The Glory of God is at Stake

The Glory of God is at Stake

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All 2018 October Vicar Writes

14 October 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Glory of God is at Stake

By Terry Wong

Last Sunday, PraySingapore was held on the weekend of Children's Day to celebrate families as building blocks of our society and to dedicate the next generation. Many married couples renewed their marriage vows. We also repented over our society’s widespread practice and tolerance of abortions.

It wasn’t an evening of finger-pointing. The church searched her own heart as we repented of our indifference, hypocrisy and lack of passion for the glory of God.

Photo
Courtesy of Thir.st

The event also focused our hearts on the Celebration of Hope (COH) evangelistic events next May in the same venue. We saw a very inspiring 1978 video of Billy Graham’s Rally at our National Stadium and the way Singaporeans responded during the altar call. Our bishop called on Christians to pray for opportunities to proclaim the good news to their friends and family in order to transform their homeland. Along with other pastors in Singapore, he believes that God is orchestrating a season in which “many people are going to find their way back to God through Jesus Christ”.

“We’re praying that every Christian in every church will arise and share the good news of Jesus, personally, with relatives, friends and acquaintances, so that they may know Him in whom alone is life,” he said. However, believers should not just view the event as merely just another evangelistic rally, but a “vital step in God’s process of revival” in Singapore. “People of God, we need revival. We need revival because the ground is hard, dark and opposing forces are many. And most important of all, the glory of God is at stake,” he said.

“Another reason we need a revival is there is a lack of righteousness in the land,” said the Bishop. Issues such as divorce, abortion, gender confusion, sexual brokenness, gambling and other vices permeate the culture, he said.

“It paints a picture of how much we must cry out for God to come upon the land. Only God can change the conduct and ethical life of the people here and bring them to saving faith in Christ." Christians in Singapore must acknowledge their brokenness and the fractures in the local body of Christ, and to pray for churches and organisations to work together “with one heart and mind for the harvest” and for God to lead them to spiritual victory.

Photo
Courtesy of Thir.st

“The single most important factor for revival – God’s revival – is prayer,” said Bishop Ponniah. “Let it be believing prayer, in a mighty God, whose love knows no bounds. Let it be beseeching prayer – we beg God and we don’t let go until it happens And let it be body-of-Christ prayer. Whether it’s in twos or threes, in your churches, or in gatherings such as these. Let us have beseeching prayer, that His glory may be seen in this mighty harvest.”

Bishop closed quoting Psalm 126:5: “Those who sow in tears will surely reap with shouts of joy.” If we are willing to sacrifice, pray passionately and work hard, we will see joyful results.

Our Cathedral will be fully engaged with Celebration of Hope. We will be holding prayer gatherings monthly, where Christians from other churches will be participating as well. We will be having three cycles of opportunities to share the Gospel: Christmas Outreach through our Connect groups in December, the Alpha Courses starting in February and from March onwards, preparations for COH.

The Cathedral community is also asked to support the Sunday 10.30am rally through ushering and this will be another opportunity to serve. In November, we will be sharing more details across our services.

Meanwhile, I ask that each of us pray and focus on the spiritual priorities before us, out of love for the Lord, His Church and our nation. It is through prayer that we keep a firmer grip or “traction” on this vision, ensuring that we are not “distracted" through pre-occupation with the worries and cares of life (or even church ministry or community matters). It is a common vision for His glory which will help to keep the cathedral strong and united, and where we do not allow differences to take centre stage. The words of our Lord in Matthew 6:33, to "seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added onto you” can be applied to Cathedral life. When we put first things first, other issues will find their own solutions and fit.

Note: Some excerpts of Bishop’s message were taken from a report of the Pray Singapore event at http://saltandlight.sg/news/the-glory-of-god-is-at-stake-declares-bishop-rennis-ponniah-at-praysingapore/

7 October 2018 | Vicar Writes

Choose from Among You

By Terry Wong

For the first time since I became the Vicar here, Bishop has posted a clergy to serve with us. We warmly welcome Revd Joshua Raj Sundaraj, his wife Santhi and their children, Joseph, Faith and Joy. There is intention some time next year to start a Tamil-speaking Service in SAC. Revd Joshua is effectively bilingual and I am sure he will be a pastoral blessing to our English-speaking community too.

As I have shared with PCC and my staff, as a “Mother Church”, we should endeavour to raise new clergy, deaconesses and pastors from our community. This is the answer I sometimes give when members ask me why I am not asking Bishop to post more clergy here. The pool of clergy is always limited, especially with missions needs as well in our six deaneries. Our gain here is a loss somewhere else. Likewise, when I served for 14 years in St James’ Church, I have not asked for someone to be sent in either. Instead very prayerfully, we pipelined potential pastors, clergy ordinands and missionaries for future needs, starting them off either in practical ministry as parish workers or going straight into biblical or theological training.

A clergy or pastor is shaped in community. These “proofing" and preparation processes take years.  Sometimes people think that whether a person should be ordained is solely Bishop’s choice. In our diocese, the process begins much earlier. The ordinands are often “bubbled up” through the life of the parish or offered by the parish community. The “bubbling up” process is a wonderful one, as a potential clergy discovers his calling through humble serving and being intertwined with a community, who will affirm his calling eventually. The disciples exhorted the early Christian community (Acts 6:3) “Choose from among you." Even as I speak, we already have in training or planning, those who have sensed this ministry calling. Some will eventually serve here or posted to serve elsewhere in other parts of the Anglican family.

In October, we hope to help our Cathedral community to be more aware of some of our community services and ministries. The Cathedral herself is directly involved via CITY Community Services which runs student care and befrienders club programmes in neighbourhood schools. We also run the Home for the Aged where we care for “homeless" seniors. We also cross cultures with our Befriending Migrant Workers ministry (BMW) and our Project Khmer H.O.P.E. This weekend, Ds Bessie Lee will be drawing attention to these. As always, we will need manpower and financial resources. If you like to help, please contact Pat Aw (pataw@citycomm.org.sg, CITY) or Adeline Hee at adelinehee@cathedral.org.sg (for BMW, PKH).

On the second weekend, we celebrate our Diocesan flagship medical work through the work of Singapore Anglican Community Services and St Andrew’s Mission Hospital (SACS/SAMH). We also want to draw attention to issues of mental health. Both Revd Gilbert Wong and Archdeacon Wong Tak Meng will be speaking at our Services. They are both familiar with hospital chaplaincy work and able to speak on how Christians can be more involved in these areas of care-giving and healing. A good number from our Cathedral community are already involved in SACS/SAMH as workers or volunteers.

On the third weekend, we will be observing Diocesan Healthcare Sunday. This is an annual event where we remember and honour our healthcare workers. And on the fourth, we are inviting the Director of Prisons Fellowship of Singapore, Andrew Tay to speak at our Nave morning Services. How much can the Cathedral community help ex-offenders who are willing to change? We will see.

Today (Sunday), we will be joining the PraySingapore event at the SportsHub. May it inspire many of us to pray “unceasingly” for His destiny to be fulfilled through this city-nation.

30 September 2018 | Vicar Writes

Don’t Ask Why

By Terry Wong

Imagine. You were holding a bunch of coins. A ten-cent coin dropped to the floor. It rolled under your bed.

Would you crawl under your bed and search for the lost coin? Apparently, you would.

You groped in the dark, sliding your palm and creeping your fingers and dusting your palm across the floor. The cobwebs tickled your nose as it pushed into the bed. You could hardly breathe, choking from the dust and gasping for clean air. You shut your eyes and let your fingers do the seeing. Breathing only when you needed to, your fingers continued to tap, slide and feel.

You thought you felt something metallic. But somehow, your palm sliding and gliding along the dusty floor, gave it another push. It moved further into the darkness of the nether regions of the bed. Sigh.

You sneezed again and then it happened. Your head jerked backwards. Grimacing from the pain, you are reminded of the kind of wood which your bed was made from. Especially if your skull felt the sharp edge of teak wood.

Thinking about the bunch of coins which you had set aside to do this search, any normal human being would have given up, don’t you think? After all, it is just one amongst the many you have.
It would be a nice end to the story if I were to tell you that this lost coin was special. That the bunch of coins you held at the start is a collection of vintage ones. And that the one which dropped and rolled happened to be very rare.

No, as I said, this is a ten-cent coin. It was the day it was minted and has remained so. Common and very normal. It is just change.

But you are anything other than normal. And so, you kept creeping on.

Finally your finger felt something. You quickly slapped your palm onto it. It was not going anywhere anymore. Digging it up with your finger nail and grasping it with your hand, you now slowly reversed yourself out of the bed. Your face was almost touching the floor. Better a dusty face than a swelling head. By now, your white T-shirt had mopped the floor.

You finally stood up. Coin in hand, you proudly shouted and announced to your children that you had found it. They rushed into the room, amazed not by your find but theirs, of a rather crazy, dusty and ridiculously-looking daddy.

This story does not make sense, does it?

You will respond in the same way listening to the three parables which Jesus taught in Luke 15.

Losing one amongst ten silver coins is not worth a troublesome and thorough sweep of the house, let alone announcing the find to her neighbours. She would have been a rather strange woman.

And who would leave ninety-nine sheep alone in the wilderness just to search for one which was missing? We would think the shepherd was negligent. And he has the audacity to throw a party after the successful search. It doesn't make sense.

And what about the unfilial “I wish you had died earlier” son? Squandering all his father's money away and grovelling at the dirt of life the way the man in my story did under the bed, he was a complete shame to his family. Again, he had the audacity to return to ask for forgiveness. The father ran to him, hugged and welcomed him. And like the other two parables, he celebrated his return with a huge feast. Whether we think the father or the son was prodigal (extravagant or rash), the fact is, again, this story does not make sense.

All three don’t, and include my fourth if you like.

The point is, we are only worthy because God deems us to be so. That is how he sees us. Not one amongst many, as if our worth is determined by how many replicates there are. Neither is there any intrinsic value in this lone object or person which deserves such a sacrificial search, extravagant response and celebration. As the song goes, “nothing you can do could make Him love you more and nothing you have done can make Him close the door."

