Vicar Writes

Vicar Writes


All 2016 April Vicar Writes

24 April 2016 | Vicar Writes

Speak Lord

By Terry Wong

We were blessed to be able to take a break and visit our daughter, who is currently studying in London, for her 21st birthday. We also caught up with Keith Leong, who is doing his studies in “Faith and Science” at Oxford and Sylvia Ooi, who is doing her one year internship in All Souls Church.

I had a chance to visit a Service at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), which brought back many wonderful memories of those years when I was active in leading the Alpha work in Singapore. They have a generous, positive and broad vision. They are mindful of the diversity in the Body of Christ, able to relate to a changing world, keep in step with the work of the Spirit and relate well to the secular world. Their influence is multi-layered and as I recall, I was always inspired by the values behind what is probably the most influential local church in our recent history.

Going back to Jesus’ teaching on being “salt and light,” that is what a local church potentially can be in a very rich and multi-layered way as we remain open to the Lord’s work in our midst. Being deeply creatures of habit and tradition, we are unconsciously bound to the past, especially that of our own experiences. And the more positive they were, the more we cling on to them and hope for a repeat in our days. We will develop a theology that justifies these natural inclinations. What we will need to be very intentional about praying and asking is: What is the Father doing today? We need to go beyond methods and look to the Lord of all times and cultures, and seek to grow ways in which the same values of worship, discipleship and evangelism can work effectively in a changing world.

HTB is by no means perfect but I always move away encouraged because this is one local church which turns your heart and eyes to the Lord and not on methods and personalities. Being Anglican and urban also means that SAC can learn and be inspired from similar parishes around the world.

Without a doubt, Singapore like other world cities like London, has a special sphere of influence. Traditionally, we bridge the East and West but in today‘s highly globalised world, these terms don’t even carry the same relevance anymore.

And with SAC being right in the heart of the city, we need to continually ask - not about what we have become - but what we can be and what He is seeking to do through us. It is not so much about doing more - and we have a knack of starting new ministries - but an orientation of the heart that is praying and seeking. What is His will? How is SAC together in this?

When we have a listening and dependent posture (prayerful!), that is when we hear Him speak: directly, through the local church community and His wider Body.

*1 Samuel 3:9

17 April 2016 | Vicar Writes

Just a tick?

By Terry Wong

You are baptised and confirmed here. You are a faithful member of your Connect Group. You attend Services regularly. You go on Mission trips. Even the monthly Church Prayer meeting has become a “must go” event. You tithe or pledge regularly. 

You are a Cathedral member: in your heart, feet and pocket.  

Now, if AGM attendance is the badge of membership, it seems so passé. In a church that breathes more like a community than an institution, the formality of AGM just doesn’t fly. After all, you don’t read about AGMs in the Book of Acts. 

You have attended some where you were driven to tears. You were candy-crushing or kindling throughout. Your only contribution was a “tick” on the list to make the quorum possible. You feel like you are a highly replaceable Lorem ipsum.   

Now that I have raised all the common objections, let me explain why I think you should be at AGM 2016.  

It will be interesting. In which meeting will you have an overview of how SAC is structured, her vision for ministry (especially in a “new season”) and what is going on across the rich spectrum of ministry and community life? What is in the mind of her leadership for this new season? What has the Lord been saying?

It will be participative. You get to raise issues, assuming they are concerns shared by the wider community. Or hear them. Carpark. Flaking paint and algae-d walls. Sound problems in the Nave. Or simply issues of thanksgiving as we affirm how blessed we have been.  

It will be intriguing. How does Cathedral manage and disburse the finances? What will she plan to do in 2016? 

It will be future envisioning. How will Cathedral develop her grounds for current and future needs? We are in a very strategic location. How can she participate in the process of urban renewal, especially right in the heart of this city-nation?  

It will be our shared responsibility. The practice of AGM follows our societal expectation of how charity societies are governed and regulated. Accountability and exercising it regularly help to safeguard the integrity and witness of the church. You can do your part to help SAC keep to her calling and mission. The more resources we have, the need for accountability is even greater. By taking an interest in SAC’s financial matters and ministry priorities, you are simply being a responsible member. 

If the list above does not move you, maybe think of the idea of family. Families don’t just gather perfunctorily. They simply gather

And now, get ready for the final biblical knockout punch:

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is… Hebrews 10:24,25

Amen. In old King James Version, no less. 

See you at AGM 2016. 

10 April 2016 | Vicar Writes


By Terry Wong

Acronyms abound

Even in SAC. Like TDG, CWC, SMF, CNS and PCC.

PCC, you ask? Someone unpacked it for you: Parochial Church Council.

