Blessings from 17 then and 70 now
Dearest Member and Friend
I was seventeen years when I started ministry. I am seventy today. We live in unprecedented times. Fortunately we have updated tools and equipment to face this new crisis. I am thankful that you have stood with me for many years. Your love, prayers and support had unite us in purpose, spirit and service. I am looking for better times and greater things, in the future.
In recent days, COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic and countries have taken urgent measures to stem the spread of infection. It has a story line that is almost unbelievable, a few months ago. Millions around the world have experienced unexpected illness. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives. Many more people are living in isolation in hospital or health premises. Millions of people have lost their jobs or are not able to work. The economic damage is only beginning to be counted. Many of us would never have imagined being more or less quarantined or confined to our country, let alone our home or for some a hotel room. We have members that cannot go home because they are in essential services. All lives had been impacted one way or another by this crisis.
We have all been reminded that certainties are not so certain. We learn to live with more uncertainty and often less material security. We value relationships and people much more. We miss family members and good friends. We learn to value and embrace the beauty of nature. We slow down and really do learn to smell the fresh air and flowers. We give way to new rules and regulations, embrace change and learn to adapt. We will come out stronger and become better persons. Those with eyes of faith will put their trust in higher hands. We also learn that pride often does come before a fall, so the best way to avoid the next fall is to forgo pride. We admit we are now more vulnerable than independent. The crisis is urgent and we feel powerlessness. We do need family and friends. We will cherish them more. We will be less judgmental on others, recognizing our own needs and weaknesses. This is a time to ask deeper spiritual questions. We pray more and confidently say that God has the whole world in His hands. It’s where we “let petitions and praises shape our worries into prayers, letting God know our concerns” (Phil. 4:6–7,). Prayer is never the last resort of God’s people. It is our first point of action. We know the Bible says. “Humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” Proverbs 16:9. We also acknowledge our need of God and spiritual strength and help. He will bring us through this uncertainty.
Singapore will exit the circuit breaker planned on Jun 1, with measures to be progressively lifted in three phases. The authorities will allow marriage solemnizations to take place in-person again, involving up to 10 persons. Families can continue to gather for wakes and funerals, with no more than 10 persons at any one time. Places of worship will be allowed to open next month, but only for private worship. Congregational services will not resume. This will be limited to a maximum of five members praying together at any one time. Perhaps we can start recording of On-Line services in church premises, without applying special permission. We can do more pastoral care and counselling, serve Communion or have private prayers, for those who will request for it. We are now planning multiple services, when restrictions relax further.
The new normal is not hard to imagine. Simon Sinek said, “The opportunity is to ask the question: What will be? Not how will we preserve the past?” We will change culture. We will not live in the past, especially where there is lack of discipline and maturity. We will be willing to change to embrace the new. I will plan with Board and Staff on actions to take to prevent spread of the virus. We will clean our premises, use sanitizer, masks, etc. Temperature taking will help protect our people. A part of the next normal will mean that all of us need to think carefully about how we engage on social media platforms and focus our internal/external communication plans. It would be prudent for us to begin planning now for what happens when we find ourselves in a second lockdown in the coming months. None of us had a chance to prepare for the first one, but we have an opportunity to prepare beforehand for the second lockdown that might happen because of a possible second or even third wave.
The COVID-19 crisis forced congregations to leave their church buildings and quickly adapt and learn ways to meet as a faith community. Now, as restrictions will ease for in-person gatherings, leaders are facing an even more daunting challenge—how to relaunch church in a COVID-19 culture. What did we learn about these last few months to prepare us for a time if in the future we find ourselves locked down in a similar scenario? This planning would be valuable for us to wrestle through as there’s a high likelihood of some sort of second wave in the future, or there may well be another similar virus in the years to come. Taking time to capture our learnings from these months and building a plan for the future will help us as we move into the next normal. It’s been fascinating to watch how we who have invested time, effort, energy, on leadership and communications as a strategic discipline pivot, which enhance our chances of surviving this season.
As we look forward to communicating to our communities about “reopening our services” and inviting people to come back to our buildings, I would like to caution that it is important to build a plan that clearly shows that we’re not just interested in people coming to our events; instead, we’re interested in serving the people and communities. On our part, we are reaching to prison, with a commitment to early July. Instead of mission trips, I will conduct leadership training through Zoom to our churches overseas.
Thank you for your continual financial support. Many of us have learn to use PayNow for tithes and offerings. There are those who use cheques and deposit them into our bank account. Your gift is a great encouragement for us to carry on in ministry. There are debts to pay and bills to settle. Our mission works need greater support at this time. There are needs around and we seek to help. For more information, check our website (www.maranatha.sg).
On 24 May, we will conduct lesson on the “Hard sayings of Jesus” by Rev Winnie Wong at 2 pm. We will use different channels to do ministry, as the Bible teaches us that “by all possible means, win some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). I learn that methods vary and change but the message is steadfast and sure.
May God bless you with His protection and provision.
Blessings and Good Health for all.
From Pastor David Lee, Staff, Board and Members