Church of True Light: “Church Camp” or “Church Retreat”

Where did the term “church camp” originate? In USA in the 1880’s where summer camps were organised for boys who grew up in the cities and parents wanted them to toughen up and reconnect them with nature. The camps ran for a few months.  The first camp to introduce spiritual growth was done by the YMCA with outdoor religious services on Sundays for the boys. In the 1930s the American Bible Society funded church camps. In the 1940s and 1950s church camps began to spring up in all the denominational churches, becoming shorter and packed with spiritual input and more organised. It impacted many youths with the gospel and revived the church members. The Singapore Church is very much influenced by the US church, so we too use the term “church camp”, to describe the few days of programmed spiritual input usually in a hotel or conference grounds, with the intention of reviving and strengthening the faith of believers, young and old.

In my recent engagement with the Church of True Light as the guest preacher in a “church camp” I had an interesting chat with their Vicar, Canon Barry Leong. The interesting thing was that Barry was insistent on eradicating the use of the term “church camp” among members. “Its “church retreat” not “church camp””! The schedule reflected his strong views about changing terms to reflect a change in purpose, spirit and schedule that he advocated. He advocated a schedule with a better balance of bonding among members, Bible teachings, and time for leisure and rest (see below).

This was what the schedule was like: on the first day, everyone got to the hotel, settled in, and at 8 pm attended a short briefing and prayer. No Bible teaching. On the second and third days, they could sleep in if they wished, because the spiritual input of worship and teaching was from 10am to 12noon. They could have a leisurely breakfast and catch up with church friends or get to know other church members. After the morning spiritual input, they had a leisurely lunch and a free and easy afternoon, followed by a leisurely dinner. The night spiritual input was from 8pm to 10pm. On the last morning, the same time schedule was followed but the spiritual input was worship, thanksgiving, holy communion, and a final lunch before everyone goes back.

I had preached in their “church camps” before and I have seen an evolution of their camp programmes. The first time I preached in their church camp: two Bible teaching sessions in the morning, one workshop in the afternoon, one Bible teaching session in the night. This was the programme each day. I almost died. They too almost died from listening to me. The second time I took the “church camp” it got better: there were no afternoon workshops. The third time I spoke for them in a church camp it was already better: one session in the morning and one at night. I thought it would not get any better. This time round, I felt it had a very good balance. Good at getting the best out of the invited preacher, even better for stressed Singaporean church members who came to the “church camp” to “come away to a desolate place by yourselves to rest”. 

If the name was changed from “church camp” to “church retreat” without any change in purpose, spirit and schedule, it would be mere cosmetic spin, words without action, and futile change for projecting a new image that meant nothing.

Anyway, enough about this. I enjoyed teaching in this recent church retreat because the theme is dear to my heart, one that I believe the Singapore church badly needs. It was also a joy because the people were responsive and I have gotten to know this congregation over a few decades of on and off teaching ministry to them. The anointing was present in all the meetings.

I noticed that the pastoral team had a good gift mix and oneness about them. I was happy to meet up with former WRPF church member, Jude, and his wife, Kaining, both of whom now are in the pastoral team. I believe they are in a place where they can develop, thrive and blossom. I met them over a breakfast and was very happy for them.

I was also blessed by the helpfulness of Rev Aaron and Jennifer Cheng (above) and Pastor Matthew and Susan (below) and Gasper for transportation arrangements. The church retreat is certainly a June ministry highlight for me personally. Not to forget, one of the members sponsored a truckload of durians for the members to enjoy during one of the afternoons at the outdoor hotel carpark.

Share this:

Read More →

Church of True Light: Let It Shine

My association with Church of True Light went back about twenty-five years. I first got to know them through a church camp before I guest preached in their worship services. If I remember correctly I took two other camps with them, one in the Cameron Highlands, and another in Johor. The uniqueness of their camps is that both Mandarin and English congregations used the same hotel during the camp but had different guest preachers. During mealtimes and special recreation events they were together for bonding time. It was admirable that they made efforts to be together, and that meant the English congregation had to be sensitive to the affordability of the locations as many in the Mandarin congregation were senior citizens.

With this long, pleasant association, I have a familiarity with some of the members of the church. It was good to see that many of them were still actively serving the Lord after so many years. One of them, Matthew, even became a full-time pastor in the church recently. Others led the service, or led ministries and are involved in different ministry functions. Faithfulness is hard to come by these days but you can find it in this church. 

From Vincent to Aaron

My friend Revd Vincent Hoon, retired from this church and is now serving as an auxiliary priest in St John’s- St Margaret’s, his home church. I was pleasantly surprised that the priest, Revd Aaron Cheng, who took over the English Congregation, invited me to preach at the 4.30pm Saturday service comprising mostly young people (and adults who prefer Saturday worship), and the 9am Sunday morning worship of the English congregation.

