Staying Dependent On The Lord And One Another
The year has started fast and furious, plans are beginning to be rolled out as we anticipate another exciting year of spiritual growth, ministry and mission opportunities.
While events and projects are easy to organise, pastoring and discipling that each person may grow is always more difficult. I reiterate here again: Church is not primarily about each of us achieving SAC’s objectives or helping our Vicar, pastors or leaders to succeed and attain “ministry trophies.” It should be about the Church “equipping the saints for ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) and helping each person find their calling and destiny in Christ.
I was reminded of this again from one of last week’s lectionary readings, Colossians 4:12,13:
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.”
Epaphras’ struggles is “in prayers”, reminding us again that our ministry can only be borne and sustained if we are praying and in partnership with the Lord, even while we “work hard” for those we are serving. In praying, we also hear from the Lord and receive His perspective of things, and in so doing, we allow Him to draw alongside us.
Here is my prayer that we will grow deeper in our ministry partnership. How? Through our struggling in our prayers. It is when we are fully dependent on the Lord, kneeling together before Him, that we will find a way to work well together in spite of our differences in personalities, miscommunication and so on. When we are not dependent on Him, not abiding in Christ (John 15), or living in broken communion with the Lord (often because of sin), it can be difficult for brothers and sisters to work well together.
Having been here for 2 years plus, I also observed that while hearts may be sincere, we must always remember that we are fallible beings serving in a fallible world. We have no way of knowing how we may be causing unintended harm or discouragement unless we remain open to feedback. In this regard, even after 30 over years of intense full time ministry and being a Canon, my posture is always an open one where others can give feedback, even if it can be difficult to hear them. I do that because I need that.
One small recent example. Just a few minutes after 2018 started, as I was greeting those who were leaving the New Year's Eve service, one lady came to me. She was completely distraught because she felt unfairly treated and humiliated when she was blocked from coming back into the Nave after she popped out briefly to watch the fireworks. That was the first feedback I received in 2018. Even as she was speaking, my mind was working furiously to try to figure out where things could have gone wrong. I can see how the combi of security concerns and a Communion in progress can set up this discouraging consequence for this visitor. As I said, it is a fallible world and even with the best of intentions (indeed SAC is a welcoming community or tries to be), things can fall badly for some.
I have no easy answers except that I know our ushers and security personnel meant well. But we can listen to each and seek to do better so that as a whole, we edify more than stumble. Perhaps, while we are guided by rules and policies, we can apply them with a gentle spirit and always have the needs of the person in mind.
I hope some of you found last Sunday’s satire or story on the bells memorable. The matter of the bells may seem spiritually trivial but this Cathedral is indeed the only one of her kind in Singapore. There are extra heritage responsibilities which we should not neglect.
I am looking forward to the coming Leadership Conference and how more can participate in building up our SAC community and mission together. Pray along with us, and at the right time, we will also share with the wider body our plans for 2018 and our three-year vision (“Vision 2020”).