Pastoral Perspectives


A World Changer is someone who is committed to do just that, change the world. A World Changer is not someone who blends in. A World Changer sticks out. A World Changer stands ready to make a difference. If this is the definition of a World Changer, COVID – 19 can be said as one. The world has changed since the widespread of the COVID-19. Our society is now different, our livelihood is affected, everything else has changed. Many health systems are crippled.

Since last year, I’ve been trying to get the people of the church where I interim to re-look at church as each believer to be the hands and feet of Christ scattered from Monday to Saturday in our market places. Today, the COVID – 19 has caused us believers across the world to be scattered where we are as we can no longer gather in one place called the Church. Does anyone benefit from COVID – 19? Politicians will tell us NO. On hindsight, I’d say YES.

Our creation is the first to benefit. The earth had groaned for too long, the Green movement has cried out to no avail, yet one small little virus caused the world to almost stand still. According to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report: “COVID-19–a virus that has been attributed to human interferences such as deforestation, encroachment on animal habitats and biodiversity loss–has led to a reported thousands of deaths in China.  The subsequent lockdown of Hubei province contributed to a reduction in pollution that, according to a Stanford University researcher, may prevent 50,000 to 75,000 people from dying prematurely.  This demonstrates a trade-off between consumption-driven society (and its interference with nature) and the resiliency of nature and ecosystems.”

Despite the lingering uncertainty, COVID-19 silently offers us an opportunity to reflect on the spiritual impact it has on the world and our communities. In the beginning, COVID-19 was associated with China, but in a short span, it has crossed the globe without any visa. Irrespective of the pandemic stage, today it is everyone’s problem. It should thus leave no space for stigmatization of a particular country or ethnic group.

Our government has activated “Circuit Breaker” to protect everyone, especially older folks, who run the highest risk, together with people with underlying health conditions. COVID-19 has aroused the spirit of unity and interconnectedness in our health systems. WHO Director himself said from the very beginning, “Solidarity is the key to defeating COVID-19”. The young and old need to care for each other, people with good health should care about the people with underlying health conditions, and obviously, countries should also care for each other in this now global pandemic. In other words, we need intergenerational solidarity, cross-national solidarity, etc.

The first time in my 40 years of ministry to hear that closing the church on Mondays is to save electricity but today churches are closed because of COVID – 19. We have often relied on ordained minister/pastor in conducting church services. However, COVID – 19 has helped us to realize the importance of our priestly duties. A call to pray from home transfers greater responsibility to non-ordained members. Praying from home will bring in a faithful realization that all can have access to God through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:18), and have the priestly responsibility of interceding for other people (1 Peter 2:9). It will be a time for understanding that, similar to fellowships in physical church buildings, family members praying together in their homes is also the real church (Body of Christ) in a spiritual sense. Such a divine responsibility needs to be handled with faith. COVID-19 pushes us hard to rekindle our faith to see God’s intervention in overpowering the disastrous effect of coronavirus.

COVID – 19 forces us to hold tight to what is sacred—and hold everything else loosely. The advisory send out by our Senior Pastor is not just communicating measures but casting a vision for how we are to be the people of God in this time. Currently most of our members are still relying on the church leadership to produce worship services for their consumption at the comfort of their homes and for some, even at the convenience of their time. I’m no prophet as to how each believers’ family or even individual can still worship God when technology fails us. From the luxury of a worship team, we now scramble to form a minimal team to pre-record our worship services for the weeks ahead.

What I cannot understand about our young people today is seen in the Straits Time survey report: “If people were feeling mildly unwell, with a slight cough or sore throat, 62.5% of the under-30s indicated that they would still attend important events, compared to 35.2% of those aged 30-49, and 27.1% of those aged 50 and above.” As of March 24, the number of coronavirus patients aged 20-29 (141) has exceeded the number of patients aged 60 and above (111). Close to 80% of the young adults who were infected were imported cases, many of them returning from the UK. Most Singaporeans are fearful of COVID-19, but it seems this is less true for younger people. We only have one life to live, don’t give it to COVID – 19.

A World Changer is not someone who blends in. A World Changer sticks out. A World Changer stands ready to make a difference. My challenge to all during this time of COVID – 19 is supporting our government advisory in stopping the spread of the virus by social distancing (avoiding large gatherings) and good personal hygiene (washing our hands). The data suggests that what the world needs now is not our physical presence, but our absence.

What did the church (believers) do in the year of our Lord 2020 when COVID – 19 swept our land? We worshipped online, washed our hands and prayed. Unglamorous as this is, it may be the shape of faithfulness in our time. As Esau McCaulley writes, “The church’s absence, its literal emptying, can function as a symbol of its trust in God’s ability to meet us regardless of the location. The church remains the church whether gathered or scattered. It might also indirectly remind us of the gift of gathering that we too often take for granted. The point is that the during this Easter Season, the loss of Christ’s physical presence through His death, resurrection and ascension would lead to an even deeper communion with God. It is possible that, strangely enough, the absence of the church will be a great testimony to the presence of God in our care for our neighbours.”(The New York Times)

Rev Tan Cheng Huat (Non-resident Missionary)

April 12, 2020