Lengthening our Cords and Strengthening our Stakes

Lengthening our Cords and Strengthening our Stakes

ABOUT THE VICAR

Terry Wong Photo

ARCHIVES

All 2017 May Vicar Writes

28 May 2017 | Vicar Writes

Lengthening our Cords and Strengthening our Stakes

By Terry Wong

In June, we will be welcoming two new ministry staff. Chia Kum Meng is a staff returnee. He will be heading our Seniors Ministry, to be assisted by our current staff, David Ng. David is also involved in the Senior Members’ Fellowship (SMF). What is “Seniors Ministry”? It encompasses all our ministries with our seniors. Ministry by age groups - similar to children, youth and young adult ministries - plays an important part to mobilise and equip members sharing the same stage in life to grow and live out their Christian faith. 

We do need to be very pastorally attentive to the needs of some seniors. Some do not have the support of their younger family members. Some are in need of daily nursing care or have to be housed in nursing homes. Some are house-bound and at a stage where it takes  a lot of effort just to attend Services. If we are not attentive, it can be very easy for some of our members to slip away unnoticed. In fact, one of the major reasons why we worked so hard at a new database system is because we see that as one way to help improve our pastoral care to them. Who is in need of visitation? When did it happen and by which group? Are some being neglected? An active and well-used database can help us to know where our flock is and what their needs are. Kum Meng will be working closely with various groups to strengthen our pastoral care network. 

Many seniors can be actively serving and giving too. They can serve in Connect Groups, Discipleship Groups or Alpha groups. Some can go on mission trips. Special courses and seminars can be run. More day-time events can be organised for seniors to bring their friends too. Already, many seniors are giving and serving. One of Kum Meng’s roles is to ensure that anyone who is seeking to serve is able to do so.     

Khoo Ee May will be coming in to serve in the Music Ministry. She worships and serves at the 9am Service along with her husband, Simon Hayes and their children, Patrick and Aerin. This Music Ministry covers the whole spectrum of worship and ministry through music, both in the Nave and in CNS.  She will be focusing more on the Services in CNS. She will be supporting the various worship teams ministering in Services there and helping to train potential musicians. We also have many important music events which need good administrative coordination, whether in the Nave, CNS or Welcome Centre. Gifted as a musician herself, with a passion for the church to glorify the Lord, her joining the team will help us to grow these areas. Currently, our Choir Master, Lim Chin Kai serves part-time as a staff in leading our choirs and organ musicians. Dennis Low heads our PA ministry and coordinates the Worship ministry at the eleven:30 Service. Steven Wong heads our Dance ministry and helps to coordinate Creative Arts events. With Ee May joining in, we now have 4 staff serving in the area of Creative Arts and Music Ministry. They will be working closely as a team along with many of our lay volunteers.   

Still on the note of the “new”, we will also be starting the process of birthing a new Indian Service in SAC. This is historically significant as the Indian language (Tamil) is one of our National languages. While we do have many Indians worshipping in our English Services, we have yet to run one for those who are Tamil-speaking. In the earlier days, we started Tamil Services but they were hosted elsewhere, i.e. St Paul’s Church, Christ Church. With the continual arrival of new migrants from India, it makes sense for the Cathedral to host an Indian Service. The Anglican Indian Board (chaired by Revd Canon Steven Asirvatham) will be coming behind this Service. Starting in July this year, we hope to run a monthly prayer gathering for those who are interested to serve in this Service. If you like more information on how you can be involved, do contact Jowenna Quek (email: jowenna@cathedral.org.sg or call 63376104) and leave your name and contact details.

May we continue to “lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes.” (Isaiah 54:2). 

21 May 2017 | Vicar Writes

May we be one that the world may believe

By Terry Wong

The idea of a small band of believers meeting regularly is rooted in the Gospels. Jesus did that with his small band of disciples. Likewise, the early church often met in smaller and intimate settings in homes. To say that our Connect Groups (CG) carry the essence of our church ministry and life is not a stretch of biblical imagination. We want to invite you to share your spiritual journey with a band of believers. 

As a pastor, I have often felt exasperated trying to connect personally and pastorally with my members. When my previous parish had about 300+ members in the earlier years, it seemed a lot easier. SAC is currently ten times that. I am learning that, rightly so, the Vicar cannot be at the centre of everything. He has to trust his CG leaders and Pastors to be the proximus to those who need the presence of someone. The CG keep the Cathedral small and personal.   

