Rev J A T van Dorp (1)
An application from Covenant Grace Church, Singapore, to be affiliated with the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland came before the May 2000 Synod in Glasgow. As a result, the following motion was passed: “That the crave of the petition of the Congregation known as the Covenant Grace Church, Singapore, be granted in so far as that it be given the status of a preaching station under the supervision of the Australia and New Zealand Presbytery, that the Australia and New Zealand Presbytery be instructed to appoint a Kirk Session to meet in Singapore at an early date, draw up a communion roll and regularise the situation”.
In endeavouring to carry out this decision, the Kirk Session appointed by the Presbytery met in Singapore for services, including the Lord’s Supper on the fourth Sabbath of September. The first service taken by the Interim Moderator was a prayer meeting, soon after his arrival on Friday, September 15. The usual Sabbath services were conducted the following Sabbath, when about 17 people gathered for public worship. The usual services of the communion season were held, commencing on Thursday, September 21, as advertised in The Free Presbyterian Magazine. All the services of the communion season were well attended by the small congregation; they were conducted in the Jade Room, Bayview Hotel, which is just three minutes walking distance from the hotel where I and the two assessor elders, Mr Dick Vermeulen and Mr Cornel van Kralingen, were staying. Three persons met with the Kirk Session and were received into full membership so that we can say that, although the beginning is small, the foundation is sound.
The manner of conducting a communion season according to the well-established practice of our denomination was something completely new in modern Singapore. Preparatory services on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a thanksgiving service on the Monday were entirely unknown. Even the very necessary custom of a prior interview with the Kirk Session for aspiring communicants was something quite foreign. I had thought of bringing a small supply of communion tokens from New Zealand. However, I had not considered it necessary to bring a communion cup as I knew that Covenant Grace Church had a pastor until about two years ago and that the sacraments had been dispensed by him. Yet, here also the congregation began to tread new territory as the use of a communal cup had not been practised before. The matter actually caused me some anxiety as there was some difficulty in locating a suitable article. At the eleventh hour Bernard Yong experienced much help from a lady in a church store who knew exactly what we wanted and was able to locate a suitable cup.
The fledgling congregation are not only in sympathy with Free Presbyterian practice, they are also willing to learn, where adjustment is needed on scriptural grounds. One adjustment is the constitution that each congregation is required to have under Singapore law, in common with secular societies. That matter is being attended to and, as soon as it is completed and approved by the government, the Session can proceed with an election of office-bearers. I believe that the prospects for this congregation are good, as the members, though few in number, are sympathetic to the biblical principles we seek to uphold and are willing to learn.
One area where adjustments were clearly needed had to do with public transport on the Lord’s day. In Singapore it is very expensive to own a motor vehicle due to the large amount of tax that is levied on the owners. Consequently, public transport by trains and buses is very widely used, even by worshippers going to church on the Sabbath. To overcome this problem, Covenant Grace Church have purchased a vehicle to collect any who wish to come to the services and are in need of transport. At first some young men were undertaking this work but, with their departure to another church, this work has fallen on Mr Tham Wing Keong. Those making use of this service are indebted to him for his willingness to undertake this real labour of love every Sabbath. Indeed I and my fellow elders are also indebted to him and to Mr Bernard Yong and their families, together with the other members of the congregation, for making our visit memorable, pleasant and edifying in the “fellowship in the gospel” (Phil 1:5).
What we need to concentrate on now is to give them supply as often as possible and the fact that they are well situated as a staging-post between Australia/New Zealand and Britain makes it easier. At the time of writing, Rev E A Rayner, Grafton, Australia, is supplying Singapore for two Sabbaths, during the period November 10-20. I also appreciate Rev R MacLeod’s agreeing to supply during December 8-11 on his way to Australia and New Zealand, and during 2-5 February on his way back to Britain. Let prayer go up for God’s blessing on the witness that has been raised in Singapore to our Lord Jesus Christ, the only “name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The promise is that “a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in His time” (Is 60:22).
1. Mr van Dorp is interim moderator of the Singapore congregation.