True Way Presbyterian Church’s English Congregation celebrates her 30th anniversary
Photographs may be the only thing that stops time. They capture moments which would otherwise be carried away in a flash. Photo by Eld. Lee Chung Horn.
By 4pm, our 38 pews of the sanctuary were filled. This wasn’t a surprise because the occasion was our 30th anniversary service. We expected a bracing attendance.
But it was Saturday afternoon, November 5, 2022, not a regular Sunday morning, where a full team of well-oiled volunteers would turn up to serve congregants. Past four, and people were still streaming in, so two church pastors quietly brought in additional chairs.
If we looked curiously at the faces gathered there, we would see rank-and-file True Wayans, invited friends and family members, associates, ex-church members, and well-wishers.
Why have we come? Because we liked anniversaries, and felt we needed to honour them?
To be true, anniversaries are occasions of solemnity and honour. They remind us of time and how it passes. They tell us that things are never the same, and we could rarely return to our past, Bethels and Shilohs, and points-in-between. At anniversaries, we discover, to our astonishment, not how much we remember, but also how much we have forgotten. The sight of a face not seen for a period stirs our emotions because we suddenly remember events and words. We ask ourselves: “I remember what happened between the two of us years ago, but does it matter now, and in what faithful ways?”
Anniversaries remind us of time and how it passes. Photo by Jimmy Ang
Anniversaries are life-giving. They bring hope. At anniversaries, we sift our memories.
Our English Congregation was formed in 1992. After 22 years with our Hokkien-Chinese language mother church, we took our first steps and became an independent congregation.
Early in this anniversary year, our pastors and leaders unveiled a schedule of celebratory activities. There would be a one-day retreat held in the church, and this would have to do because nobody knew how the COVID-19 situation would evolve. Early plans to hold a camp in Malaysia have been scuppered because the border remained closed, and older church members were unsure if a trip outside of Singapore would be safe.
But the 25th June church retreat was a resounding success. By this time, COVID-19 restrictions had eased. The church came together, young and old, newcomer and old-timer. Dr Robert Solomon was invited (again), and delivered three lectures on the meaning of oneness. In one lecture, he spoke poignantly about his ‘outsider’ status, how despite his work he was deemed ‘non-kosher’ by several strands of the Singapore church.
By all counts, this was a startling confession to hear at a retreat. What spiritual lesson might we distill? That orthodoxy sometimes brings division? That oneness is more fragile than we realise?
During the afternoon of the retreat, our young adults led us through a set of boisterous competitive games. This renewed friendships, and built new ones.
This anniversary year, we did not publish another monograph of our church history. A 96-page history had been written for our 25th anniversary of 2017. Instead, the church was given an original thanksgiving journal which invited readers to sit with scripture, reckon with conscience, and meet God.
Our church leaders commissioned six visionary groups to answer a slew of open-ended questions about the state of our church. The questions included the following: What is church to you? How does a more closely-knit community look, and how can we foster such a community? How has the teaching and preaching of the church formed and equipped you to live faithfully in the world? Do you know people in church who are of a different generation?
Led by pastors, elders and deacons, we made many discoveries. Did we see ourselves more clearly as we listened to each other, a congregation of thirty years, brothers and sisters with common goals, yet diverse interests? In an anniversary year, our hope is that the work of the visionary groups would be a valuable contribution to our collective future.
A beautiful new song was composed and made its debut at the anniversary service. “Jesus Christ Is In Our Midst” was written by church members Jakin Heng and Gaius Lee. We also screened three short films featuring on-camera interviews of our people.
God was our help in ages past, and He will be our hope for the years to come. Photo by Jimmy Ang.
In his exhortation, Senior Minister Rev Lee Kien Seng reminded us of the mission of the church of Jesus Christ. The saints at True Way must work to equip each other, so that we may all grow up in every way unto Christ.
Our anniversary reminded us to reckon with our past, and confront our future. With the end of the year, we need to ask ourselves and each other this holy question again: what are our brightest hopes and which ones are most unfulfilled?
Senior ministers present and past, Rev Tan Cheng Huat, Rev Lee Kien Seng, Rev Graham Ng. Photo by Jimmy Ang.