Vicar Writes

Vicar Writes


All 2017 April Vicar Writes

30 April 2017 | Vicar Writes

God is not man, that he should lie, 
or a son of man, that he should change his mind. 
Has he said, and will he not do it? 
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?  
Balaam’s second oracle to Balak in Numbers 23:19

Much has happened in 2016 and one may wonder how that was possible. I think one reason was that we did not start anything new but we simply renewed or continued the vision. 

The Welcome Centre was already wonderfully located and had in her, all the ministry intentions. We continue to realise these ministry intentions with the addition of the new cafe. We already had cell groups for many years, which were “re-Connected” last year. The new eleven:30 Service helps us to continue to do something which we have been doing for many years: starting a new Service to broaden our ministry reach. Cathedral had run Alpha for many years. We merely sought to renew that vision of an integrated and on-going evangelistic and community-integration ministry. Coming in at the right time, the new Alpha film series also gave this ministry a new start.  

Cathedral Biblical Studies? A roaring start indeed but it felt déjà vu, and reminded us of the good DLT2 years.  Rightly so, as the regular and systematic teaching of the Bible should not be ‘fashion-ised’. We have made a commitment that this programme should outlast many Vicars! 

The Courier was resurrected in Holy Week after a two-year hiatus, with a new “body” (design). Few questioned the need for a magazine as that was resolved long ago. The weekly bulletin and website were all given a fresh look. Even the idea of a weekly Vicar Writes is not new to Cathedral. We are starting weekday lunchtime talks at the Cafe. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  

The renovation works at the NT toilets, West House and Nave were of course something we had wanted to do for some time. Minuted for some years, they were finally actioned.  

We are planning for a new canopy (see photo of artist impression) over the amphitheatre and koi pond area. This will simply extend the vision of the beautiful amphitheatre, which was built to support community interactions and events. Looking further ahead, why do we need more underground spaces? We think of offices, meeting rooms, new worship halls, counselling facilities, heritage displays and so on. Nothing new but more of the same! We also need to connect with our surrounding civic district and we anticipate new underground links to NAG, the new Funan Centre and so on, extending the east city underground link to the west. Is this ‘need to connect’ new? Right from the days of old, when Cathedral was fenceless, our grounds were always ‘porous’ and naturally connected to the rest of society (food for thought in regards to the foreigners using our grounds on Sunday).  We are seeking to do something underground which we have all along been doing at the surface.  

And so, we continue to preach, teach, baptise, confirm, disciple and so on. We keep keeping on. It never ends and rightly so, till He comes again. There is no end point to church work. We may renew the wineskins but we never abandon our Gospel calling. 

As Balaam reminds us, God does not change His mind. What He said, he will do. What He promised, He will fulfil. Let’s continue to be prayerful and pray constantly: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

23 April 2017 | Vicar Writes

It’s AGM Sunday. That there are more running for PCC than there are places is causing a buzz. Here are some of my ruminations on PCC.

There is a prevalent thinking that PCC members ought to represent their Services. The fact is the needs of Services are well represented through the work of Service Pastors and the Leadership Teams. The pastors also work together and actively discuss issues, best practices etc, with always the larger parish needs in mind. They also receive feedback about the Service from members, and are addressing them all the time. In the Service Leadership teams, there are also key lay leaders participating. 

In my two years’ worth of PCC meetings, there had been hardly any ‘represented’ Service discussion. Therefore, I will say that one should not vote along Service lines. In fact, it may not be helpful if a PCC member comes in with the idea that he or she is representing a particular Service. That may be true in the secondary sense as after all, we can only speak well on issues we are involved in, but primarily we represent the whole parish and along with the Vicar, strive to keep the unity we have in Christ. 

 Is PCC the voice of the people? As a parish evolves and grows to the size and diversity that SAC is today, it can indeed be difficult for any lay individual to imagine that he or she is ‘speaking for the people’. With an open and flat leadership culture with many points for feedback, sharing of new ideas etc, the wisdom and voice of the community is generally well-heard. 

 Any PCC needs to be wise to help the church stay united to ensure factionalism does not arise (see 1 Cor 1:12ff). When leaders are united, so will be the church. And this guiding principle is one reason why we have been working hard at encouraging friendships, sharing of ministry and openness between leaders, whether lay or full-time. A church that laughs and ‘makan’ together, stays together!

As governance issues become more demanding of attention, and as urban churches grow in size and complexities, PCC can play a major role in advising and assisting the clergy on issues like building development, financial management and stewardship, renovation works, traffic issues, security, heritage and historical concerns etc. These issues are strategic and need leadership ability, big-picture thinking and a combination of technical and soft skills. That we have a PCC that is mixed in age is also helpful. They play a role to ensure that SAC is governed well, both according to Scripture, tradition and laws of the land.