It only makes sense if we realise that our worth is tied simply to how much He values us. That was what Jesus was trying to teach. It is a difficult and slippery grasp, I know.

He loves you. (John 3:16)
He searches for you. (Luke 15)
He died for you. (John 3:16).
He disciplines you. (Hebrews 12:6).
He will marry you. (Revelations 19:7).

You and I mean that much to Him. Don’t ask why. There is no answer to that.

It is just love.

23 September 2018 | Vicar Writes

I think the Dean was right

By Terry Wong

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full."  - Jesus Christ (John 10:10)

Have you heard a good talk or read a good book of late on friendship? It seems like it has fallen out of fashion, or relegated to an adiaphorous category, of something that is of little importance or inconsequential.

On the contrary, if you have watched Crazy Rich Asians or similar movies, it seems like romance is essential to life. That love is romance. And of course, sex being integral to that.

I can recall serving in the Cathedral as a young and eager deacon in the early nineties. I was charged with rewriting the marriage preparation material. I wrote up a new lesson on the importance of romance. My dean then was Bishop John Tan. I can still vividly recall how he frowned upon the need for a chapter on romance in a marriage preparation course. I harboured some thoughts in my heart as I quietly reacted: “What an old-fashioned idea! What a funless thought! Romance is essential to a good marriage.”

I can tell you this, as honestly as I possibly can. Twenty eight years later - of which twenty five is spent married to Jennifer - and having seen so many marriages fall apart, I must admit that Bishop John Tan was correct on many counts. Men and women have been bewitched by a misplaced importance on romance. A ten-year-old marriage (or less!) can hardly stand a chance when one party seeks to recreate the feelings of romance and physical intimacy they imagine the marriage should continue to have.

Meanwhile, the idea of friendship continues to fade and human family experience is impoverished. How ironic. The human existence is uniquely housed and structured in a family. It is here that we receive our identities as we are called from anonymity. It is here that we are given a name, a place, and a "mother tongue”. We learn to speak by being spoken to. Further, the language I learn to speak is not “mine" but “ours.” We find our identity within family and community.

Alas, such a family has no chance to grow as one spouse gets bored, distracted and walks out of the home. Children grow in a family-less existence. Meanwhile, glued to American sitcoms, they are told “gleefully” that true love is found in romance. They get married, often after a whirlwind romance. And then sooner or later, the romance fades. As quickly as "one can’t help falling in love”, they couldn’t help falling out of it either. It gets predictable. The vicious cycle continues.

The experience and concept of family disintegrate. And along with that our old friend - friendship herself. The thing is, what truly matters in life are good friendships. Friends whom we can walk together with through life. A community of friends whereby I discover who I truly am, where character is grown in the context of where I learn to be less self-occupied and more centred on the other.

For when our days are almost finished, when we have the luxury to contemplate on our death-bed and recollect life, it will be true friends and family whom we will treasure. Those who have not ravished us for their self gain. Those who have truly loved and given to us, enriching us for here and eternity. Those whom we have truly loved.

I know. It is old-fashioned. As old as the declarations we say every Sunday about the primary importance of loving God and our fellow man - as one would love oneself. Agape sits so strangely in the modern reductionist view of love. However it remains the guiding vision of the Christian life and I should say, “life” without any qualification. It is agape that founds the truly human, moral, and faithful life.

Don’t look for true love. Make your love true. And you will live life truly - and sanely - rich.

16 September 2018 | Vicar Writes

Caring For God’s House

By Terry Wong

"Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses,
while this house lies in ruins?"
Haggai 1:4

In my sermon last Sunday, as a point of illustration, I mentioned the state of our Nave’s facade. I should state upfront that this is a matter of concern for us in the leadership. Sharing personally, monument or not, I have always believed that we should be responsible for the state of our church facilities. Drawing from the principle stated in Haggai 1:4 (though it has a different context), we should treat the church better than we do our own properties.

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In Singapore, we do not let our own homes become dilapidated due to the lack of repairs and maintenance. In part, this also arises from a social responsibility where each home owner knows that the state of their building also affects their neighbours or precinct.

While keeping our grounds clean is easier, and something which is being done diligently, keeping the facade of our buildings new can be a challenge. Some of you should have noticed that repairs were done last year on our New Sanctuary facade and surrounding walkways. The facade of our Nave is another matter altogether. While it may seem like applying a coat of paint should be a simple job, the issue has been the state of the plaster. We have taken a few years to determine the formula for the plaster which can withstand our weather. Comparing notes with similar buildings in the region has been helpful.

For those of you who share our concern, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We have settled on the right formula and work should begin soon. This kind of works can take up to three years to complete. In preparation for next year’s national Bi-Centennial Celebrations, we hope to at least repair some of the external walls.
Along the same note on “repairing the broken walls,” Cathedral also bears the “Mother Church” responsibility. The Church of Christ our Peace will be dedicating their new building in October. We have contributed $500,000 from our property fund more than a year ago. Likewise, we are looking into contributing a significant sum to the rebuilding project of our Indian congregation, The Church of the Epiphany at Jalan Kayu. On top of these, there are needs in various community service and missions organisations which we have been supporting. Some are local and in our Diocese and others are overseas, including the work in our deaneries. Each need is evaluated carefully and prayerfully.

I mean to say that all these are made possible because of the dedication and generosity of each member (and visitor too!). You are trusting the church leadership to steward these resources wisely. Do continue to give generously. We have not been able to meet every request, though some of the needs are worthy of our support as there are limits to what the church can support. Your faithful giving will enable us to respond to more needs.

Talking about responsible stewardship, this is also one reason why we are reviewing the way we receive gifts for our Harvest Festival next Sunday, which will be celebrated in some of our Nave morning Services. In recent years we had growing difficulties managing the gifts in kind which we have received as very few local organisations want them, or have capacity to sort them. Therefore what we will do this year is to ask our children to bring fruits in during the procession. These will be given to our Home for the Aged. The amount will be regulated so that it is manageable and nothing is wasted. On top of that, members can contribute to our Harvest offering in cash or cheques through the use of some special envelopes. With that, we will coordinate with our 289 Fellowship of the Manger to distribute goods to needy families in Batam. We hope in doing so, the spirit of the Harvest festival is kept while a measure of continuity is retained.

9 September 2018 | Vicar Writes

A Breadth that takes your Breath away

By Terry Wong

I had a very full and eventful week. Preparing to teach the book of Revelation was challenging. I should add that the teacher is often blessed as he spends hours studying and digging into the Word. Unusually, I forgot to save my intense work of many hours and I had to restart. So, I was doubly blessed!

I also preached at the weekly chapel at Trinity Theological College on Wednesday. In such an academic setting, everything has to be scripted and submitted for the translator into Mandarin. It was stretching.

There were also side meetings to resolve various ministry challenges. On Friday evening, it was our Connect Group leaders meeting where we were all briefed on how we may organise our CG Christmas outreach and how it fits into our preparations for next year’s Celebration of Hope. Then on Saturday, it was my privilege to show appreciation to our Children Ministry teachers through one thing which I do reasonably well: cooking.

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Children Ministry Teachers' Day Celebration

The usual weekend preaching and leading Services ensued. I managed to sit in for Jeremy Gwee’s preaching at the eleven:30 Service. Being his first, I thought I should be there. Being a recent retiree after many years in banking and finance, he could connect with the congregation in a unique way, and issues of faith in the marketplace came alive. Jeremy is working at helping SAC to start an active marketplace ministry where we can draw alongside Cathedral members who are a part of society’s workforce, which of course includes many of us. We will let you know soon on what is being planned.

In the evening, I attended the 12th Anniversary dinner of New Charis Mission, where we celebrated this important work to youths at risk, the elderly, destitute etc. It was definitely a switch of gear but encouraging nevertheless to see the reach of the Gospel.

This pace was different, coming after a relaxing but moving visit to witness SAC’s PKH work in Cambodia in the previous week.

Meanwhile, the administration work hums along. The “swing the bell" project is making progress. We have heard back from the authorities but we realise we have a lot more work to do. We always say that the Cathedral is a “living monument.” We don’t just preserve past memories and tell them to present and future generations. We are also creating new stories for future generations. Our heritage is not just our colonial past. We are living a “future heritage”, which generations later will "remember and tell.” There will be new role models, added to the likes of Elizabeth Choy and Graham White. We don’t freeze in time and stop enriching the present. Our national monuments should not be just relics of the past and devoid of life and stories in the present. How we think will affect what we do, and it is my prayer that those entrusted with national responsibilities will help create a vibrant, creative and mutually owned environment.

My sharing this week simply points to the fact that the church and her witness is very diverse. There is beauty in this breadth that sometimes takes our breath away. It is not exhaustion, but one being overwhelmed by what the Lord is doing in every facet of life. One sees the beauty and breadth of His work and exclaims, “Let's praise the Lord”, which in Hebrew also means, Hallelujah!

2 September 2018 | Vicar Writes

Our Journey to Trang

By Terry Wong

Last week 39 Cathedral members and friends of Project Khmer H.O.P.E. (PKH) travelled by vans to the PKH Centre in Trang, nestled among several villages in the western part of Kampong Speu Province in Cambodia. For a part of our journey, we travelled through a scenic plantation area.

However, our vans stopped short of our destination when we were about 10 minutes away from the village. As it was the rainy season, our vans could not be driven on the dirt tracks without sinking into the soft mud. We had to cross that stretch on our feet and then rely on 2 four-wheel drive trucks to take us into the village. It was an adventurous journey. Perhaps, a parable of the journey PKH has taken in this frontier missions work.

When you walk into one of the poorest villages in a Third World country, what will you do? Assuming you have the language, you may go around and try to share the Gospel. If not, the translator can help you. The people may nod and smile. Some may even nod in agreement when you ask them if they want to say the “sinner’s prayer.” Whether it was a case of lost in translation, with that, you would think, “job done.”

Thankfully, that wasn’t the approach of PKH. They first visited the area in 2008. There, what they thought was “poverty”, was redefined. The national statistics of Cambodia indicate that in rural places like this commune, 90 percent of the people are illiterate; they have not had the chance for education. Many of these villagers are exposed to shame, poverty and exploitation. PKH was committed to rooting their help on a permanent basis. Short-term visits won’t do.

