400 gather for historic ordination in Phnom Penh
PHNOM PENH – It was a sight to behold. A colourful ceremony filled with utter joy and awe, a mixture of the traditional and the modern. And it was historic.
At a service in Phnom Penh witnessed by more than 400 Methodists from 13 countries, 10 Cambodians were ordained as pastors to live out John Wesley’s call to “make the world our parish”.
The 10 were the first batch of Cambodians ever to be ordained as Methodist pastors. One of the 10 was a woman – another “first” in the country. And The Methodist Centre in Phnom Penh, where the ordination was held, scored yet another “first” – it was the first service of its kind to be held there.
Jan 17, 2003, no doubt, will go into the annals of Cambodia’s history.
Never before has there been such a large gathering of Methodists in Cambodia. And from so many countries, too. The Cambodian national TV was present to record history.
The scene was one of great joy as the 10 ordinands, resplendent in their local pastor’s gold-and-black tunic, trooped into the sanctuary with the four episcopal leaders of the participating church partners of the Cambodia Christian Methodist Association who later ordained them.
Bishop Dr Robert Solomon led an 18-member delegation from The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) to witness the ordination and a mass baptism of almost 100 Cambodians at a river as well as to visit our COSI Children’s Village and churches.
Members of the delegation included the three Annual Conference Presidents — the Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot (CAC), the Rev Dr Vinson Samuel (ETAC), and the Rev Dr Isaac Lim (TRAC) — and the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) Director, the Rev Dr Clarence Lim.
The Rev Dr Clarence Lim, together with his team of Singapore missionaries headed by the Rev Kevin Lowe, did a marvellous job in planning the ordination service.
In his greetings, Bishop William Dew of the United Methodist Church said: “What we do here today will be honoured in our memories as a very important step in the growth and development of the Christian community in Cambodia.
“God has been doing miraculous work in Cambodia for several years. We have not brought God to Cambodia. God has already been working here through His prevenient grace. What we are witnessing is the human response to God’s call,” added Bishop Dew, who was one of the four leaders who ordained the pastors.
The other three were Bishop Jun Yang Chul, Chairman of the Board of Missions of the Korean Methodist Church, the Rev Dr Li Ping-Kwong of the World Federation of Chinese Methodist Churches, and Bishop Dr Solomon, who delivered the sermon.
The sermon, entitled “The Call to Ministry”, was based on John 21:15f. The passage is about the call of Peter to a special ministry.
Bishop Dr Solomon said that Jesus, in His usual clear, simple and profound way, issued one call, asked one question and gave one task.
The call was “Follow me”. “Before you are a leader of people, you have to be a follower of Jesus,” said the Bishop.
“The question was ‘Do you love me?’ No one can minister effectively, with eternal significance, without love for God in his heart.
“The one task was ‘Feed my sheep.’ Your job description, in a nutshell, is: ‘Feed my sheep.’ Not your sheep. Not your ego.”
Bishop Dr Solomon concluded by telling the 10 new deacons that as ministers, “we have one mission: follow Jesus; one motive: love God; one ministry: feed His sheep”.
The 10 are: the Rev Joseph Chan Chhleav, the Rev Seng Dyna, the Rev Sok Sovandy, the Rev Prak Vuthy, the Rev Hem San, the Rev Chan Hak, the Rev Ham Chheng Hor, the Rev Ven Voun Chhen, the Rev Lun Sophy and the Rev (Ms) Treoung Chan Bony.
The Rev Prak Vuthy and the Rev Lun Sophy are MMS pastors in Cambodia, supported by the MCS.
‘Mission of the People Called Methodists in Cambodia’ formed in Phnom Penh
When the ordination service was over, Bishop Dr Solomon announced to the congregation the formation of the “Mission of the People Called Methodists in Cambodia”. The four episcopal leaders of the participating church partners then signed on the document formalising the establishment of the Mission.
The document read, in part: “Be it known this 17th day of January in the year of our Lord 2003 under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in a spirit of mutual trust and confidence in our common mission for Christ and the Church in Cambodia and throughout the world, we, the Episcopal leaders of The Korean Methodist Church, The Methodist Church of Singapore, The United Methodist Church from United States, Switzerland and France, and the World Federation of Chinese Methodist Churches in the light of our agreement of February 5, 2000 in Zurich, Switzerland addressing the formation of a common ‘Mission of the People Called Methodists in Cambodia’, declare herewith that the Mission is formally organised this day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.”
The first annual meeting of the Mission will be held in January 2004 at which time the rules, structure and governance will be presented and approved.
The two-hour ordination service began with the singing of songs of praise led by students from the Cambodian Methodist Bible School. Children from the COSI Village, run by the MMS, then performed a delightful Blessing Dance.
Members of the congregation were visibly inspired. Traditional music from the sounds of Cambodian gongs, triangles and stringed instruments blended well with the modern electric guitar and drums.
Family members, relatives, friends and church members craned their necks for a good look at their respective pastors. Photographers jostled for positions. Camera flashes popped. TV cameras whirred.
The scene was repeated after the service ended. Outside the sanctuary, tradition blended with modernity as family members and well-wishers congratulated the new ordinands, first with the traditional “chum reap su” greetings, then handshakes, and then hugs. It was a spontaneous show of true Christian love. Oh, how the people love their pastors!
Peter Teo, a member of the 18-member Singapore delegation to Cambodia, is the Editor of Methodist Message.