Vicar Writes

Vicar Writes


All 2016 August Vicar Writes

28 August 2016 | Vicar Writes
We are in the midst of looking at the plaster degradation issues in the walls in the Nave. You would have noticed that most of the plaster degradation is happening at areas of the walls at eye level or lower. This is due to the process of salinization from the ground up, as Cathedral is (or was!) located near the sea. It is also the same problem faced by some Cathedrals in nearby places like Penang and Macau.

Finding the right solution is important if repairs are to be effective. We have started a conservation trial on our lime plaster, done in collaboration with Dr Yeo Kang Shua of the Singapore University of Technology and Design. We are slaking our own lime plaster to discover the appropriate composition of plaster for the Cathedral’s walls and pillars. We will soon start the de-salinization process on the rear column in the Nave. This trial will take about 3-4 months.

Some of the terracotta tiles in the Nave have deteriorated creating an uneven floor, which can cause tripping. While we could just work on those tiles that have shown wear, it would make sense at this point, to replace all the terracotta tiles. We consulted the Preservation of Sites and Monuments on this project in 2013. The Finance and Property Committee has considered this matter and has sourced for terracotta tiles of acceptable quality.

A large area of the Nave will have to be cordoned off to carry out this work. Pews would have to be removed during the weekday, and put back by Sunday. This may take 2 months and the plan is to begin the work at a suitable time next year. The Nave will be closed or partially closed during this time.

In 2012, we did the restoration work of the stained glass windows. Some additional maintenance work on the stained glass at the East Windows as well as the clerestory will need to be done soon. This should be completed by the end of this year.

We intend to enhance our lightning protection system. Inadequate protection can cause damage to electrical equipment due to a power surge or induced current.

Meanwhile, we have started to look into ways to ensure effective and regular maintenance of the cleanliness of our pews and other areas of the Nave.

We ask that worshippers also do their part to keep the Nave clean, tidy and neat:

• Refrain from leaving behind food, wrappers, umbrellas or water bottles at the pews.

• We are thankful for the new kneelers but we remind ourselves that these are to be knelt on, not stepped on! Do not use them as foot-rests.

• Leave the bibles and hymnals properly and neatly stacked.

• Take away with you any bulletins and papers as someone else would have to clean up after you. Extra bulletins can be left at the table near the entrance.

We honour the Lord and one another when we treat the House of the Lord with the highest regard.

21 August 2016 | Vicar Writes

Last Saturday (13th Aug), we had a very fruitful training session for our Connect Group leaders on Facilitation Skills. We are thankful to Francis Tan for availing his time and expertise to spend the day with our leaders. Ultimately, we do want each Connect group to gather around God’s Word and for each member to be able to share and mutually enrich one another.

There is something to be said about a learning process that comes through a group conversation and dialogue. The retention rate is a lot higher when we are able to talk about what we have read and digested inwardly with one another. We will be holding training sessions once every quarter and this is also a precious time for CG leaders to encourage one another. If you are not part of a Connect Group yet and would like to enquire about joining one, please email Pas Lian Swan at

Planning for the new eleven:30 Service is coming along fine. This is a special project which is being planned in collaboration with Holy Trinity Bukit Bintang (HTBB), which is based in Kuala Lumpur. HTBB is a missions project of Holy Trinity Brompton. We are aware that Singapore is very much part of a globalised and urbanised culture which is shared by major cities all round the world. It is good that we learn from a sister Anglican parish which is seeking to reach young urban folks. We will of course have our own culture and flavour while being open to learn new things or “tweaks” as we seek to broaden Cathedral’s reach.

Whatever form a Service may take, it will always be the abiding values that will encourage healthy growth in a congregation, such as good preaching of the Word, a welcoming culture, pastoral attention, community involvement through small groups, prayerfulness and a reverent sense of God’s presence. eleven:30 is seeking to grow the values. Please pray for those involved in pioneering this Service. We are targeting to start the first Service on 25th September at the Chapel for all Peoples.