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The new Mission House in PKH Trang. The flags of Cambodia, Singapore and PKH fly high in this outpost.

After much prayer, reflection and interaction with the locals, PKH started the PKH (Anglican) Centre in Trang on 23 October 2014 to serve the tribal peoples of Suoy origin. This centre provides English tuition and before/after school care daily for over 300 children. Bible lessons and values are taught. The children are also fed and for most, this is their only meal for the day. Most of these children attend a nearby government school. PKH also helped to bridge the involvement of students from polytechnic schools in Singapore. They helped to complete various projects including the building of a new community hall.

When housing facilities were needed for our permanent staff and visiting mission teams, PKH embarked on a project to build a Mission House on the premises of the Centre. With the help of Andrew Tan (Mandarin Congregation) and his team, the construction of the Mission House was completed earlier this year, and it was our privilege to dedicate it to the glory of God, during the trip.

We also distributed food packs to 200 villagers. Some had travelled overnight across rivers and hilly terrain. With a coupon in hand, they collected a pack of a 15kg sack of rice, cans of sardine and soap. Balancing the packs of rice on their heads, they headed back to their homes. Members of our team also visited the homes of the students.

Over the years, some have gone beyond paying the occasional visit to PKH. Lim Wei Inn, on the staff of the Cathedral, is known for her ministry at our Welcome Centre and Cafe. In February, this year, she joined the PKH work at another Centre in Chbarmon which is currently helmed by Susan Goh and team. Wei Inn is very happy and fulfilled serving there.

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Wei Inn (3rd from right) with the trainees at the Chbarmon Centre.

We also witnessed the baptism of over 50 PKH staff and trainees. The annual Alumni dinner was also inspiring as we heard about the progress which some students have made. Officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation were all there, signalling the encouraging support by the authorities.

It is hard to understand the PKH work unless you pay a visit to Cambodia. Reading this is like reading Lonely Planet; unless you experience that place personally, you can only imagine.

My prayer is that more Cathedral members will get to visit this flagship work.

26 August 2018 | Vicar Writes

A People of Unclean Lips

By Terry Wong

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:5

For three evenings of 5th to 7th of August, Cathedral members gathered in worship and prayer. Joined by Christians from other churches, these "solemn assemblies” were a part of the 40-day prayer organised by Love Singapore and supported by many churches.

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In one of the evenings, Bishop Rennis led the gathering through a time of repentance on behalf of the Church. We prayed prayers of repentance over these:

  • Loss of First Love
  • Despising spiritual gifts
  • Irreverence towards God
  • Compromised/Distorted God’s truth
  • Casual Sex & Consumeristic Christianity
  • No true worship of God

We recalled that "it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God." (1 Peter 4:17)

Human frailty is a long human experience, even in the Church. The Bible itself does not conceal these realities, and the blemishes of saints are found in her pages. Our Church history is chequered with these failures, some more severe than others. In our generation, traditional values and social norms are under siege. It is harder than ever for even Christians to keep away from destructive addictive behaviours.

What we should be concerned with most is the loss of Christian conscience. It is quite possible - and perhaps already happening - for churches to alter their teachings to accommodate these new realities. And with that, we have also lost the need for and the experience of repentance. For we no longer weep over our sins or that of others. If what was reported in the Church in Pennsylvania really happened, then we should weep. If we do not care or just shrug it off, then we need to ask God to once again restore our conscience.

It may be the case that a few rotten apples do not tarnish the whole crate. However, if the rest of the crate does not deem it serious enough to take action or to preach/teach against it, our silence can be a form of complicity.

Perhaps we need to recapture a fresh vision of our Holy Lord. If we keep looking at our neighbours and culture, it is all too easy to succumb to the spirit of the age. Like the prophet of old, it is the vision of a holy God which helps us to see others and ourselves for who we really are. His light exposes the darkness of our hearts and the tragic consequences of our behaviour.

It should be our prayer that what happened during the season of Solemn Assemblies will be a continual experience in the life of the Church. "Pray that you may not enter into temptation," Jesus told Peter. He is saying the same to us today.

19 August 2018 | Vicar Writes

Being inspired by Saint Stephen

By Terry Wong
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Painting: The Stoning of Saint Stephen is the first signed painting by Dutch artist Rembrandt, painted in 1625 at the age of 19. Note that Saint Paul shares the same face as Saint Stephen, perhaps alluding to the fact that Paul will be sharing a similar fate. Rembrandt also painted his own face in it (just above Stephen’s), where he looked confused and uncertain.

I had the opportunity to reflect on the death of St Stephen at the morning services in the Nave last Sunday. I will do so again at the 5 pm Service today at the Servers' Festival where we will be dedicating the servers (deacons!).

However, St Stephen is primarily celebrated as the first martyr of the Church on record. St Stephen’s Day falls on the 26th of December in the church calendar. Overshadowed by Christmas, this is one reason why this day is seldom observed.

It is interesting that the word “witness” and “martyr” both share the same root word in Greek, μαρτυρία (marturia). This is captured in a focused way through the death of Stephen. He paid the price for witnessing to the Gospel (See Acts 6:8-10 for the reason which sparked his arrest and trial).

His life (and death) continue to speak to us. I am personally challenged, as like many Christians here, I find myself veering towards being politically correct in modern Singapore. I am barely willing to pay any price for Gospel witnessing. If the conversation gets too uncomfortable, change the topic! As we know, when we remain this way for too long, something dies within us. We are not testifying to the Gospel verbally and directly. Our faith is locked up in our hearts and within the four walls of the church. It has become private.  

Even our public voice as a church can become muted. We may hang Alpha banners on our fences but even these one-liners have to be comfortable to the public.

  • Explore the meaning of life.
  • You can ask why.
  • Got questions about life?

We are not doing anything that will remotely make us “stonable.” To be clear, I am not saying that we should ask for it. Peter has already said that if we get punished for doing what is wrong, we are just being foolish (1 Peter 2:20). But there will be moments, if we are witnessing for Christ, that what we are doing becomes unacceptable by others. Here is where courage and conviction is needed.

What will be the right thing to do? The right thing to say? The circumstances are too varied for me to provide the answers. However, the Celebration of Hope next year (May 2019) will help us to pray through this and level up on personal evangelism.

If your voice has been muted, it is time to pray and ask for the Lord’s help. That we may not be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) or of Christ and His words, which will be a basis for judgment on that Day (Mark 8:38).

I want to invite you on a journey of learning to live out your faith as a witness. In this season leading up to Celebration of Hope, together, we need to ask for the Lord’s help, that we may testify for Him. Training courses will be offered church-wide and in our Connect Groups. Canon J John has himself written a book on “Natural Evangelism” which you can purchase at the Welcome Centre.

Unless something radically changes in Singapore, we can be grateful that we need not shed a drop of blood in the process of being witnesses. But losing some sweat over it, I think, is in order.

12 August 2018 | Vicar Writes

On The Wings Of Each Generation

By Terry Wong

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep… Acts 13:36

It has been an amazing run of Solemn Assemblies, held in over 30 churches across our island over 40 days. Some were very simply led while others were more elaborate and well attended. It doesn’t matter. More importantly, we are gathering to pray as the Body of Christ.

Those who attended the three evenings in the Cathedral will be encouraged and inspired by the faith, passion and sense of His presence. Both in the assemblies in SAC and elsewhere, I notice that there is a “Singaporean culture” of corporate praying. It is spontaneous, audibly loud at times, especially when there is a “wave” of audible praying as people gather in small groups. When I was in Korea visiting a variety of churches, I notice they have a similar culture of corporate praying as well, which differs from us in Singapore in some ways. This "common prayer” (notice my oblique reference to the common prayer tradition amongst Anglicans) language helps the Body of Christ to function when she gathers.

One should no longer label it as “Pentecostal” or "Charismatic.” It is just a way of praying that has come to dominate prayer gatherings. In our own assemblies, we were able to incorporate liturgy, dances and choir items. But apart from that, any non-Anglicans who have been participating in other assemblies will be at home. Prayer unites. And may the Body of Christ continue to arise in passionate prayer out of love for our Lord, his Church and our nation.

One feature which marked some assemblies is the participation and leadership of young people. I can see that young leaders are emerging and heard across many churches, including our own. The assembly led by our young people was in particular, very inspiring.

It has been my prayer that many young “vision bearers” and "peer leaders" will be found in SAC. I use the word “vision-bearer” as often the young are directed by those who are older in many local churches. The vision is given to them and the young merely do as told. A vision bearer however is one who has a passion for their generation or peers and leads them.

Some have thanked me for giving place to the young to lead. I am merely leading from my own experience. By the age of 15, I was made to lead my youth group and it has been this way of “peer leadership” since then at every phase of my life. There were always older advisors in the background, providing the needed wisdom. But make no mistake about it, we were leading and bearing the vision for our generation. We made many mistakes of course, but through them I grew. I learnt to discern His purpose for my own generation, pray, seek His will, make decisions and more importantly, and for better or worse, be a “peer model” on how to live for Christ. Peer influence is huge. As we share the same cultural milieu, naturally, we are inspired by peers who live differently. And as I lead, I strengthen my muscles to lead in the next phase.

This is one reason why we need to give a lot of space for the younger amongst us to lead and grow. We always say that they are the “future church.” I will say they are the church now! Take away this space and I will say that the local church will have a lot to lose in her mission, witness, community life and ministry. As an aside, those who attended the opening of the mini-exhibition of “The Cathedral in the War Years" will notice many younger people serving in the Heritage Committee. This is a first “mini-step” with more to come as this group is indeed passionate about heritage.
 
I was away on a vacation in the midst of this 40-day prayer season, something planned from last year. We celebrated our 25th anniversary and our wider family joined in later. I have to confess that I too felt the wear and tear of being here on earth for over 55 years. My joints and back were aching from the cycling, trekking, rafting (this did it) and lots of walking. I dare not complain for my young nephews and nieces took it all in good stride!

The thing about being an “elder” is that we are completed by the presence of the young. We are not truly elders if the young are missing. Or if they are present, miserable and still in need of the umbilical cord (one can almost spell it “unbiblical”!). When the young arise, the old would know they have been doing their job.

