Vicar Writes

Vicar Writes

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.

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All 2017 February Vicar Writes

26 February 2017

being fishers of men

By Terry Wong

We had a Confirmation Service two Sundays ago. It is a great joy to see the spiritual journey each has taken, with some starting as seekers in previous Alpha Courses. I was also deeply warmed by the time of fellowship spent with Bishop Moses Tay and Cynthia. They have a deep and evergreen faith and earnest love for the Lord which have always inspired me, whether when I first started as a parish worker or presently as a Vicar.  

 The Alpha Course started with the Intro Dinner last Wednesday. It was very encouraging with 190 people participating, more than half being guests. As always, numbers only indicate to us the level of interest in the Course, and when it comes to sharing Christ, it is always about the immense worth of one person: his life, his history and the love and plans that God has for him or her. Another encouraging thing to note is the higher than usual number of younger guests and the involvement of those from the eleven:30 Service, which is certainly adding to this dynamic. 

 Last weekend, we were blessed by the preaching ministry of our young deacon, Revd Alvin Toh. Over at the eleven:30 Service, Pas Hambali launched the sermon series based on the book of Philippians. 

 On the 11th of February, our medical work amongst migrant workers received some recognition. At the 80th Anniversary of Mar Thoma Church, DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam presented a plaque of appreciation, which was received by Dr Joseph Thambiah. 

 It has been a while, but the Diocese also made two new deaconesses. Ds Laura Seet has served many years as a parish worker in St John’s-St Margaret’s Church. In fact she was one of my first colleagues when I started my ministry there with campus students. Ds Anong is the founding pastor of Banchang Anglican Church (Thailand). She has a deep love for people and great evangelistic zeal. Astute observers should be able to see that our sisters play critical roles in ministry, leading and preaching in the life of the Church, whether lay or fulltime. Gender is never an issue to influence (and that to me is real leadership) and ministry, and indeed the office or positions are often over-rated. When the church is liberated by the Spirit and His Word, the Body will rise up to ministry and this is what our Diocese has been experiencing. In our Cathedral alone, we can see that to be true. Jesus once said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Follow Jesus and each of us can live influential lives. 

 And talking about influence, I was very encouraged just listening to the eulogies given at Marian Tay’s wake. She is Canon Louis Tay’s sister. In spite of her struggle for 19 years with cancer and other challenges, she has lived out her life faithfully to the Lord. Some others have the amazing privilege to live beyond the expected life span, such as the late Bishop Chiu Ban It. His life is marked by a childlike obedience to the Lord. The first Asian Bishop of Singapore, he was never enamoured by the trappings that came with the office in those early post-colonial days. Instead, he babbled like a child when he allowed the Spirit to fill Him and did many things that one will not expect a respectable Anglican Bishop to do. The Diocese is what she is today, and in part, we have our “founding spiritual fathers” to thank. This Friday evening, at the memorial Service, your faith will be inspired just by being there. He joined the throng of heavenly witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) who inspires us not just with their cheering from the stands, but from the footprints they have left behind for us on the tracks.    

19 February 2017

REVIVE US AGAIN

By Terry Wong

At last month’s PCC meeting, being the first meeting of the year, we spent some time in sharing thanksgiving items for SAC in 2016. Various matters were shared, such as:

•    The start and growth of the eleven:30 Service

•    Greater sense of cooperation across the Services

•    Stronger sense of community and love

•    Good planning and start of Cathedral Biblical Studies (CBS)

•    Effectiveness of the Alpha Course

•    Growth in Myanmar Service

•    More Connect Groups

•    The impact of the weekly Vicar Writes

•    Growth in our Services

Each was also asked to share one item for prayer. What was constantly hoped for is REVIVAL IN SAC, as some longed for the spiritual life and vitality experienced during the 70’s onward. I believe they are also expressing the prayers and hope of many in our congregation. 

We may find it hard to describe in clearer detail what revival may mean but somehow, in our hearts and seeing, it is one of those things that we intuitively understand, especially if you have been a Christian for a while.  

The yearning for more, the “magnificent obsession” or “holy dissatisfaction,” phrases which other Christian leaders have used is an essential expression, a heart cry of one who loves the Lord and longs for His Kingdom to be fully revealed. We intuitively know that we are always off the mark when it comes to returning to our first love. We long for more, for a deeper reality, for  a felt presence of the Lord in our daily lives.

The heartfelt lyrics of the prayer in song, Consuming Fire by Tim Hughes reflect this: 

There must be more than this

O breath of God, come breathe within

There must be more than this

Spirit of God we wait for You

Fill us anew we pray

Fill us anew we pray

 

Consuming fire fan into flame

A passion for Your name

Spirit of God fall in this place

Lord have Your way with us

 

The final prayer of the Revelator, also expresses this loving and yearning heart cry: “Even so, Come Lord Jesus.”  (Revelation 22:20) 

It need not be a passive cry or desire. Often, what stands in the way could be us. Our lack of prayer and attention to the Lord, His Word, our selfish sinful habits and our preoccupation with things and gadgets which drains our attention and energy can all stand in the way of a blessed life.