On the Creative Arts front, we are looking to broaden other areas like dance and drama, on top of the traditional/modern choral (at the Nave) and contemporary worship music (at CNS). Dance and drama is actively used in some churches for worship, evangelism and missions. It is good that Cathedral is able to open some new areas for involvement for those of you gifted in these areas.

Those at the current Alpha Course have been enjoying warm and wonderful home cooking of different cuisines like Sri Lankan, Indian, Malay, Nonya and Korean. Do you know that there are many nationalities worshipping in SAC? Cuisine is one expression of the different cultures and it is good that we can have a taste of each! By now, I hardly need to be involved in the cooking as many ladies have stepped up to cook and be involved in the food preparation. Here is another area where one can step in and serve.

At the 8 am Service, we are prayer-dedicating 35 new kneelers. This project by CWF (Cathedral Women’s Fellowship) has been going on for a year. Each kneeler needed 100-120 hours of stitch-work. We are grateful to the ladies for their labour of love which is making it easier for worshippers to kneel.

New speakers are being demo-ed and tested in the Nave during this period. We ask for your understanding and patience as we consider the various options involved in improving the sound in the Nave.

14 August 2016 | Vicar Writes

I recall preaching on Hosea 7:8 almost 20 years ago.

“Ephraim is a cake not turned.” Another version uses the term “half-baked.”

If you have cooked or baked long enough, you would probably be acquainted with the dreadful experience of turning out food that looks cooked, only to discover that it is cooked but on one side. If you have done pancakes or flat breads like chapati, that will be the closest description to this verse.

Moving from the kitchen to something that is more visceral in our urban jungle, imagine a half-completed high rise building. The builder has gone bankrupt and the project is now abandoned. It has become a Catch 22 situation because it costs too much to tear down or to complete it. Instead of it being a part of the city that one can be proud of, it has become an eye sore.

As old as this verse in Hosea is, God’s people have always experienced the problem of “mixture.” The Bible uses many other metaphors to describe and warn us about this condition. We recall the Lord’s message to the Church in Laodicea, that she had become “neither hot nor cold.” It carries the same idea of mixture though metaphorically, it seems like a contradiction to Hosea’s.

This is a reality which we need to grapple with as we live out our Christian life and calling. Our motives are mixed. There is a lack of integrity. I am not talking about public-private hypocrisy. Integrity comes from the root word “integer,” which means “one.” Our life is not one, integral or whole. It is only cooked in parts, built up in parts.

There is a strange teaching going around in Singapore that says that we do not need to ask for forgiveness of our sins. It is an idea as old as the “positive thinking” teaching of the late American, Norman Vincent Peale, which has dominated huge sections of American philosophy and even Christianity. The problem is that it looks so good, but only from one side. One of the current USA presidential candidates has trumped Norman as his mentor. I reproduce here a quote from an article I read recently:

“Christianity is a religion of losers. To the weak and humble, it offers a stripped and humiliated Lord. To those without reason for optimism, it holds up the cross as a sign of hope. To anyone who does not win at life, it promises that whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake shall find it. At its center stands a truth that we are prone to forget. There are people who cannot be made into winners, no matter how positive their thinking. They need something more paradoxical and cruciform.” (Matthew Schmitz, First Things, August 2016)

Due to this mixture in our hearts, we need to come before God constantly in brokenness and humility. The Bible constantly seeks to alert us to our mixed condition. God calls our attention to - not away from - it.

Jeremiah 17:9 despairs, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The next verse gives hope, for “I the Lord search the heart…” Before His Word and in His presence, we need to constantly bring and open our hearts. Like the ancient psalmist, we need to constantly declare, “Search me, O God!” (Psalm 139:23)

There is one part of Jesus’ teaching which seems tolerant of mixture. You would have read the message of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. There is a current reality of mixture. There will be a separation, a result of judgment. As to who is useful wheat or useless tares, this can only be known in the future and that task of separation and identification belongs to God. This task is not ours nor is it to be done presently. We are too quick to apply any warning about mixture to others rather than ourselves. We like to imagine who are the wheat and tares in the church. What the Bible is saying is: Let others be.

