Herman C. Hanko is professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
The Synod of 1986 decided to send a delegation to Singapore, at the invitation of the Evangelical Reformed Church, with a three-fold mandate: 1) to participate in the ordination of brother Jaikishin Mahtani’s ordination; 2) to lecture at a Reformation Day Rally which the ERCS was planning for the last week in October; 3) and to discuss with the Session of the ERCS and their Contact Committee various matters of mutual interest to their church and ours.
In September the Contact Committee decided to send Rev. VanBaren and Prof. Hanko as delegates from our Churches to the ERCS to perform these labors. Because our readers are interested in the work of our churches, we have prepared and article for the The Standard Bearer, which is a modification of a report submitted to the Contact Committee upon our return.
During the nine days we spent with the saints in Singapore, we were impressed with the amount of labor going on in the church, with the commitment of the saints to the cause of the gospel, with the love shown to us as delegates from the Protestant Reformed Churches, and with the general progress of the church there. Our stay was extremely enjoyable and we are thankful for the opportunity to spend some time with this sister church.
Because the ERCS had planned the ordination of Jaikishin Mahtani on our first Lord’s Day morning in their midst, we were able to participate in the laying-on-of-hands ceremony of our brother as well as the laying-on-of-hands ceremony of a new deacon, brother Mahon. He was a deacon chosen to serve in the new congregation which was instituted and held its first worship service on November 9. For the time being, the new congregation will be under the supervision of the present body of elders.
In this connection, we might add that the present plans are for the new congregation to meet in one worship service, while the work in the Tao Payoh mission is continued. This mission service will be attended by all the members of the new congregation and will be considered, for the present, their second worship service. The new congregation, however, within three to six months, intends to begin two worship services of its own. They have obtained the auditorium of the American School, near the Tao Payoh mission, for a place of meeting. This is a spacious and commodious meeting place, although they have been promised this auditorium for only one year. In the meantime, the Session is looking for another place of worship, as Rev. denHartog has reported in his periodic reports to our people.
The new congregation has about 40 people committed to it, which number includes about 5 families, and about ten or fifteen more are expected to join it in the near future.
The ERCS had planned to center the activities of our visit in the fellowship on a commemoration of Reformation Day. To that end, they had planned to emphasize the Reformation in connection with the charismatic movement which has been such a growing force in Singapore. On Sunday evening, October 26, Prof. Hanko preached in their present place of worship on Acts 2:11b in connection with the general subject of the second baptism of the Spirit. While usually no evening service is held by the ERCS, the meeting place was filled because of the presence of many visitors who had come for this occasion.
The ERCS had rented the auditorium of the Bible Presbyterian Church for three nights of meetings in connection with the Reformation Day commemoration. On Wednesday night, Prof. Hanko, as requested by the ERCS, spoke on The Great Truth of The Reformation—Sola Scriptura; on Thursday night Rev. VanBaren spoke on The Great Truth of The Reformation in Connection with the Charismatic Movement. Both these meetings were unusually well attended. The auditorium was nearly filled with about two thirds of the people visitors. Many new contacts were made. On Friday night, an open forum was held in which questions which had been submitted were answered by a panel of the Reverends Lau, denHartog, VanBaren and Hanko, with Pastor Mahtani chairing the panel. While nearly forty questions had been submitted, there was time to answer only about sixteen. This meeting was also well attended, although not a many were present as were at the lectures.
The ERCS had also prepared a questionnaire which the people present were asked to fill out and submit to the ERCS for evaluation. We have not seen the results of this questionnaire. It might be of interest to our readers to know that a minister from a Presbyterian Church in Burma was also present at these meetings, and promised to stay in contact with the ERCS concerning his work in that country.
On the following Lord’s Day Prof. Hanko preached at the morning worship service and Rev. VanBaren at the evening worship service. Rev. VanBaren’s sermon, onI Corinthians 12:4-6, was also in connection with the general theme of the Reformation and the Charismatic Movement. Both times the meeting place of the ERCS was filled.