Parochial? It shares the same root meaning with the term “parish.” You may have heard it being used for a view that is narrow minded or restricted. In its root meaning, that is correct in its use in PCC. Traditionally a parish is an area comprising not just the church compound but the region around it. So you have the Town Council that manages the whole town. And you have the Parochial Church Council that manages only a restricted area, the parish.

The PCC is responsible for the affairs of the parish. If the parish is a legal entity (and here, we are), PCC is the body to represent her. Everything in the parish falls under the purview and responsibility of the PCC. Where does the Vicar feature in all this? He chairs the PCC.

In a smaller traditional parish, the Vicar is assisted by lay readers in the spiritual areas whereas PCC works with him over the temporal concerns (building, finance etc). In the context of our urban Diocese with many large parishes, we have evolved. We now have deaconesses, parish workers and pastoral staff serving in ministry while the PCC is assisted by various sub-committees. Pastoral staff can give input over temporal matters but it is PCC which has the authority to approve it. The vice versa is also true. PCC gives input on ministry concerns but have to trust the Vicar, clergy and pastors to do what is right. The leadership roles are clear and without confusion.

The Vicar heads both as a focus of unity but the leadership is shared across the board. The wardens have a direct line to Bishop and this completes the accountability cycle even for the Vicar.

Why is the PCC elected? They represent the SAC community. They will work with the Vicar, bring a good clergy-lay balance and provide governance support and covering for the spiritual ministry. If they are “yes men” who were appointed by the Vicar or beholden to him, that will undermine the essential work of PCC. You can now see why it is very difficult for a healthy Anglican parish to run foul of the law of the land. PCC members with the professional or technical expertise in law or finance can guide the clergy. They can question the Vicar’s decisions and ensure robust discussions, especially on matters of great import. As they also represent the different parts of the SAC community, various interests and concerns could be raised. The Vicar and PCC are accountable to the membership body of the Cathedral via the AGM.

We also try to ensure that each Service in the Cathedral is represented in PCC. PCC does co-opt a few members. This helps to ensure that there are no gaps regarding expertise or representation.

The Vicar’s Warden is appointed by the Vicar. He is normally his confidante and along with the People’s Warden (elected), provide an inner circle of trust and confidentiality.

All this may sound complicated but the strength of tradition and the sustaining grace of the Lord ensures that it works smoothly and often intuitively. When leaders walk in the steps of Christ and serve in humility and love, the church will be blessed.

Could some of you be thinking of serving in PCC? Do pray about that.


3 April 2016 | Vicar Writes

Waiting upon the Lord

By Terry Wong


But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31


This is a most unusual verse if you really ponder on it. How can waiting - and by that, immediately the idea of dormancy and inactivity comes to mind - produce more energy?

Yet this idea is not an isolated one in this Old Prophet. Examples abound in the Bible.

Waiting is a rich word. It can mean being attentive and waiting for instructions, not unlike the way a waiter waits for the person he is serving to gesture. If you have been in a good restaurant before you may have noticed how a good waiter anticipates and reacts to your every gesture of hand, eye and body movement.

It can mean waiting in terms of time, a period of inactivity till one receives the signal to act, not unlike how an army captain waits for the general to give the signal before leading his charge in.

It can also mean pausing to gather renewed strength in the midst of strenuous physical activity. A runner slows down or stops to recover his breath so that he can continue his journey and reach his destination. The proverbial story of the tortoise and the hare comes to mind.

In Church speak and tradition, generally it is taken to mean that one should pray

and seek the Lord. This can conjure in your mind yet another activity. Attending the Church prayer meeting perhaps. Or doing your daily devotion, which is of course very important.

But the essence of this term is about one being in relationship with God. Being able to listen to God. Being aware of His presence. There is spiritual attention to Him. Your heart, as in your instincts and deepest affections as a sentient being, is aware of His presence and guidance. In fact, Jesus Himself taught that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

The modern, global and urban life – and all three terms describe Singapore well –does not make waiting easy. It is not just the busyness, but a philosophy of life and work that drives you from one point to the other. Just as you finish one thing, you are preparing for the next. Your attention is shifting all the time, on the piece of work that needs to be done or an event which needs attending. There is little room to pause, pray and reflect. To be conscious of the presence of another, be it God or even your colleagues, friends and family member. For the latter, we can be physically there but disconnected in all sorts of ways as they are just objects to help get the next thing done.

You have heard of other similar terms used, such as slowing down, re-centering, pausing to reflect, reconnecting and so on. Whatever phrase you may use, it is about our Lord and being in relationship with Him. Build strongly on that and you will live and not get wearied. As some of you advance in years and your physical faculties begin to dim, your spirit is alive because life has been one big waiting upon God and you enjoy His presence (forevermore! - Psalm 16:11).

Let’s encourage one another to wait upon Him.

Recent Vicar Writes

17 Apr |

Just a tick?

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03 Apr |

Waiting upon the Lord