It was the biggest national Christian church event of Singapore’s last half-century. The Jubilee Day of Prayer, held on July 5 in celebration of SG50, saw 51,000 Christians in one accord at the Sports Hub.
The sound of more than tens of thousand of voices praising, worshiping and praying altogether is a fearsome and wonderful noise. The Jubilee Day of Prayer, held on Sunday, July 5, saw a total of 51,000 attendees: 48,000 filling up the Stadium, with another 3,000 serving inside and outside the premises as ushers, traffic control, guides and more. Yet another 3,000 people tuned in to the event via webcast—the JDOP website saw 35,000 views during the three-hour event.
Organized by the National Council of Churches, Singapore (NCCS) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore (EFOS), and supported by Singapore Baptist Convention, Indian Christian Network, Festival of Praise Fellowship, LoveSingapore and National Prayer Alliance, JDOP2015 was the single largest multi-denominational Christian event in the history of Singapore, with over 170 Protestant churches taking part. Volunteers from different churches pitched in to organize and run the show.
JDOP2015 was held to commemorate SG50, Singapore’s 50th year of independence. The guest-of-honor for the occasion was Singapore’s prime minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong. Also in attendance were national leaders who are Christians, including Singapore’s president, Mr Tony Tan and his wife Mary, Minister of Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen and his wife, Prof Ivy Ng, the CEO of Singhealth; Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Tan Chuan-Jin; Member of Parliament Ms Indranee Rajah and Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Singapore’s transport minister.
The spiritual purposes of the event were threefold: to thank God for blessing the nation the last 50 years, to pray for unity among churches and unity in the nation, and to bless the next generation that they will continue the legacy.
“We are very encouraged by the tremendous support from the Christian community to celebrate Singapore’s Jubilee year with thanksgiving and prayer,” say NCCS President Bishop Wee Boon Hup, Chairman of JDOP 2015 and EFOS Chairman Dr Lawrence Chia, Co-Chairman of JDOP 2015. “The gathering of Christians from different denominations, churches and organisations, in one day at one place as one Christian community, underscore the unity of our community and the love we have for Singapore.”
The starting and ending times had been chosen with care: 4:14pm symbolized the Church’s focus on children aged 4 to 14 to be raised in the ways of God. 7:14pm drew from 2 Chronicles 7:14 which reads, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
“Jubilee is when God shows us His favor,” declared Bishop Wee Boon Hup of the Methodist Church. “We are here to show God the growing unity of the Church.”
Indeed, regardless of denomination, all the Christians gathered sang, prayed and raised their hands as one. The service opened with the blowing of shofar, followed by the opening prayer and praise and worship, led by singer-songwriter Clement Chow. From “Majesty” (Jack Williams Hayford) to the mashup of Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God” with the hymn “How Great Thou Art”, the crowd raised their hands and sang with all their hearts. In the words of one Christian reporter, the spine-tingling experience was “better than a Wembley match.”
After a short prayer session where attendees broke into groups of two or three to pray for consecration, Bishop Rennis Ponniah of the Anglican Archdiocese gave a short but memorable message on thanksgiving. Drawing from the story of the 10 lepers in Luke 17:11-19, he listed three realities from the story that can “awaken an overflowing sense of thankfulness”.
The first is the reality of God’s merciful goodness. The one leper who came back to thank Jesus knew that he had experienced a miracle, an act of God that changed him. The other nine, however, were too caught up with their own lives once they were healed. Likewise, Singapore is a miracle to Christians—its survival and success is something only God could have done. “God directed His goodness to this little red dot,” said the Bishop. “It takes an outsider to see what’s so great about our country, but let us not fail to see what good conditions we live in.”
The second reality is God’s manifold blessings. For the lepers to be free from leprosy meant that they were now free from a disease that slowly and systematically destroyed them, one that cut them off from society. Christians must thank God for the sustained economic growth Singapore has enjoyed. “Thank God for public housing, for social harmony. Thank God for a system of meritocracy, for being able to meet needs. Thank God for peaceful conditions in our land and the freedom to propagate Christianity, for good government and policies that began with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and our founding fathers. Thank God for the hard work of the pioneers,” said the Bishop before asking: “Will these blessings last? Will Singapore overcome dangers within and outside?”
The final reality Christians must recognize is God’s mighty power. “God has a positive destiny for Singapore and He has the power to accomplish it,” he declared. “The church in Singapore is like the church in Antioch—we are sending messengers to the nations. God is pouring out His spirit in a fresh way on His people.”
Bishop Ponniah ended with a reminder to all present that “our task includes raising the next generation. We must hold our moral ground to fulfil our disunity as a church.”But we are not alone in this work, “His grace and His power will not fail us.”
The powerful message was followed by a session of prayer for Singapore, led by Reverend Stephen Gan of the Presbyterian Church and Reverend Rick Seaward of the National Prayer Alliance. Corporate prayers were offered for the leaders of the nation, fathers in the church, the salvation of fathers, strong Christian homes and families, intentional disciplining of children in the ways of God, and a strong and growing church in Singapore.