This week, we welcome Archbishop Glenn Davies from the Diocese of Sydney warmly to our morning Services. Glenn is here to speak at our Diocesan Synod. He is a wonderful friend of our Bishop. In many ways, our diocese has had a good partnership with the Diocese of Sydney through the years. Our Biblical Studies has its roots in Sydney’s Moore College’s biblical programme. Various bishops and clergy had visited us and did ministry with us. We often work together in the missions work in the deaneries, especially Indonesia and Laos. We continue to learn much from one another.

If you are an astute observer, you will notice that the Cathedral has many Anglican friends. Over the Holy Week period, we were deeply enriched by the ministry of Dr Ephraim and Annette Radner from Wycliffe College Toronto. Then some of us spent a week in London with Holy Trinity Brompton, where our close friendship with Nicky Gumbel and his associates was rekindled. And this week, we celebrate our ministry with the Diocese of Sydney who plays an inspirational role in encouraging like-minded Anglican parishes who want to remain biblically faithful. 

Indeed over the years, the richness and diversity in the Communion have enriched our Diocese and Cathedral deeply and richly. We are further removed from the original culture and socio-politico context and therefore, less conscious of the divisions and labels. It has been the wisdom of our past bishops and clergy to build friendship and partnerships with a wide spectrum of orthodox Anglicans. As many of our clergy were trained in an ecumenical setting in Trinity Theological College, that has also equipped us well in this direction. The Church also mirrors what is happening in our government: Singapore is small and needs to be friends with everyone. 

This has positioned the Diocese to humbly serve and relate with the wide spectrum of many orthodox Anglicans in the Communion. This is also important for our deaneries, where we play a role of bringing the best in the Communion to serve and seed the mission fields. 

Strive for unity, said St Paul. We also saw Jesus pray deeply for it in John 17. Unity is hard work, where we share our hearts
and speak well of each other even if our methods and historical heritage are different. May Cathedral continue to be a microcosm of this and be one centre to inspire shared life and ministry within His Body. May we be one, just like the Trinity, that we may be in Christ, so that the world may believe that He has sent us. (see John 17:21)

14 May 2017 | Vicar Writes

When one single Parish can be much for the Lord

By Terry Wong

As you may know. I served as National Director of Alpha Singapore for a few years from 1999 onwards. I was enriched in many ways through the association with the wonderful folks at Holy Trinity Brompton London and the exciting work of Alpha, which was growing rapidly here and worldwide. Marked by a love for the unchurched, a global missional vision, a child-like openness to the Holy Spirit, creativity with excellence, a gospel that reaches the spheres of politics, prisons and business, and a generosity Christ-centered unity towards Christians from other Churches, it was my privilege to be a part of this movement.

As the work grew more demanding, I stepped down to focus on parish ministry. In the past year, I am finding that my ministry here in the Cathedral is reconnecting me with HTB and Alpha in new ways. What precipitated it was of course our desire as a parish to reach young and globalised urbanites. It was Keith Chua, my warden, who first hinted to me that perhaps HTB could help us in this. Much has happened since and today we have vibrant eleven:30 Service and the Alpha Course seem to be going through a renewal itself. 

Another step to take was to send some of our leaders to connect with what is happening in Kuala Lumpur and London. In January, Ps Hambali, Joel and Cheryl Tan joined a small pastors Experiencing Alpha programme in London. In March, we send a larger team, mostly from eleven:30 Service to the Alpha Conference in March in KL. Last week, Keith and Irene Chua, Vivien Chen, Ds Bessie, Jennifer and myself attended the Leadership Conference and Alpha Week events. There isn’t space here to share what we have experienced though we can certainly look forward to some articles in Courier-online or in our print issues. We hope to send more pastors and lay leaders for future conference in KL or London. 

What is clear is that a single parish can be much for the Kingdom of God. My view of what a local church can be was deeply changed. It is not just about attendance but influence. One highlight of the post-conference Alpha gathering was an insightful and moving interview of both NIcky Gumbel and his predecessor, Sandy Millar. 40 years ago, when Sandy took over as VIcar, HTB was a small struggling parish attended mostly by senior people. There were very few young people. Sandy recounted the journey of the parish and we were amazed at what the Lord has done. Today HTB is a highly influential and fruitful parish. She has planted and renewed many parishes through the years. She has blessed the world and wider Body through Alpha, Marriage and other ministries. HTB has also done much to promote unity within the Body of Christ. It is a parish which is generous, uncompetitive (I hardly hear HTB leaders censuring other churches), missional in vision and most of all, she has stayed humble, prayerful, dependent on the Spirit and God-fearing. Nicky still draws a fixed Vicar’s salary and he does not benefit financially from the exponential growth of Alpha or the sale of resources. This obviously sets the tones for the rest of the work.   

