Returning to the Father’s House
CK returns to onsite worship and classes
by Goh Eck Kheng
It is the morning of 3 July 2022 – a Sunday. Pre-school Covenant Kids (CK) children, accompanied by their parents, approach the Think Tank Room two levels above the canteen. Colour-coded lanyards with names and levels of kindy kids are arranged on desks outside the room, ready for teachers to welcome their students. The primary- school-aged children of some teachers are involved in welcoming the little ones, helping them to check in and settle them on the rows of seats decorated with colourful helium-filled balloons. It feels like orientation day at the beginning of the church school year. But it is not.
Mrs Esther Ong, CK Preschool Head, says of the children streaming in, “You don’t recognise all of them because they are wearing masks.”
“Where’s kor kor?” a teacher asks a child. She answers. “P1 already? Grown up already,” responds the teacher, somewhat surprised.
It is the first Sunday since mid-March 2020 when CK stopped in-person Sunday School due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Years had passed and each child had advanced by two levels while CK happened online. Thus, the CK Preschool Team wanted to make today a special event to welcome the children back to in-person Sunday School. Psalm 100:4 is the guiding verse – enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Preparation involved many CK volunteers – teachers, worship leaders, ushers – all with a part to play.
Anna Chan, the daughter of Anton Chan Jr, sits on her father’s lap. She is wide-eyed, observing all that is happening around her. “She’s excited this morning, but will take some time to warm up,” explains Dad. It is the first time that Anna has attended Kindy CK ever – online or in person.
Idina Sun is with her son, Ian. She had brought Ian to Cairnhill Methodist Church because their in-person Sunday School had resumed earlier, but Ian and Idina are back in CCMC and CK.
In the K1 class, the children seated in a ring, play a passing the parcel Bible verse game – an activity only possible because they are physically together.
Esther says: “Zoom Sunday School is not ideal for pre-schoolers as some of them have very short attention spans, and online classes does have its limits. Kids are unable to play physical games like they were used to. Doing crafts online need a lot of effort like mailing out materials to children and teachers preparing Powerpoint slides to show the activity step by step. Most importantly, teachers are unable to give each child the attention he or she needs.”
She continues: “We are very happy and encouraged that attendance is more than our usual online average attendance of 23. Today we have a total of 32 pre-schoolers. And 10 of them are newcomers. Praise God!”
Mrs Chau Siew Lin, CCMC Church School Superintendent, says lots of planning and preparation was required once her committee decided to return CK onsite after the relaxation of SMM was announced in April. First up was the logistics of the classrooms for CK. This involved coordination between the church office and Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) operations team. Next was the spring cleaning of CK cupboards which were literally untouched and unopened for two-and-a-half years as no one expected that the disruption would last as long as it did. Parents were informed of the plans a month before CK returned onsite. They were sent reminders two weeks before even as the team built up the sense of anticipation and excitement in the children.
Then, Ong Kheng Kok, scheduled to work the AV equipment, had to have an emergency surgery on Saturday evening and could not be on duty. But thank God for His timely provision. Eddie Chau, a 9 am service projectionist, stepped in to help out.
In the MGS Conference Room, Audrey Bong, who heads the Junior Worship team, leads the Primary level CK in worship. “It is heart-warming to see that all of you remember all the actions to the songs!” she says.
Indeed, more than ever before, the Covenant Kids are doing actions as they sing in worship. And the Lord’s Prayer is heard loudly and clearly even through masks.
Sam Woo, another teacher, says, “The kids are more responsive because they are excited on the first day back.”
Ruth Lee, in Primary 2, says she is happy to be back because she can receive holy communion. Her sister, Samantha, who is a year older, shares that she is happy to return because Zoom is a bit laggy and makes it difficult to focus while attending CK online.
Even a Primary 3 girl, Shi Kerui, who had sustained a fracture, is back with her leg in a cast, seated in a wheelchair.
Altogether, 65 Primary level children are present compared to the online attendance which ranged between 80 to 90. Siew Lin explains the difference: “It can be attributed in part to the combining of the 9 am and 11 am CK for online church school. In addition, the accessibility of being online also allowed some non-CCMC children to attend.”
She says in summary: “What we experienced at CK this morning was nothing short of God's power working through our imperfections and hearing all our prayers for the CK children. They indeed sang praises and made a joyful sound as they returned to the house of God.”