Love was in the air at the Valentine’s Day services at City Harvest Church.
By Jamie Lim
It has become something of an annual event that City Harvest Church celebrates Valentine’s Day with the mass renewing of vows by married couples. This past weekend (Feb. 11 and 12), with the church’s focus on building relationships, the Valentine’s Day services held even greater significance for the congregation.
The celebration began with a sterling performance by six-time World Ballroom Dance Champion, Mirko Gozzoli and his dance partner, Lily Cashin. Cashin, a City Harvest member, is the founder of Arca Dance. After their performances, Cashin shared the charming testimony of how she started learning dance with the aim of evangelizing to her Chinese dance instructor, and later received a command from God to start a dance studio—all this with no prior dance experience. Because of her obedience to the voice of God, her dance studio is now an evangelistic tool that has opened doors for many to come to know Christ, and the Lord even opened a door for her to meet Gozzoli and to set up an Arca dance studio in Italy.
The pair danced to two Italian pieces of music, demonstrating “The Passion of Light and Darkness.” The first dance saw Cashin in a stunning white dress with a glittery headdress, and Gozzoli waltzing under a star-lit sky—this dance symbolized Light. The second dance, capturing the theme of Darkness, was a dramatic tango that began with a thunderstorm setting. Cashin—dressed in a shimmery black suit for this dance—and Gozzoli put up an energetic performance that wowed the congregation.
Next, the CHC Drama Ministry presented four stories of love as told through the discussion of two colleagues—one male, one female—who have ideas of love that are poles apart. The first tale was of two young college best friends; the boy roped in his bestie, a girl secretly in love with him, to woo the heart of another girl. The second story was about a young couple going through a tough time of reconciliation after the husband had an affair. The third, the touching monologue of a divorcee who still believes in love. As the stories progressed, the female colleague quickly shed her many Valentine’s Day fantasies. While she brewed over how hard it is to find love, he showed her the real meaning of “live happily ever after” through the story of an old man’s undying commitment and love for his dementia-ridden wife.
The drama left a bittersweet aftertaste that prepared the congregation for the message from senior pastor Kong Hee.
“To find love, we need to first know what love is,” said Kong, senior pastor of CHC, after entertaining the congregation up with “failed lines from rejected Valentine’s day cards” and sharing with them Singapore’s 2010 statistics of an alarming 7,405 divorces. He also shared American statistics that showed that while 45 percent of American marriages end in divorce, this number drops to 0.1 percent for American couples who pray together and read the Bible.
Love can be built to last, said Kong. There are three truths to lasting love:
1. Love is a commitment
Making reference to the Bible story of how Isaac decided to marry Rebekah when she was presented to him, Kong taught the congregation that love is a commitment. “It was hardly love at first sight, Issac simply made the decision to commit to her and grew in love after that.”
Kong reminded the audience that commitment is the foundation of a marriage and loving feelings may not come naturally at the start. “If you truly love someone, you will have to work hard for the relationship,” he said.
He went on to share a moving story of an old couple so committed to each other in their 72 years of marriage that, when they met with a fatal car accident, the paramedics found the couple in a coma, holding hands in their car. The husband stopped breathing soon after they reached the hospital, but his heart continued to beat. One hour after that, the wife, too, passed away, and only then did both their hearts stopped beating. They were placed in a dual coffin and when cremated, their ashes were combined. They were one to the end.
2. Love is a feeling
While Isaac and Rebekah were the example of making a decision and committing to it, Jacob and Rachel were the Biblical example of “love at first sight”.
“According to an article in Daily Mail, man needs only 8.2 seconds to fall in love!” Kong exclaimed. “Genesis 29:11 says that ‘Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept’. He was so in love, his emotions overwhelmed him!”
Songs of Solomon in the Bible is about erotic love and it describes love to be an overwhelming emotion. Science today shows this to be true. When a person is in love, a horde of chemicals races through his or her brain and body.
Chemicals like dopamine, which produces a feeling of bliss and euphoria, norepinephrine, which makes one feel giddy, and serotonin are produced when a person is in love and they are responsible for “that lovey feeling”. These chemicals, however, will dwindle after two or three years. By this time, sexual urges will set in for the relationship to advance. Chemicals like oxytocin, which induces emotional bonding, and endorphins, a natural painkiller which gives relief and peacefulness, are produced during sexual intercourse.
3. Love is an action
“It is something you do. In fact, loving with actions when you do not feel like it is the highest form of love,” Kong said.
Hugs, kisses, and any form of kind, loving actions does not only create loving feelings, it also reduces stress, lower blood pressure and enhances our immune system. In fact, research shows that men who kiss their wives in the morning live five years longer than those who do not.
Should the feeling of love dwindle as years go by, Kong advised: “Go back to do what you did during the courtship—taking walks by the beach, cooking for your partner, buying gifts. Loving actions change feelings. Most importantly, it is to let Jesus Christ love through you.”
And in case anyone lacked imagination, a bookmark with a list of “17 Actions that Amp Up the Love Relationship” was given out to all attendees.
Before the service ended, married couples were invited to walk down to the front, hand in hand, to renew their vows. Couples married for years looked like teenagers, giggling as they snuggled close to each other. These smiling couples filled the entire stage-front and aisles and as they followed their senior pastor in renewing their wedding vows and exchanging their rings once again.
Even though there were no veils to lift, the husbands were given the go-ahead to give their wives a 20-second kiss after the short ceremony. It was a little awkward at first, but the mood soon set in and the love in the air surpassed all embarrassment.
The couples were glad they were given a chance to renew their love in church. “It was really embarrassing, kissing in front of everyone. Furthermore, we are so old! But I think it was a really good experience, renewing our vows and love for one another,” shared Mrs Heng, 58, a housewife.
“Through Pastor Kong’s word, I learn that though marriage goes beyond a contract, it is a promise, a covenant, to one another, with no escape clause. We are to never give up on what we have, regardless of what may come. After all, Pastor said that if we truly love each other, we have to fight to keep the relationship,” said Marcus Lee, 30, IT executive.
It was a most heartwarming celebration of Valentine’s Day, with Kong paving the way to building stronger marriages and strengthening love between couples.