Vicar Writes

Vicar Writes


All 2017 June Vicar Writes

25 June 2017 | Vicar Writes

Thank you so much for all your thoughts and prayers for Jennifer’s recent surgery. I will do away with the usual formalities and share some thoughts honestly. 

As we were preparing for the surgery, we were already warned to be prepared for the worst: surgery complications, massive bleeding, post-op infection and so on. The surgery needed three experienced surgeons to work as a team. The tumour, though it was supposed to be benign, was behaving ‘benign-aggressive’, and needed to be checked for possible malignancy. The surgery is major in every sense of that word. We were told to expect a 6-hour surgery and a 10-day hospital stay, assuming there were no complications. 

Jen wrote her will and placed it on her table. It was updated from the first time we wrote it 14 years ago when we were preparing to go on a crisis relief mission trip to earthquake-hit Bam, Iran. We discussed whether signing the Advanced Medical Directive was necessary, of which we finally thought, it was not, though there would be wisdom in doing so.

I think our close friends could also sense the seriousness of this kidney-liver-vein operation, even if it was hard to explain or understand it medically. There were the usual pre-op prayer meetings. Bishop summoned us to his chapel to pray and anoint her with oil. We were asked to gather in a room at St James’ Church where about a dozen close SJC friends and clergy colleagues prayed for her. Last Sunday, a small group of SAC intercessors joined Peter Truong to pray for her. 

There were many other prayers made, visions shared and another close family friend (an elder from Cornerstone) insisted that we wrote the word “shrink” on both sides of her stomach and shouted in prayer over the phone. Different strokes from different folks. At the human level, it can be exhausting to be at the faith-for-healing and trust-in-suffering tension. 

But what we indeed sensed - on all occasions - was a deep deep love in Christ expressed by our brothers and sisters. Our own families shared the same anxieties, albeit, quietly as years of Christian faith - often on the giving and faith-dispensing end for those in sickness - would allow. 

We were told that the operation, which started at 11 am (7th June), may last for up to 8 hours. As our brother-in-law is a surgeon too, we were privileged to be forwarded text messages of what was going on. The first was a relief as with the rest. As it turned out, the surgery was smoother and faster than expected. We informed our intercessors that they too can break fast since the surgeons were doing so. Everyone was able to have lunch. Visually, the tumours looked benign, confirmed histologically a few days later. 

Jen’s recovery was textbook, feisty as we know she is. She was already up and walking by the fourth day. Jen loves to sing. The normal guitars are too heavy but the ukulele works just fine. By the sixth day, she was back to the comfort of our home. 

It looks like it is not time yet for us to “execute her will”, which still lay unopened on her table. What we do know is that we are living out God’s will. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21 are not words of comfort, like the tiger balm ointment which Jen had to apply from time to time to soothe her backache. It is a “vision statement” for all Christians. Whether we live or die, it is for Christ. Every day, whether here or on the other side of eternity, is to be lived for Him. 

This experience drew attention to our mortality. We can say, same bedfellows with many others, who equally need our love and prayers. However aren’t we all also facing a terminal condition and living on time as He would allow it? If Paul’s statement is to be echoed, as should be for all Christians, we need to reflect on how it can direct our living and dying. 

Thank you again for your loving friendship. May His grace and daily surgical forgiveness keep us in His rich presence daily and forevermore. 



Terry & Jennifer Wong

18 June 2017 | Vicar Writes

You may not have noticed it but the terracotta tiles in the Nave have been replaced. The previous tiles were uneven and have become a hazard as it can trip you up if you are not careful. Other renovation and refurbishment projects are in the pipeline or being considered and I hope to keep you updated here.  

New Sound System for the Nave

This has been planned for more than a year now. A new system has been chosen and will be installed soon. Apart from improving the quality of sound all round, it is a system that is easier to maintain with a minimum number of speakers. 

