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‘We are to be a lighthouse.’

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In his inaugural Presidential Review, given at Ang Mo Kio Tamil Methodist Church last year, Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) President Rev R. Prabhu steered the Conference to focus on the task at hand, setting as priority the theme selected for the quadrennium: “Making Disciples of all Nations” (Matt 28:19).

The sub-themes for each year are based on Isaiah 54:2 – “Enlarge the place of your tent” (2013); “Stretch your tent curtains wide” (2014); “Lengthen your cords” (2015), and “Strengthen your stakes” (2016).

Some of the issues which President Prabhu addressed in his Review included pastor supply, lay participation, reconstitution of the Methodist Youth Fellowship, expansion of missions, call to discipleship, and the never-ending challenge of evangelism.

With the small supply of pastors in ETAC, the President highlighted that each pastor often had to provide pastorate to more than two churches at a time, with assistance from retired pastors. However, thanks to the support from laity, the ministry in each of the eight ETAC churches has not suffered.

In some instances, resources are pooled between various Boards and the respective local church committees. The Rev Prabhu commended this strategy, but cautioned that church programmes must not be merely events, but on-going opportunities for involvement of members and people in the neighbourhood, and eventually an avenue for growth.

He was also happy to note that the ETAC Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) has been reconstituted, with MYF groups now functioning in almost all the eight churches. This shows effective engagement with the youths. He expressed the hope that these MYF leaders will find new opportunities to minister to Indian youths around their homes, schools and workplaces, and draw them to church.

Another piece of good news was the healthy growth of the Singapore Telugu Methodist Church, as well as the genesis of their new Women’s Society of Christian Service chapter.

The President noted that we have a mission to the Indian migrants at our doorstep, but must not neglect looking after our own. He encouraged more regular visits to the elderly and the housebound, and hence there was a need to grow our pool of Social Concerns volunteers. Evangelism within the neighbourhood has to be a reality. This is in line with the 2014 theme to “stretch our tent curtains wide”, through evangelism and organising new outreach preaching points.

The Rev Prabhu encouraged us to step out of “maintenance mode” and propel ETAC forward with the need to identify, nurture and equip young adults to prepare them for leadership positions within their churches, and at Annual Conference and General Conference levels. This will have to begin with concerted prayer, one-to-one interaction and retreats, with persons who have shown the desire to enter the ministry. The President highlighted that it was the duty of parents and mature members of our churches to draw our youths into the ministry.

The 2014 theme is especially a challenge to the laity – evangelism and planting new outreach preaching points will be vital to church growth, not just in numbers, but in quality.

Said the President: “God has placed a burden on ETAC. We are to identify and establish new locations for worship and education, where there are significant groups of migrant Indians. Just as two new outreach preaching points [at Bedok and at Jalan Teck Whye] have been established in 2013, we need to see the possibilities in the Punggol, Woodlands and Boon Lay areas.”

There is a role for each and every member of the laity, as ETAC explores opportunities for new ministries. The Rev Prabhu challenged the churches to “be the lighthouse” to those who are in search of the truth and happiness; it is his prayer that the Holy Spirit of God will make us – pastors and laity alike – powerful witnesses wherever we are placed.

Remembering Richard Tambyah

A minute’s silence was observed at the ETAC Meeting and tribute was paid to Mr Richard Thurairasah Tambyah who entered into glory on August 25, 2013. A faithful Christian, an able leader, a quiet gentleman and passionate servant of God, Richard was a member of Tamil Methodist Church, and a founding leader of ETAC. He had been instrumental in providing guidance and leadership to the Conference in a variety of capacities, including the planting of new churches.

A Colombo Plan scholar and a graduate of the University of New Zealand, he had served in the Ministry of Education.

Richard had a heart for disadvantaged people, and was one of the pioneers of Methodist Welfare Services which started in 1976, serving first as its Chairman and then as a Board member for over 20 years until he was unable to continue. Along with other Tamil-Indian church leaders, he also helped set up the Navajeevan Centre for rehabilitating Indian drug addicts.

He has previously served in the General Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore as the Chairman of the Council of Christian Social Services.

His love for God and his concern for people did not diminish even after his
retirement from active service. He made a silent but strong impact on those who came in contact with him.

Richard leaves behind his wife Angeline, daughters Christine and Jasmine, son Peter, and grandchildren.

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Veronica Poore is Chairman of the Board of Presidency of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference and a member of Tamil Methodist Church.

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