Preaching at St Andrews Community Chapel during covid 19

St Andrews Community Chapel has an interesting way of serving their gathered and scattered congregation, their on-site and online service. I was invited to guest preach before Covid 19 gatecrashed the Singapore church and turned every church’s program upside down. Unsure of whether they still wanted me to preach, I wrote to them and released them from any commitment to have me if the new circumstances warranted something different. They promptly replied that the guest preaching appointment was still in place as their congregation had already started to meet under the government guidelines of 100 maximum in the hall with social distancing and other safety measures in place.

Pre-recording and on-site preaching

The interesting thing was that they would also like me to pre-record the same sermon I would preach to the on-site service, and hand the recording to them beforehand so that they could screen it at the same time for the online congregation to watch. I will post this pre-recorded sermon in another post.

The chapel originally was located with St Andrews Community Hospital but due to covid 19 they were using the auditorium of the St Hilda’s Primary School in Tampines. Covid 19 has been disruptive in more than one ways. 

Vicar Daniel Tong

I had a chat with the vicar Daniel Tong, a veteran Anglican vicar and notable author of five books and had a chat with him. While I think and talk about writing books, he has already written books that are selling quite well. Seeing him made me wonder if I have what it takes to write a book. 

The order of service

Soon the service started and noticeably there were no songs. However, they used liturgy to establish a connect between the gathered people of God and worship of God. Before I knew it, I was at the stage preaching with a mask on. It wasn’t easy as members still trickled in in front of everyone, while I was speaking, and it affected my concentration. 

The late we have with us always. Most would at least come before the sermon and they would sit at the back, but with covid 19, there is no buffer time of three songs and announcement and prayer, and in a performing art auditorium, there are no entrances near the back rows (everyone sees you when you are late!). 

Online service pampering

Online services also have its late-comers. Many actually attend to the services later on. And they can use the cursor to move forward the video to skip what they are not interested in, perhaps the preliminaries, and merely watch what they like. Online services facilitate the making of churchgoers into consumers, and not disciples! The several months of online pampering have sealed the marriage of God’s children to comfort, convenience and compromise. 

On site services impacted by covid 19

Covid 19 has also conditioned us pastors to offer a more compact and concise service. The service I preached it included baptism and holy communion, and all in, if I remember correctly, the service ended in one hour fifteen minutes. Safety measures meant that we had to keep our services compact and dismiss God’s people into the world (without much interaction in the church premises). Outside they can have lunch together in public eating places in groups of five. And we Asians are communal and put community above individualism and we comply with law and order. 

I noticed that no offering bags were passed around. Digital giving is encouraged, but those who still want to give cash can put in in an offering box at the front of the stage. Holy Communion is by intinction, partly dipping the consecrated wafer into the wine and handing it to the communicant for consumption. Safety observed at all times.

My personal take on online services

This new normal is something I am grateful for even though it stifles the church of expression of worship in song, in prayer, and warm fellowship. I pray the church will soon go back to what it was before. I miss live worship among God’s gathered saints. I miss singing heartily and mingling around and catching up with church folks. I do not want the spiritual disconnect I feel when I watch an online service. I love the comfort and convenience and time-saving of commute free Sunday worship, but I fear it places limits on the felt experience of the Spirit’s moving and activity on the affections and desires of God’s gathered people. We must determine to awaken God’s people from their atrophied spiritual muscles, and stir holy desire and hunger for God afresh.

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Chapel of the Resurrection: a church with stretch marks

the worship band

From Malan Rd to St Andrew’s Village

The 600-700 strong church was located at the St Andrews Junior College in Malan Road but have now moved with the school, to St Andrew’s Village at St. Francis Thomas Drive. Although I have heard about this very fruitful church, I have not been to their service before. It was therefore a pleasure for me to accept an invitation to preach at the Chapel of the Resurrection, plausibly the most reproductive church in the Anglican diocese. As I traced in my earlier post, this mother of many has given birth to six other churches that still bear witness to Christ’s resurrection.

Felt like home

Before the service began I met two ministers I knew. One was Rev John Sim, whose brother invited me to attend my home church. Back then John was an active lay leader in the Brethren church at Galistan Avenue. After he experienced the power of the Holy Spirit he moved to the Church of our Savior. After he was ordained, he was posted to a Woodlands extension, and then to the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. He had taken one of our children’s church camp, and I was pleased to briefly catch up with him.

Later in the worship hall, I met Rev Gerrard Jacobs, whose parents I knew from way back, and whose sister is Sister Rubina of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, Australia. He was here for a short while and would head for home in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he is pioneering an Anglican multi-ethnic work. Both of them were called out of fires of charismatic revival in the 1970’s and 80’s.

praise in the sanctuary

Pointing people to a covenant keeping God

It felt like home. The songs they sung, the light touch of tongues in the background, and the relaxed atmosphere. Before I knew it, I was at the pulpit preaching from Genesis 15 on the topic of “Our Covenant-Keeping God”. There were dark storm clouds looming over the world’s largest economy and it would overshadow Singapore, so I pointed them to the covenant keeping God. During the weeks before, I have been asking God to reveal Jesus Christ more clearly through the sermon, so that the hearers will love Him more dearly, and want to follow Him more nearly. That was my desire and remains my desire: that the message would bear fruit in the congregation.

Daniel with Claudia Heng

Spiritual intelligence and yet at ease with a child

After the service, Rev Canon Daniel Tong and I had some time of fellowship. The first time I heard of him was from his well known book, A Biblical Rev Canon Daniel Tong and KennyApproach to Chinese Traditions and Beliefs. This book is probably one of the better selling Christian books in the Armour Publishers’ Christian section. Later our paths were to cross when we met at a familiarisation tour for pastors to the Holy Land a few years back. While having coffee and chatting anDaniel's daughter standing beside interesting thing happened. A little girl, presumably from the Sunday School where he had earlier given out some awards or gifts, had skipped in and given him a hug and talked to him. She seemed like a niece or some relative but she was not. This Claudia Heng was cute and shy and I thought this was like some picture I had seen of Jesus holding a lamb in his arms. “Hey let me take a shot.”  I knew a Kodak moment when I saw one. It was just a snapshot but besides being a pastor with spiritual intelligence, he seemed to exude a care and ease with both kids and adult members of the church.

Church with a great legacy

chapel of resurrection

This church can stand tall as they have a great legacy of reproductive fruitfulness.  They have caught the wind of the charismatic winds in the 80’s and sailed strongly. This church can proudly rejoice and celebrate its wonderfully lasting legacy. They can show off the stretch marks from all the childbearing and sending out of their apostolic laypeople to start extensions. It can be draining as any mother of six would tell us. Hopefully one day in God’s time, they would launch out again in such self-giving love and faith. Until then, here’s an idea for all the daughter churches: plan an event for all the daughter churches to come together and say a heart-felt “Thank you” to mum.

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