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Focus more on your life as preachers, pastors told

A group of pastors discussing the significance of the Holy Communion.
– Methodist Message picture.


“THE ministry of the Word” was the theme for the Combined Pastors’ Retreat when nearly 100 Methodist pastors gathered at Sofitel Palm Resort in Johor from April 13-15. The last such retreat was held five years go.

The retreat was a “rare” opportunity for Methodist pastors to get together for fellowship, study, discernment and relaxation. Organised by the Bishop’s Office, it was hosted by the General Conference. Almost all the pastors, including retired pastors and Members-on-Trial, attended.

The keynote speaker, the Rev Howard Peskett, Vice-Principal of Trinity College in Bristol, England, ministered for 20 years in Singapore as Dean of the Discipleship Training Centre and Researcher Director at the International Headquarters of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship at Cluny Road.

He emphasised that the preacher needs to focus not just on the technique of preaching, but even more on his own heart and life as a preacher, so that there is no conflict between message and life.

“Too often even our expository preaching is dry because it is merely knowledge,” he told the pastors. “We need to hear the Word first before we preach it; we need to dwell in the Word. We need to feel the full range of emotion in the Word.”

Growing up as a “missionary kid” in China, the Rev Peskett noted three observations from his own faith journey: God’s delight, God’s forgiveness and one’s own identity as a preacher.

Regarding God’s delight, he said that preachers also need to remember that God loves them. Commenting on the song of joy in Zephaniah 3:17, he said that preachers should be motivated more by God’s delight than a sense of duty.

On God’s forgiveness, he said “we need to remember confession”. “Woe to the Teflon preacher,” he said, who appears to be so perfect, but fails to demonstrate the significance of confession and forgiveness.

On the identity of the preacher, he cautioned against preachers thinking of themselves either as pop stars or experts on all truth. “While [we] preachers are responsible for imparting wisdom and truth, we must always stand in awe, because the truth is greater than us.”

Originally, the well-known evangelical speaker, Dr John Stott, was to have addressed the retreat. With growing health concerns, Dr Stott had to pull out, but recommended the Rev Peskett.

During the retreat Bishop Dr Robert Solomon read a faxed letter from Dr Stott, greeting the pastors.

Dr Stott wrote: “It is a great disappointment to me that I cannot be with you, but I shall be remembering you in prayer each day this week.”

In a reply faxed to him from Sofitel Palm Resort, Bishop Dr Solomon wrote: “I was very touched when I received your letter of 12 April. It is very kind of you to remember all of us here at the Singapore Methodist Pastors’ retreat.”

Besides hearing the keynote speaker, the pastors engaged in daily worship and small group discussion.

One group session was devoted to the discussion of the sacraments, especially the Holy Communion. Using as background a 40-page document that was to go before The United Methodist Church General Conference in America, the pastors shared Singaporean practices and theology of The Lord’s Supper, including the question of how “open” the table should be, and what actually validates Communion.


‘Preachers should not think of themselves either as pop stars or experts on all truth. While we preachers are responsible for imparting wisdom and truth, we must always stand in awe, because the truth is greater than us.’

— The Rev Howard Peskett on the identity of the preacher.