Moving the Audio-Visual Console to the back

This is conventionally done in most halls and churches. It will provide for a more accurate visual and sound feedback to the crew. In terms of worship decorum, the activity at the console has been a visual distraction for all the years, being so near to the chancel area. With this, the north side chapel can now be released for worship use. This also allows for the integration of Graham White Library into the Nave (when needed), similar to the South Transept Hall. It will create a symmetry where the cross-shaped Nave can be experienced internally, as well as increasing its capacity. The new console has to be discreetly designed to ensure visual integration and minimum distraction for worshippers near it. As always, such alterations may need the approval of PSM (Preservation Monuments Board). 

Lifts at South Transept and North Transept Halls

When these two lifts are built, Cathedral will be able to comply with modern requirements for all her rooms to be disabled-friendly. The facilities on the first and second floors of both transepts will be usable by all, and this is good stewardship of whatever precious spaces we have.   

Graham White Library (GWL)

This multifunctional area will be spruced up. During weekdays, it functions as the centre for tourists visiting our Nave area. The corridor on the west side of the Hall (outside the  pantry) may be widened to reduce human traffic congestion. As mentioned above, GWL can be integrated into the Nave for Services when needed. The infant room will be removed at that time and moved to one of the rooms at the back of GWL.

New Chapter House at the 3rd level of the North Transept Hall

This will add one more meeting room for the Cathedral Chapter and PCC. It will act as a mezzanine room to support the NT Hall as a creche or overflow facility. This room will also join the east and west wings of NT Hall at the third level, making every part of NT lift accessible. 

Prayer Halls : Expanding its current capacity from 200 to 300 pax

The Prayer Halls are now being used to host Services i.e. Hokkien Worship Service and the new eleven:30 Service. HWS is near capacity in attendance and the 6-month old eleven:30 is already about 100+ regularly. We currently have halls of these capacities:  1x100 (Chapel), 1x150-pax (ST), 2x200-pax (PH, NT) and 2 large 800 pax (Nave, CNS). We are considering expanding PH to a 300 pax mid-sized hall which is also useful for our Biblical Studies programme, conferences and seminars. 

Canopy over the Amphitheatre and north-east lawn

A canopy will make the amphitheatre usable even when it rains. It will provide for a large overflow space for wedding receptions, post-Service gathering points and community gatherings. It will replace the aging linkway and provide covering and extra entry points for disembarking passengers. It will also replace the current white tents. We are considering building discreet linkways from the West Porch to both the transepts.   

As you can see, what we are doing is to improve spaces and facilities we already have. Do pray for the Building and Redevelopment Committee (co-chaired by Keith Chua and Lee Chi Kuan, (actively supported by our staff) as she goes about the work needed to bring these projects to reality.

11 June 2017 | Vicar Writes

In Romans, St Paul makes a strong distinction between our physical and spiritual worlds. “Walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4)

Paul was not referring to two metaphysical locations. The realm of the flesh is a regime of laws, norms, conventions that shape our way of life. Life according to the flesh means accepting the world’s values: power, wealth and status as goals and death as an end, to be delayed as long as possible. By contrast, walking in the Spirit recognises the presence and Lordship of Christ. Death is not final and the highest good is fellowship with Him and our fellow men. Love becomes the key currency in the realm of the Spirit. 

St Augustine in his magisterial City of God described it in his own terms. There are two commonwealths: the city of man, an earthly city, and the heavenly city, the city of God. Both exist in this world but they have divergent values. The city of man rests in temporal powers; its hopes limited to the temporal horizon and its loves seek finite goods. The city of God hopes for eternal life; and its love is directed towards God and His creatures. We should not think of two cities existing in two different locations, as if the earthly city is Singapore or Jakarta. They do not operate on different planes of existence but are intermixed in this life and as St Augustine explains, will be untangled in God’s final judgment.     

So whether you are a businessman, pastor, teacher or politician, you can choose to live for the city of man or the city of God. One may be a pastor but live for the city of Man. Another can be a politician but live according to the Spirit and this is evident in his daily life, relationships, heart attitudes and so on. You can be in Singapore, London or Tokyo. Your office may be in the church or in a stock exchange. It is not your location or profession. It is about who and what is directing your life, what you are “walking according to.”

