By Ps Lee Kok Wah
I left home for office at The Bible Church Singapore (TBCS) on Friday, 20 March 2020, fully expecting a busy weekend, but I was totally unprepared for what followed in the next 48 hours. In addition to the usual weekend programs and worship services, TBCS’ Annual General Meeting – scheduled for Sunday, 22 March – was just two days away. On that Friday, the church office was a hive of activity.
Meanwhile, the Church Council and Staff were not oblivious to what was happening in Singapore and around the world. The first case of COVID-19 imported to Singapore was reported in late January. DORSCON Orange was declared on 7 February. Some churches had already suspended worship services after a COVID-19 cluster was linked to a local church in late February. In March, travel restrictions were tightened. On a daily basis, our church leadership monitored the situation and consulted one another regularly. Earlier in the week, we had decided to continue with the worship services that weekend and to hold the AGM that Sunday.
At about 4pm, the Government announced that all gatherings exceeding 250 persons should be suspended with immediate effect. The Council swiftly decided to postpone the AGM as our quorum was 268. We also cancelled on-site worship services and CARE Group (CG) home meetings. This was the start of “TBCS disrupted.”
On 26 March, the Government closed all places of worship. On 7 April, the “Circuit Breaker” was implemented. Over the next four months, our church became “TBCS Virtual.” Baptism services were cancelled. Church Camp was cancelled. CGs and various ministries met over Zoom or similar platforms. “Doing church” became an entirely different experience for all of us.
As the situation improved, the Government, on 26 June, allowed up to fifty persons to gather at places of worship. We held our first physical service – for pastoral appointment and Holy Communion – on 1 August, four and a half months after our last on-site service on 15 March. On 3 October, up to 100 persons were allowed to gather for worship. TBCS fully re-opened, with safe distancing restrictions, on 28 and 29 November – the first weekend of the Advent.
Over these months, we have learnt a few lessons about being the Body of Christ. One is from the metaphor of the circuit breaker and the electrical circuit. The latter is a path in which electrons from a current source flow. The former is an automatically operated electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by excess current from an overload. If a fault is detected, the circuit breaker interrupts the current flow. Connection is broken between the current source and the load (for example, light fittings in a house), resulting in a blackout. There is some similarity here with the Body of Christ.
We are called to love one another for love comes from God (1 John 4:7). God, who is spirit, loves you through me and loves me through you. When we have a relationship with God and with one another, his love flows through us and leads us in return, to love him, the source of genuine love. It is essential that we remain connected with God and one another. We can see a similarity with the electrical circuit.
With safe distancing restrictions still in place for perhaps another year, we cannot rely on face-to-face big group meetings such as seminars, retreats and church camps to reconnect. I would encourage each one of us to reach out and nurture spiritual friendships with one or two persons. Spiritual friendship is the cultivation of a relationship where one can naturally share with another about one’s life in God. It is based on a relationship with God and a commitment to support, encourage and pray for one another. Sharing one’s life journey could be a conversation starter.
I would also encourage those of us who do not belong to a CG to be associated with one – for pastoral connection – even if you are unable to join their meetings. I also appeal to all CGs to welcome five or six others as they are introduced to you. With the declaration of Phase 3, “TBCS disrupted” should be reset to “TBCS reconnected.”
May you enjoy God’s presence and pleasure in 2021.