Features, Highlights

MSM Worship Symposium 2021: My cup runneth over

MSM Worship Symposium 2021 - My cup runneth over
Panel 1 (English track)

“WFH” (work from home) has become a buzzword, so when the Methodist School of Music (MSM) announced their 2021 Worship Symposium, I signed up immediately to WFH: Worship From Home. The theme “Flow: the ancient way to do contemporary worship” was intriguing, and the topics seemed to flow from the MSM Certificate of Christian Worship course I had attended last year.

Comprising plenary lectures with parallel panel discussions (online chats with experienced Christian worship leaders and thinkers), there were also skills training sessions. I chose the Worship Leader track while others opted for those for worship musicians, song writers, children’s worship or choir. Presented in English and Chinese, the sessions formed the basis of the three-day gathering of kindred hearts and spirits.

And Spirit there was—introducing the concept of FLOW and the ancient traditions undergirding our church worship, the sessions literally flowed into the notion of blended worship. From this arose issues that challenge us all in the “new normal” of presenting church worship services via online platforms.

What drew me into the WS2021 sessions each day were:

  • the speakers and panel discussion servants who freely and generously shared their deep experience, theological foundations, helpful ideas and personal thoughts;
  • worship services that “walked the talk” of flow, diversity and deep central focus on God;
  • a Zoom format that enabled interactions where I “met” and was enriched by other participants sharing freely using the “chat” function; and
  • interaction with the MSM team who put WS2021 together—getting to know them by name, sending them messages, and feeling their humble (and immensely hardworking) efforts to bring about the symposium.

I left WS2021 with two main thoughts.

First, how we worship in our churches today continues to evolve, especially in the area of music and communication styles. But just as it has been the challenge through the ages, the symposium showed me that ancient traditions underpin the spiritual core of our worship. Thus, we need to remain faithful to liturgical tradition (authenticity) while reaching out to new generations of worshippers (relevance). Churches approach this in different and innovative ways, but ultimately all converge on the central principle of placing God at the centre of our worship.

Second, the COVID-19 pandemic-induced shift to online worship services and outreach presents significant challenges that are common to churches of all sizes and available resources. Even while trying to bring the worship service from familiar sanctuary settings into the sacred worship space of private homes or wherever people might worship, wonderful opportunities have emerged. These include reaching those who might otherwise not be able to be present in a church, finding new ways to enable extemporaneous worship that is innovative, spontaneous and participative, and engaging younger generations of IT-savvy worshippers in the blending of the worship experience.

I signed up for WS2021 not really knowing what to expect. God smiled on me, blessing me so richly that I lifted my eyes heavenward and said: “Lord, my cup runneth over.”

Panel 2 Chinese track
Panel 2 (Chinese track)
Panel 3 (Chinese track)
Dr Simon Ng, Alliance Bible Seminary and Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary in Hong Kong
Dr Adam Perez, Duke Divinity
Julie Tai, Fuller Theological Seminary.
Dr Lester Ruth, Duke Divinity
Yvette Lau, Founder of the Anabas Ministry in Hong Kong

Dr Low Wye Mun is a medical doctor who serves in the Worship & Music ministry of Holland Village Methodist Church. He plays acoustic & bass guitar and leads songs of praise in the Sunday services. / Photos courtesy of the Methodist School of Music