methodists. Guest preachers and speakers are invited to speak, and the event culminates in a celebration service in which all the local churches from the three Annual Conferences participate.
If you would like to find out more about the history of MCS, we have a rich collection in the Archives and History Library with materials and objects of historical significance in the Methodist Centre at Barker Road.
Methodists are also represented in the National Council of Churches Singapore, the Trinity Theological College, the Inter-Religious Organisation of Singapore, and various inter-denomination and inter-faith associations.
Together with the work of the local church such as Social Concerns and Evangelism, Family Life, and what most readers would be more familiar with, MCS as a whole seeks to be the salt and light of the world. It is good to know that we do not operate independently in a silo, but are part of a greater connexion in God’s kingdom.
1 Methodist Message, December 2021, https://message.methodist.org.sg/disciple-celebrates-30-years-of-gods-faithfulness
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Dr Anthony Goh is Chairperson of the Council on Communications, and a member of Bedok Methodist Church. He and his wife, Hui Ling, are passionate about Marriage Enrichment and Preparation Courses, and enjoy ballroom dancing. / Photos courtesy of MCS Comms