We won’t take any credit though. We serve God in our generation, they serve Him in theirs. May the church be built on the wings of each successive generation.

5 August 2018 | Vicar Writes

O What A Week!

By Terry Wong

We had three very engaging events in the week that has passed.

Canon J. John was in town to encourage and inspire church pastors and leaders to prepare for next year’s Celebration of Hope (17-19 May). Those who attended the event on Tuesday were undoubtedly moved and reminded again of the importance of sharing the Gospel. A beautiful sponsored tent was set up to host the pastors’ luncheon.

The same tent was used for the Alpha Intro Dinner the next evening. 160 guests were present and it was a meaningful and highly enjoyable event. Please continue to pray that these guests will continue to attend the course and that new ones will join in as well. The small groups are being formed. As always, the small group experience is unique for first-time guests. The sharing, openness and meaningful discussions are indeed the highlights of the Course.

This is a little known fact: it is the guest’s experience of the church community which makes every course unique and effective. Or otherwise. The video talks do play a part in communicating the Gospel but it is the small groups that bear witness to the love and truth of Christ.

The third event was the fund-raising dinner for the Jurong Church Building project on 27 July.  50 tables were bought. The Mandarin and English congregations were well represented. Please continue to pray that land and facilities will become available soon.

Most theological and bible schools begin their academic year in July. Barnabas Sim and Christopher Ng (Acts Centre) have started their MDIv studies in Trinity Theological College (TTC), Yuri Seki as a full-time student and Moses Israeli (Myanmar Worship Service) already at mid-point of his TTC studies. Do keep them in your prayers.

Sometimes people ask: why spend three to four years learning from just one book (Bible)? There isn’t space here to explain in detail why church pastors and leaders - from ages past till now - have taken education seriously. Suffice for me to say here: “You will now know what you don’t know.” And it is not just about head knowledge, but good education should always lead to spiritual formation. The perplexities of life (which I just preached on  from the Book of Ecclesiastes) mean that Christian education need to go deeper and more foundational.

I should add that SAC is working hard at making theological and biblical education more accessible for lay Christians. It is a long term project and we praise the Lord that we are having a good start with the DCBS programme.

Another source of education is reading. For those interested in knowing more about the history and theological aspects of the Anglican Church, I will recommend “The SCM Study Guide on Anglicanism” by Stephen Spencer.  This book introduces the various facets of the Anglican Church as she evolves from the English Reformation in the 16th century. At our resource section in the Welcome Centre (Cafe), we also have carefully chosen books to help Christians to grow in their faith. Check it out.
 
Lastly, see you this week at our Solemn Assemblies, which begins on Sunday night at the Cathedral New Sanctuary. Let’s gather in the name of the Lord and join the wider
Body in praying for the nation.

29 July 2018 | Vicar Writes

Assembling Together

By Terry Wong

“We are entering a season of God’s amazing visitation upon the church and upon the land. It’s all because of God’s merciful heart and unstoppable purpose. I believe it will be a visitation of the Lord that leads to a radiant holiness, a bumper harvest of souls, righteousness in the land and a marvellous raising of Kingdom workers for the mission fields of the world…..And I know that such a Visitation of the Lord is undergirded by a Church that gives itself to prayer and fasting.”

These are some faith-filled and prophetic words which our Bishop shared in his Lent message.

We are indeed in a special season of prayer and fasting. Christians have been gathering in “solemn assemblies”, patterned after Joel 1:14:

"Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD."

We gather because we desire to see His purpose fulfilled in and through the Church and the Nation of Singapore. This desire leads to prayer as we seek to align our priorities with His Kingdom’s. And in praying and worshipping, this desire is fuelled as well. Desire begets prayer and prayer begets desire.

In assembling, we also mutually encourage each other to seek first His kingdom. This is something that is often lost in our modern church. The church, right from her early days as recorded in the Book of Acts, gathered frequently to “stir each other to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). After all, the word “church” is rooted in the Greek term ekklesia, which means assembly.

My years in NUS were spent living as a stay-in student at Raffles Hall. There, Christians met regularly to pray and fellowship. We “assembled” almost on a daily basis. Those were very formative years. Recently we had a reunion (see photo). It was very moving. We looked back and realised that those were “revival years”. Our lives were changed forever and much of what we are today were seeded on those few years together.

That period of our lives was special and difficult to re-enact as we went separate ways and started our working lives.

This is why I have always espoused that the community life of the church is important. As a church family, whenever we can, we should value these assemblies.  A spiritually rich community will bear much fruit. We have a unique opportunity in this season. The Cathedral is also hosting three assemblies on 5th, 6th and 7th August (Sun-Tues), starting at 7.30pm at CNS. I encourage all of us to practise fasting during that period, including the 8th if possible. It can range from a full fast to foregoing a meal per day. What is important is to be intentional to set aside time and energy to pray and seek the Lord.

We pray. We desire. We fast. Together.

Photo
22 July 2018 | Vicar Writes

Life and Death

By Terry Wong

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15

We bid farewell to May Chew, Lois Soo and Wendy Woon last weekend. Do you know that the Bible talks a lot about death? Let me explain. The Bible is not a scientific manual to be treated as an ancient codebook for science which today’s scientific inquiries can never probe or contradict. It is not an IT manual or a cookery book.

It is a book about life.

It is about the core matters that are at the heart of human lives, how the human persons relate to each other (social) and to God (spiritual) and to the world (creation). It focuses on many issues which form the fabric of life. The Book of Ecclesiastes (currently a sermon series for 9 am Service) is one such example.

Now, death is "un-life", at least life as we know it here on earth.   

The Bible focuses on death simply because it is focused on life itself, including the end of it and where it leads from there (after-life). The Gospels are unusual biographies. Most biographies leave death to the last chapter or last few paragraphs. The gospels devote more than half of their material on Jesus’ death. For the life of Jesus is centred on his death-mission.

It talks about time because our life here is marked by time. The Book of Revelation looks at our time and beyond it.  

When you really think about it, the death of a saint is not a postlude of life. It is a culmination of a life - whether well or badly lived. The Bible makes it clear that death is a comma, not a period, in the sentence of life.

The Church has always talked about the communion of saints. Jesus stood up to receive St Stephen when he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60). We were told (Psalms 116:15) that the Lord intently gazed at the death of every saint. Jesus said himself on a few occasions, “Remember me.” You do not need to embrace ancestral worship to be connected to your loved ones who have died. There are very rich Christian and biblical ways to celebrate these connections and to live our lives in a way where we are conscious of those who have gone before us (Hebrews 12:1-3). In fact, every Sunday, we let those who are long gone and dead speak to us. I am referring to our Bible-based sermons.

If you are seated in the Nave, remember that it has a cruciform shape. The cross was an instrument of death. In fact, much of our liturgy and hymns focus on the issues of life and death.  

Life and "unlife" truly matters.

One day, we will all gather before His throne. Do spot out for May Chew, Lois Soo and Wendy Woon.

15 July 2018 | Vicar Writes

Shepherding People Into The Kingdom

By Terry Wong

St Andrew's Cathedral is hosting three Solemn Assemblies next month, from the 5th to 7th of August, starting at 7.30 pm nightly. If you have been attending some of these being held elsewhere, it will help you to participate in those hosted here. These are prayer meetings with a difference. Though hosted in local churches, you get a very strong and unique sense of praying, as a people of God. We are expecting a crowd as some churches are busing their members in. We are also including the needs of foreigners in these assemblies. Do mark the dates!

We want to continue to be able to provide refreshments after some of our Services. I have already reflected on the “Importance of Makan” in my Vicar Writes (VW) on 23rd June. For those at the 8 am breakfast, members are encouraged to contribute some donations in the boxes provided. We have resorted to catering as the numbers have increased.

Excitement has been building up for the next run of Alpha Course. We are able to host the Introductory Dinner on 25th July in an air-conditioned tent because it will be erected for another earlier event by our Diocese. However, we want to work at “quality participation”, where the SAC community is working through their Connect Groups to invite their non-believing friends. As far as possible, every participant should have a good reason to be there.

The Baptism Course has just started. While baptism courses are managed by a staff team, Service Pastors and their teams take turns to be engaged with the teaching and pastoral care. We also have small groups to continue the small group experience for our guests. We remind ourselves that every person seeking to grow spiritually in SAC is important and deserves the best of our support.

I had an opportunity last week to visit and serve Communion to May Chew, who is under palliative care. I am aware that this special mention raises questions as to why we are not also mentioning others. I am doing so to remind ourselves that each member of our SAC family is precious and her situation represents those who, though out of our sight, should never be out of our minds. May Chew pioneered some of the early efforts at starting Myanmar English classes for foreigners on our grounds. She will be glad to know that today, this is a thriving ministry.

Shepherding and pastoring is at the heart of Cathedral work, whether it is shepherding people into the Kingdom of God, spiritually or physically. Much of these happen quietly on a daily basis. I have shared on “Proximity” in the 10th June issue of VW, where I shared about the image of a shepherd holding the young in his bosom (Isaiah 40:11). May we have close to our hearts, what is close to His.

8 July 2018 | Vicar Writes

Helping The Cathedral To Dig Deeper

By Terry Wong

I am continuing with the tone from last week, where I asked for participation.

The next Alpha Course is coming up. Revd Hambali and team will be leading in the organising of this round. The key to a good Course rests with each of us. It is not about the creative publicity or quality of food. Think and pray about a friend to invite. Each Service should work at forming the small groups. The strength of each Course rests on the dynamics of the small group. If we have a small group host team that cares, prays and meets up by themselves to evaluate how they may serve their seekers better, it will improve the Alpha experience for each seeker. It will be easier for this to happen if the host team comes from the same Connect Group or Service. They should bring their guests back to the Services and Connect Groups post Alpha.

My point is this: we may have the best of facilities, the best of programmes (and indeed the Alpha Film series is excellent), excellent home-cooked food, great welcoming atmosphere and so on. But it is the care and commitment of the small group hosting team which will make the Course special and life-changing for the guests. This is also very much in line with our Small Group approach (ABCDE) in the way we organise our Cathedral ministry. In sharing this, I hope to encourage your prayerful participation.