Instead, focus on your own heart and life. Allow the gaze and grace of God to deal with the mixture. In fact, it is when we are conscious of our own brokenness that we are more ready to forgive others. “Forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us.“ Brokenness is the wellspring of compassion.

Don’t leave the cake unturned.

7 August 2016 | Vicar Writes

Last Saturday morning began with the Christmas@Cathedral planning meeting. Ably helmed by Hambali and an enthusiastic team, we discussed the details of the programme, decorations, tours, linking up with our neighbours and so on. The team is building on the template and experience gleaned from last year’s event.


I was at the farewell party for Revd Timothy Chow and Revd John Lin later in the day. It began with the epic futsal match between “Liverpool” and “Chelsea”, flagged off by the English referee, Peter Cook. The flat field at the North lawn seemed built for this and the young and not so young were having fun.

The rest of the party was held at the amphitheatre. It was fully used for what it was built for. It held the stage, audienced by those milling around on the steps and those viewing it from air-conditioned comfort through the glassed Prayer Halls.

The food was catered but it seemed like the vendor was out to please. Members were accessorising and taking photos with their favourite pastors. The 9 am Service band belted out John’s favourites. Then came the speeches and both had a long list of people to thank and events to remember. John is known as a very present pastor who can be counted on to be there at the first sign of crisis or sickness. Timothy faithfully laboured not just at Westside Anglican Church, but week in and week out, at the Communion Service on Thursday and the 7.30 pm New Life Service on Sunday. Cathedral is used to seeing clergy coming and going. It has to be said that some are not easily replaceable. Indeed John and Timothy have left an indelible mark in the SAC community. It was an evening where the community celebrated.

On Sunday, as usual, SAC was a hive of activities. I was at the 9 am worship and then popped over to catch the post 8am Service breakfast refreshments to meet and greet. And then back to the CNS to listen to Ds Bessie’s teaching on Nehemiah. Then we got ready for the baptism Service at 11.15 am, where Revd Alvin was preaching on Nehemiah 5. Eighteen adults and 7 children were baptised at the end of the Service. Some of the adults attended our previous Alpha Course. Later in the day, the Filipino Service and Hokkien Service also baptised a few more. Indeed, the heavens rejoice over every repented sinner (Luke 15:10).

Archbishop Stephen of the Province of Myanmar was also in town and ministered at the Myanmar Service. I joined in later in the leaders meeting. There are many ethnic groups within the Myanmar Service, with Burmese, Karen, Kachin and Chin being the major ones. It also caters to Christians from many denominations, including Baptists and Catholics. This Service is growing and the leaders are encouraged by that. Our clergy do come in to help at least once a month to preach and celebrate the Communion. It is good to hear from the Archbishop on the positive developments in Myanmar under the new civilian government. Please continue to pray for Myanmar.

I should add that I am pleased to see various groups using our grounds to picnic, including some who have been attending our Myanmar Service. They are not all from Myanmar. There were also some groups of Indian ladies. The church is seen as a safe public place. As long as some measure of discipline is maintained (with our security personnel ensuring that), please continue to welcome them. They have come to work and serve Singaporeans, and it is the very least we can do to give them some space to chill and catch up with their friends on their off days.

As I was driving off, I could hear the sounds of worship in the Nave at the 5 pm Service. We are encouraging those from the 7.30 pm Service to join this Service when it closes after September. A gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit has been blowing at the 5pm Service. It has refreshed those seeking healing and prayer for other needs. Amidst the rich liturgy and hymns at this Service, the Spirit is at work to renew hearts. There are also fresh expressions of new choruses with old hymns. Please pray for more people to come to passionate faith as the wind continues to blow.

Recent Vicar Writes

21 Aug |

Tips and Tweaks

14 Aug |

A Cake Unturned

07 Aug |

A Weekend at the Cathedral