 

Some of the matters ever will be waited
on the Lord in our worship and prayer
every month at our Cathedral@Prayer.
Do join us. 

12 February 2017

Growing in Maturity

By Terry Wong

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31,32

A few years back, I was having a conversation with a new Christian acquaintance who was obviously intelligent and educated, at least in terms of the usual academic education. He was absolutely convinced that Sept 11 was an inside job. I was flabbergasted. How is it possible that an intelligent man could think that way? And I am sure that you have often heard things from supposedly mature Christians which can leave you dumbfounded and make you wonder, “Where did that come from?” 

Education remains crucial if we are to understand the world that God has made and how it changes with time and the movements of culture. Good education is a systematic, layer upon layer discipline. We have a hotchpotch mix of ideas from books, conferences, info off the Net and deducing stuff on our own. We have knowledge and information but they are not ordered nor template-forming in shaping the way we understand the world, within (self-knowledge) and without (sociology, philosophy, history and science). We know enough, or we think we do, to manage immediate issues but we are poorly prepared for life and all it entails in space and time. The focus on technical education (as opposed to the humanities) is also not helpful. The same ignorance can affect the way we interpret Scriptures, approaching it with the same “technical angle.” 

With the fast movements and fusions of culture in this globalised world, we can easily be caught flat-footed. Spiritually, with these rapid changes, some Christians can
be caught up in a sense of ennui and lose a sense of direction. Unable to adapt or appreciate the “new” things which God is doing, we long for the more familiar experiences from yesteryears.  

And being poorly equipped philosophically, many Christians feel they are intellectually on the defensive. Their faith will be crushed if truth is truly confronted and if they read too widely. Is our God and His world that small and fragile? 

What I am writing here needs to be read alongside with last weekend’s Vicar Writes. At the end of the day the heart is more important than anything else. After all, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We need to be clear on this. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” But for those of us in a position of influence (i.e leadership), it is beholden on us not just to be good in heart, but to be wise in mind too. The rapid changes in our society mean that the Church cannot afford to remain silo-ed in the way she learns and thinks. 

I end with recounting an experience I had with a conservative Anglican leader while I was doing my sabbatical in Toronto in 2014. He is highly respected and one of the leaders of the more conservative part of the Anglican Church which has broken away from the official one due to differences in doctrines. With sadness on his face, he told me that he made the mistake of not being properly educated theologically when he was younger. It meant that he could not provide the leadership needed when liberal ideas were swarming the Church.  

Good reading and attending good Courses are good avenues for maturity. Surround yourselves with deep and dialectical friendships with great minds who can challenge your opinions and assumptions about life. Adopt an attitude of truth-searching. Know for the sake of knowing, not to impress. And don’t be driven by the fear of the need to please others. Be true to yourself. And at the same time, be open to learn from others especially gifted teachers in the Church. Learn to be a lover of God and indeed the Spirit will guide you into all truth.

5 February 2017

Lord,  I want to be a Christian in my heart

By Terry Wong

This is a line from a classic Negro spiritual song which some of us may be familiar with. I remember it from time to time, as I did this week. The whole chorus is just that line, with a beautiful haunting melody. 

It reminds me of where it all starts and where it matters most.  The Bible uses the Greek term kardia for the nerve centre from which we desire, think, act and react.  

As we grow older, or time progresses, life does get more complicated of course. We philosophise, theologise, theorise, and since it rhymes, improvise and compromise as well. Life moves from the basic commitments of love, faith, faithfulness, integrity, sincerity and humilty to that of ideas and concepts. And as we progress in ‘maturity’ in ideas and articulation of them, strangely, we become more immature in our basic behaviour and life. As we grow, we seek mastery over others, events and our own progress. Yet at the same time, we lose mastery over ourselves and the very simple values and practices that we know from the kardia of our lives. 

So, when we say a Christian is mature, what do we mean? Does this mean that we cease to read the Bible regularly and yet we are able to articulate spiritual solutions for society? Does it mean that we cease to be loving, kind and considerate towards those dearest to us, while we reflect on the deepest ideas of sacrifice for mankind and society? Does it mean that we try to save the whole world but lose our own family? Do we think of overseas missions but are clueless about sharing the gospel to an inquiring neighbour or colleague (and we have not even thought of an Alpha invitation!)?

The list goes on. And somewhere in our heart, the Negro spiritual hums quietly. We remember that Jesus said that ‘unless we become like little children, we will not enter the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).’ St Paul also alerts us: ‘But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Cor 11:3)’

I said “as I did this week.” It is a word for me as much as it may be for some of you. Perhaps a Canon needs it even more as the complexities of life and ministry can easily drown out the Negro spiritual line. 

Pray for me as I will for you. That we will always want to be followers of Christ …in my heart.

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

26 February being fishers of men
19 February REVIVE US AGAIN
12 February Growing in Maturity
5 February Lord,  I want to be a Christian in my heart