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Pastoral Message on Suspension of Services (25 Mar)

Dear Friends and Members of ORPC,

I’m writing to you with a heavy heart, after receiving government directives to suspend all physical worship services and to limit meetings with others to no more than 10 people at a time, at least until the end of April. Although I fully support those “social distancing” measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel sad because we are social beings at heart and long to connect with others. In my 60 years of life, I’ve experienced the 1967 riots in Hong Kong and the 9/11 terrorist acts of 2001 in the United States. But never have I witnessed the extent of suffering, social interruption and economic fallout, as what we are experiencing in Singapore and beyond. The state of the world is changing more rapidly and drastically than I can remember at any other time in my life.

 

Our Christian Hope and Perspective

For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, however, there are far more important spiritual realities here than what meets the eye. The history of the church, going all the way back to Hebrews 11, is filled with examples of people who lived by faith and refused to succumb to fear. We must now, more than ever before, turn to God and devote ourselves in reading the Bible and in prayer. As I was praying last night, the words in Psalm 46:1-3 came to mind and brought comfort and peace. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

These verses describe God as our shelter in which to hide, our strength to bear life’s trials and our help that stands ready at our point of need. In time of crisis, more so than ever before, Christians need to be reminded of the character of our God. This is so because our faith in God is engendered by biblical truth. We must have faith in God, even if the world around us is deteriorating. Verses 10-11 are key: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Amen.

 

Our Christian Response

I asked my wife last night what we should do in response to the crisis unfolding before us. She said without hesitation that we must follow the example of the early church in Acts 2, when Christians met in house churches or small groups. I couldn’t agree more at a time when large group meetings are not safe nor possible. The early church in Jerusalem “Devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Breaking down this verse, I encourage you to consider the following action points:

  1. Reading and studying the Bible: We should devote ourselves to daily Bible reading on our own as well as with our family members. This is critical in order to cultivate faith and hope.
  2. Spend time in prayer: Prayer is not just presenting to God our requests, but to thank God for his provisions and an exercise to align our requests according to his will.
  3. Join a Small Group: Since large group meetings are no longer permitted for a while, it is important for us to build relationships with others in small group settings. This is good for both spiritual and mental health. If you are not already part of a small group, please contact Elder Tang Yew Chung, Dcn Tan Hui Ru, or one of us on the pastoral staff, and we’ll make arrangements for you.
  4. Worship: We will continue to live stream our worship services in the foreseeable future. Since Christian worship involves a “gathered community,” I encourage you whenever possible to worship in small groups of people less than 10. The writer of Hebrews says in 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another,” even if we have to use digital platforms.
  5. Taking Communion: We will have to make special arrangements for communion in April. For those with special needs, an Elder or a Minister would gladly come to serve communion for you upon request.

 

Changing Our Style

For those of us who watch NBA basketball, when it was still going a few weeks ago, will know that the current style of play involves smaller, faster players, making pinpoint passes in scoring the ball. This is a good illustration on how we must change the way we doing ministry at a time of uncertainty, when larger and longer physical meetings are not possible. See you on live stream. May the Lord protect and bless you until we see each other again.

 

Rev Dr Clive Chin

Senior Minister
Orchard Road Presbyterian Church