Bishop Chong Chin Chung_May2020

Marking Aldersgate Day, Bishop Chong Chin Chung reminded his congregation that founding father John Wesley pursued growth and Christian perfection beyond his seminal heartwarming experience. All photos are screengrabs from the Aldersgate Service 2020 recording.

Marking Aldersgate Day today (May 24) with a special online service, the Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), the Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung, opened his message by paying heed to the significance of the coronavirus outbreak worldwide.

Under the circumstances, Bishop Chong called the effort to organise the Aldersgate Combined Worship Service “meaningful”. The service, which brought together all 46 of the MCS’ churches as one, served to remind all Methodists of their founder John Wesley’s heart-warming experience on May 24, 1738. (Click here for John Wesley’s life).

Most churches across Singapore suspended congregational services by mid-March, as tighter COVID-19 restrictions kicked in. There is no indication when this will be allowed to resume, though limited private worship will be permitted with the gradual easing of the nationwide Circuit Breaker from June 2.

The pre-recorded Aldersgate service was streamed across the online platforms of all 46 of the MCS’ churches at different times during the day, in English, Chinese and Tamil versions.

It included worship and liturgy, with representation by the presidents of all three of the MCS’ conferences: Rev Dr Gordon Wong, Trinity Annual Conference; Rev Dr Goh Nai Lat, Chinese Annual Conference; and Rev James Nagulan, Emmanual Tamil Annual Conference. 

Move of the Holy Spirit: Bishop Chong reminded Methodists of their founding father’s heart-warming experience, which marked his genuine conversion.

Noting the negative economic impact of the coronavirus, Bishop Chong also said that there was reason for optimism, as seen in the signs of environmental recovery. “The animals have found their long-lost space, the rivers are cleaner, the sky is blue once again.”

A defining moment 

Explaining his choice of Romans 12:1-2, 9-21 as the text for his “Loving God, Serving Together … With Hearts Strangely Warmed” sermon, Bishop Chong said: “I feel that the Epistle to the Romans is the most important book to help us understand John Wesley’s commitment to faith and its practice, and like him to have an Aldersgate-like experience, to be part of the gradual lifelong growth in our pursuit of perfection.”

He encouraged his congregation to nurture the same stalwart faith that marked Wesley’s life and “get the fundamentals right, to move us to do the right things and to deal with others in love”.

“Through this coronavirus pandemic we hear many questioning the value of life versus the value of freedom, or if life is more important than the economy of the country, or if personal advantage was more important than the needs of the people.

“We are to ‘be transformed by the renewal of (our) mind’.”

“Paul reminds us to be alert, because the ways of this world generally do not conform to God’s good, pleasing and perfect will … Instead, we are to ‘be transformed by the renewal of (our) mind’.”

Detailing a portion of John Wesley’s counsel, “By doing good, by being in every kind merciful after their power, as they have opportunity, do good of every sort and as far as possible to every man”, Bishop Chong paid tribute to healthcare workers, calling their spirit “admirable”. He also noted that many churches were reaching out to provide help to the homeless and foreign workers.

“Social holiness is the Christian’s act of mercy. Much good can be done by individual Christians. But of course, it is more effective when the whole body of Christians unite together in good works.”

Communion of the saints

Ending with a word on holy communion, which the MCS does not permit its members to administer on their own, Bishop Chong explained: “The Methodist Church has delegated to preside over and consecrate the Holy Communion only to those who have been called and ordained as elders …

“Methodism encourages the frequent conduct of the Holy Communion, but there is great importance on the communion of the saints, that is the fellowship – koinonia (in Greek): You and I and all Christians in fellowship with the Lord, in body, mind and spirit.

“Thus the proclamation as we break the bread and raise the cup: ‘Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ. The cup over which we give thanks is a sharing in the blood of Christ.’

A future awaits: Bishop Chong called on the Methodist Church to “join in the rebuilding of our community, helping those in need”.

“When we break this bread and share the cup, we are sharing in the body of Christ. Each of us eating our own bread and drink at home, or online holy communion, is unable to achieve such fellowship or koinonia, and unable to fulfil what the liturgy says – that when we eat of the one bread and drink of the cup of thanksgiving, we are sharing in the body of Christ and His precious blood.

“The Holy Communion is one of the means of grace, but not the only one. We have other means of grace to help us continue to live godly lives.”

Bishop Chong encouraged his congregation to “get the fundamentals right, to move us to do the right things and to deal with others in love”.

In closing, he said: “I sincerely wish you may keep the love and fear of God within your hearts, to lean upon Him, and to be there for your neighbours when they have need, offering care and help with your whole heart and mind.

“And to pray and give thanks for our country to peacefully overcome this pandemic.”

Highlighting the legacy of social holiness the Methodist Church is well known for, Bishop Chong exhorted his congregation to continue the works of good neighbourliness, which he had spoken of at the launch of the MCS’ 135th year. 

“We must sustain our hearts strangely warmed, love God with all our hearts and minds and love our neighbours with all our hearts and mind,” Bishop Chong said, urging all to “pull up our sleeves and join in the rebuilding of our community”.

Singing unto the Lord: Methodists from all walks of life joined in a musical collage of the 135th anniversary song, The People of the Way.

The service also featured a collaged rendering of The People of the Way, a song written by Bishop Emeritus Robert Solomon for the MCS’ 135th anniversary. Pledging to do their part, Methodists from all walks of life joined in the rousing chorus:

We are the People of the Flame;
On us the Lord has placed His claim;
His children called Methodists,
With others we will spread His Name.

Click here to watch the Aldersgate Combined Worship Service.

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About the author

Emilyn Tan

After years of spending morning, noon and night in newsrooms, Emilyn gave it up to spend morning, noon and night at home, in the hope that someday she’d have an epiphany of God with His hands in the suds, washing the dishes too.