OCT 11, 2022: Almost every day a group of 20-odd people take turns to share their personal reflection on the Gospel readings for the day through YouTube and Facebook. They talk about what the Bible verses mean to them and their personal experiences.
There is a good blend of young and senior speakers with varied styles and approaches. Some radiate energy and excitement, some share from the place of wisdom, some share to motivate, and some share to illuminate.
There is the Felix family where Tony and Ann share jointly while their sons Christopher and John Paul have their own slots. There is also Joyce Stellus, a Spotify podcaster whose channel is called MyJoysComplete, and Paul Julianose, who is a Full time Lay Missionary serving as a Youth Minister with the Penang Diocese.
Then there are the seasoned speakers/ teachers Ben Savarimuthu, Vincent Nathan and Rev Deacon Clement Samuel. This is Into The Word, a YouTube channel and a Facebook page which is the brainchild of Deacon Clement, a Permanent Deacon serving at the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Tanjung Malim.
Out of lockdown, came Into The Word
“This is a personal initiative. Since one of the roles of a deacon is to share the Word of God. It has been almost three years now.” He was speaking to Journey With Us – Asia in a zoom interview from Tanjung Malim.
It was March 2020 and the Covid lockdown was in force. Deacon Clement and his wife were in Kuala Lumpur to be with their son and daughter-in-law and their two grandchildren, one of whom was just born then.
“There was nothing much to do. I kept asking God what to do. Then I felt God asking me to do reflections through media. I didn’t know anything about video recording or editing.”
Then he started to teach himself by watching YouTube videos and googling. “I started by using Moviemaker, the simplest one. The first video was published on June 24, on the Feast of St John the Baptist. Into The Word is to give people something to reflect because they were not able to go to church.”
Each day there was a new video on the Gospel reading for that day. All days except Sunday. “Don’t want to clash with church homilies.” The following month, Deacon Clement got other people to join as presenters or sharers, as he calls them. “I also felt I needed to get young people, because it is an opportunity for them to grow personally and to learn to share the Word.” Through a rotation system, he made sure there was a fair distribution of young and senior sharers.
With the lockdown lifted and life returning to normal, it was a challenge to find time not just for him but for his sharers as well. He’s back in Tanjung Malim and his deacon duties take up a lot of his time and attention. “It is hard to continue because I’m loaded with parish and diocesan work.”
Video production is a time-consuming effort. “I need to go through the content, make sure it is in order, edit and upload,” says the 65-year-old who has had no previous experience or skill in media. He now knows enough to do all the backroom work, including making thumbnails for the videos and upload them on YouTube and Facebook.
His team of sharers met up early this year to see the future direction of Into The Word. The team saw the need for this sort of sharing to continue. “Good for lay people to share their reflection of the day’s reading. It’s a way to reach out to people who don’t go to any kind of church setting. And a good way of evangelising. There’s also a group in Manila that’s doing something similar – Pathways. And recently, Pope Francis encouraged people to come into the digital (space) and share.”
One of the challenges was workload and the team decided to dedicate a small group of sharers to also act as video producers and so there was a rotation system for this team as well, and this has taken a load off Deacon Clement.
Entering the mission world
He’s one of the five permanent deacons in the Penang Diocese and all of them serve on a full-time basis. “Unlike the permanent deacons in the Malacca-Johor Diocese. They have working deacons.” Working deacons have full-time careers and at the same time serve their parishes as deacons. There are currently no permanent deacons in the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese.
Parish-based deacons (in the Penang Diocese) are also given ministries. Deacon Clement heads the healing and deliverance ministry, and recently, on Oct 1, he was also made head of the Catechetical Ministry in the Penang Diocese.
Serving God has always been his passion. He joined the seminary in 1977 when he was 20, but left after two years. “No calling, so I left.” Then he went to India for a year to study the Bible and after that entered full-time ministry and was given a small allowance by first the parish CCR prayer group and later by the diocese. In 1984, he was one of the founders of a Covenant Community in Taiping and they took over supporting his full-time ministry. He ran youth camps, marriage retreats and many other activities.
He was then asked by His Lordship Sebastian Francis, Bishop of the Penang Diocese, to consider becoming a Permanent Deacon. Deacon Clement was ordained on the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Nov 21, 2014 and continued serving in Taiping till three years ago when he was transferred to Tanjung Malim to serve at the parish there. By then, his wife who was a frontliner for a property developer, had retired from her job. They have two children and two
grandchildren with the third one on the way.
“Into The Word gave me a sense of fulfilment, especially during the pandemic when I had too much time on my hands. People (viewers) say it helps them, encourages them. It has helped me understand the Bible better, because I study the background as well and also try to connect with the issues in people’s lives.”
“Many people commented that they were surprised that the young sharers were capable of sharing. They are still new at sharing and have a long way to go.”