The people of the ERCS were very pleased and excited about the number of people who were present for the meetings and the worship services, especially because many new contacts were made.
We were also able to hole a rather lengthy meeting with the Session of the ERCS with the express purpose of discussing various matters concerning our sister-church relations. Our delegates had been given an agenda to be discussed at the meeting, and the ERCS had, in turn, prepared an agenda of their own in which were various matters dealing with problems which they were confronted, especially in the establishment of a federation of Churches.
Some of the subjects we discussed were: 1) Their progress as a Reformed Church; 2) The problem they have with mothers working because of the high cost of housing. We might add that they are very much opposed to this in the interest of establishing truly covenant homes. 3) Various questions which arose in connection with the responsibilities of the Session to supervise attendance at the Lord’s Supper. 4) The preparation of devotional material to be used on a daily basis. We can add in this connection that the ERCS had requested some time ago that material of this sort be prepared. It would be on the order of the old “Daily Manna” which some of our readers may recall having seen in the past. A brief devotion would be prepared for every day of the year. This is a large undertaking, but Rev. Heys had consented to work on material for this purpose, and already had a large amount ready. The ERCS would probably be responsible for printing it, since the costs of printing are much lower in Singapore, but when, D.V., the material is ready, it will be available also for our own people. 5) What matters arising in their congregation and in our churches should be called to the attention of our sister churches. This question arose especially in connection with the fact that our last synod decided to adopt some changes in the translation of our Canons. The material itself is in the Acts of the Synod of 1986. But the ERCS, rightly, called our attention of our creeds, it should have been submitted to our sister churches for approval. 6) A possible conference which would be held in 1990 between our churches, the ERCS of Singapore, the Bible Presbyterian Church of Larne, North Ireland, and the Protestant Reformed Church of Wellington, N.Z. The Synod of 1986 had given qualified approval to this idea and had instructed the Contact Committee to begin making preliminary preparations for it. On various matters which we had no time to discuss, the Contact Committee of the ERCS is going to correspond with our Committee.
In general, our stay in Singapore was an enriching and blessed experience. We believe that our relationships with this sister-church were strengthened by our visit there, and that the fruits of our visit will be evident in the years to come.
The ERCS is very excited about the establishment of a new congregation, for they see this as evidence of the blessing of God upon their work. Pastor Mahtani will, but the time this report appears in The Standard Bearer, have taken up his labors in this congregation. In the meantime, Rev. denHartog and his family are making preparations for returning to the States. One can imagine that a great sadness fills the hearts of God’s people in Singapore at the thought of their beloved missionary and pastor leaving them. And the denHartog’s also, who have given so much for the cause of the gospel in Singapore, have very mixed feelings about returning.
The ministers in the ERCS graciously took us into their homes (Pastor Mahtani now lives with his wife and twins on the 25th floor of a high rise complex with a magnificent view of the city and the harbor on the west of the island), gave us many opportunities to eat Chinese foods of various sorts, and took us to see many delightful places in the island. Singapore is a very clean and beautiful city with many islands of greenery tucked away between the crowded buildings. We were even able to spend several hours in Malaysia to enjoy the oil palm plantations, the rubber tree plantations, and some of the spectacular scenery. The saints there were warm in their friendship, and it was but a few days before it seemed to us as if we had known them a very long time. This too is part of the communion of saints in which we are one in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amazingly, the heat bothered us very little, although the time of the year was the beginning of the monsoon season with its rains, which may have made it just a bit cooler. But we did not sweat as much in preaching and speaking as we often do in our own churches on Lord’s Day evenings in the summer.
It is becoming increasingly common for some of our people to travel overseas on vacations. We highly recommend that, if possible, our people consider visiting our fellow saints in Christ half way around the world. It will give you a greater appreciation for the richness and beauty of the catholic church to which we belong.
May God continue to bless our relations with our brethren and sisters in Singapore.