City Harvest Church is home to numerous dynamic and vibrant ministries. Many of these went on hiatus when the pandemic hit and services went online. With the gradual reopening of Singapore post Circuit Breaker, CHC resumed physical services last Christmas, and ministries are slowly picking up where they left off. We caught up with some key ministries to find out how they spent the last year.
The Usher ministry is the largest ministry in CHC, comprising of 318 members, made up of 93 leaders and 225 ushers. Ushers are a key part of every physical service as they are the ones who lead churchgoers to their seats, distribute communion elements, collect offerings, and serve as the first line of defence if anything should require attention during service.
Head of the Usher ministry, Pastor Audrey Ng shared that in 2020, besides Zoom meetings with the whole ministry, the various teams also met up online to play games, watch movies, services and celebrate birthdays. While they couldn’t do much in person together, they took their camaraderie online through efforts such as their special Christmas Instagram project from Dec 11 to Christmas Day, where one Usher team a day put up encouraging Instagram posts. All the posts put together spelled out the words “CHC USHER MINISTRY”. Such initiatives helped to connect the ministry members even though they had not been serving.
As onsite services resume, the ushers are happy that they get to serve again. “The first time when we told them we were coming back onsite, everybody wanted to serve!” laughed Pastor Audrey. It resumed with leaders first since there was a limit of 20 ushers per weekend. When the routine became more familiar, volunteer ushers were brought back to serve at the onsite services.”
Zhang Sushan, a section leader in the ministry, was one of the first to return to onsite services. “I was excited, eager to serve and meet my ministry friends after a good 10 months away from church,” she said. “I volunteered to serve during the Christmas service on Christmas Day. A runny nose and sore throat almost prevented me from turning up for duty, but thank God I cleared the swab test in time. While serving I witnessed God’s ability to work in miraculous ways. We were not expecting any newcomers or friends, but God was able to use the opportunity to touch the heart of one of the Safe Distancing Ambassadors who came to inspect our service. I thought to myself, my serving for the service today is all worthwhile, with this soul touched. I heard later that this same Ambassador decided to come back for service again the following week. Hallelujah! Even with all the challenges and changes we have had to make in church, God is unchanged in soul-winning.”
For usher Kimberly Koh, the reward in serving was returning into the House of God and experiencing His presence. “I was so happy when Phase 3 finally arrived and my desire to serve was made possible! Stepping into Church on 10 Jan 2021, seeing my fellow ushers after 10 months—it was emotional. It’s been a while, but our hearts were grateful. As the live music played, tears of joy streamed down our faces as we lifted up our hands to worship His Majesty. How beautiful is His sanctuary! I have an agenda for serving: to linger in His presence, to dwell a little longer in this long awaited moment of finally coming together for service!”
However, serving in the ministry has transformed in the current climate. “When I met them after a recent service, they told me, “Pastor, no kick la, no need to fight fire!” laughed Pastor Audrey. “One of the things they really miss is the challenge of filling up seats but now they don’t have to because every seat is allocated.” She also revealed that the ushers miss being able to meet the members face to face, the teamwork experienced while preparing the hall, even packing communion trays.
Having taken over the ministry just last year, Pastor Audrey was glad that, thanks to a quiet year, she had time to build relationships with the ministry members. In fact, since the beginning of 2020, she has been meeting the usher chiefs every alternate week to share the Word and to fellowship with them.
“Even though many of them have been in church for many years, our paths have never crossed,” she explained. “So it was great to bond and build relationships. While most think that ushers are purely operational personnel, I want our ministry to be a platform where they build lasting relationships, like a big, happy family.”
The CHC Greeters are the first faces we see when we step into CHC’s space at Suntec, as they welcome us with a warm greeting and a big smile. Ministry head Johann Sim told us how he engaged his volunteers last year when everything went online. “Since last April, the Greeters have been meeting on Zoom every alternate weekend before service for devotion and prayers, and we have breakout rooms to fellowship.”
One wonderful initiative that was started by a Greeter was the social media engagement during CHC’s online services. CHC streams its services on platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube Live, and viewers regularly engage the CHC teams through chat before and during the service.
One weekend, out of her own accord, greeter Samantha Koh started to engage viewers on the YouTube chat before service began. Johann felt this was a good avenue for the volunteers to serve and since then, the Greeters have since been a welcoming and enthusiastic presence on CHC’s social media during service. Two greeters are rostered for YouTube and two for Facebook every Saturday and Sunday, and they are simultaneously connected on Zoom as they serve each weekend so that they can look out for each other and extend a helping hand when needed.