If we study Acts 6 carefully, the ‘small stuff’ does matter. When the small is neglected, the mission of the church can be hindered. As every issue needs to be managed well, a wise PCC needs to delegate, empower and build on the work and ministry of others. Authority and decision-making needs to be dispersed and empowered. Sometimes, PCC serves best as cheerleaders and encouragers. We also need to recognise the principle of proportion. What issues are important and what are less so? How does each fit into the larger picture? What is the Lord saying? Spiritual discernment is crucial. 

As we know, the mix of religion and power can be very powerful, for better or worse. In my 30 years of active ministry, I can see how the place and prestige of the church in society have grown dramatically. I have often put out to PCC that the authority entrusted must be held in prayer and ‘serving-hood’. In serving and in praying with our fellow leaders ‘in-community’, we let Christ direct and guide us. We do so from an ‘under’ position, i.e under-shepherd serving the Chief Shepherd. Even if I lead, I am only able to do so out of my following of Christ. 1 Peter 5, John 15, 1 Cor 2-3 come to mind. 

This is one reason why PCC members should prioritise and be at our Church@ Prayer where we seek the Lord together for the life of the Church and nation. We should guard carefully our own walk with Christ, and always have brothers and sisters which we are in kononia with. In this sense, even if a church grows in size and complexity, the same underlying basics remain needful, whether it is a 30-member or 3,000-member church. 

It is helpful that AGM comes after Lent and Holy Week. Like Jesus in Holy Week, both the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane are places we keep returning to. We kneel to wash and we kneel to pray. Only from this ‘under’ and ‘down’ position, will we be able to manage spiritual authority and serve after the footsteps of Christ.

16 April 2017 | Vicar Writes

“He is not here, He is risen, just as He said.” (Matt 28:6)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the foundation on which Christianity is built. Without the resurrection, there would have been no Christianity, and the most dynamic movement in history would not have been. Someone who wanted to start a new religion thought he could get some advice from a Pastor. “Tell me, what was Jesus’ secret?” The pastor replied, “I should recommend that you first get yourself crucified and then die, but be sure to rise again the third day.”

Easter is the dawn of a new hope in our pilgrimage through a present world that is passing. We know what is coming and therefore, could live in the present with an Easter-filled hope, purpose and confidence. That is why Good Friday can only be called ‘good’ because of what has happened in the first Easter. If Good Friday is about the pain and suffering in the present creation which is passing away, the first Easter was about sparkling a hope for the new creation. 

We warmly welcome guests to all Easter Celebration Services this weekend, including those who are coming to witness the baptism at our Saturday Service. I recall my own baptism at the tender age of 13. As I look back, that has brought so many blessings to me, my siblings and parents. It is my prayer that for these individuals, this step into the Christian faith will also signal a change for the better in their lives and their loved ones. 

As for guest speakers, we welcome Pastor Don Wong, who heads up New Charis Mission to our Services at our Saturday Service, and Revd Dr Ephriam Radner, and his wife, Revd Dr Annette Brownlee to our Nave Services. Tony Low will also be sharing his personal story of healing and encounter with the Risen Lord at Acts Centre. Our Dean and Bishop is also speaking at the Dawn and 11.15 am Services. There will also be creative performances at the Saturday and Sunday 9 am Services and we are grateful for those who have commited themselves to serve in this way. 

Here in the Cathedral, we also run The Alpha Course which gives everyone an opportunity to explore the Christian faith. We warmly recommend this course to you and the next one will start in July. If you are interested, email for more information.

We also have many Connect Groups where you can connect with other friends in the Cathedral. Do contact us ( if you would like to visit or be a part of one of these groups. May this Easter be a life-changing experience for you. 

Our annual AGM is at 1.30 pm next Sunday (23rd) at the Prayer Halls. If you love the Church, do be there. Even if you are not officially a member yet but one in heart, do join in. Lunch will be served from 12.45 pm. We have put up posters of the nominees for PCC with the basic info in various spots in the Cathedral. Do keep a lookout, pray for them and prepare to vote. Even if not all can serve on PCC (assuming number of nominees are more than required), we do have various important sub-committees where those not voted in can still serve in. 

9 April 2017 | Vicar Writes

The Holy Week (Palm Sunday to Easter) has always been a week that we can all look forward to. For one, it is about worship and our relationship with God. It is a time to anamnesis, to recollect and journey with Jesus on the road to Calvary, to understand who He is and what He has done for us. Like the refrain of the negro-spiritual, we ask each other: Were you there….? 

The cross is an exemplar for us. It carries the message of love, servanthood and humility. Thus, it speaks to our own hearts of our attitudes, sensibilities and what we love. Indeed it is what we love which continue to shape our lives, not what we know. “See how He loves him.” That was the response of observers when Jesus wept for Lazarus. The same Jesus asked us to love one another the way He has loved us (John 13:34). In fact He instituted that as a new commandment, bringing it up to the same level as the Law. Before the cross, our pride, selfishness, censorious thoughts of others, jealousy are all exposed, as the love of His light perches through the darkness of our tombs. Let His love unbind the death clothes that wrap
ever so tightly around our  hearts and set it free to love.  