The priest was the youth pastor doing part time studies in Trinity Theological College. Groomed by Vincent, he was ordained during the pandemic and began his priesthood in an unforgettable time. In the future when people ask him, “When were you ordained?” “Oh, during the pandemic.” They would nod their heads. He is a positive, cheerful and energetic minister who connects well with his youth and the adults in the church. It warmed my heart to get an email from him and of course I was most willing to renew ties and minister there again. After all, I have had a year of rest and was more than ready to do what I love.

Preaching Adjustment

When the time came I was all ready to preach, having written out my script for the mostly young people Saturday worship. I went ahead with my well researched sermon but my experience was that I could not connect with them and drove home perturbed about it. After a nap, I went to the Lord and waited on Him, to help me understand, to see if there was any adjustment needed for the Sunday preaching assignment. I felt led to use the end-point at the introduction, and emphasize two other points, with a heavier emphasis on application and response. During prayer, I intuitively saw myself leaving the pulpit and walking closer to the audience and giving an altar call to pray in the front. On Sunday, before the service, I got permission for the altar call with the priest. Thankfully, it was the first Sunday after the government loosen the regulations for religious meetings. Altar calls to pray in the front is permissible.

Prayer Altar

In both services I talked about the 1970’s revival and how the move of God renewed the Anglican church and the valley of dry bones became an exceedingly great army of lay volunteers. I challenged them to pray for a fresh move of God. We need to forget the former things, and expect a new move, a new expression of God’s grace and power in the church. I was encouraged to see people come forward to spend five minutes praying in the front at the kneelers and on the carpeted floor. By God’s grace, I felt the message resonated with many of them. It was such a joy and privilege.

Meeting Jude

The bonus joy was meeting Jude, formerly my church member and a missionary in training with YWAM. He had later gone on staff with St Peter’s Anglican church, and then with Covenant EFC’s social arm, and finally landed in Church of True Light with his wife! They tell me that the new Vicar Barry Leong has begun to implement a plan of succession – recruiting young people and calling them out to serve on staff.  There were two other new recruits on staff: a P.K. who takes charge of the young people ministry, and Joey (a YWAM missionary in Thailand back because of the pandemic) who ministers to the children.

After the service, Aaron, Jude and I had teh tarik and roti prata at an Indian eatery directly opposite the church entrance. We talked shop for about an hour. Interestingly, one of their leaders later passed by and told us he had already paid the bill for our meals – what a picture of the grace and hospitality of this lovely faith community. The Lord be with, and bless them abundantly, so that they shine like bright stars in this darkening world.

To read my other church visits, click HERE.

Share this:

Read More →

Worship without singing aloud

The thought of being in a worship service with a pre-recorded video showing a worship leader singing did not seem appealing to me. That was until I had to guest preach at the Anglican Church of True Light. Strangely I felt connected with God as I followed the lyrics and tune in my heart. My soul was sweetly lifted to God in prayer and song. How could I explain it?

Perhaps I have been singing in a perfunctory way all along, being caught up with the external stimuli of sight and sound and stage, instead of singing out of simple pure adoration. Yet a stripped down version somehow brought me back to “the heart of worship”, of sincere and simple reverential love for God.

One of the few reasons people give for socially distanced worship physical gatherings is that you are not permitted to sing. And I for one felt that way. I should be surprised at myself for feeling this way, since I am so familiar with contemplative prayer, that thrives in silence, in waiting on God’s movement in my heart. So it was good to have experienced this way of expressing our love for God in silent worship – just listening and feeling but not being able to sing aloud. It’s good. It is worship. A fresh way though unfamiliar way to worship. And its usually for two songs at most, so it is not monotonous.

Have you attended a physical gathering of Sunday worship recently? What was it like? Out of the maximum of fifty attendance how many seats were taken up?

Share this:

Read More →

Guest preaching at Church of True Light

Guest preaching at Church of True Light during covid 19

The Church of True Light entrance looked unusually quiet. For a moment I thought the church was closed. Oops, I was looking at the wrong doors. Two women were there at the front desk. One greeted me and asked for my name. I said, I am the guest preacher for the English congregation. She checked my temperature, and briskly showed me to the lift.

The worship hall was a welcome sight. They had done modest renovations and the place looked more conducive than before. Later, I found that I sounded good over the microphone. They must have upgraded the PA system too. Wonderful.

A tall, tan Anglican priest with silvered hair welcomed me, and I suddenly felt more at home. I have known Revd Vincent Hoon for close to two decades. We met as strangers put together to share a room in a Love Singapore Pastors Prayer Summit ages ago. We have since become prayer partners through thick and thin; fellow-pilgrims and fellow-servants in the Lord’s vineyard.

I met with their new vicar, Revd Barry, formerly from Marine Parade Anglican Church. He was newly posted to this church. This means he must be effectively bi-lingual. Later, at the end of the service, they showed a superbly done video introduction of him, and he came off as someone with confident, decisive, humorous and authentic. The former vicar, Revd Winston had retired, and as in any change of leadership, much prayer and patience and grace is needed in order that God’s purposes be fulfilled by His man in that new season the church is in.

