On 15 August, I attended the National Day Thanksgiving Service organised by the National Council of Churches Singapore, a first for me. I entered the St Andrew's Cathedral sanctuary 10 minutes early, and noticed musicians practicing their pieces, technicians doing sound-checks, adults and children in choir robes milling around on stage as well as in the seats, excited and noisy. It was the usual last-minute flurry of activity before the start of a big event. To my surprise the Guest-of-Honour, our President, Dr Tony Tan accompanied by his wife walked down the centre aisle unannounced while all this cacophony was going on. I wondered if the organisers had been taken by surprise as no one stopped rehearsing when the President and Mrs Tan walked in and sat at the front pew. Nor was the congregation asked to be quiet or to stand. It was all quite informal I thought, very different from the pomp and protocol we see at National Day parades. Later when several MPs came in and sat near the front, they too were not acknowledged until towards the end of the service when all the VIPs were introduced. However, just knowing that I was worshipping God with our President and his wife, together with some government leaders and also believers from other churches was frankly, quite uplifting. Even the lack of protocol reminded me of the fact that ultimately we are all equal in God’s eyes regardless of earthly status, whether it was intended or not.
It was also wonderful to see people from various denominations leading in worship or singing anthems including one from the St Thomas Orthodox Syrian Cathedral choir. Hymns and contemporary songs were sung. People of different ethnicities were involved, as well as children and adults. We also sang a song written by the former Bishop of the Methodist Church, Rev Dr Robert Solomon. I appreciated the opportunity to pray for our nation with a worshipper from St Andrew's Cathedral and to hear a message preached by the Anglican Bishop, Rt Rev Rennis Ponniah.
But by far the most impressive part of the service for me was the congregational singing! It was vibrant, loud and enthusiastic, with some hands raised and loud “Amens” coming from the worshippers. Was it the acoustics of the underground sanctuary that produced such an impact? Or perhaps just the joy of God’s children celebrating together event. We were one in our worship of our God who has blessed our nation so abundantly over the past 48 years.
It left me thinking that it is good to occasionally attend such inter-denominational events whether to pray for Singapore, to hear God’s Word, to worship together or to be a united witness for Christ in our community. Our churches may be varied in denominational or theological distinctiveness but regardless, we are one in Christ our Saviour and in our desire to acknowledge His Headship over His church in Singapore. May the things which unite us in the Gospel always be stronger than the things which may differentiate us.