Do you know that there are security concerns every weekend when so many are gathered? SAC is very porous. We do employ security guards. But your eyes are important. Stealing, harassing, molesting, cheating and so on do happen in churches! And the innocent young do need to be protected. There is also the issue of safety. I love the koi pond at the north-east garden. But do you know that an unattended child can easily fall into it? So, if you notice anything amiss, do let the staff know. And if appropriate, do something about it.

Correspondingly, there are people with deep needs in church. The pastors do their best but your hearts are important. If you notice someone in distress, reach out. If you see someone by himself or herself, quietly and alone, maybe greeting the person can be a way of showing some care. And if further help is needed, and you are not able to assist, let the pastoral staff know.

As for administrative efficiency, the church operation staff are seeking to grow and improve all the time. We are looking into better ways to communicate, to respond to enquirers, to follow up on requests, to help SAC to be a welcoming place, sensitive to the needs of visitors and so on. There will always be gaps and here is where your feedback can be helpful. Not every feedback can be practicalised, of course, but we will listen. In fact, some feedback has helped us to do some things better.

We do want SAC to be a church that “makes sense” where things are done well, good policies are made and where we are never afraid to improve to keep up with societal changes. There are deep and rich resources in the community.

The Church is digging deep when each of you participates.

Note: If you like to volunteer, please email info@cathedral.org.sg or call 63376104.

30 June 2018 | Vicar Writes

You Can Make A Difference

By Terry Wong

A few months ago, we made an appeal at a Town Hall meeting for volunteers to serve in our English teaching class for Myanmar folks on Sunday. A few responded and as a result, the classes today have multiplied. A new befriender ministry has also started with walkabouts to chat and reach out to the foreigners on our grounds. One of our staff proposed to the Myanmar Worship Service (MWS) leaders to move the post-service refreshments to the tented area near the Nave. This brought them closer to the grounds. All in all, the response has been good and on recent weekends, the MWS is almost reaching 200 in attendance. We have also received various feedback and suggestions and we can say that on a whole, we are getting closer to a good balance of outreach and boundaries.

I met up with Revd Dickson Chiu this week, who serves as our chaplain for Cathedral Home for the Aged. This is, literally, a ministry for the “homeless.” For various reasons, they are not able to have their own roof over their heads. Such are 'need' gaps which the church needs to continue to fill. There are many volunteers who are serving and visiting. That is really appreciated. But more help can be given to reach them spiritually and socially. Perhaps some of you can consider helping?
 
We have an active Heritage Committee. Cathedral is blessed with many points of interest, physical and historical. It is our way of blessing our wider society by being good custodians of our heritage. Along with that, precious opportunities to share the Christian message. In fact, a mini exhibition of the Cathedral in the War Years will be held in August. Much work needs to be done: research, archiving, writing etc. Can you help?
 
Some of us may be unaware that Cathedral is also running a Childcare Centre in Jurong. The pre-school landscape has gone through massive changes. It is currently below capacity in spite of the low fees. In a new season, how may we strengthen this work? Can you help?
 
Acts Centre is our church plant, led by Revd Michael Lim. They have been facing some challenges as well. But the opportunities are there, as they are worshipping in the midst of a growing neighbourhood. Being a small congregation, their resources are limited. They need help in various areas including worship etc. In this new season, we are stepping up our efforts to help them grow into an independent congregation or parish one day. I cannot imagine how SAC can start a new church plant if our current ones are struggling. Can you help?
 
The list goes on, on the various ways you can make a difference. I leave the rest to another Vicar Writes. A little here, a little there, but together, the accretion swell of energy and time (=love!) will make a lasting difference. That said, one of the most significant differences we can make as Christians is to pray.
 
When we pray, we become alive to God’s purposes. We become more aware of His will that needs to be "done on earth as it is in heaven.” Every night from 1 July to 8 August, there is a "solemn assembly” - a worship and prayer gathering - in various churches across the city. No skill is needed. Just a lot of heart and love.
 
Will you make a difference?
 
Note: If you like to volunteer, please email info@cathedral.org.sg or call 63376104

23 June 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Importance of Makan

By Terry Wong

Have you wondered why we try to serve some kind of drinks and/or food after every service?

“Makan” after the Myanmar Worship Service
"Makan" after the Myanmar Worship Service

About more than a year ago, the 4.30pm Service started serving refreshments after the service every week. A regular member commented that “this was the best thing that has happened to this service.”

We go back in history to recall that most of the early Christian gatherings happened in small groups. And people sat facing each other. We get glimpses into how they worship through the writings of Paul (as one example) and many of his injunctions in 1st Corinthians make sense in a small gathering where there is communication amongst Christians as they worship. Read Paul’s concerns over the use of spiritual gifts. Or the behaviour of some when the Lord’s Supper meal was served. Oh yes, the communion then was a lot more than a piece of wafer and wine dip. Or take Hebrews 10:24,25 as another example, where Christians were told to encourage one another as they gather to worship.

Worship in the Jewish synagogues was also done this way. In fact some of the early words used for church, such as "ekklesia”, means assembly.

My point is this: interpersonal interactions between Christians should always be an important part of worship. This is quite lost in our large theatre-style worship, common in modern cities. In the Cathedral, because of back-to-back services, worshippers have to "clear the pews” quickly. This means that post-service chatter (“Hi, Tony. Let me introduce a friend...”) or ministry to each other is not possible.

If there is post-service refreshments, the service continued as the congregation moves to another location to "eat, meet and greet". We are introduced to guests.
We find out that a member is going through some health difficulties. We chat about the sermon and learn further from it. Where people meet, ministry will happen. And over time, the congregation becomes a community.

This is the same thinking behind the setting up of the cafe. It extends further the blessing of community, permitting people to gather on all days of the week.

I could go on and on about the blessings of community. When it comes to worship, there is a time to be alone. Just as we are before God. But there is also a time to commune. For the other can often reveal so much about me. I need the other.

I leave you with some memorable words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone... Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”

― in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

16 June 2018 | Vicar Writes

Camps & Gatherings

By Terry Wong


By the end of this week, both Jennifer and myself would have attended all five Service Camps in SAC!

We count it a real privilege to experience the life, ministry and ethos in each congregation and the different ministry which each speaker brings. These points are good to note:

In total, we have more than 600 campers participating in these Camps.

Each Service Camp undoubtedly enriches the life, vision and ministry of each congregation.

In each of them, there were good small group discussions based on what the speaker has taught. This reminds us again of the importance of our connecting our sermons with Connect Group discussions.

Adequate time was given to personal ministry, where people were individually prayed for. Space and time need to be created for this, which can be a challenge in our Nave Services.
There was good staff-lay partnership in the organising and leading of each Camp.

Will there be a Combined Camp in 2019? It will be unlikely as we need to focus on the Celebration of Hope Rallies in 17-19 May. It is likely that in 2020, Service Camps will be organised again.

Sometimes people ask me if having different distinction in our Services will lead to disunity. We believe that we should give priority to the pastoring of every individual and work at a rich community life. The unity between Service Pastors and their leadership teams are also strong and we do care for the wider SAC vision even as we build up each Service. Diversity in the way Anglicans worship should be embraced even as we each lean towards a particular worship culture.

It is also encouraging to see so many lay leaders serving, including traditional clergy responsibilities like preaching, teaching and visiting the sick. Our Service pastors appreciate and need every help, and as long as all our hearts are marked by Christ-like virtues like humility, mutual submission, prayerfulness and so on, each Service will thrive as everyone rises to serve.

Photo

Switching gears, we are encouraged by the good response and effectiveness of our Befrienders ministry to Myanmar visitors on our grounds. The team of volunteers headed by Lee Yew Seng have done work for 2 Sundays now. 8 visitors so far have responded to their interactions/invitations and turned up at the Myanmar Service.  The English classes have also grown. This outreach will also make it easier for SAC to administer a needed measure for security and order in a personal and friendly way. We still need more volunteers. Do read the bulletin for more info.

The Solemn Assemblies are around the corner. It is unprecedented to see the Body of Christ here praying this way. Every evening from 1st July to 8th August, there is a prayer gathering in at least 4 churches or locations. The focus is for our beloved nation and God's destiny for her. We will give more practical information on how to get to these gatherings closer to the dates of the events.

10 June 2018 | Vicar Writes

Proximity

By Terry Wong

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

Isaiah 40:11

We spent much of last Monday (28 May) sitting at the feet of Revd Dr Gordon Wong's teaching on Isaiah 40 at the 9am Service Camp. The eleventh verse of this passage caught my attention.

The shepherd gathers, guides, and carries. When the journey gets too difficult, he will carry the young ones (lambs) and hold them close to his chest. He has them in a close embrace. He cares, not from a distance, but at close proximity.

As I reflect on this verse, the fact is none of us can be truly independent. There are many moments in our lives when we need to be gathered, guided, and even ’carried’. In some seasons this need for help from another becomes more obvious. In 1 Timothy 5, St Paul laid out practical instructions on how we should care for those who are more vulnerable in the church, such as widows. But the need for shepherding extends to all. Isaiah 53:6a says, “All we are like sheep who have gone astray.” Like someone who is lost, we need help to find our way back. This may surprise some of you, but there are also many moments in my life where I feel lost and in need of being guided by someone else.

So much can be said about shepherding and how central this is to the life of the church. Spiritual and even political leaders need to grasp this concept of leadership. Even in using the term "leadership", I run the risk of undermining this deeply ancient and biblical idea.

Primarily, I am not called to “lead” the church. One can say that in modern times, leadership can be overrated. It is when a leader learns to be a shepherd that true leadership is exercised. For we serve our Lamb of God who is a Shepherd Himself who had laid down His life for His sheep. Whether you are a pastor, Connect Group leader or a cabinet minister, if one learns to shepherd the people, his leadership influence will be a lasting one. And like this image in Isaiah 40:11, this includes being able to embrace those who need it.

