[Editor’s Note: Mr. & Mrs. Dewey Engelsma, of Hope P.R.C., Walker, Michigan, were present at the institution of the second congregation of the Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore, a very important event in the history of the young E.R.C. and in the lives of the saints there. This report, in the form of a letter, is from the Engelsmas. HCH]
Dear Friends of the Protestant Reformed Churches:
On the 6th of September a very important event took place on the island of Singapore. The second congregation of our sister church was instituted, choosing the name of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church.
It was a blessed occasion and, in this writer’s observation, could well have been, in God’s providence, the most significant event that took place in the world on that Sabbath Day.
The undersigned and his wife, after much soul-searching and with no little urging from our Asian sons and daughters, finally made the decision to arrange a travel schedule, in order to witness this church institution and to have fellowship again with these dearly-beloved saints.
At this time we will make no attempt to relate the unique spiritual experiences which we were privileged to enjoy during the many varied church-related activities and other social gatherings. Only allow us to state that the communion of the saints and the attendant hospitality were even beyond our expectations. If any reader should contemplate making this trip, be assured you, too, will be most welcome. Their gracious reception and loving concern are not reserved for the elderly. We suggest that young or old visit these youthful members of our sister churches in Singapore. You will not be disappointed; instead you will have lasting, treasured memories.
The institution, as we began, was held that Sunday afternoon in the auditorium of the Singapore American School, where the new congregation has met for their worship services for the past nine months. With a continual, steady increase of members and visitors, it became apparent that a second church would serve to ease the work load and the seating problem. Hence, in November of last year the E.R.C.S.’s session and congregation called the Rev. J. Mahtani to provide the leadership and pastoral care for this (second) flock. It took almost a half year to complete the arrangements. And finally, after being exempt from certain government restrictions, they were able to bring their plan to completion. Eleven families (with ten children) and seventeen individuals came from the original congregation, the Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore, of which Pastor Lau is minister.
And now we quote from the church’s celebration booklet, “The departure from the E.R.C.S. for most members was difficult and sad since it meant leaving behind of close ties and the beginning of new friendships in a totally different environment.” This we can understand, for we also experienced that same at-home feeling when we met and worshipped in the humble kampong building at River Valley Road. The services for the institution began at 1:45 P.M. and were concluded at approximately 5 o’clock. Most of the members from both congregations were present for this memorable occasion; and’ there was the added attraction of their children. This is not only a wonderful addition, but families are so necessary for a continuing church. With the gift of these twenty-six sons and daughters, the Word of God in Acts 2:39 has become a visible reality to them, “For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Rev. Lau officiated; and after opening devotions, he took for his sermon’s theme the words, “Follow Thou Me,” which Christ spoke at the restoration of the Apostle Peter (John 21:19). A beautiful exhortation to Rev. Mahtani, the elders, the deacons, and the congregation was effectively preached.
After the sermon, Rev. Mahtani, the three elders (Ang Leng Huat, Leong Fai Chong, and Wee Gim Theng) and the two deacons (Chua Kian Lye and R. Mohan) were ordained with the laying on of hands. This, of course, followed the reading of the Forms for ordination as found in the Psalter.
There were several congratulatory letters from certain of our Protestant Reformed Churches, and I was asked to read the letters from Hope’s Council and from the Committee for Contact. Here, too, some felicitous comments were in order.
Included in this part of the program was a song from the Sunday School children, coupled with the congregation singing the special songs of praise. Acknowledgements were also made with the presentation of a gift to those who had performed special tasks.
As the institution service moved along, we became painfully aware of the absence of an official delegation from our Protestant Reformed Churches. We can say this without being accusatory, since I, too, was a delegate to our recent Synod of June, 1987; and when the letter from Singapore was read, I concurred with the recommendation to decline their invitation. The rationale for this decision was based on the fact that we had just sent representatives in 1986; and it was thought inadvisable to do so again in 1987.
It became evident to us that there is a vast difference in the institution of a new church in our land in comparison with one in a foreign country such as Singapore. It was for the youthful saints a day of rejoicing which they desired to share with our churches, being members of the same family. Within the space of five years God had richly blessed the E.R.C.S. with the beginning of another congregation. So we were invited, as we would invite our brothers and sisters, to come and rejoice with them for the great things God had done for them. As the body of believers, we should always be an encouragement to one another and participate in these glorious events as much as possible.