The cross is also about salvation. For He is “Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men” (Article 2 of the 39 Articles). There are also many opportunities to invite an unchurched friend to “Come and See.” Every Service or event during Holy Week is evangelistic to some measure. Whether your friend is senior or junior, listens to 97.3 or 92.4 FM, a complete agnostic or a lost believer, the Cathedral has it covered. There is something for everyone. 

We will be welcoming Revd Dr Ephraim Radner and his wife, Revd Dr Annette Brownlee. They are both serving in Wycliffe College in Toronto and in the Anglican Church in Canada. I got to know Ephraim very well as I sat into three of his courses during my Sabbatical in Toronto in 2014. He is a highly respected theologian, scholar, thinker, writer and Anglican leader. And more than everything else, he is a dear friend to me and Jennifer. He will be speaking at our annual two-day Lenten Devotions and the other Holy Week Services. Some of you may be interested to attend his public lectures on The Cranmerian Vision on
22 April, Sat.  If you think deeply about the nature and calling of the Church, you will appreciate these lectures and will be inspired as you become more aware of the heritage of the Anglican Church. 

The printed Courier is back on track. Indeed much is happening in SAC which needs to be shared with the wider community. There is a rich diversity and certainly, the church culture in SAC is certainly not monochromatic! This printed version will complement the online one, where most of the printed articles will be posted and archived. Once a quarter? Two times a year? That depends on you! We need – testimonies of what God is doing in your life, reflections of significant events or talks, teaching articles for both the heart and mind, articles on our Anglican heritage, book reviews, cross-cultural mission stories, community interest articles on arts and crafts, Chinese tea-brewing, the art of blogging, social media manners,
poetry writing and yes, even heirloom family recipes! 

It is our magazine. Not unlike courier pigeons of old, it seeks to carry the message to those who need to hear, whether far and wide or as close as the neighbour sitting next to you. There are so many stories in the SAC community which a weekly Vicar Writes, quarterly printed Courier and a “timeless” Courier-on-line can help tell. But pray tell, how can they unless you play your part? If you struggle with writing, we have a gifted Editorial Team who can help. 

2 April 2017 | Vicar Writes

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men… Matthew 4:19

Revd Alvin Toh will be ordained as priest in May and posted out this coming July to serve in St John’s-St Margaret’s Church. Our best wishes and prayers go with him as he continues to grow in this family. 

 Alvin Toh served and trained as a Baptist church worker before joining St Andrew’s Cathedral in 2013. He served largely with the 9 am Sunday and Saturday Service communities. He also headed Christian Education (especially in spearheading the Baptism and Membership classes) and was actively involved in areas like overseeing Boys’ Brigade work and Discipleship Group ministry. In fact, we have hoped for him to provide leadership as we start new Discipleship Groups. As he has spent some years as a banker, I have also asked him to explore organising lunchtime meetings for office workers. It will not be easy to let Alvin move on, and neither will it be easy to raise new leaders to head these heavy responsibilities. 

 In fact, SAC does have plans to scale up as a training and education centre. The recent successful launch of CBS is a good start as we put Scripture at the centre. We just ran our inaugural Anglicanism class and those who attended realise how important this course is. We have plans to develop a few Anglicanism Courses, including those which will teach our rich heritage in worship and liturgy, and probe the biblical and theological basis for some of our Anglican practices i.e. sacraments of communion and baptism. Issues of how modern science, philosophy and psychology interact and enrich our faith needs to be explored as well. Marketplace issues are important, given our location and interaction with the city, with the commercial world to our east and the legal-political world to our west. The new NAG and other nearby museums also underscore our role in sharing our historical heritage.

 In fact, SAC is expected to be the centre for many areas: education, counselling, marketplace education, prayer, evangelism, discipleship etc. And obviously, our current facilities need to be expanded to support these ministries. 

 The list is long if we care and reflect on what the Lord has called us to be and do. I am sharing this to ask you to pray and be challenged to consider the role that some of you could play in the coming years. In a sense, we cannot afford to “lose” a gifted clergy like Alvin but neither should we forget that SAC is a “Mother Church” and should pursue her call to raise and send workers, pastors and leaders.   

 I am firm believer in encouraging creating space and a rich community which can grow and raise individuals to fulfil their calling in Christ. It is my prayer that SAC will be a good nursery to raise many lay leaders, pastors and clergy in the years to come. To this end, it is more culture than strategy. It is about building a culture of love, openess, encouragement, affirmation (of a person’s calling and gifts), mentoring and open space where individuals can grow, serve and make many mistakes! We don’t plan it. We need to live it. This is what I know I can give my life and energy to: to lead that others may lead, to serve that others may serve, to find life fulfilment that others may experience likewise.    

 Jesus asked the fishermen to drop the nets and follow Him that they live a life that influences many other lives. Let’s serve together that our community may have at her centre this vision. As we let Alvin go to another vineyard, may we raise many more for His Kingdom.  

Recent Vicar Writes

23 Apr |

Serving from Down and Under

16 Apr |

Blessed Easter to all!

09 Apr |

Were you there?

02 Apr |

Fishers of Men