It has been a refreshing time during my sabbatical thus far. I have just completed the 2nd portion of it and will be on my 3rd and final portion in Nov and Dec 2023. As I reflect on what I’ve experienced during the 4 months, one word that came to mind was ‘Welcoming’. May I share some of the experiences that the Lord had refreshed me with.
These four months of sabbatical has given me the opportunity to visit other churches. It has been refreshing to not have to be concern with the running of the service as I walked into the various church premises.
I had the privilege to attend a few churches with multiple congregations and over 800 in total attendance each Sunday. One was in the Lavender area, another in Ponggol and the third in Chinatown.
Of the three only the one in Lavender did I experience a warm welcome. In all the services I attended in that church, I would come in quietly just about 10 mins before service and sit in different spots in the hall. Yet each time, within 2 mins, a member from that church would come up and say hello.
What struck me was that these members who came up to me were just ordinary members. They were not on duty and they were not leaders either. All they said was, ‘you don’t look familiar’ and sat down to chat with me. Two of them shared that they did this because that was what the pastors of their church have been emphasizing. Making visitors feel welcome was everybody’s responsibility.
Not only did they warmly welcome me, they sat with me throughout the service and were able to also explain how things worked. I thought, maybe these were single men who were available to be hospitable, but they proved me wrong.
One was a grandfather who later introduced me to his wife and extended family who were sitting just a few rows away. Another was a single man who actually came with a group of friends who were his small group mates.
I thank God for such a warm experience at that church, it really felt as if I was worshipping God amongst family.
Jesus sought us out while we were far from him. May we do likewise for our siblings-in-Christ each Sunday.
This sabbatical has also allowed me to attend some counselling courses. Through seminary training, we only had one subject on counselling and so it was helpful equipping for me during this sabbatical.
I have attended a few courses on various aspects of counselling so far and in every one of them, I have been reminded that active listening is the most important part of counselling. It’s something I have always found difficult. Those close to me can testify that instead of active listening, it’s often selective listening or even feigned deafness that I exhibit.
All the courses have role plays which I actually dread since they are not scripted and the aim is not to just understand the facts that the ‘client’ is sharing, but also the emotions and the struggles. Listening for the ‘heart’ of the matter and not trying especially at the initial stage to think of possible solutions.
Through the courses, those who felt as ‘clients’ that they had a good and welcoming conversations were those who felt heard. Those who at the end of the conversation felt they were understood.
As I reflect on welcoming conversations, I am reminded of the phrase ‘seek to understand before seeking to be understood’.
We have no better friend than our Lord Jesus Christ. He seeks for us to share with Him our deepest thoughts and feelings. May Jesus guide such welcoming conversations in our 3-2-1 groups.
In the month of Aug and Sept, I attended two insightful seminars about inclusiveness in our faith community. One was by KIN at Hermon and the other by St Luke’s Eldercare. KIN highlighted inclusiveness towards those who have disabilities while St Luke’s Eldercare emphasize inclusiveness towards those with dementia.
According to KIN, there are estimated 10,300 believers who are people with disability. But from KIN’s survey of churches that are able to minister to these believers, they are only catering to 1,100 of them. Many churches also do not have a comprehensive ministry to serve the caregivers of believers with disability.
From the seminar by St Luke’s Eldercare, I was informed that in the nursing homes and in the daycare centres, between 50% to 70% have varying degrees of Dementia. This figure is quite alarming as about 10 years ago, at another seminar, they were talking about making provision in the Elderly daycare centres for 30% of seniors with dementia.
At this St Luke’s seminar, there were also a few testimonies of struggles shared by those who have been caregivers. I am beginning to appreciate better the 24/7 challenges these caregivers experience.
Many have remarked that the churches in Singapore have become upper-middle class in social-economic status. I don’t think Hermon is too far behind.
Since the Lord has elevated our financial standing, I’m sure we agree too that it should also come along with progressive thinking. That means we should be able and willing to think about others.
With our increasing affluence, may be begin our conversations on how Hermon can be a more welcoming community for those who are less abled and those who face challenges like Dementia, as well as being more supportive of their caregivers.
Once again may I take this opportunity to thank God for the generosity of Hermon in granting this sabbatical. And for my final 2 months, the highlight was to be the bible land tour. Thanks be to God that He has kept us safe as the war happened a month before our departure. The trip is cancelled and there are plans now to visit Turkey to explore Apostle Paul's three missionary journeys and the 7 churches of Asia (Rev 2 & 3).
1 Singapore Disability Ministry Survey 2023. www.kin.org.sg
- Pastor Daniel Tan