One of the tensions faced by young and older members in the same worship service together is that of the introduction of new songs. Young people are quick with picking up new tunes. They are passionate with singing songs that resonate with their heart. They keep tabs with the latest in Hillsong and Bethel worship. The worship team knows this and gives to them what they want. So they introduce new songs after new songs. A few may get sung again and again, and become part of the church’s repertoire and worship memory. Many fall by the wayside and are forgotten.
To resolve the tension, we need to take heed to wise heads like C.S. Lewis. He mentioned that like dancing, worship works best when you do not have to think about it.
“As long as you notice and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing, but only learning to dance.”(C.S. Lewis in Letters to Malcolm)
Thus the more familiar you are with a worship song or hymn the more likely you will be able to focus on God’s presence, instead of trying so hard to follow the tune, and catch up with the lyrics. Thus in worship, familiarity enhances, enriches, empowers the God encounter.
Does it mean then that we do not learn new songs? New songs are important as they express our adoration and need in ways that the children of each generation can relate to and identify with as their voice. This is a powerful way by which God’s presence nourish young people’s minds and moves upon their hearts.
The best way then is for us to introduce new songs intentionally and systematically. This means order and discipline is needed. Sing it over several Sundays till familiarity breeds worship, not contempt. Worship then becomes “like dancing”.
We did 45km in about 4 hours. Cycling, not running. Three pastors from the Brompton Pastors’ Club – Richard Wong, Seng Chor and myself. Pastor Lawrence Koo and Daniel Lee could not join us.
We set off at about 7.30am from B1 carpark located at the beginning of the East Coast Service Road (near Fort Road). It was a free car park. We intended to meet earlier but I was waiting at the wrong car park B2. I don’t know how I got that wrong. I saw the WhatsApp and it said B1 car park but when I typed into the Google map it was B2.
We cycled all the way to Changi Village with one or two drink stops. At one of the stop there was a station for cyclists. It had a few repair tools, an air pump and a water fountain. Wonderful idea. I commend the authorities for making such things available in this park connector.
The scenic stretches of the route that I liked was the one after the Youth Adventure Center, with deciduous trees on both sides of the route. The other was the Changi Park itself with its tall casuarinas. We rode to the end of the Changi Park PCN. I thought that it was so beautiful that the sea scape along the route had less ships (unlike the ECP PCN), and there were no restaurants, and there were less people around. The most boring section however was the straight and broad Coastal park connector path of about 8km. On both sides of this path were ongoing construction work of next two airport terminals.
At the Changi Village hawker center we had a delicious nasi lemak breakfast. It was just past 9am. I used to patronise the famous stall that earned the accolade of best nasi lemak in Singapore. But Richard insisted this competing stall was better. After eating, I agreed with him. The rice was soft and moist, and the fish I ordered was fresh and meaty. We downed it with 100 plus to replenish our lost body salt.
We decided not to rest too long. We moved off for the return leg. The weather was cloudy and we were thankful for that. Especially at the monotonous Coastal PCN which had no tree cover. The clouds gave us shelter and cooled us. You see, in the late morning, it is usually very sunny and humid.
After that my legs grew tired , and my bum ached. This was the first time I covered such distance. Prior to this, 20 km was the most I have ridden. Pastor Seng Chor just recovered from a flu and he too had gone slow and steady. Pastor Richard went strong throughout as he was a veteran of such long rides. He was physically well conditioned. This was a piece of cake for him.
On the whole we enjoyed it. When I reached the end point I felt relief as well as a sense of satisfaction. I was thinking of how in my fathers’ generation men retired at 55 years old, and were expected to gather moss, and rot at home. We were all over 55 and we were not at home, not gathering moss, and still active in ministry. Times have changed. Attitudes have changed. Retirement is indeed a social construct.
Silence and solitude still our stormy selves and position us to listen better to God. That was what I experienced during my five days of silent retreat in Xavier House on Cheung Chau island, Hong Kong. Besides the physical and soul rest, my spirit was able to feast on the word of God and I must say unlike my several previous retreats this was one of consolation with wonderful moments of assurances and joy.
Why Cheung Chau? Well my pastor friend Eng Hwa had gone there several times and had talked about it. One day I felt an urge to try this Ignatian Spirituality Centre. Anyway the airfare costs about the same as flying to Chiangmai, where I usually went to the Seven Fountains spirituality centre. I was also ready to have a change in setting, and to try a different spiritual director.
So my pastor friend Seng Chor and I made an application. They only accepted those who have already experienced at least a three day silent directed retreat. And we had to change our dates a few times to suit the availability of the spiritual director assigned to us, a Fr Paul Goh, a bi-lingual Singaporean Jesuit priest who was posted to this centre in 2012.
Our flight was delayed by two hours because of the Typhoon Nida which brushed by Hong Kong the day before. We landed at the Hong Kong International Airport. From there we took the airport railway to the “Hong Kong MTR Station”. Then we walked five minutes to the Central Pier and boarded the frequent ferry to Cheung Chau.
Cheung Chau is a fishing town. In the harbour were berthed hundreds of fishing boats. By the time we reached there at about 3 or 4pm the boats were all back. The main street by the quayside was a long stretch of shops of all kinds facing the sea. It is packed with Hong Kongers every weekend as there were a few hiking trails and beaches on the island.
We followed the map given by the retreat center and we had to walk up a slope to reach the Xavier House, which was nicely perched on the slope of the island with a fantastic sea view and breeze. The early Catholic missionaries knew how to buy properties for their work! The whole retreat area was about a football field size but spread across the slopes. There were many niches for seating and private meditation and a beautiful chapel that had a full glass panel facing the sea. However, the single bed room was typically small like all living spaces in Hong Kong.
The retreat director was diligent and asked for four one hour and fifteen minutes sessions of prayer and meditation per day. He gave four Bible passages and two optional ones. Each day I met him at 7.45pm and shared what the Lord had spoken to me through the passages and what affections, feelings and desires they stirred. He listened intently and gave some insights but mainly, he listened. His training lasted 13 years and included specialised counselling and spiritual direction. I was blessed and quickened by the meditations and God spoke to me through the passages. We began on Tuesday night and ended on Saturday evening with a thank you dinner. I left the retreat refreshed and recharged. My faith has been quickened and I am very blessed and very thankful that the church I serve supports such retreats for pastors. Seng Chor and I moved to a hotel on Hong Kong island and did some touristy stuff. Never liked the urban side of Hong Kong but after flying all the way there what is another two days?