The greeters were also thrilled when tasked to help out during the Chinese service’s evangelistic short film screening at the end of 2020, welcoming viewers on YouTube and Facebook. Johann is proud of the leaders Liew Mei Fang, Wong Yung Yeow, Daniel Yong and Joseph Neo who have kept the ministry going forward.
Recently, the volunteer-driven ministry organized an appreciation event where 110 greeters gathered over 14 homes to conduct watch parties during church service. “One of the things they definitely miss is to be able to greet and pray for members physically. They want to continue to serve where they can.”
The heart of a servant is one that’s constantly hungry for ways to bless others. The lack of opportunity to serve at church led to greeters offering to help the community.
Greeter Carol Lim shared, “When COVID-19 happened last year, I could not serve physically in church. I asked God how I could serve Him in other ways. Within a week, my friend who works at KK Hospital called me and asked if I would be keen to be a volunteer with a cancer patient named Mdm Phua. I need to travel to her home in Serangoon and accompany her to do her blood tests and chemotherapy sessions up to three times per month. At first, it was a challenge connecting with her but I continue to shower her with love. Not long after, God started to move in her life and last month, she told me that she wants to be water baptised! Pastor Maria from our Dialect Service conducted the water baptism. Praise the Lord! “
With the cessation of live service early last year, many of CHC’s volunteer song leaders were not required to serve, as there was a limit to the number of people allowed in each worship setting or recording. Many continued to be involved in worship leading within their own cell groups, zones and leaders’ meetings online. A few of them went on to help out other ministries like the Chinese Service and Harvest Kidz. From April to December 2020, when live services resumed, they also gathered on Zoom for weekly devotions to minister to one another.
Last Christmas, 10 of the song leaders took part in the creative “Christmas at home” video segment which proved a big hit with the congregation during Christmas. Putting together such an item with everyone working out of different locations required lots of preparation and logistics, but it was an enjoyable process for them.
Annabel Soh, who leads the song leaders and choir revealed that most of her ministry members miss making music and worshipping physically together. As services resumes, she hopes that more worship leaders have opportunity to serve once more and that fellowship can happen again.
The time of enforced break proved to be a period of rich learning and impartation for the musicians of CityWorship.
Ministry head for the church musicians, Jessel Yam revealed that during lockdown, the team and volunteers met on Zoom as a ministry, CityWorship. Smaller Zoom gatherings also happened for the various sections such as the guitarists, keyboardists and bassists.
During these meetings, the veteran musicians in the team imparted knowledge to the younger ones. “We shared knowledge and gave ideas on the thought processes and approach-of-play,” he elaborated. These online sessions might not have been hands on but the ministry members gained much from their seniors sharing their personal experiences and revelations on why they have continued to serve all these years.
In December, when live services started up again, everyone was willing and excited to serve, said Jessel. However, some of the members are freelance musicians who have to work on weekends. “The current plan is to work with whom we have, and to bring up the younger musicians from Emerge to play at our main services.” he explained. “Most of us miss the fellowship and playing music together as a band. We have served together so long that we’ve become friends.”
Jessel shared that when they returned to the stage, the musicians felt great to be back in action. They also spent a lot of time between the long breaks to catch up on each other’s lives as face to face interaction could never be replaced by online meet-ups.
Like most of the ministries, the volunteers of CityTV could not be involved in online service recordings due to the restrictions and limited group size. As a ministry, said head of CityTV Danielle Ho, they conducted online worship sessions for the ministry, as well as small-group Zoom meetings with Pastor Aries who is their pastoral oversight.
Now that services are back onsite, CityTV works with about seven volunteers every service. Danielle noted that they could do with more manpower, particularly for the Saturday 2pm and Sunday 1pm services. She hopes to get all the volunteers back to serving regularly and for more CHC members to join the ministry.
During the lockdown, Pastor Lee Yi Lun, the ministry head for CHC’s Visual Communications, had a strategy: she would engage the team leaders, and the team leaders would in turn engage the volunteers.
The ministry drew its volunteers together through activities such as eating dinner together on Zoom and then meeting in breakout rooms to pray for one another. Of all the ministries, some VC members have been gainfully “employed” since the Circuit Breaker. Even when they could not serve in the main service, ministry members served during Zoom cell group meetings, online leaders meetings as well as Prayer Space.
