Agape Methodist Church wanted to introduce their members to the spiritual disciplines. Their ministry staff member Jeremiah Singh remembered how I introduced the lectio divina and examen to their church group two years earlier in another church camp. So they invited me to lead their retreat. When I met Rev Vincent Goh, and immediate kinship bound us as we were among a handful of pastors who have done the Ignatian 30 days silent retreat. We were on the same wavelength and talked the same language. We met for fellowship a few times before the actual church retreat from 11 June to 13 June in Pulai Springs Resort.
The meeting point was at Agape Methodist Church at Yuan Ching Road, formerly an NTUC Club building directly opposite the now defunct Tang Dynasty theme park. The church partnered with the Lakeside community services to lease the building and reach out to the surrounding households of the Jurong West area. The Chinese congregation and English congregation went together to Pulai Springs but each had different camp speakers and so did the children’s church.
Agape Methodist Church is a family church. The members were warm, friendly and easy going. I quickly felt at ease and relaxed with them. I enjoyed their fellowship and got to know people during the several meals we had together. Quite a number of the members were founder or pioneer members who were with the church from the beginning when it first started as a preaching point of Faith Methodist Church. One of the members that I renewed acquaintance with was Jason Foo, someone I knew from before, who still has fire in his heart for missions.
There were six talks with practice sessions or group sharing and prayer. I was pleasantly surprised that I had been thoroughly prepared for this camp. I must confess it had not been so at other times when I did camps for other churches. I was thus pleased with my sustained effort in preparations. The topics covered spiritual practices like slowing down, silence, lectio divina, and examen (the review of the day). The big picture topics covered the “Six stages of the life of faith” and “Journeying through the Wall.” I enjoyed doing all the talks and the practical sessions that followed. It was fun to facilitate these practical sessions and see people take to the different ancient paths of prayer. I could see that they too enjoyed trying out these “new” paths.
I told them many Christians are in a large stuffy room with numerous windows of prayer. But most have opened only a few of them: intercessory prayer, petition prayer. Naturally the room is stuffy. More windows of prayer need to be opened so that the wind of the Spirit can freshen up our stuffy church lives. I believe they understood this vivid image and began to open some of the other windows. They had a good introduction to the disciplines and I trust they will go on to incorporate some of these means of grace into their lives. I was pleased that the young people were eager and open to learning such ancient ways. The Lord bless and empower them.
It is really sad that though the Christian church was one church in the first thousand years and it had many good as well as bad traditions, but some of the good traditions (including these ancient ways of prayer) were rejected and thrown out the door together with the bad traditions by the Reformation.
I left the retreat tired from doing six sessions in a three days two nights camp but gratified that I have deposited something worthwhile that can be followed up on by the church members themselves with the continued support of the leaders. May Agape Methodist Church continue to be the friendly and compassionate church, and rooted in the rest and love of God.
J I Packer said, “It has often been said that Christianity in North America is 3,000 miles wide and half an inch deep.” It is the same with the Singapore church and we do need ancient paths of prayer (and persecution) to help us deepen our lives. How wonderful it would be to do something similar for other church camps too.