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The Faith We Sing 2021 – For Every Season

The Faith We Sing 2021 - For Every Season
The Faith We Sing 2021

Organised by the Methodist School of Music (MSM), The Faith We Sing (TFWS) is an annual singing retreat that provides an opportunity for congregants to go deeper into the songs of the church and understand why we sing them. It is also a platform for songwriters, both local and regional, to present their original compositions.

This year, TFWS, which was held online via Zoom from 10 to 11 Sep, featured songs by several Singaporeans and one Indonesian. The retreat was attended by 110 participants from Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

On Friday evening, the participants experienced the Psalms in a unique way. Through an evening worship, the original psalm settings were organised into various themes that mark every believer’s journey of faith. Through the songs, participants felt pain and anger over the state of the world, distress over sin, the wonder of repentance and receiving forgiveness, the greatness of God’s mercy, and a believer’s endless hope. And just like in the book of Psalms, Friday’s journey ended how it began—with praise, albeit marked by the bittersweet nature of the faith journey.

On Saturday morning, Dr Martin Tel (C. F. Seabrook Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary, USA) expounded on the Psalms for seasons of distress and grief. Together with his assistant Dr Melissa Haupt, Dr Tel showcased several Psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship.1 Dr Tel demonstrated how lament psalms were sung and spoken, and how they could be included in various parts of a worship service. Participants joined in by reading portions of Scripture, doing sign language and singing along.

Subsequently, two breakout sessions were held: “Praying the Psalms” by Dr Debra Rienstra (Professor of English at Calvin University, USA); and “Setting Psalms to Music: A Sharing by Local Songwriters” (moderated by Rev Daphne June Lau from Eternal Life Assembly). Dr Rienstra shared why we should pray using the Psalms and how we can pray like the psalmists of old. Participants were given three minutes to draft one prayer in a Collect form (i.e. starting with a name for God, followed by one’s petition) and another three minutes to draft another one in a lament form. Prayer after prayer was shared, edifying and enriching everyone in the class. One prayer that moved the class was a prayer by a participant from Myanmar:

Oh! Judge or the earth!
You are judge and your ways are righteous.

See our unjust situation here in Myanmar

So that our country may be healed

and live in the right path again. Amen.

—Based on Psalm 94, by Salai Nay Lynn Htun (Myanmar)

Dr Martin Tel leading a session on the second day

At the songwriters’ workshop, Rev Daphne Lau had local songwriters Nigel Goh, Eileen Lau, Paulo Caperig and Justin Chan share the stories behind their songs and their creative processes, as well as tips for budding songwriters who are keen on building their craft. The songwriters all agreed there was the need to go deep into Scripture for inspiration, have a wide listening diet, use the voice memo app ready to record ideas as soon as they materialise, and have objective third parties to evaluate song revisions with constructive criticism.

This year’s TFWS was very well-received by those who attended, many of whom appreciated the space given to lament with new songs, prayers and Scriptures from the book of Psalms. Perhaps this is what our congregations need in a time of pandemic, climate change and political turmoil.


1 Martin Tel, Joyce Borger, and John D. Witvliet, Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship (Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive/Brazos Press, 2012).

Want to hear more locally-composed Christian songs? Come register as a user of our resource portal today! Visit portal.msmusic.edu.sg for more details. Registration is free.

Amelia Leo is a Programmes Executive at the Methodist School of Music, Worship & Church Music Department. / Screenshots courtesy of MSM

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