How beautiful

How beautiful

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All 2016 February Vicar Writes

28 February 2016 | Vicar Writes

How beautiful

By Terry Wong
“How beautiful are the feet of those 
who preach the good news!” 

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15

I am a first generation Christian. As far back as I can remember, there was always this huge red altar in my home with joss sticks, oranges and occasionally, a steamed chicken. During Chinese New Year, a whole roasted pig will be offered to the gods. Through the smoke of the burning papers and joss sticks, my family onlookers will participate in the rituals, for fortune and of course, the delicious crunch of crackling skin. Then, there was this huge gambling table, the crisp sound of shuffling a new deck of cards or the unmistakable sound of the marble tiles of mahjong colliding. And more smoke, joss- sticks and cigarettes. 

I came to faith when I turned 13. It is hard to imagine that such a family can become Christians but we did, with three sons serving today in the Church, no less. But it was never easy. My brother was asked to leave the home for making a decision to study in Bible school. Over the years, one by one, many of my relatives came to faith.  

Schooling in a multicultural environment (in Malaysia) is in itself an education. How do you live and share your life and faith with friends who are strict Muslims, Hindus or those steeped in Taoism and ancestral tradition? Christians were seen as a minority group. Strange and “peculiar” (1 Peter 2:9 KJV!) were we. Yet the Christian fellowship group grew and grew.     

How times have changed. In Singapore today, it feels like Christians are everywhere. My recent visit to Lat Krabang was another travel back in time and it reminded me of the environment I grew up in. I witnessed the baptism of O’Chao (photo), whom I first met 8 years ago as a visiting student in my previous parish student exchange programme. He was clearly the leader of the pack but few of us can imagine that he can be a Christian but he is one today and a fervent one at that. Hearing his testimony and journey to faith, I am reminded again of what it takes for a person, steeped in non-Christian tradition, to come to a firm faith in Christ. 

 Whether it is for a 3 year-old Malaysian or a Thai University student, it starts somewhere. The words of St Paul (above) were for us, something that stretched out in time. But there was a start. A word preached, a person sent and the Word grew. The Alpha Course runs this week. It can be a start for someone you know. 

21 February 2016 | Vicar Writes

ABCDE

By Terry Wong
I will be visiting the Anglican work at Lat Krabang (Bangkok), along with Jennifer and Pas Geraldine over this weekend. I will be preaching at their Service. We are looking to explore what else Cathedral can do to partner and help build up the work. Currently, three of our members, Hannah Chee, Samantha Ooi and Belinda Lim have been serving there as missionary apprentices and we are also visiting to encourage them as well.

 I am also looking forward to the monthly Church @ Prayer this Friday evening. Being in the season of Lent also adds to the significance of this gathering. It is always difficult to pull away to pray, wait and worship but we need to learn to enjoy the “company of Jesus”, as our Bishop has put it. For me, this is the most important meeting in the Cathedral. So much is happening here and echoing the prayer of Moses, unless the Lord is with us, we dare not.  

 We also welcome retired Bishop John Tan to the pulpit at the morning Nave Services. I served as a deacon in the Cathedral when he was the Dean then and have many helpful memories of his training and disciplined approach. I will always appreciate those years and am now thankful too for his quiet support and encouragement. I am sure you will be blessed by his ministry. 

 We are still reviewing our Small Group Ministry cum spiritual growth track, building on what has been built up in previous years. To help us to remember, the acronym ABCDE is useful:

stands for Alpha, our evangelistic thrust where pre-believers can explore the Christian faith

stands for Baptism/Confirmation course where new believers will be taught foundational truths which prepare them for baptism and confirmation.

stands for Cells which focuses on building koinonia (community life) and on deepening our spiritual roots through gathering around the Word.   

stands for Teleios Discipleship Training which focuses on intentional discipleship in small groups.

for Empowering Leadership to train leaders for our Small group Ministry

 All 5 tracks are done in small groups and should be seen as a discipling ministry, which by that we mean helping another person to follow Jesus. “D” remains a more intentional and intense approach at helping the believer to grow in his Christian faith and life. 

 We will be broadening and refreshing the Cell Ministry and raising the profile of cells. By “broadening”, we want our Cells to be diverse enough to fit most groups. It is not a “one size fits all” thing, given the diversity in our society. As long as the leader is appointed by the Church and the material is approved by the Church (for mutual accountability), it is a Cell. The venue for a cell meeting can be anywhere and at any time. A Cell can also specialise in serving together (e.g. flower arrangement team!), as long as they don’t neglect studying the Word and caring for each other.

 BD is headed by Pas Alvin and C by Pas Lian Swan. Do liaise with them and we continue to appreciate the feedback we are getting.  We plan to re-launch the Cell ministry in April with the commissioning of cell leaders & assistants at the various Services. We will introduce a new set of cell materials (on the Book of James), written by our pastors. 

