Mystery Worshipper: Rebirth2006
Church: Barker Road Methodist
Location: Bukit Timah, Singapore
Date of visit: Sunday, 30 January 2011, 10:30am
Barker Road Methodist began in 1956 as a chapel within the compound of the Methodist Church in Singapore headquarters and the Anglo-Chinese school in Bukit Timah, and was granted church status the following year. The pastel coloured sanctuary is located on elevated ground and has a contemporary feel to it. Architecturally it is the centre-point of the entire complex. There is a floor-to-ceiling stained glass window at the back of the building.
Although Barker Road is a Methodist church, it runs a number of different worship services to accommodate the diversity of the congregation. There is a hymn book service, a contemporary service, and a pentecostal service, as well as services in Tagalog, Indonesian, and Mandarin Chinese.
Bukit Timah is a prime residental district of Singapore and is located near the centre of the island on a hill, the highest point in Singapore. It is where the British surrendered the island to the Japanese invading force during World War II. During the Japanese occupation it was a major industrial centre, but luxury housing has now replaced the factories. It is also the site of a private saddle club.
The Revd Malcolm Tan, senior pastor and preacher.
What was the name of the service?Contemporary Service.
How full was the building?
Comfortably full. Around 700 people were seated in the pews.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There were ushers who were giving out bulletins at the front of the sanctuary. We were also asked to greet a few people during a part of the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was the standard wooden pew used in most churches, but it was relatively comfortable. One interesting thing was that the pew had been sponsored by a person, whose name was engraved on the top right hand side.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Hardly anybody was in the sanctuary when I arrived. It was extremely reverential yet peaceful.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Indeed, the presence of the Lord is in this place!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The words to the worship songs in the first part of the service were projected on the screen, as well as the offertory anthem by the choir, but the hymn of preparation and dedication as well as scriptural references were referred to in the United Methodist Hymnal and The Holy Bible, New International Version, respectively.
What musical instruments were played?
The opening worship set had an acoustic guitar, drums, worship leader and two singers, backed up by a 15 member choir. Organ was used for the hymns.
Did anything distract you?
A number of mobile phones went off at full volume during the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Even though this was a contemporary service in a Methodist church, many people sang the worship songs with their arms by their sides. A few people raised hands. The rendition of the songs was also slowed down to suit the more conservative congregation. At one point of the service, the pastor allowed us to "give a clap offering to God".
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Pastor Tan spoke in a crisp and clear British Received accent with a tinge of Singaporean English. His sermon was well structured and clearly illustrated, and closely followed the biblical context.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was based on 2 Corinthians 4:1-10 (Paul plainly preaches Christ's truth to those who will receive it) and was entitled "The Treasure Within". He divided his talk into a number of sections, viz. life principles, hard truths to living, the treasure within, false life perspectives, Paul's testimony, and dimensions of the Christian life.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The anthem called "I Want to Know Christ" during the offertory showed the full potential of the choir and was wonderfully presented.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The worship team was horribly off beat during the opening set of worship songs. I also struggled with the singing of hymns as the lyrics were not projected on the screen.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As it was raining heavily that day, many people were more willing to rush off than to stay and mingle with their fellow parishioners.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There were dispensers with hot coffee and a number of cold drinks such as fruit punch outside the sanctuary. Food was also available for purchase in the canteen of the school.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – Although Barker Road is a church with an incredible in-depth style of solid biblical preaching and doctrine, I would find it hard to accommodate singing out of a hymnbook and to blend in with a more senior, conservative group of parishioners.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I'm glad that I'm a Christian no matter what, but I was glad that traditional denominations are now embracing more contemporary methods of worship and preaching.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The offertory choral anthem.