I am tempted to do the usual and use the word “weak” to describe those who are in need. In my previous church, there was a cleaner who loves the Lord and is always joyful. She had to work hard to take care of her handicapped son. From time to time, she will stuff a ten dollar note in my hand. My first reaction is to refuse it until I realise that she did not want to come across as someone to be pitied. I realise I am serving her by accepting her little gift. It was her joy and pride to give.

It is a lifelong lesson for me. Just look around you when you are in the Cathedral. Pause and give some time to those who are seeking a listening ear.  Just consider this, everyone, to some degree or another, needs a shepherd. To care for someone, will involve giving some of your time and energy. I know another clergy who defines love as energy and time. This is it. Love is not an emotion. It is action that involves giving of energy and time. 

If the Cathedral community can be a caring and “proximating" community, she will be moving in the right direction as far as being a church is concerned. Outreach to our wider surrounding community and overseas missions will naturally follow when we bear the marks of our Great Shepherd.

I am aware that the Vicar and the team of clergy and pastors set the pace. Pray that we will never miss the mark of what church leadership is all about.

3 June 2018 | Vicar Writes

Artist Impressions of the Pavilion

By Terry Wong

Those at AGM would have heard about the proposal for a Pavilion to be built at the North Lawn, which faces Peninsula Plaza and Capitol. This has been advised by the Preservation of Monuments Board (PMB) and URA. When the pavilion is built, we will have to remove the unsightly temporary tents next to the Nave. This pavilion will allow for many types of community gatherings, large or small. We have some artist impressions here which are early drawings to help give us some visuals. Details are still being worked out by the Building Development Committee co-chaired by Keith Chua and Lee Chi Kuan.

View from the North Lawn
View from the Chapel and Cafe corridor
View from Capitol
27 May 2018 | Vicar Writes

In Our Church Lord, Be Glorified

By Terry Wong

 

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed
you would see the glory of God?”
  John 11:40

 

I was at the Leadership Conference hosted by Holy Trinity Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur during the first part of the week. It is unique in capturing the contemporary cultural milieu of global cities and very much in touch with how the Christian faith is lived out in the world.
 
We heard stories from advocates of justice for the poor and helpless, a journalist serving in war zones, the pioneer-owner of Grab, governmental advisors and so on. They share about how their faith motivates and affects the way they work.
 
It is also a reminder that we need to continue to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as we will never know who will be open to it and how it will impact their lives and work. As a pastor, I am also reminded of the role of the church to “equip the saints” for ministry. The real action is not within the four walls of the church. It is out there. The church needs to continue to be a rich community of faith, love and support. I saw a good number of Anglican clergy in this Conference and I am sure our hearts and minds have been stretched.
 
It is not about copying methods but capturing values. We have a range of services and ministries here in SAC. We have chosen the path of accommodating a spectrum of worship styles. The challenge for us is to have these rooted in deep Scriptural values and to have a  quest for excellence in everything we do. We pray that every Service, ministry and connect group will seek to glorify God and pursue His heart in everything we do.
 
SAC is a unique Cathedral and parish. In each generation, we seek to fulfil our calling and destiny. This is something which each of you can contribute to.
 
Vision 2020 will set the direction for us in these three years. I have written about this in the Courier. Do read and sense what the Lord is saying. These three years will also be a season of building expansion. We need to be good stewards of the space, land and facilities entrusted to us, and translate these into ministry and worship use. We are not only meeting current needs but building for future generations. We are thinking of a Cathedral which our children can be inspired to love and serve in.
 
But building is not just about brick and mortar. Building a Christ-centred and God-glorifying community takes time. And this is where I want to urge each of us to pray and constantly seek first His Kingdom in the way we relate to each other or in the way we make decisions which will affect the destiny of our lives, ministries or that of the Church. Each decision made and value experienced which is Christlike moves the Cathedral forward in the right direction.  
 
Brick by brick, step by step, prayer by prayer, hymn by hymn. We patiently and faithfully serve as co-workers with the Lord to build His Church. May each generation experience and see His glory.
 
As we have sung in the old hymn, “In our Church Lord, be glorified.”

18 May 2018 | Vicar Writes

Pentecost Existed Before Pentecost

By Terry Wong

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

The Jews had 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 commemorated the events in Exodus 19-20. According to the Scriptures, the law was given fifty days after the Passover. As a text from the Hebrew liturgy of Shauoth says, “This day ofthe 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, in the new Pentecost, 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, butthe birth and work of the Church.

Having understood this, we also need to be reminded of how mission became the first and immediate fruit of the birth of the church. And indeed, how central the work and power 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 was 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, we need to do likewise. Praying may seem such an ‘inactive activity,’ and yet it is always a prelude to some significant work of God in our lives. Just as the disciples were patiently waiting, likewise we should learn to wait for the promises of God to unfold. Just as the disciples were boldly proclaiming (in

tongues, in words), likewise we should not be afraid to step out and exercise our faith. As some have noted, the gifts of the Spirit

were never meant to be domesticated, but to be used for witness.

This will be needed in this season of prayer and evangelism (leading up to Celebration of Hope in 2019). This is the posture we will need to have as we enter into the season of “Solemn Assemblies” from 1 July to 8 August, 2018.

We welcome Bishop Kuan Kim Seng to our Confirmation Service at 9am. He is officially retiring in June but as long as the Lord gives him good health, we know that he will continue to serve the Lord. We also welcome Revd Chua Wee Hian and Archbishop Ben Kwashi (Jos Diocese, Nigeria) to our Services.

We rejoice at Revd Hambali Leonardi’s ordination to the diaconate last Sunday. He will join the 8 am clergy team and will continue to serve as Service Pastor of the eleven:30 Service.

13 May 2018 | Vicar Writes

“The Cathedral Is Not Important…”

By Terry Wong

There is something about evangelism - sharing the gospel with another - which touches the core of our faith. I thought Pastor Daniel Ho did that when he spoke at three of our Services last Sunday. Somehow, we were brought back to something that is basic, primal and “home.”

As I look back at my own life, those moments when I led a person to Christ felt like I have touched heaven.

On many occasions, Jesus Himself asks us to share the gospel. It was the first thing the early Christians did when the Holy Spirit filled them: they worshipped and witnessed. Worship is witness. Worship is often done in public because when we worship, we are witnessing about His goodness to others. Jesus has said that if we do not worship-witness, the very stones will cry out! If we can only worship within the confines of the church but not in the world, then we need to re-examine our faith.

We cannot share something we do not have or be a witness to something we have not experienced. The authenticity of our faith comes to the fore when we are sharing the gospel. The reverse is also true: we may not be sharing our faith if we are not walking in it.

If as a church, we are not concerned about the Gospel, we will miss the very heart of why the Church exists. We may do missions activities or feed the poor. But if the gospel is never preached, and the salvation of others not longed for, we will have missed the mark.

I had an unforgettable meeting with Canon J. John on a hot afternoon in 2016, soon after I became Vicar of the Cathedral. It sounded like a chance meeting but I believe it was a divine appointment. He said, “Terry, the Cathedral is not important. Forget about her. Instead, focus on the Gospel. Give top priority to it.” It came from someone who is twice a canon and an adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury on evangelism.

I got what he was trying to say. The glory of the church is about her Lord. And it is Him whom we are constantly worshipping and testifying to. The gothic building, the location, our rich history and heritage may be important and have their place. However, it is the good news we carry which is far more important. We should not confuse the content with the packaging. St Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay…"

I believe that the Celebration of Hope (COH - 17-19th May 2019), like previous national initiatives, has the potential to call the church back to her first love. I find it providential and amazing that it is the same J. John who will be the main rally speaker at these COH events. When he said those words two years ago, he had no idea that one day, the Lord will task him to lead a Mission which will involve the Cathedral.

The Cathedral has one monthly meeting which meets at an unusual time: 7.14 pm. It serves to remind us of 2 Chronicles 7:14:

“If My people, who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Pause and read this carefully. Hear the message afresh. This promise is rich in meaning and I will unpack it on another occasion. But last Sunday, the organ played a prelude during the communion of a music popular in the Church in the mid-70’s which was written for this verse. I actually woke up this morning with this tune in my head.

“If My people…” This is what our Father is saying.

6 May 2018 | Vicar Writes

Thanksgiving and Prayer

By Terry Wong

We had another wonderful time at the monthly Prayer and Praise last Friday. Let's continue to encourage each other to seek the Lord and be prayerful. Many are serving in various areas of ministries. It is a good sign that those who are serving are praying together. Prayer binds hearts together as we recognise His Lordship in our midst. As a Vicar, I am keenly aware that my ministry is sustained and guided in daily prayer.

The turnout at the AGM last Sunday was very encouraging. There are some indicators of growth and I present some statistics that were shown at the meeting.

Thank you for being present. Thank you for your faithful support, service and giving which have enabled the Cathedral to fulfil her calling.

A new PCC has also been elected. I want to take this opportunity to thank our outgoing members — Low Chung Guan, Samantha Lee, Sarah Liew and Esther Yee — for serving with us. Much was shared at the AGM.

There is a destiny that the Lord has for the Cathedral when the idea of a church in this part of the city was first thought of by Sir Stamford Raffles. That destiny is being lived out and is still unfolding constantly as we “pursue the Heart of the Father” in alignment with what is in His heart. It is not about doing the right activities, but having the right focus. As I mentioned during the Leaders' Conference in 2016, it is about returning to our first love. When the Church in Ephesus was warned in Revelation 2:4 about losing one's first love, in Greek it meant a “shift in focus.” It is terribly easy to turn our eyes from the Lord even as we continue serving. It is our personal prayer in our life and walk with Him which will help us to re-centre. Needless to say, if we are living in sin, that will stand in the way and will continue to cloud our vision and heart attitudes.

Our hearts need to be continually broken before Him. Revival in our church and city will need to start with personal revival.

We are looking forward to the 40 day season of prayer (1st July to 8th August) along with the rest of our Diocese and the wider Body of Christ. I am looking forward to a focused season of prayer and fasting for the destiny of our nation. Do prepare to join in. Passion often grows from discipline and commitment. May each of us discover or rediscover a new love for the Lord and a life centred on “seeking first His Kingdom."

