BPCWA 36th Anniversary Memorabilia

Dear BPCWA worshipper, BPCWA marked her 36th Anniversary a few months ago in Feb 2022. We were unable to have our usual Anniversary Dinner last Sunday due to the 2 sqm regulations in place at hospitality venues. But we are grateful that we can continue to offer our thanksgiving to God during our worship service today.  As a means of commemorating our church anniversary without an Anniversary Dinner, we will be distributing a thumb drive of our congregational singing. This set of hymns is the playback of BPCWA worshippers worshipping in BPCWA! 

The purpose of this memorabilia. The reason for giving you these memorabilia of a compilation of our congregational singing are threefold. 1) To have a hymn compilation sung by us as a congregation, not professional singers or not choirs, but sung by us in BPCWA worships and fellowships. I hope this makes it particularly unique since you are part of it. 2) To provide hymns for you to listen to at home or in your car/train journeys to keep your thoughts occupied with things above. 3) To enable personal or family worship at home. Are these recordings and singing professional and perfect? Of course not, but they are personal, which makes it even more special. More about this later in this pastoral.

How we have this congregation singing compilation.  This compilation is the result of the labour of a few people going over many months. When we could not return to the church to worship during the COVID-19 lockdown, we initially just had piano accompaniment in the livestream to help us sing from home. When some could return based on rostering, we broadcasted their singing into the livestream so that those at home could hear and sing along “together”. Seeing that we could have snap lockdowns or space usage restrictions suddenly, I decided to compile recordings of congregational singing which could be broadcasted with the livestreaming to aid worship singing from home when such occasions arise. This began the compilation of separate English and Chinese congregational singing to aid singing from home.

The blessings of singing in worship together. Even as we look back on those days, it has indeed been a rare blessing that we could worship as God’s people together, even singing without masks on! It was even better when we did not need to be dispersed across different rooms and floors due to the restriction’s space usage requirements. Besides the visual testimony as God’s people together rather than dispersed throughout the church, worshipping in the main worship area has unique aspects. It helped us experience what it is to stir one another, just as God expects us to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16). There is a difference in the praise of God when we hear and encourage one another together in the same place, hearing each other voicing the words of the hymns.

The preparation of this thumb drive.  Having the livestream video recordings was the starting point, but these videos contained the full worship service from the beginning to the end. The first step in the process was to extract the audio files of the hymns from the video recordings. This meant that someone had to tediously go through the video recordings of the services and patiently extract each hymn sung, marking it with the hymn number and name. The hymns you have in the thumb drive were largely from the years between 2020-2021, since that was when we were able to be together, singing in English and Chinese at the respective worships. Since this period was without masks, it would provide some of the clearer articulation of the words of the hymns sung. The next step, however, was perhaps the most arduous. Someone had to listen to the hymns and sieve through them to pick out the most appropriate and best available if there were several versions available from different services. The person had to screen out those with distracting singing, and avoid those that had too many mistakes while trying to ensure that the piano playing conformed to the hymn accompaniment playing guidelines. Through this, a number of hymns, though recorded, were eliminated from the shortlist. Having reached what was deemed the best available final set of hymns, someone else then copied them to a thumb drive for me. At this point, I scanned through the hymns to do a final check, and to see if they were played at the right speed that suited the hymn. As a number needed to be at a slightly faster speed to fit the words and mood of the hymn, we used software to bring the hymns to a more suitable tempo. A few recordings where the sung words could hardly be heard were also removed. Once the necessary editing was done, the mass duplication of all the thumb drives was done by another person. This is the process by which the thumb drive that you will receive today was done.

It is meant to be personal, not professional. If you have not had the chance to listen to the compilation yet, I wish to set your expectations.  Remember that it is meant to be memorabilia of our own worship in BPCWA, not a professional recording. So, when you hear the paper of the hymnal pages shuffling, the occasional cough, pianist mistake, off-key singing, background noise, and even a child crying in the distance, just smile at it and appreciate the reality factor – this is my covenantal family singing and worshipping God together!  This recording is far from the professionally recorded hymn CDs that you buy and is not intended to be so.  The hymns are not rehearsed, recorded, and re-recorded until they are perfect. They are ultimately extracts of our livestream videos, faults and all, which make it personal and real. The articulations are not the best, and piano playing is not perfect, but they are the best that we have from those available after sieving out those that distract. We do not all sit in the main hall where the microphones are installed to pick up our singing but are somewhat split up in our L shaped configuration, hence dispersing the voices. Our AV equipment is positioned for livestreaming, not for a CD recording. The decision is really between using what we have, and giving worshippers a recording of our singing, or not at all. Hence, instead of critical hearts, I urge all worshippers who receive this thumb drive today not to miss the point of this memorabilia, but to listen to it with a thankful heart to God for the reminder of our privilege to worship Him in person in the church. Well, another reminder whenever we notice faults or lacklustre singing is that we are hearing our own worship of God – then it should remind us to sing with more zeal and more joy to God if any of us are guilty of apathetic singing in our “praise” offering to our Supreme God.

May this compilation spur us to greater spirit-filled worship of our Triune Almighty Lord and Creator of heaven and earth.

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev 4:11).

Yours in our Lord’s service,