They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32
Jennifer and I are now into the fourth month of being at MPCC . Thank you for a very warm and heartfelt welcome! One way of looking at us is that we are a Christian couple needing a church community as much as everyone else. To find one and experience it has been an enriching part of our spiritual journey.
As 2021 and Phase 3 starts with our regathering, we are slowly moving into the new normal of church life and ministry. Having experienced a very different year in 2020, let us not fail to approach 2021 with a sense of deep thankfulness. We thank the Lord for every recovery of our life together.
We are grateful for the new Saturday Service which is by now firmly established with a stable core congregation. We are thankful for Zimrah's efforts at using recordings and gradually transiting to "live" worship. We also appreciate the help of the Filipino Service worship team. Let's continue to keep up our discipline of weekly worship and keep post-Service mingling to the minimum, even as we hope for a further loosening of some restrictions. It is counter intuitive: the urge to connect and yet keeping a distance! We love from the heart and this is important.
Live streaming is still being offered for the Sunday Service and may well be a permanent feature. The efforts put in by the AV team to improve the videos are commendable. Occasionally, seekers do attend our Services and for that we are thankful to the Lord for adding to our fold. Service leaders, worship teams and preachers play a part in shaping the Services and the pattern of our Services have taken a stable shape. We remain open to further tweaks if necessary.
Cells are gathering, whether online or onsite. It is important to keep up the communication as the Cell is not about meetings but a shared "cell life." A good Cell needs to be fuelled by a desire for community - to be friends - ministry to each other and outreach to the "one lost sheep." I also encourage Cells to use the sermon based Cell outlines as it allows members to reflect on and respond to our weekly God-inspired messages.
Interest groups play a very important part in friendship building and outreach. Using our body and gifts in healthy ways is part of our worship to the Lord and a sign of good stewardship. It also improves our mental (and thus spiritual and physical) well-being*. I can remember the wisdom of the late Martin Lloyd Jones in his book, grandly entitled "Depression." He proposed that one solution is that we need to go out to the fields and clear some manure! The whole of life is a gift from the Lord. Let's live it for His glory.
As for studying the Bible systematically, we are relying on courses provided by the Cathedral and other parishes. We will continue to build up our "Catechism" Courses such as Baptism, Confirmation and additional modules. I am keen to start a new module on the Apostles Creed sometime in the third quarter, possibly in partnership with other parishes.
Alpha@Home is off to a good start. One blessing of Alpha is how it helps the parish to integrate evangelism in the rhythm of church life. Each run offers a learning experience which will enrich future courses. We will also grow into the Alpha DNA values of welcoming seekers and posturing the church with an outward orientation.
The pandemic is still raging in many parts of the world and as our ministers have been saying, if the world is not safe, Singapore is not safe. One obvious impact it had which was felt more keenly last year is on our Services. Our service capacity was reduced by 50% or more. Going online remain a fall-back option but we all know from experience that it would be a far cry from the time tested experience of a physical assembly. We have to be prayerful, "think out of the box" and be prepared to consider new ways of expressing our church life. For example, we may need to hold more Services. As we have limited resources, we may need to change the way we do things.
While we adjust to current needs, we need to continue to think long-term about the direction and future of the church. One obvious area is our youths and young adults. Can they play a part to shape our future? What are the crying needs of this generation? We need to listen and this will need to go beyond words. The listening needs to be very intentional and space-giving as it is not natural to think of something that may not include our own needs or filtered through our perceptions. MPCC was birthed with a vision to reach the "now generation." It is deep in our DNA i.e. our name, building, location etc. Today, echoes from our past are still resounding in our community. The need for such a vision is even more necessary today as a globalised world has narrowed the generational gaps. May these echoes be renewed with fresh sounds which are in tune with what the Lord is seeking to do today. Indeed, revive your Church, O Lord!
A few words on Chapel of Christ our Hope: We are encouraging them to work towards being a parish. They now have 90-strong membership with a stable staff and lay leadership team with an established chaplaincy work in SAAC. MPCC partnership with CCH will continue in view of our shared history and being in the same cluster.
I will end on a personal note. We are still in a season where activities are reduced. With the curb of overseas travelling, this is a time to connect deeper with the Lord and one another. One of the gift of church is community life and this is something we need to treasure. Many Christians are hungering for authentic community and friendship. We should continue with earnest heart conversations. This can happen in groups of eight , 3-2-1 or just one to one. This can be done over drinks or walking outdoors*. On walking or cycling, we need to take time to appreciate the gift of nature and discover beautiful Singapore.
The pandemic has dampened activities and some wheels have been stopped or slowed. It is good to take stock and think deeper about our faith and life together. We may be seated together in committees or even playing together on stage for years and yet have not much clue over each other's state or spiritual walk.
The pandemic is dragging but let's see this as a continuing season to pursue priorities that truly matter, as the Emmaus journey will remind us (see Luke 24:32): to walk with the Lord, to have conversations guided by His Word and walking as friends with one another.