Happenings, News

Of warm people and friendships made

Visit to an English Methodist Circuit

I WAS one of a group of five Singaporeans who went to England in April, at the invitation of a British Methodist pastor, the Rev David Jebb, to spend two weeks at a couple of Methodist churches there.

On Easter Sunday, our last Sunday there, I was asked at the service what I will remember of our visit and my immediate response was “The people and the friendships made.”

People like:
§ Edna, 82 years, who helped to organise worship services at the different retirement homes we visited, ensuring that song sheets were printed and distributed and that there were refreshments at the end of the service.
§ Chaz, a grandfather, only started becoming active in church in the last eight years or so. He helped organise the monthly Saturday morning children’s programme, and gave the children’s message one Sunday. He had an enthusiasm and hunger for the Lord which was touching.
§ Eileen was recently widowed, but despite her own personal struggles, gave us warm hospitality, and welcomed the whole team to hang out in her home and fed us. These were some of the members of Farnborough and Aldershot Methodist Churches.

My travel mates were Mr Ivan Tan and Mr David Gwee from Trinity Methodist Church, Mr Liew Ying Hock from Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, and Ms Goh Li-Ern from Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church.

The two weeks we spent showed me that in some ways church life is the same whether in Singapore or in England: too few people attend prayer meetings, a few people doing many things, several gifted people who serve selflessly and wholeheartedly. We worshipped on Sunday mornings and evenings, and interacted with the youth at Sunday at Six, the youth ministry programme. Here we fielded questions like “Is there English food in Singapore … like McDonald’s?” and “Do you have cinemas in Singapore?”

We visited two types of homes for the elderly – nursing homes similar to what we have here; and sheltered housing where residents have their own apartments within a larger home and can thus take part in community life with other residents. Because Easter was around the corner, we took part in worship services at these places. Weekly Mothers and Toddlers groups were also held: for a nominal sum, mums could gather for coffee and a chat while their toddlers played with a wide variety of toys. These gatherings draw up to 30 mothers, mostly non-believers, into a church building and into contact with Christians.

Farnborough and Aldershot are also respectively air force and army communities. Our visit was during the war in Iraq, hence ministry to “army wives” was of special significance. The army itself provided some practical help for these women, but the pastor and the lay workers also make themselves available to counsel should the need arise. This was an important aspect of Christian ministry.

On our part, we also led a meditation on Good Friday, shared about our churches and ministries in various meetings and cooked a meal (chicken curry, pineapple rice, sweet and sour pork, fried wonton, stir-fried vegetables) on Maundy Thursday for 50 people.

We visited the Methodist Church House in central London and learned about the wide range of work of Methodism in the UK. One highlight for us was visiting Wesley Chapel where stands a pulpit on which John Wesley himself preached, as well as the house in which John Wesley lived and died. These were fascinating history lessons.

Meeting other Christians and worshipping in a different context then, albeit for only two weeks, opened our eyes to God’s works and His ways in His church.

Kwa Kiem Kiok is a Local Preacher at Trinity Methodist Church.

The Singapore team with Ms Chris Elliott-Hall (second from left), Area Secretary of the Asia and Pacific region at Methodist Church House, London: From left, Mr Tan, Mr Liew, Ms Goh, Mr Gwee and Ms Kwa . – Methodist Message picture.