Inspiring Aldersgate Service enhanced by sterling performances of singers and musicians
By PETER TEO
and EARNEST LAU
The congregation listening attentively to the keynote speaker, Dr Ajith Fernando. - Methodist Message picture.
THE beauty of Wesleyan songs was evident. The singing of the Methodists was stirring. The joy was bursting. And there was passion in the way the choir, the musicians, the conductors, together with the congregation, went about giving praises in songs. It was, all in all, an evening of heartwarming experience.
This then was the Aldersgate Service at Paya Lebar Methodist Church on May 24, the climax of the Aldersgate Convention 2004 -- 800 people, one voice, one heart.
The inspiring service was enhanced by the sterling performances of the Combined Methodist Orchestra, under the direction of Mr Jusuf Kam, the Aldersgate Choir, conducted by Ms Mary Gan, the Paya Lebar Band, Wesley Singers, Wesley Methodist Church & Friends, and the Methodist School of Music Faculty.
The last song of praise sung by the congregation entitled "I Shall Praise You Lord" brought the segment on the Act of Praise to a beautiful close with its sweet, lilting Chinese melody. This is a new song sung publicly for the first time. Not many people know that it was written by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon and set to music by Mr Jusuf Kam.
Anglo-Chinese Junior College students from ACSian Theatre, directed by Mrs Geetha Creffield, gave a three-part drama on "The Aldersgate Experience". They were dressed in costumes of John Wesley's era.
Special guests at the annual event were the Rev Dr David Lowes Watson, who conducted the Convention's Day Seminar on Discipleship on May 21 and 22 at Methodist Centre, and Mrs Sheila Polinsky and Mrs Ramona Magid, daughters of the late Rev William Denver Stone, who came to Singapore for the Memorial Service for their father at Pentecost Methodist Church on May 22 and the Service of the Interment of Ashes at the Garden of Remembrance Christian Columbarium on May 23.
The Rev Stone had served as a pastor in various Methodist churches here (See Page 5).
The Rev Dr Watson, Director of the Nashville Area Office of Pastoral Formation and Professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, wore a borrowed clerical robe and joined the 100-odd pastors in the procession into the church at the start of the Aldersgate Service.
Methodists 'must be passionate
about their mission'
His two-day seminar, attended by more than 70 participants, covered topics such as "The Importance of John Wesley for the Church of Today" and "A Matter of Heart and Life: Discipleship in the Methodist Tradition".
Dr Ajith Fernando, Bible teacher and National Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, was the Aldersgate Convention's keynote speaker. He gave three evening talks at Barker Road Methodist Church on May 20, 21 and 22. His messages on "Vital Holiness", "Joyous Assurance" and "Overcoming Weakness" were a blessing to those who turned up.
In his Aldersgate sermon at Paya Lebar Methodist Church, Dr Fernando dwelt on the topic of "Passionate Living", based on the passage from John 12:20-33.
The Methodist Christian, he said, is characterised by an abiding "Passion for His Call", "A Passion for God" and "A Passion for People". He recalls that Dr William Sangster, an esteemed English Methodist preacher, observed that the essence of Methodism was not in doctrine alone, but also in passionate Christian living.
The call to the mission of Christian living can be exemplified by Jesus's intimation that "the hour has come" for Him to die for His disciples, an act which would bring glorification to God. Bearing the unbearable was also John Wesley's way of living the Word - calmly and expectantly - because living for Jesus is costly, but dying brings fruitfulness. It is a life that abandons security, and he who abandons it is being obedient, said Dr Fernando.
"Serving Christ is much like that of a slave, suffering and sharing in Christ's glory. To follow Him is to follow Him in suffering because being close to Him deepens our fellowship with Him, an experience shared by Saul. In persecuting the church, he was hurting Christ himself. It was a lesson that transformed Paul who thus considered suffering for Him a privilege."
The call is propelled by a sense of "a charge to keep I have, a God to glorify " - a job to be done regardless of cost, and "woe to me if I preach not the Gospel".
The Christian must also have a Passion for God, said Dr Fernando. John 12:28 talks about the need to glorify His name. In glorifying His name, there is a danger that we glorify ourselves as well. Henry Clay Morrison, the great preacher, feared to be proud of his preaching. Only God's glory matters, a principle which is often forgotten in a world of marketing hype.
"Thus, we must have an open heart before God so that He purifies our hearts as we spend time with Him and accept personal humiliations as minor matters. This gives us the freedom to preach, forgetful of our personal reputation and security, and, if necessary, dying for the sheep. It is following Jesus's words, 'you are my friends if you do what I command' - even the way of the cross."
Of course, in fulfilling our calling to serve, we ought not to neglect our families, and good examples abound of Christian preachers who have made it a point of supporting them, even when it required exceptional effort to do so. Nonetheless, it is necessary as servants of people - doulos - to be totally committed, doing whatever it takes to be one with our people.
Methodists must be passionate about their mission to share Christ's love with those who hunger and thirst, in the spirit of Charles Wesley's hymn, "A Charge to Keep I Have."
TRAC Lay Leader Kim Seah, carrying the Cross, leading the speaker
and pastors out at the end of the
Aldersgate Service. Behind him are CAC Lay Leader Goh Say Pin, carrying the Bible, and ETAC Lay
Leader M. Geevananthan (hidden), carrying the MCS Banner. - Methodist Message picture.
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message and Earnest Lau is the Associate Editor.