 On a small but important note, the Finance and Property Committee is working at replacing and renewing our 15-year old sound system in the Nave. If the preacher sounds like he has marbles in his mouth or talking in a bathroom (!), this is because more than 50% of the speakers are faulty. Appreciate your patience and prayers.

14 February 2016 | Vicar Writes

Alpha

By Terry Wong

My experience of my first Alpha Introductory Dinner is still so vivid in my memory that it seems like it just happened last week.

It was 1998. I was the curate then in St John’s-St Margaret’s Church (SJSM), tasked with heading a new way of evangelising through small groups. We called it Evangelistic Bible Studies then (EBS groups). Our Cell groups were struggling with evangelism and that was bad news as the Cell’s DNA is about multiplication. We were running out of ideas. EBS was key.

Then the Alpha Conference came around, hosted by Revd Sandy Millar and Revd Nicky Gumbel. We were asked to attend. After that, the team gathered and we discussed whether we should try out the Alpha Course. Everyone said yes except me. I thought we should do it on our own. After all, the Brits have taught us how to worship as Anglicans. Now, in evangelism as well? 

I am glad I was just a Curate then. I am quite sure that if I was a Vicar then (and an inexperienced one at that), Alpha would have been barred. My Vicar then (currently Bishop Rennis) wisely overruled. Maybe - just maybe - if so many including the Vicar think otherwise, God may be speaking.

 And so, I reluctantly agreed. We will do it. But quietly please. Our Cells were tired of progammes which did not work. And if Alpha fails, we will quietly move on.  I did not like the idea of a video talk either. I will give the talk, I insisted.  

On that fateful evening, we expected 300. Talking about a low key event, members just took the opportunity to invite. And invite they did. In fact more than 500 turned up. The food was not enough. As good hosts, members ate lightly. We had never seen so many unbelievers in our Sanctuary. I gave the talk. It was inspired, funny, effective and anointed. 

As they said, the rest is history. Alpha has worked in local Singaporean churches in an Asian setting. SJSM never looked back ever since, nor her Cells. Alpha moved on to impact other churches, prisons, the market place and the region. Countless have come to faith in Christ. My team subsequently insisted we switch to Nicky on videos when they realised - after the third live talk - that my anointing as an Alpha speaker, to put it kindly, was not a permanent gift. We can be glad because the videos can be used in ways which live talks can’t. In any case, the real strength of Alpha is how it enables Christians to reach guests in small groups.

18 years have passed. St Paul urged Timothy to preach the Gospel in and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). May Alpha in Cathedral breathe a new life and way of evangelism in our community.  

7 February 2016 | Vicar Writes

Lent at the Cathedral

By Terry Wong

Lent (Latin: Quadragesima, “fortieth”) is an important season in our Church Calendar, commemorating the 40 days which Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry. During that time, he endured temptation by Satan. The Sundays are not counted as part of Lent; thus the period from Ash Wednesday until Easter consists of 40 days when the Sundays are excluded.

Lent this year starts on 10th February, with the Ash Wednesday Service at 6.00 pm. It derives its name from the practice of applying ashes as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered after the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned. For various reasons, some are uncomfortable with this practise and one can refrain from the imposition of ash. The Communion will be served in this one hour Service and it is a good way to begin your Lent observance.

During Lent, Christians take on a heightened commitment to the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting, repentance and self-denial. There are various types of fasts and you are encouraged to prayerfully consider doing so to give focus to your spiritual reflection the life of Christ. Our sermon series entitled “Following Jesus in our Times” will help us to reflect on the Gospels reading in our Sunday lectionary. You are also encouraged to read the Lent Daily Devotions published by the National Council of the Churches of Singapore. You can purchase it at the Welcome Centre.

The last week of Lent is called the Holy Week, which marks the immediate events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we will have special devotional messages at 7.30 pm. On Thursday, there will be a Tenebrae Service (Latin- darkness), where through liturgy and symbols, we begin to remember the tragic and emotional aspects of the sufferings of Jesus. This continues through Good Friday, where the cross is remembered. On Saturday, following the tradition of Easter Vigil, we will hold a Baptism Service at 5 pm on Saturday. The darkness is lifted at the 6 am Dawn Service on Easter as we celebrate the ressurection of Jesus.

There will be special efforts to share the Gospel and the Services will be a good opportunity to invite your friends. We will share more details later.

ABOUT THE VICAR

Terry Wong Photo

Revd Canon Terry Wong is the Vicar of the Cathedral. He writes weekly for the weekend Service bulletins and the articles are posted on this site.

Recent Vicar Writes

28 February How beautiful
21 February ABCDE
14 February Alpha
7 February Lent at the Cathedral