An offering was taken, with the collection going to the needy. Bishop Wee explains, “Since 1835, when the first church was established in Singapore, Christians and Christian organisations have contributed to the community by helping the needy and under-privileged in society, providing education and social services, among others. In the Spirit of Jubilee and to reinforce our commitment to the community, I am pleased to announce that the Jubilee offering collected at this JDOP will be used to bless and help the poor, needy and low income families in our nation regardless of race, religion and language.”
The Bible Society also sponsored 50,000 Jubilee Bibles for attendees to give to pre-believer friends.
THE CHURCH UNITED
JDOP2015 physically united many of Singapore’s Christian population in one place. Reverend Edmund Chan, the leadership mentor at the Covenant Evangelical Free Church, preached a short message about true unity in the Singapore Church.
Reading from Psalm 133, he declared there to be “one Church of Christ in Singapore”. “God had called us as a people to unite,” he said, “1 Corinthians 1:10 says, ‘that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.'”
Rev Chan expounded on two principles. The first: the purpose of unity is rooted in the unity of purpose. “God has called the church to be united for a purpose, which is to let the world know that God sent Jesus (John 17:23).”
The second principle is: “Whom we are united in determines what we are united for. We are already united in Jesus, it determines our purpose in unity: to know Christ and to make him known.”
In closing, Rev Chan underscored his call for unity with the tale of a young girl who was lost in a huge cornfield in winter. Her parents called the neighbors to help search for her, each taking a different area in the field. Eventually they decided to join hands, form a line and comb through the whole field. They found the body of the girl, dead from cold. As the mother of the girl collapsed in grief, a neighbor regretfully said, “If only we had joined hands earlier.”
Bishop Terry Kee of the Lutheran Church and Reverend Dominic Yeo of the Assemblies of God then led the stadium in bilingual prayers for unity in the nation. They prayed for government leaders to foster unity, that there would continue to be religious freedom and harmony; for wisdom, insight and reverence for the Lord so that the leaders would know what to change and when, so that the nation will progress for God’s glory; that the unity found in the triune God will be found in Singapore’s leaders, that they will have singleness of heart; for social cohesion and for a Singapore to bring God great joy.
As a sign of unity, every Christian in the stadium took out the Jubilee scarf provided for all attendees, joined them and declared that they are one family.
SPIRIT OF THE JUBILEE
The highlight of the event for many was the arrival of Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong. The stadium erupted in deafening cheers of welcome and waving of Singapore flags when he and his wife, Ms Ho Ching, were announced. Mr Lee gamely took a photo of the crowd with his phone when he reached the stage.
He delighted the crowd by showing off his knowledge about the significance of the Jubilee to Christians. “For Christians, the Jubilee year is significant,” he said, to the cheers of the crowd. “The Jubilee is a year of great celebration, [a time to] enjoy the harvest, spend time w family, share with the poor.
“SG50 is an appropriate time to celebrate the Jubilee in Singapore!”
In his short and charming speech, PM Lee noted that the spirit of the Jubilee is “togetherness, thankfulness and generosity that we must nurture and that will see us into the future. A future in which all our communities, including our Protestant community, will have full roles to play.”
PM Lee recognized the Christian community for its role in building up Singapore. “Missionary schools moulded young men and women of character,” he said, adding that although he did not attend one, “my two sons went to Christian schools, for which I am very grateful.”
The prime minister also took note of the Church’s work in providing an extensive network of services, such as St Andrew’s Community Hospital, among others. The Church has done good work for over a century in Singapore.
“I thank you for building trust and mutual confidence with other religious groups, between the groups as well as between the leaders, so that we can live harmoniously together and solve problems amicably and cooperatively together,” said Mr Lee, adding that these few weeks, he was also attending thanksgiving events organized by other religious groups.
“The government considers it a good thing that many people are steeped in their faith,” he added with a smile. “It has not stopped us from coming together as one people.”
He ended with a unifying message: “For this 50th Jubilee year, let us make Singapore an enduring home, an endearing home, a home for all regardless of race, of language, of religion. A home where we live together harmoniously and look forward to a brighter future.”
After his speech, everyone rose to their feet and sang Aaronic Benediction (Misha Goetz) in English as a blessing upon the prime minister. This was followed by the recitation of the National Pledge.
The final segment of the day was titled “Destiny”. Youths bearing flags ran out and took position around the field as the worship team sang “Open Up The Gates” (The Planetshakers). Rev Lawrence Khong of LoveSingapore led the stadium in a prayer for the next generation of believers.
The Jubilee celebration closed with the National Anthem and the JDOP version of the Kallang Wave—the Golden Jubilee Wave.
After the event, Reverend Tony Yeo, Executive Secretary of JDOP 2015 and General Secretary of Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore, said, “The Jubilee year has great significance in the Bible. We believe that it is a year of rest, release and restoration. As Singapore turns 50 this year, we want to give thanks for God’s blessings, and pray for God’s continued blessings, as we pass on this legacy of thanksgiving, unity and revival to the next generation.”