A Covenant of Commitment was then spoken in unison by all the members of the newly organized church. It is impossible for us even to try to summarize the essence of this God-glorifying commitment. And to lift out at random some paragraphs or phrases would mar its exquisite symphony of supplication and praise. So we are taking the liberty to quote it in its entirety.
Covenant of CommitmentFinally we have come to this joyful occasion of the institution of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church.
Today we stand here before Almighty God and His beloved people to acknowledge that it is He Who has gathered us together for this most holy task. Almost a year ago we made a covenant of commitment to toil together for the realization of a new church in this island of Singapore. By the grace of God we have come to this point and we say with one voice and one heart—God has been our help and our strength. On this auspicious occasion of the institution of our Church, we confess that we continue to rely totally on this grace of our God as we seek to serve Him as the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church.
We promise to behave ourselves as members of this body of Christ, rejoicing together, weeping together, admonishing one another, walking in truth towards each other, and above all, serving one another in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. In a special way, our toils, our time, and our prayers will be for her. We will avail ourselves for her good and her welfare. We will seek to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord in this Church. We do this not selfishly as if only to see the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church prosper. But we seek her welfare in order that she in turn will be a blessing to others as a testimony of the wonderful mercy and faithfulness of God to His people. If through us God would be pleased to gather His elect out of this world of darkness to His marvelous light, we would count it our greatest joy and blessing. Our prayer also is that God will use us as a means of blessing to the ERCS whom we love and with whom we desire to serve the Lord in unity.
That same Reformed faith which extols God’s grace and which is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and explained for us in the Three Forms of Unity, we will continue to declare. The calling to go into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature we will seek to obey by being a good testimony and witness as a Church through the preaching but also as members of the Church through our life and walk.
As we have committed ourselves to the wonderful task of pioneering this work some ten months ago, so now we make this covenant to make it clear before all that it continues to be our earnest desire that God raise up through us this Church of Jesus Christ. This covenant we make because of God’s eternal covenant with us. He is our God and the God of our children. This is our confidence, our comfort, our only motivation to begin this work. And truly, if God be for us, who can be against us? We march on in the battle with this banner over our heads: “Jehovah is on our side, and we are on His!”
With such an awesome undertaking we can only bow in humility and trembling before God. In the presence of our fellow brothers and sisters from the ERCS, we make this cry to God our help and our strength: “Help us, bless us, and use us, for Thy own Name’s sake!” We also covet your prayers on our behalf; we go by faith in the strength of our God. Do not forget us, but pray for us.
May this endeavor be used in God’s grace to gather, defend and preserve His Church which is being built by our Lord Jesus Christ through His Word and Spirit even today in all the nations of the earth. We begin already now as His bride and Church crying: “Come Lord Jesus, Come quickly!” Yes, we see Him coming also in our very institution.
There is no better way to end this resolution than when we first begun. Today and always we make this our confession: “Our help is in the name of Jehovah who made heaven and earth.” Amen.
We are remembering our very first trip to Singapore with the Rev. J. Slopsema, nine years ago. Then we met a mere handful of teenagers who had recently been delivered from their cocoon of heathendom, with its idolatries of image and ancestral worship and brainwashing superstitions. Today we read through this, their profession of faith, and our hearts are filled with wonderment, awe, and love: What hath God wrought!
It became late in the afternoon. There were patient mothers holding infants and toddlers who audibly and plaintively were giving voice to their weariness. As we would say, they had had it!
The service closed with the singing of Psalter No. 53 (Psalm 23), prayer, and benediction. We left the beautiful auditorium at about 5:30 P.M. From then on, it was hurry and rush, to eat a snack, travel some miles to pay a last visit to a lonely brother, and still get to the Toa Payoh mission for the evening meeting, which began at 8 o’clock. At 10 P.M. we closed the door at Toa Payoh, and this Lord’s Day came to its full end.
The Reformed churches in Singapore are living and vibrant. Their witness goes forth individually and collectively. A few weeks ago there were fourteen new converts baptized; and another class is already receiving instruction.
The Word of our Lord is, “Surely I come quickly,” and truly He is gathering His church in Singapore.
—Praying for them, praying with them,
Elder and Mrs. Dewey Engelsma