With some curiosity, I took a selfie to see how I look like beside the priests there. I look like some lau hero in a movie about containment of some infectious disease. I cannot say I felt like one when it was my turn to mount the stage and take the pulpit. It felt awkward. I chose a lapel mike. The crowd was sparse with thirty plus folks, and a battery of young adults at the end where the equipment for live-streaming and sound control were. Evidently, the Chinese services would be starting physical gatherings soon and were there to learn how to operate the equipment. So speaking to this disparate groups seated apart from each other except for couples felt different. “Are they listening to me?” I asked myself, as I felt a bit of nervousness. “Am I getting through?” As I reached the final third point I panicked because I realised I had missed a whole chunk of explanation in the second point. Since it was live-streamed I needed to keep it concise to 20 – 30 minutes, I had been reminded earlier. “Doesn’t matter…just carry on. The Lord is able to work with mistakes like this. He will make good come out of it.” Sometimes, people feel relief with short sermons. Hope that at least it is the case here.

The service began at 9am and ended at about 10am. Is this the “new normal”?

Share this:

Read More →

Church of the True Light Camp 2017

The Church of the True Light camp at JEN hotel at Puteri Harbour

I was in two church camps this past June. One was my church camp in Bangkok. The other was the Church of the True Light (Anglican) camp held at the JEN Hotel at Puteri Harbour in Johor. I was the guest speaker at the camp and I developed the theme of LISTENING TO GOD. This was the third time I taught on contemplative prayer at different church camps in the last several years. Let me give an outline of some of the sessions:

LISTENING TO GOD IN THE GOSPEL:  Church and nationwide revival is great but while we pray and wait for the Spirit’s sovereign move, we need to dig deep wells and tap the living water table that will give us sustainable personal revival. The Trinitarian gospel is often thought of as what we receive only at the beginning of the Christian life. We actually need the gospel message all our life, throughout our faith journey. It is the gospel message that gives life and continually revives us.

LISTENING TO GOD IN THE SCRIPTURES: The word of God wedded to the Spirit is what gives us life and revives us. We do this by listening to God in ALL of scriptures, and in SOME of scriptures. The four movements of the classical lectio divina (divine reading) was taught and practised and discussed in groups.

LISTENING TO GOD IN SILENCE & SOLITUDE: God meets and speaks with us when we are alone and silently listen to God. This was the experience of Elijah when he ran in fear and panic from Jezebel. He could not hear God for his body and soul was drained by flight and fear, and his mind was filled with chatter of doubt and visions of death. God used silence and solitude to bring Elijah to a place of inner quiet so that he could again be revived to hear and obey God. This session was followed by a practice of silence and solitude.

LISTENING TO GOD IN DAILY LIFE: The review of the day or examen is a method of prayer which sensitives us to discern God’s presence, activity and communications with us. This session was followed by practice and group discussions.

LISTENING TO GOD IN TIMES OF CHOICE: We make choices, and our choices in turn shapes us. They can lead us away from the first love or towards a greater love of God. We have different choices to make in daily life but there are those impactful choices where more thought, prayer and counsel are needed. How do we do it well? And when we have the peace of God, how do we discern if its a true peace of divine origin or a false peace that comes from the flesh or the enemy?

LISTENING TO GOD IN THE SABBATH: Showed them how the sabbath could be celebrated as salvation and as wisdom, a way of life that God intended for our good and to shape our rhythm of rest, work and prayer. Celebrating sabbath is needed in maintenance of the fire in our hearts.


At the camp, I sort of lived out the day a session at a time. After finishing one session, I would prepare myself physically, spiritually and mentally for the next session until I hit the tape at the finish line. However I am thankful for all the mealtime fellowship with familiar faces (for I had spoken in their church camps a few times over the decades), and the power naps in between. One of the wonderful things about doing church camps is that you get to know the people better and as you do so the message becomes sharper in terms of application and relevance. Thankfully, all my materials had been prepared in advance. However there were still tweaks here and there to improve the material and the powerpoint.


I admire the Church of the True Light (English congregation) for its giftedness in prophecy and visions. The Lord had sent Rev Vincent Hoon and gifted individuals there and the windows for the wind of the Spirit to infuse the church with the supernatural gifts suddenly swung open.

I got to know Pastor Vincent Hoon in late 1990’s when both of us came alone to the Love Singapore Prayer Summit and ended up sharing a room. We hit it off and have been meeting regularly for the last 20 years for peer mentoring, updating and prayer.

This Anglican church moved in the Spirit and their worship was soaking worship with opportunities for people to express themselves in dance and sharing insights. I was moved, inspired and learned much. The worship also helped me and God’s people get ready for what God had for them in the teaching and prayer workshops. I returned to Singapore soaked in the power of the Spirit.


It shows that learning in the Spirit is mutual edification. We learn together, and we grow together, and we advance together in the faith journey. I trust that those in the camp, whose season it is to dig wells for themselves, now have the tools to do so and I pray they will persevere till they hit the water table! May they enter and enjoy sustainable, personal revival.



Share this:

Read More →