“The mindset the members had was that you do not only serve in service, you can also serve in cell group,” Pastor Yi Lun explained. Sean Aaron, a VC staffer, conducted workshops for VC volunteers so that they could serve in zoom cell groups by creating slides for their cell group leaders. When the restrictions were relaxed and small groups could gather in Jurong West, the VC team also conducted trainings to equip ministry members with the set-up and slide templates so that they could serve in their zones. “We want them to make every Zoom meeting or leaders’ meetings the best they can.”
Currently with onsite service happening in Suntec Theatre, the ministry can only have two volunteers serving per service with staff overseeing. “My vision for the members is for them to be connected and discipled this year,” Pastor Yi Lun said. Case in point: the ministry conducted home satellite meetings during the Chinese New Year season to eat dinner and fellowship in teams of five.
In terms of discipleship, Pastor Yi Lun hopes that VC members will continue to cultivate the nine fruits of the spirit. She disciples the leaders, and they in turn guide the volunteers. Another aspect of discipleship is to train the volunteers to be excellent in creating and executing strong visuals. VC staffers Jeffrey Choong and Thomas Poi have been training church members, technical and events staff and volunteers throughout the lockdown so that their skills would not become rusty before they resume serving.
Volunteer Rita Goh has been back behind the scenes during service. “Like everyone else, I was excited just to be back in the house of God after almost a year. But to be back, and to serve alongside volunteers and the staff—who are all my friends—is a great privilege.”
Like Rita, fellow volunteer Lim Meng Wei was thrilled to be back serving. “It feels great coming back to serve the house of God. Although ours is a ministry that is behind the scenes, putting the right lyrics at the right time helps the congregation enter into God’s presence with praise and worship, and provides a visual to a point that the pastor is making that helps him connect with the congregation. I can’t wait for the day more ministry members can come and serve again! I was also reminded that so much of what I’ve learnt about God and His character, I learnt from serving as part of a team. And that’s just hard to replicate online.”
“When the lockdown happened, the Security ministry used that time for reflection and to reorganise ourselves,” said Ministry head Kelvin Tan. “We also took time to build meaningful relationships in 2020.”
Like other ministries, the Security ministry also held Zoom sessions, with devotions by Pastor Tan Yah Lan and Kelvin. This way the ministry leaders and members got to know each other better. They also conducted small group meet-ups, and creative activities such as ministry-related trivia quizzes and puzzles that helped the members to upkeep their knowledge and stay familiar with serving.
The members shared that they missed being in the presence of God inside the church hall while serving. They also missed the fellowship and spirit of camaraderie of serving together and fellowshipping after service.
“We would like to further strengthen the relationship that we have built in 2020,” added Kelvin. “As we come back onsite, though the Security team present is smaller now due to the congregation size, we would like to still continue to be effective to serve the needs of our members.”
CHC has a translation service beyond the Chinese interpreter we see on stage with the English-speaking pastor. The Interpretation ministry began in 2020 and houses our Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia and Japanese translators.
“When we were doing online services, the translators would record the interpretation via an app for each service,” explained Chiong Xiao Ting, the ministry head. “Every week, there would be translations in Mandarin, Bahasa Indonesia and Japanese. Our ministry was busy during lockdown! The toughest thing we had to do were the translations for Pastor Kong’s Churchwide Bible Study on the book of Revelations, due to the complexities of the terms. It was immense pressure because of the short timeline.”
In 2020, the ministry connected via Zoom regularly, and even came together for an online makeup course. Xiao Ting revealed that a styling workshop is also being planned. They also conducted mock translation exercises for the Chinese interpreters.
Now that onsite services have resumed things are less stressful for the ministry, but manpower for Chinese interpreters is an issue as they have to interpret for all four services. The other difficulty they face is that the interpreters cannot share microphones, so there can only be one interpreter per service. This is unlike pre-COVID days, when trainee translators could be roped in together with the senior translator to interpret shorter segments such as the welcome and offering.
Talking Hands serves the hearing-impaired community in CHC, and the ministry was actively engaged during online services throughout 2020, providing sign language interpretation through Zoom during service. Now, they provide live interpretation once a month onsite. Ministry head Anson Ang shares that the members are really glad that they get to fellowship with the hearing-impaired church members again, that they can come onsite!