In their story are lessons which every other Anglican parish can learn from. This is one reason why I like our leaders to visit and get to know this parish. There are also many large churches here in SIngapore but I do not find the same matured and Christian values undergirding them. Indeed, we need to think deeply about what “success” should really mean when it comes to the work of the Church. In this, our young churches here which have benefitted from the rapid success of Singapore need to be linked with older churches in other societies and be held accountable. We need to reflect deeper, read His Word more carefully, treasure our Church tradition and history, understand better how we are fitting with the rest of society and think longterm. We are indebted to our Church pioneers and we owe it to future generations. We need, like David, to serve out His purpose in our generation.

7 May 2017 | Vicar Writes

Post AGM and Pre-Camp Reflections

By Terry Wong

There was some unusual amount of passion expressed at the last AGM. Better passion than indifference, I suppose. However, for future AGMs, we will implement protocols to ensure good order. We will also organise more “Meet the PCC or Vicar” sessions so that there is opportunity for questions, clarification and feedback. I will continue to use Vicar Writes to communicate, and trust that this will be one helpful channel. We welcome the new PCC. They will work at implementing various processes to strengthen the running of the church ministry and mission.  

The ministry in SAC is varied and often complex, and even if we have different opinions on how things should be done, we need to trust that those entrusted with decision-making would have properly consulted and prayed through. This trust is important. 

I recall being involved in the new building project at St James’ Church a few years ago. The new facilities have given three times the space compared to the old facilities. The membership has doubled 4 years after the project has completed, and today she is the 4th largest parish. She is still growing on a weekly basis. I can still recall, earlier on, how a dear couple decided to leave SJC because they did not believe in the building project, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority supported it. 

If the church is forced to conform to the views of every individual, as you can imagine, so much will be lost. I call this the LCD effect, where the church sinks to the “lowest common denominator.” We are familiar with the phrase “common sense” but we often use it to mean that someone is illogical if he does not have it. But the original meaning is simply that of a common versus an individual approach to what is right. In this day and age, we need to recover biblical group-think, community wisdom and trust less in the independent individual’s capacity to arrive to what is right and more importantly, never lose sight of the Lord who leads, guides and directs our paths. 

As I look back at my church experience  and spiritual formation, Church Camps have always been important milestones. I will share why and intertwine it with this coming biennial SAC Family Camp.

There is something special about sitting under the ministry of the Word in a focused way for a few days. Akin to a Conference, it allows for a more systematic and focused way of spiritual learning, reflection and nourishment. To this end, we are privileged to have Chua Wee Hian, his equally gifted son, Andrew Chua and Andrew’s son, Ben Chua with us. It is a family in action and connecting with the various age groups, especially at the workshops which are grouped around our seasons in life. Wee Hian himself is both a man of the Word and Spirit, and there is a special message that the Lord has laid in his heart for SAC. 

Is SAC your home? Can it be? We sometimes think that when people make decisions about settling in a church, they look at the facilities, music and preaching. To a degree, perhaps so. But one huge factor is - are we friends and family? Here is where Camps, more than anything else, have helped gather worshippers to grow in a community.  This is why we call it a “Family Camp”. It is a camp for the SAC family!

Would you like to know more SAC folks and make new friends? It is not easy, given the many Services we have. A camp is precious opportunity to get to know others and often, a few good friendships can have huge consequences for the years to come. I can still recall the conversations I had with members when I attended all the congregational Camps last year. 

Do you care about the vision and calling given to SAC? Again, Camps is a good time to grasp that better in order that you may know how to meaningfully and effectively contribute. I have met many members who are saying: “Don’t just feed us. Let us participate!” A camp can help a worshipper to find his or her place of meaningful service.

A time out for the family - church camps have a balance of what is spiritual and fun which is very meaningful for families. And this includes multi-gen groups ranging from grandparents to children. With the motto “there is something for everyone”, the Camp is planned with the whole family in mind. It is a joy to see families gathered together and camp time is always memorable.