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Shepherd of the Hills.
Singapore's scarcity of land is evident in the planning of
the structure built in the late 1990s. What appears from the
street as a two-storey structure is actually a seven-level
church with two levels of basement parking, a couple of levels
of classrooms, function halls and office, and a worship hall
with balcony. From the narrow King's Road, one pulls over
a C-shaped driveway that leads to a pair of glass doors opening
to a small lobby-cum-hallway. On the right side of the hallway
are doors that lead to the worship centre, while a reception
desk is smacked in between a set of doors that lead to several
rooms on the left. The worship hall is a rectangular auditorium
with fan-shaped pew arrangement. Each pew is padded and the
room is fully air conditioned. Prominently displayed on the
left wall is a huge world map with pins stuck on every country
from which the congregation's members hail. The chancel section
is almost bare except for a wooden pulpit and green-padded
choir chairs. To the extreme left side of the stage is the
band section, on the other is a three-manual Allen digital
organ that sounded like the real thing! At the very front
wall of the sanctuary behind the choir is a huge triangular
opening that shows the baptistery. Close to the triangle's
top corner is a simple wood cross.
The International Baptist Church of Singapore is true to its
name, with almost 50 countries represented in its membership
and attendees. Locals comprise about 40 per cent of the total
membership. The leadership of the church is a great reflection
of the congregation's diversity. While being true to being
a church of all peoples, IBCS also have ethnic-focused ministries.
While three of its main pastors are Americans, two Filipinos
serve the Filipino congregation, an Indonesian pastor serves
his flock, and a Chinese pastor leads locals in a Mandarin
service. It is also evident that many in its community come
from the upper middle class to elite strata of society, with
a small sprinkle of common blue collar folks. Diplomats and
international company executives mingle with domestic helpers
and grocery storekeepers; laundry ladies from Jakarta share
seats with information technology specialists from Manila.
The church seeks to unite all people regardless of status
and race under the lordship of Christ.
The church is the Queenstown area of Singapore between Holland
District and Bukit Timah, which is a long stretch where expensive
housing, malls and schools are located. Queenstown was named
after Queen Elizabeth II to mark her coronation in 1953. The
area used to be called by the Chinese name Wu Wei Gang. King's
Road, where the church is located, is a minor narrow street
lined with some of the most expensive bungalows in the island.
Since Singapore has limited land space, to own a bungalow
is a big deal and the church is smacked in the middle of that
classy community. There is also a Lutheran church nearby.
Worship leader was the Revd Alan Moore, pastor for music and
worship. Preacher was the Revd Dr Tom Chandler. Prayer leader
was the Revd Dr Matthew Lim, pastor for member care.
The date & time:
30 August 2009, 9.30am.
What was the name of
The Church in Worship.
How full was the building?
The attendance recorded in the bulletin for the previous Sunday
was 1,859 in all five services, including the ethnic group
worship services. I counted roughly around 400 to 450 people
at my service. For an auditorium that could seat 600, there
was still a lot of room.
Did anyone welcome you
No one! I arrived about an hour early to an empty lobby. I
walked down the hall and saw a lady carrying a box full of
choir folders. I asked her what time the service was, but
she must have thought I asked her what I could do to help,
as she replied, "Could you please open that door for me?"
I did. After a few minutes she emerged through the door and
saw me still standing there. "Please go to the visitor's center
(pointing to a room with an open door) and help yourself for
a cup of coffee," she said. So that's exactly what I did.
A young lady came into the room and helped herself to some
coffee, but walked out without apparently having seen me.
Fifteen minutes later I saw a woman arranging worship folders,
and I summoned up the courage to introduce myself to her.
She was the first person who obliged me in any way, although
I wondered if she would have ignored me had I not made the
first move as an obvious newcomer.
Was your pew comfortable?
Wood pews with thick green padding – comfortable but
with little leg room. My knees almost touched the pew in front
of me. Since I sat at the very end of pew, I extended my left
leg out into the aisle; otherwise I would have felt like a
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
The musicians were going through the morning's worship set.
First the vocalists, and then after about 10 minutes the guitarist
arrived and started rehearsing his part. After another 10
minutes, the bassist came and set himself up. Twenty minutes
into the rehearsal, the drummer and the pianist came in! Finally,
the team was ready to do a sound check all together, but by
then it was almost time for the service to begin. All the
while, people were streaming in, each one seeming to have
his or her own agenda. There was lots of loud talking and
boisterous laughter. Three minutes before the service, the
choir came in and lined up at the back of the sanctuary. None
of the choir members deemed it necessary to shut up –
every one was talking to someone – until someone cued
them to climb the stage from the side steps. When the choir
were all set, the service began.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Who among you here came in before it rained? Well, obviously,
those who are dripping just got here!" How utterly lame, I
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The Baptist Hymnal and a pew Bibles were in the racks,
but we didn't use them. Songs and scripture were projected
onto screens, and a majority of the people brought their own
What musical instruments
A grand piano, a synthesizer, electric guitar, bass and drums.
The three-manual Allen digital organ was played only to accompany
the last song, which was only one stanza long: "O How I Love
Jesus." What a waste of a perfectly good instrument and a
talented organist with a doctorate in music and organ performance.
Did anything distract
After the lame opening line by the worship leader, everything
seemed to have become either distracting and disappointing.
I was about ready to walk out, but I felt that I should at
least hear the preaching. One major distraction was the announcement
time. A total of eight people stood to announce something
or some things about the ministry they lead or support. It
ate so much of the service time that the preacher appeared
obliged to cut his sermon short!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It was a sad attempt to be a "blended" service. We sang three
contemporary songs accompanied by a band and led by a team
and a 40-member choir, but the people in the congregation
didn't seem to respond. I started clapping my hands at the
beginning of Brian Doerksen's "Hallelujah, Your love is Amazing,"
but realised on the second line that I was clapping alone
and it felt awkward. The lame opening line by the worship
leader was another attempt to make the service sound and feel
contemporary. The worship team sounded great and so did the
choir or would have done had the service been a traditional
one! The worship leader having the pitch and timbre
of a classical singer singing rock was just a bit off.
Exactly how long was
15 minutes, which isn't very typical of a Baptist service!
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
7 The American preacher was preaching to an international
church, but he used stories and anecdotes that were largely
of topical interest to Americans.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
His sermon was entitled "The Essence of Love: Honesty and
Humility." As Christians, we are taught by Christ to follow
his example of love and humility. Honesty is something we
must center on in our relationships, coupled with humility,
not thinking more highly of ourselves than of others.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The choir anthem "I Can Only Imagine" was great! The message
of the song is heaven, so, yeah, it felt like heaven.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The numerous announcements. It felt like attending a Kiwanis
or a Rotary meeting with everyone having something to say
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing! I came out of the sanctuary to a narrow lobby full
of people waiting for the next service. I felt the need simply
to get out of people's way.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
The coffee was hot. Guests could help themselves to it.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
4 The church service just seemed too unplanned to me,
and the guests found it difficult to break through cliques
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
I'm always glad I'm a Christian!
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
All the announcements and the lame opening line.
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