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Church in Singapore.
The congregation was founded in 1885, but work on the building
began in 1907 when the governor of Singapore granted land for
the project. During World War II the church was used as an ammunition
depot and the interior was stripped. Only the organ, lectern,
marble baptismal font, and stained glass windows survived. The
church was rededicated in 1948 and renovated in 1977 and again
in 1988. It's a red brick building with white trim and features
an elegant medieval style tower. The interior is replete with
arches and wood planking. The sanctuary holds a communion table
behind which are tiered seats for the choir. A railing separates
the sanctuary from the seating area for the congregation. The
overall visual effect is quite pleasing, but is marred by fluorescent
lighting fixtures running the length of the building at the
peak of the ceiling. The service I attended was held in Wesley
Hall, one of the church's several extensions. The hall is shaped
irregularly, with a stage in front.
This is one of the largest Wesleyan congregations in Singapore,
numbering over 6000 members. Space has been a problem from the
church's earliest days; in addition to the main church and several
extensions, they currently rent space from the local YWCA. They
hold multiple services each Sunday, both traditional and contemporary,
in English, Tagalog and Mandarin Chinese. Services are also
held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There is a vibrant community
outreach, including family ministry, counseling services, Teochew
(the language of the second largest Chinese group in Singapore)
outreach, tuition services for students, mentoring programmes,
missions, etc., all as described on their website.
Singapore, located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula,
was once one of the most important commercial and military centres
of the British Empire. It fell to the Japanese during World
War II but reverted to British rule at the end of the war. In
1963 Singapore merged with three other entities to form Malaysia,
from which it seceded in 1965 to become an independent republic.
The country enjoys a high standard of living and is said to
be the sixth wealthiest nation in the world. The church building
is situated near the heart of the main shopping district of
Singapore, Orchard Road, close to the Ghaut station on Singapore's
excellent rail rapid transit system. So you can do your shopping
and watch a movie before or after the service.
The Revd Alvin Chan, one of the church's eight pastors.
The date & time:
22 June 2008, 7.30pm.
What was the name of the service?
Prayer and Praise Service.
How full was the building?
There were only 15 people present at the beginning of the service,
but their ranks swelled to about 60 as time went on. To be fair,
though, this was the last service of the day on Sunday evening,
and the dinner hour to boot!
Did anyone welcome you
An usher at the entrance gave me a copy of their newsletter
magazine Wesley Weekly. During the service, the pastor
asked newcomers to identify themselves with a friendly wave
of the newsletter. After that I was also given a welcome booklet
and sheaf of newsletters.
Was your pew comfortable?
There were chairs which were comfortable enough, but the gap
in between was tight. I had to stand several times to allow
others to pass by me.
How would you describe the pre-service
The musicians were still practising when I reached the hall,
so I stayed outside and got a hot Milo (a popular local chocolate
malt drink) from a vending machine. They finished up about ten
minutes before service time, and as they did I went inside.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good evening, brothers and sisters. Welcome to the house of
What books did the congregation use during the
No books were used. Lyrics and Bible verses were projected.
What musical instruments
Baby grand piano, digital keyboard, acoustic guitar, electric
guitar, bass guitar and drums. There was also a handful of backup
Did anything distract
During the service someone's mobile phone went off. He went
outside to take his call.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
This was a prayer and praise session, so there were contemporary
songs that were upbeat and modern. Not very loud or energetic,
but perhaps that was due to the small congregation attending
and the fact that it was the dinner hour.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 The pastor seemed to like to talk about his own real
life experiences, ranging from working with less educated youth
to the delivery of his first born child to his conversations
with other members.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The title of the sermon was "What kind of father is that?" based
on Luke 15:11-24, the parable of the prodigal son. He contrasted
the attitude and response of the prodigal son versus that of
the father, with an insight into how it was significant in a
Which part of the service was like being in
One of the personal anecdotes that the pastor talked about was
a conversation he had with a father who had experienced some
relational problems in his family. "What is there not to forgive?"
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The audio-visual people couldn't find the PowerPoint file that
the pastor had intended to use during his sermon. He had to
take them aside to sort it out. After that, the pastor's clip-on
microphone stopped working and he had to switch to a handheld
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A young lady sitting in front of me turned around and asked
where I was from and why I had chosen that particular service.
I mumbled that I had woken up late after watching a sporting
event on television, and that this was the only service that
I could wake up in time for. Some others sitting nearby stayed
to listen to my explanation.
How would you describe the after-service
Nothing was on offer. But there were some vending machines outside
the hall serving both hot and cold drinks.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 If I could be sure that the people in this church are
truly open and friendly, I would consider coming here more regularly.
I liked the spontaneous welcome from the girl in front of me
– I didn't have to take pains to introduce myself. But Singapore
is a highly materialistic and achievement-oriented society,
where even friends have to make lunch or dinner appointments
at least a week in advance. So whereas this type of welcome
was a breath of fresh air, she may have just been hitting on
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I liked the part of the sermon that described how gracious
the father of the prodigal son really was when considered in
the cultural context of the middle east. Here was a father who
would embarrass himself by running toward a son and who had
wished him dead and brought shame to his family.
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
The immediate welcome given when I identified myself during
and after the service.
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