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Lay leaders reflect on faith formation


“SPIRITUAL formation has to do with making us holy.”

With these words, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon engaged in a discussion with lay leaders on the topic “Teaching the Faith: Nurture and Formation”.

He told the leaders at the lunch fellowship at Methodist Centre on March 31 that “spiritual formation is very important in the church, and we need to think seriously about whether or not we are doing the right thing”.

He noted that people often pursue happiness before holiness, but that it should be the other way around. “In pursuing holiness we will find happiness,” he said.

Using a progression of break-out sessions, the Bishop encouraged participants to reflect seriously on the meaning of “the faith”, and how it is transmitted and formed in believers.

First, he asked everyone to think about the meaning of “the faith”, that is, the content of what we believe. The small groups came back with terms like “Gospel”, “tradition”, “truth”, “Bible”, “cross”, and “worship”. He said that we know what we believe through the “analogy of faith”, a method of interpreting Scripture by Scripture in light of the accepted doctrine, and the creeds themselves.

He then discussed the meaning of those creeds, specifically the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, which were written early in the life of the church.

“Knowing what we believe and stating what we believe are important,” he said, “because we live out what we actually believe.” This is critical in Singapore where Christians encounter many different religious groups.

While there are many different opinions within the church, we must stick by the church’s dogma, its essential universal teaching.

“Are we paying sufficient attention to dogma in our churches?” he asked. Churches can give attention to dogma in various settings, from baptismal and membership classes to the liturgy with its hymns and songs, to the observation of the church seasons.

“Liturgy,” he said, “is how we worship God.” For many ancient church traditions, such as the Orthodox communions, liturgy is their theology. Protestants have lost significant elements of the liturgy, but still retain some elements, such as the “Gloria Patri”.

Many of the participants commented about the liturgy. Mr Lim Soo Chin of Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church asked: “Is there such a thing as a proper order of worship?” Mrs Tan Peck Yin of Christ Methodist Church replied that Isaiah 6 provides the guidelines for worship.

Commenting on the tendency of worship to be a performance, Mr Timothy Cheong of Living Waters Methodist Church, said that in worship “we have an audience of one, and that audience is God.” He commented that for the younger generation and newcomers “we need to explain why we keep the liturgy. We should understand it as our whole service to God”.

Dr Wu Dar Ching of Covenant Community Methodist Church raised the question, “Do the people sense the presence of God in worship?” Mr R. Selva of Pasir Panjang Tamil Methodist Church replied that “most people coming to his church are truly seeking the presence of God”.

Mr James Goh of Hinghwa Methodist Church noted how “the younger generation wants to have something different, but when the young ones start growing up they want to get back to their roots. So for the sake of formation we need to work on the transition”.

Several leaders commented on the ways families and small groups can help to insure Christian formation. Mrs Tan said that many aspects of worship can be used in the home and cell groups.

Dr Stephen Yeo of Bukit Panjang Methodist Church said that the worship of the church can also be extended to those who can no longer attend church because of sickness or age.

Bishop Dr Solomon shared a story about how a pastor who, during a time of persecution, was thrown into solitary confinement for several years. He was able to survive because he had memorised the liturgy, and every day he would recite the liturgy to himself.

The leaders enjoyed a meal together and worshipped using a selection of Lenten hymns.