The 7am and 5pm Services concluded a wonderful Camp recently. We have four more Service Camps to go! Each represents a pocket of community where the Cathedral is small enough for unhurried personal interaction and I am glad for the opportunity to do so with some participants. The organising teams have tried to keep the costs low. We will seek to do our best to help those who really want to participate but lack the financial means. I believe each Camp will be a “divine appointment” and there will be both small and great blessings from each.

We welcome Pastor Daniel Ho to our 8am, 9am and 11.15am Services today. He is the founding pastor of Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Petaling Jaya. He has since retired and is currently giving priority to training church leaders and doing ministry in the marketplace. He has a passion for evangelism and a heart to see revival in the Church. Do welcome him and open our hearts to his ministry.

29 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

A Time For Every Matter

By Terry Wong

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

I don't remember missing an AGM ever since I joined a church when I was 13. It is just a sense of responsibility and how I saw my church as a family. In fact, if you are not a legal member but one in heart, you are most welcome to join in.

I have prepared a separate message from that written in the report which has more the future in mind. I sense we are at an exciting season of opportunity and that this generation of SAC members is being led by the Lord for a new season of witness and ministry.

The present is never better than the past. It is just different. When CNS was built, we had the wonderful Visitors Welcome Centre. Many knew then that it would be nice to have a proper cafe there but it just wasn’t time for it. Perhaps URA wasn’t ready then to consider a cafe on church land. Perhaps we did not have a suitable cafe team yet, or that the leadership then was not called or equipped to manage something like that. They did accomplish many significant things, just that the cafe wasn’t one of them.   

I am just using the cafe as an illustration of what could be true across the board. I could also use the bells as an example. When the time is right, the Lord will allow us to deal with the issue.

And every generation stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before. Our work is evolutionary, not revolutionary. The history of the Cathedral is not 200 years. It is a 2,000 years' worth of history between the cross-shaped death instrument which our Lord Jesus laid on and our cross-shaped building which we are sitting in. So much has happened in between as the gospel traversed through different cultures in time.

It is now for us to seek the Lord and be imbued with a wisdom to know how to serve God in our generation. The Cathedral has a deep and unique calling. It goes beyond the beautiful building and locale. We embrace all that the Anglican Church is called to be in our part of the world and for the wider Communion. Due to our colonial past (and I dare say, foundation), we are inextricably bound to the political life of the nation. At times, we have to play our role as a member church of the Body of Christ.

Our theology, practices and ministry heritage is varied, complex and rich. On one hand, as a part of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we share in what the Catholic Church stands for in time and space. And yet, we have our own emphases which help keep parts of our Church's heritage alive. There is so much that the Cathedral can unearth.

That the Cathedral is a wonderful place for seniors is obvious. Perhaps less obvious is the fact that she is also wonderful for people from every season in life. If I am a young adult (I am not, though sometimes I feel like one!), I think it is very exciting to see how I can grow in this place and the contributions I can make.

There is a unique potential in some areas of our Cathedral life which I sense will be tapped in this season.

If everyone - young and old - participates, I believe that together with each other and the Lord, there is much we can be and do for His glory.

We will continue our conversation at AGM. See you there!

22 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Cathedral AGM: Why Should I Be There?

By Terry Wong

If you are a Cathedral member, I can think of at least 4 reasons why you should be there next Sunday (29th, 1.30 pm at CNS):

  1. This is a unique once-a-year meeting, required by the laws of our land and that of our Diocese. The AGM body helps the church to adhere to established legal principles and expectations of what constitutes good governance.
  2. The process of PCC election brings the different service congregations together as we pray and reflect on how individuals can be "offered up" to  work with the Vicar, clergy, deaconesses and staff in serving and leading the Church.
  3. The space needs for worship and ministries in the Cathedral continue to be a pressing matter. We use AGMs to keep the body abreast on our developments and plans. For example, more details about our South Transept Lift, Pavilion project and future phases will be shared.
  4. Lastly, our participation signals our love for the church. Continual engagement with AGMs and serving in the various committees and ministries will better position us to serve the Church well.

Lunch will be served from 12.30pm onwards. PCC nominees will also be present to mingle and give an opportunity for members to be acquainted with them. I want also to encourage all participants to stay for the whole AGM if possible and not leave right after the votes are cast.

It is indeed a wonderful privilege to be a member of an amazing church with so much life and potential. To spend just one afternoon of about an hour and a half to express this responsibility will be a fair expectation.

On a personal note, I should add that your participation is an expression of support and encouragement for me and my colleagues in our ministry. I have been here now for more than 2 and a half years and your feedback, whether direct or tacit, can help us to sense if we are leading the Church in the right direction.   

The power and authority invested in the office of the Vicar is clear but we often seek to work it out in the context and nature of the Church such as our sense of community, call to servant leadership and our witness for the Lord. The membership body will also need to embrace this understanding. This means that while we can ask questions, we have to trust that this is done in the context where initiatives have been thought and prayed through. This trust is important so that we do not adopt an adversarial stance in the way we pose questions or harbour resentments when our views are not implemented.

The ministry, theological and community issues are complex but we continue to pray and look to the Lord to grant us wisdom. Beyond that, we also trust in the wind of the Spirit which blows, often in ways which we cannot foresee or expect. This submission to His leading and Lordship is central to the way we see each other and the way we rest in Him “who neither slumbers nor sleeps.”

This deep faith enables us to serve with joy and faith in a work which has no end point (unless He comes back) when it comes to perfection or completion. One soul at a time - to be saved for His Kingdom, to encounter His blessings, to be discipled. One soul at a time till we see Him face to face one day.

Let's continue to be faithful in this pilgrimage.

15 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

About Service Camps and Foreigners on our Grounds

By Terry Wong

Service Camps
We have four very interesting Camps coming up, each with unique features. While arranged for specific congregations in the Services, those from other Services can also join in.

The information on the Camp organised by the 8 am and 11.15 am Services has only been released last week, and I would like to weigh in with some insights. The team has chosen to meet locally this year to allow for those who are not able to stay overnight to join in. It is both a Camp and a Conference. We have two gifted speakers: Bishop Raphael Samuel and Dr James Harding, but room will also be given for feedback and discussions on how the life and ministry of both congregations can grow. We hope to work closer with a core group of lay leaders to mobilise the congregations’ participation. I will be present in all the Camps, though for some, I am only able to do so partially.

Townhall on 25 March
The last Town Hall meeting, entitled, “Blessings and Boundaries”, was very helpful. We discussed the matter regarding foreigners who meet on the Cathedral grounds every Sunday. Leaders from the Myanmar Worship Service (MWS) also joined in and contributed positively.

“Blessings” refer to the fact that God is bringing migrant workers (especially of Burmese descent) into our midst. How can St Andrew’s be a welcoming church and be God’s blessing to these sojourners? “Boundaries” refer to practical realities related to the use of space and facilities, the cleanliness of our premises, the security on our grounds and crowd management.

Here are some of the points of our discussion:

  • The situation on our grounds presents SAC with a good opportunity for missional outreach. It was noted that there are about 500 foreign workers who gather on our grounds every Sunday.
  • The MWS has done well in reaching them for Christ. At least 20% of the 150-strong MWS congregation are people who were formerly non-worshippers gathered on our grounds.
  • MWS leaders, together with a few non-Burmese SAC members, offer English lessons every Sunday, and there are other regular programmes offering pastoral care and counselling to domestic helpers, and to share with them the gospel of Christ. More volunteers are needed to help with this work.
  • The recent Watoto children’s concert held during the MWS saw an attendance of about 600. Also, the medical outreach conducted in October last year, served more than 150 people. Going forward, SAC’s Missions Department will work with MWS to organise these outreach events with greater regularity.
  • As our restrooms are limited in number, on Sundays, the use of these facilities is restricted to worshippers. Others who gather on our grounds are advised to refrain from using these restrooms. MWS leaders have been directing non-worshippers to available restroom facilities around the Cathedral.
  • In order to curb and discourage ill behaviour (smoking, consumption of alcohol and drunkenness, spitting and littering etc ) on our grounds, MWS leaders assist the professional security personnel and our staff to patrol the grounds, to befriend those who picnic on our grounds, to encourage responsible use of our premises as well as to invite them to the MWS. SAC’s Missions Department will look for more volunteers to help with this work.

If you are able to help in any of the above, please contact Adeline Hee at missions@cathedral.org.sg

8 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

Praying Together

By Terry Wong

(The theme of this year is Year of Prayer: Pursuing the Heart of God. We have four quarterly emphases:
1st Q: Personal Prayer, 2nd Q: Praying Together, 3rd Q: Praying for our Nation, 4th Q: Praying for the Harvest.)

18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:18-20

While we may pray alone, there are many passages in the Bible which teach on the need to pray with others.

The above passage from Matthew 18 comes to mind. There is power in prayer agreement (v19). Where two or three are gathered in prayer (read verse 20 in context), there is a promise of the Lord’s authoritative presence.

As we have witnessed during Maundy Thursday, in the Garden of Gethsamane, Jesus asked for prayer companionship. He asked Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40)

Jesus Himself underlined the Old Testament teaching that the temple of the Lord is a "house of prayer." The Body of Christ, described as the new “temple” is also where prayer is to take place. Of course the church gathers for many reasons and there are different activities. But prayer is one central mark of her identity as a gathered community.

In the early Church, the Christians continued their Jewish customs of meeting regularly in prayer (as recorded in the Book of Acts). The Church in her chequered history, even when under persecution, gave priority to worship and prayer whenever they came together.

Praying together defines the very purpose of why the Church gathers together. Prayer is for every Christian and not meant for only those who are more spiritually committed. Prayer somehow turns a gathering into a community of the Lord, where the Lord is present (Matt 18:20) and working (Matt 18:19). Prayer focuses the gathering on our mission to the world (Matt 18:18). Prayer forms a needed bond of inter-dependence between Christians and a deep sharing (“koinonia”) of our life and faith.

We do this in every weekend Service. If you care to notice, we pray a lot in our Services. We may be praying through our liturgy, hymns and songs. Many of our songs are actually prayers. Then of course, we have the intercession time where we are more specific in praying for needs. The Communion liturgy involves praying together and to the Lord. If there is ministry time, we pray for one another.

