|945: Trinity Methodist, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia|
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Mystery Worshipper: Romeo & Juliet.
The church: Trinity Methodist, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
Denomination: Methodist Church, Malaysia.
The building: An A-shaped concrete building with a clean-cut modern but not futuristic look, so typical of Methodist church architecture in Malaysia. The main entrance is at the rear of the church, to the far right. A large cross sits high up on the centre rear wall, and its location makes it hard to spot I knew about it from a photo I had seen on their web site. The interior is air conditioned and also has plenty of ceiling fans. The pews are tightly arranged on both sides and form annexes to the nave at a comfortable angle for worshippers to follow the service. A huge video screen up front on the right side of the pulpit displayed most of the songs plus constantly changing photos of landscapes.
The church: An active church with many varied programmes. The church bulletin listed many ongoing events for both young and old. There is also a dialysis centre to serve the community (at subsidised cost or free for deserving cases). Soon they hope to establish a day-care centre for the elderly. Their web site shows a very impressive list of activities, although it appears not to have been updated since 1998.
The neighbourhood: A quiet residential area with many Christian churches of varying denominations, as well as a mosque and Hindu, Taoist, and Siamese Buddhist temples all in close proximity.
The cast: The Rev. Ricky Ho, senior pastor; Mr Lim Toh Hoy, worship leader. Datuk Dr Peter Chio Sing Ching, the former Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, was also in attendance.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Comfortably full i.e. more than enough seats for all, but latecomers had to hunt for a place with the help of ushers.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I have worked in the area as an itinerant media evangelist for many years. Fearing I would be recognised, we furtively entered by a side door where no greeters were on duty. We did notice that those entering by the main door were welcomed with a warm handshake and given a bulletin, and then led to their seats by an usher. Visitors also received a gift pack.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was well cushioned and sturdy very comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Looked and sounded like a reunion of loved ones and friends. However, just about five minutes before the service started, a soft prelude was begun, resulting in a dramatic change to almost complete silence.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and greetings in the name of the Lord."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Copies of the Methodist Hymnal and New International Bible were in the long book holder on every pew, but most of the time the congregation could easily follow the song lyrics or scripture verse on the video screen.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.
Did anything distract you?
The constantly changing scenes on the video screen, especially when they were not related to the topic or the songs. Also, most of the scenes looked too Western. I am sure Malaysia has many lovely scenic spots to capture on digital camera.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A traditional Methodist order of service. I suppose it was reassuring for most of the senior citizens who are accustomed to this style of worship from yesteryear, especially when now so many congregations have gone dramatically charismatic. Some hymns were sung with gusto, which provided us with well-balanced spiritual refreshment that Sunday morning.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Ricky Ho came across as a genuine pastor, very animated and articulate even though it was clear that English was not his mother tongue. He punctuated his sermon with appropriate humour, and his points were well researched.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Rising above adverse circumstances with God's help.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Datuk Dr Peter Chio Sing Ching chanted the great thanksgiving from the Methodist Hymnal just before holy communion.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The toilet facilities were woefully inadequate standing room for four men plus two stalls with doors for more serious business to accommodate a congregation of over 600. Also, a single roadway into the church compound served as both entrance and exit for pedestrians as well as vehicles. It was utter chaos that particular morning only God's grace prevented a collision between vehicles and people, including senior citizens, children and the disabled.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We stood still for awhile and then walked around for about ten minutes, but no one approached us. I tried to make conversation with some but only received perfunctory salutations in return. I noticed the same disease found in many churches today, namely cliques!
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Laid out in an orderly manner were porcelain cups and saucers with teaspoons in separate containers. Available that morning were tea, coffee and Milo (a powdered chocolate milk beverage) plus hot water in large kettles.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 I was baptised a Methodist when still a teenager and often worship in a Methodist church. I hope that veteran members of this church will lead the way in getting cliques to be less obvious, especially to visitors who are trying to make friends in new surroundings.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The well researched and well delivered sermon, with obvious divine anointing.