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Have you gone back to church?

Bishop Dr Gordon Wong preaching at Wesley Methodist Church on Easter Sunday

It’s been two weeks since churches started ‘opening up’. The relaxation of Safe Management Measures for religious organisations from 29 March 2022 has meant allowing more worshippers to attend service without adhering to specific zones, to be seated close together and to sing while masked. What a difference it has made! The louder sounds of congregational singing were not just due to more worshippers in one location, but from the joy of being able to sing out loud and with gusto (even if our masks dampened the sound somewhat), and the relief of inching our way back to normality after two long years.

“We are made to be in community. Watching a service livestreamed from home cannot replicate the experience in church. Many people including youth and the elderly have felt disconnected and alienated without physical church. We look forward to welcoming everyone back, re-establishing bonds and restoring what was missed for the past two years,” said Bishop Dr Gordon Wong, Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore, who preached at Wesley Methodist Church (WMC) on Easter Sunday. WMC was almost at full capacity during its 8.30 a.m. and 11.00 a.m. services.

In the last two weeks, worshippers from Methodist churches shared their sentiments with Methodist Message about having full on-site services again. Richard Tan from Grace Methodist Church said, “How wonderful it is to get back to physical service in church and be able to sing together again. The church is one body, and like a healthy body, we should not stay dislocated.”

“The sound of voices filling the Sanctuary in worship was truly uplifting!” said Shanthini Moorthy from Short Street Tamil Methodist Church.

For seniors, watching online services on a device or television screen was difficult to get used to and many longed for face-to-face interactions. “I feel like I’m finally out of prison!” said Goh Lee Cheng, who is in her 80s and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church. She had attended services on-site only occasionally in the last two years. Ms Goh said she would encourage other seniors to come back and experience worship on-site, together with others. “Don’t worry about Covid, God will take care of you,” she told Methodist Message.

Over at Wesley Methodist Church, Giam Lay Hoon, who is in her 50s, said: “Going to church on 3 April was quite special in at least one way — I never thought I would be so happy seeing a traffic jam between services at the carpark! That was the indicator that a joyous crossroad had been reached in the easing of pandemic distancing rules.”

For Lay Hoon’s parents, returning to church on-site meant going back to an important place. “For my parents, this means laying out on Saturday night, the clothes that they will wear to church on Sunday. They make sure that they are presentable, at least physically and visually, and spiritually as well, to meet the Lord God.”

But a few weeks of nearly-normal on-site services do not wipe out two years of Covid-induced fatigue in an instant. If you are feeling like you’ve grown accustomed to watching an online service from home, and dread the idea of making the journey back to church and dealing with logistical hurdles of family members attending various programmes and services, you are not alone.

Still, as the writer of Hebrews urges us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

It’s about a relationship with God and between fellow brothers- and sisters-in-Christ. We are to love God and love one another, and what better way to do this than to gather together in church to worship God.

It was also our Lord Jesus’ custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath. “As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place.” (Luke 4:16, The Message)

As our Lord had done, let us not give up meeting together in church. Let’s also do so in a loving manner and always showing care for one another. Stay safe and see you back in church — not just on Easter but every other Sunday!

Faith Methodist Church and Queenstown Chinese Methodist Church at their Maundy Thursday combined service

Lianne Ong, Editor, and Alvin Tay, Managing Editor of Methodist Message