Happenings, News

Inaugural Heritage Tour a ‘live’ history lesson

Visiting US couple and two Nepalese pastors among 35 participants

THE inaugural Methodist Heritage Tour on March 4, 2005 turned out to be a “live” history lesson in more ways than one.

Organised as part of the The Methodist Church in Singapore’s (MCS) year-long 120th Anniversary celebrations, it brought into sharp focus the distinctive worldwide Methodist connection:

■ IT SAW the participation of a visiting United Methodist Church leader and his wife from Tennessee, the United States – they learned about the tour from the MCS web site;

■ IT ALSO ATTRACTED two Methodist pastors from Nepal who were in Singapore for a missions conference; and

■ IT HAD a participant who was overjoyed to see a marble plaque of her uncle and pastor grandfather in Tamil Methodist Church in Short Street.

The half-day tour, conducted by licensed tour operator Amity International Travel Pte Ltd with the collaboration of the Bishop’s Office, started out from Methodist Centre at 9 am after a short address and a prayer by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon in front of the John Wesley Statue where the tour participants had gathered.

He told them that as the first group of participants of the Heritage Tour, they were “very special”, adding that the tour aims to “tell you about our heritage and give you a bit of the history of our Methodist Church in Singapore, and I hope this will be a very enriching experience for you to share with others”.

“The fact that there are two visitors from the US with us on this tour and there are also two pastors from Nepal is a sign of our Methodist connection and the growing ministry of MCS,” he said.

There were 35 participants, including the tour leader, Mr Tan Khey Cheow, who is the Managing Director of Amity and the Lay Leader of Changi Methodist Church.

About 20 of them assembled near the John Wesley Statue where a group photograph was taken. The rest of the participants, members of Wesley Methodist Church, joined the tour at the church, the first stop, where Mr Daniel Boen gave an illuminating 30-minute briefing and conducted a tour of the first Methodist church in Singapore. The 44-seater luxury tour coach provided a comfortable ride for the participants to take in the heritage and other historic sites of Singapore Methodism down Dunearn Road, Bencoolen Street, Fort Canning, Empress Place, Armenian Street, Stamford Road, Selegie Road, Mount Sophia, Short Street, Middle Road, Victoria Street, Telok Ayer Street, Amoy Street and Neil Road before ending at Methodist Centre.

Besides Wesley Methodist Church, there were two other site visits – Tamil Methodist Church at Short Street and Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church, the second and third of our oldest Methodist churches.

Mrs Veronica Poore gave a historical account of the Tamil church before leading the participants on a tour of the premises. She disclosed that the church had planted several churches, including those in Pasir Panjang and Seletar, and that there was a time when it had conducted worship services in several languages. The Pastor-in-Charge, the Rev Dr Vinson Samuel, was also present to take questions.

One of the participants, Ms Roselyn Supramaniam who used to worship at the church with her parents when she was a young girl, was filled with joy when she saw a plaque of her uncle, Dr George Supramaniam, on the third floor of the building. Inscribed on the plaque is also the name of her grandfather, the Rev James A. Supramaniam.

Now serving as an organist at Wesley Methodist Church, she said this and plaques of the other early leaders “are a testimony of the contributions of our forebears to the church. They had kept their faith”.

At the Telok Ayer church, the participants were warmly received by the Pastor-in-Charge, the Rev See Ping Eik, and Mr David Tay Boon Hua, a longtime lay leader. Again, the group picked up nuggets of historical facts and figures and other bits of little-known information from Mr Tay, who later took them on a tour.

When all of them were taken to the rooftop, they were surprised to learn that the church had been used by the British forces during the war years as a lookout post. The church, then, was of course overlooking the shoreline. The shoreline has since been pushed seawards, and skyscrapers have blocked the view from the church’s parapet.

The American couple, Mr and Mrs William Ross Connors, came to know about the Heritage Tour through the MCS web site. “We are on holiday in Singapore where our son lives, and when he pointed us to the Internet and asked whether we would like to go on this Heritage Tour, we said yes immediately. I’m just so happy that we’ve gone on this tour,” said Mr Connors.

The two Nepalese pastors, Pastor Sebastian Lepcha and Pastor Gopal Khamal, who were scheduled to return home on March 3 after attending a missions conference here, extended their stay for another day so that they could take the tour.

“We are very happy we could come because we have learned so many things about the church in Singapore,” said Pastor Gopal.

The Methodist Heritage Tour will continue to be conducted throughout the year. As soon as there is a group of 30 people, a tour will be conducted. The good thing is that groups can pick any day of their choice. All they have to do is to contact Mr Tan Khey Cheow at tel: 6334-6939 (office), 9619-4958 (mobile phone) or email: amityint@singnet.com.sg to confirm their bookings.

They can also call 6478-4780 or 6478-4782 (Methodist Centre) for assistance.

The tour price has been kept affordable — $14 for adults, $10 for students (18 years and under).