The globalised city culture will of course dictate and calls us to live for the city of man. At every turn, in almost every page of a secular newspaper (or every swipe of the screen) and on almost every corner you turn into, the Man calls out to you and the Man in you connects with him. 

A change begins to happen when God’s love breaks through and we realise that there is another Man whom we can live for and follow. That is the day we became a Christ-ian. The Kingdom of God (a realm) breaks into our lives. 

•     We begin to think beyond our earthly temporal existence.

•     We begin to be conscious of a Presence and that we are not alone when we are alone. 

•     We begin to set aside the best day of the week (Sunday!!) to gather in worship, rest from our money-making labour and acknowledge He is the source of everything. 

•     And in spots of time during the week, we take time to read His Word, spend time with His people and even talk about Him to those who live according to the city of man. 

In a globalised and hugely successful city like Singapore, life can get heady and our monies can buy us all sorts of goods that the whole world can offer (almost). From crystal meth to sex of all variants, pounding tables in boardrooms to pounding music in night clubs, life throbs on furiously. Many have to choose between two cities.

We live in this city. And we need to pray for this city. This is why we are calling the Cathedral and Christians everywhere to prayer in the run up to our nation’s 52nd birthday during the 40 days stretching from 1st July to 9th August. You are helped to do that by reading the 40-day Prayer booklet. From Mondays to Fridays, every day from 12.30 to 1.30 pm, we are also opening the Nave for worship and prayer.

4 June 2017 | Vicar Writes

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all gathered in one place.” Acts 2:1

Pentecost existed before Pentecost. The Jews have always been celebrating the Feast of Pentecost. Traditionally it was a  mid-summer feast, marking the end of the barley harvest. In the time of Jesus, the feast celebrated the giving of the law and the covenant at Mt Sinai. It commemorates the events in Exodus 19-20. According to Scriptures, the law was given fifty days after the Passover. As a text from the Hebrew liturgy of Shauoth says, “This day of the Feast of Weeks is the time of the gift of Torah.” 

Pentecost is associated with the history of salvation (God’s work in our history in providing salvation). Just as at Mt Sinai, the people became a kingdom of priests through the law, here the people became a people of God, a Church, through the giving of the Spirit. The OT promises came to pass e.g. “I will write it in their hearts…” (Jer 31:33), “A new heart I will give you…,” “a new spirit I will put within you…” (Ezek 36:26-27). Paul said the same, “The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

If this is understood, then properly speaking, Pentecost is Salvation Day! Peter stood up and gave an evangelistic message. It is not just a day to celebrate the gifts or revealed/experienced power of the Spirit, but the birth and work of the Church.

Having understood this, the next thing we need to be reminded of is how mission became the first and immediate impact of the start of the church and how central the work and presence of the Spirit is to all this. It is when the Spirit is working in our hearts and lives, that there is a ‘life’ to share. The Apostles were instructed by Jesus Himself and witnessed His death, resurrection and ascension. However, it is only after the Spirit came on them that they were able to do what the church is called to do.  

What should our posture be? Just as the disciples were praying and waiting with anticipation, we need to do likewise. It may seem such an ‘inactive activity,’ and yet it is always a prelude to some significant work of God in our lives. We should learn to wait for the promises of God to unfold. It is not inattentive waiting, where we go about our own business and if God works, so be it and shrugging it off when nothing is happening. It is a waiting which expresses a hope, longing and prepares us to receive His blessing. “I shall be found of you, when you seek me with all your heart,” as prophet Jeremiah has conveyed. And as the English clergy, John Keble, said in one of his Pentecost sermons on waiting, “The seed so thrown into the ground, though that ground might seem unkindly at first, will spring and grow up, you know not how, bringing forth “first the blade, then the ear, after that, the full corn in the ear.””

Just as the disciples were boldly proclaiming (in tongues, in words), likewise we should not be afraid to step out and exercise our faith. The gift of the Spirit was never meant to be domesticated, but to be used for witness.  And while at this, with a heart of praise, that God in His wisdom and power works through our history to call us to Himself. Bishop recently called us to “create space for God to act.” That space is created when we are praying, expecting and looking to Him for all things in our lives and that of the Cathedral.