When we gather in our Connect Groups and other types of small gatherings, we pray. As we should.

And then, every once in a while, we gather (i.e. our monthly Prayer and Praise) to pray in a very focused way. Issues are shared and prayed over which we cannot easily share in our weekend Services, which are of course, more public in nature. These corporate prayer meetings ( I prefer to call them family prayer gatherings!) are also linked with our intercession ministry. The intercession ministry is co-led by Pastor Lian Swan and Pas Grace Tan, and a small intercession team  prays regularly and deeply for the Cathedral, Diocese and our nation. I am indebted to their spiritual devotion and focus. While they do not tell me how I should lead the Cathedral, their clarity of spiritual priorities often inspires me and encourages me to keep the focus. As there is much in my scope of responsibilities, it is all too easy to be caught up with the urgent rather than the important, or lose the spiritual vision in the midst of everything.

I do not think I can say enough on this issue. May we renew our commitment to pray with one another.

1 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

He Is Not Here He Is Risen (Matthew 28:6)

By Terry Wong
Photo

Why should anyone believe in a crucified Messiah?

And so, an innocent man was made to suffer and murdered.

One may feel a deep sense of pity.
Maybe even shed a tear or two.
We could draw some moral courage.
We may be inspired to live a better life.
We may be led to deeper piety.

But is this all there is to it? If the life of Christ ends with death, then his life is just a reflection of life on earth - albeit a very good one - but nothing more.

In Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot, the story is told of a Prince and his companion walking through a picture gallery. The Prince paused to stare at a painting of the crucifixion. His companion said, “Don’t you know that people have lost their faith in God looking at this picture?” The Prince replied, “Sadly, that is happening to me too.”

If the life of Jesus ends with the crucifixion, then we cannot say that good can triumph over hate. We will not be able to say that Christianity is anything other than a cemetery of ideals. Our lives will be enslaved in despair in this world. We walk into the night during Tenebrae and this night lasts forever. Grit your teeth. All the suffering will do is to test how strong you are as you grope your way through the dark of night.

At the end of everything, “from dust you were made and to dust you will return.” Good, evil in this life and everything in between is all finally "dustified."

But Jesus rose from the dead. He overcame death. He established a new order of reality: his new resurrected body is a sign of more to come (1 Corinthians 15:20-21, John 14:19), offering a  hope "beyond the dust". It is a validation of the teachings and claims of Christ (Mark 8:31). His life was justified. And the list goes on.

Good Friday can only be called “good" because of Easter Sunday. That is why St Augustine said: “The face of Christianity is the resurrection of Christ.” Almost everyone believes that Jesus died. They believe in Good Friday but not everyone believes in Easter. Easter draws a line for those who believe and those who don’t. Easter makes all the difference.

A novelist, some years back, put it very well when he described what it was like to arrive in the empty hallway of a monastery for the first time; 'There is an impression of intense activity elsewhere'.

That was the feeling at the empty tomb on Easter Morning. It is done. It is finished. The women went to the tomb but they were told “He is not here. He is risen.” No more work is needed. Jesus did it.

Now, it is for you and me to trust - and rest - in what Jesus has done for us.

25 March 2018 | Vicar Writes

Helping the “hidden needy”

By Terry Wong

In this Year of Prayer, the Cathedral has a theme that resonates with many of us and it is this - ‘Pursuing the Heart of God’. And what, we may well ask, is upon the heart of God?

We have many thoughts and suggestions in this direction, amongst which are: to seek God more intimately in closet prayer, secret devotion, corporate prayer, the study of His Word etc. These are foundational disciplines and we need to encourage each other to return to the heart of God in this way.

But may I suggest that there is another aspect to pursuing the heart of God: it is to pursue His passion for the lost, the poor and needy, the helpless and the hopeless in our land. As we sing in the song Hosanna, “break my heart for what break Yours.”

In the Old Testament, we see God’s heart for the poor, the needy, the orphans, the widows and the foreigners of the land (see Exod 22:26-27;
Lev 19:9-10; Deut 14:28-29; Deut 24:10-22). Besides the call to hear and obey God’s commandments and to walk in the fear of the LORD, here is a clear call to care for and love people.

Repeatedly, the prophets denounced the callousness of the Israelites in their treatment of the poor and the destitute. And judgment came upon them in their refusal to heed God’s call to repent and to do what is right and just. 

Micah 6:8 sums it well: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Having shared this, we do know that helping the poor is sometimes not as straightforward as it may seem. Who are the poor? At the lawn, last Sunday,  a man accosted a clergyman for money.  He was able-bodied and spoke well in English. Should the clergy give him any money?  Some of you who have been long in this Cathedral, would have experienced such a situation.  Should we give money to anyone who asks us for it? Our pastors are often in this quandary.

Who are the poor in Singapore and how can we help them? In the orderly and pristine city of Singapore, the needy are often hidden in nicely-painted HDB blocks. We need to seek out the “hidden needy.” 

In Singapore, the Cathedral does a good work to uplift the less-privileged and to help the needy. CITY Community Services befriends and cares for disadvantaged children in schools,  the Mobile Medical Service to the Community reaches out to vulnerable groups such as foreign workers and the elderly, and the Cathedral Home for the Aged is a home for elderly women without families or whose families are not able to care for them. These are excellent ministries and I would urge more of you to step up to help in person or to support the work financially.

We will still need to attend to the needy in our midst, worshipping with us as well as to those who walk into our premises to ask for help.  An able and dedicated team of members is needed for this work which entails keeping the principles of compassion and the perimeters of the ministry.  This work will be time-consuming and it will overlap with our counselling ministry, but this is a much-needed step up for our church.  I believe that some of you have the experience, heart and time to serve in this area. If you can help with this or the other ministries mentioned above, please email Adeline Hee at  missions@cathedral.org.sg or phone 63376104 ext 133.

18 March 2018 | Vicar Writes

A House of Prayer for All Nations

By Terry Wong

And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:15-17

An interesting question was asked at the last AGM. Why do we allow buying and selling in the church when Jesus did not allow for that in the temple? This is a case in point where Scripture needs to be read and understood carefully so that it can guide us in a correct way. 

We start with the context. Pilgrims from afar, both Jews and proselytes (Gentile believers), will come to the temple in Jerusalem to worship on major feasts days. Pigeons and other animals used for sacrifices will be sold and this also explains the need for money-changers. On the surface, this seemed reasonable as a service was being provided. 

Jesus angrily overturned the tables and drove out the animals with a whip. The reasons can be inferred from his quotation of Scripture: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” This is taken from Isaiah 56:1-7, and I quote a part: And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ... these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

The “den of robbers” may suggest that foreigners were taken advantage of through overpriced merchandise and unfair exchange rates. Even more importantly, the outer courts were areas where Gentiles were allowed to gather to worship. Those areas had become crowded out and its sense of sacred space was lost by both the presence of these activities and the way they were conducted. Instead of being a house of prayer for all nations, foreigners were being taken advantage of and their rights compromised.

In the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), this incident was the final reason for the religious authorities to kill Jesus.His consistent teaching and ministry to the religious outcasts of his day and his rebuke of the religious authorities finally led Him to the cross.

We can see from here the message that these passages carry for the Church. For we too can easily forget that the Church exists for all. Foreign worshippers have full rights to worship at His house. And they should never be taken advantage of. This is one reason why it grieved our hearts when we heard that a Korean tourist lost her bag with her passport and all when she left them behind momentarily and went up for communion. This can happen to anyone of course, and we remind all to be careful and watchful.

Beyond just the way space is used are the wider principles of how we see the Christian faith. Passages such as this and other teachings of Jesus elsewhere (e.g. the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20) have driven the Church into cross-cultural Missions and stopped her from being confined to a single or local culture. 

The Church has not read this as a prohibition of selling and buying on church grounds. Many churches, here and all over the world have book stores, restaurants and cafes catering to the need for Christian resources and refreshments. In SAC, we have kept the worship spaces sacred but have opened our grounds for varied uses, including allowing for the gathering of foreigners. This issue will be discussed at the next Town Hall Meeting and we appreciate your feedback and thoughts.

11 March 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Vision Comes from Us

By Terry Wong

We were richly blessed by Michael Card’s ministry last weekend. He teaches and sings Scriptures in a very rich way. I trust that those who attended (and invited a friend or two) have been blessed and inspired. Indeed, in our spiritual journey, there are songs which accompany us in the same way that some of the psalms did for Jewish pilgrims. Some of us who grew up with Card’s music can testify to the power of some of his songs for our own journeys. If all goes well, we hope to have him back in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Watoto Children’s Choir is also visiting the Cathedral on the third week of this month. As always, everything has a place and purpose. We are heartened by the way the Myanmar Service has responded and they are expecting a good crowd in their Watoto evangelistic concert next Sunday (18th March). Now, how about the Cathedral one on 20th March? Do invite a friend!

The response to the current run of Alpha Course has been overwhelming. We ran out of food as the team did not expect that many walk-in visitors. The Prayer Halls are maxed out. This is a good problem to have. Pray for the guests.

The weekday Lent Mid-day Prayers is seeing a steady number gathering to pray. It is a far cry from participation in our morning or evening prayers where more often than not, it is only the prayer leader there.

Reflecting on all these events, as always, it is about either helping unbelievers to know or believers to grow in the Lord.

Someone asked me recently a series of questions on the vision of the Cafe. I will give an answer which may sound surprising. The Cafe team has no vision except one - making a very good cup of coffee and to do so consistently. This is what they were charged with when they first started. Now, it is cathedral members like me and you who have a vision to reach out, for whom the Cafe is but one more avenue that we can use.
 
If you line up all the events, courses, facilities, ministries and even our weekend Services on one side, they are really just tools and avenues. They have no life on their own. “Vision” does not reside within them. Whether they are good or not so good, it really depends on us! It is we who use them for a greater purpose. If you are reaching out to someone, praying for a Christian to have a spiritual breakthrough, concerned that your fellow Connect group members are growing, then you will see that there is so much in SAC which can help you to do so. Without such a vision or passion, then all these are irrelevant and merely events that keep the Cathedral wheels turning.

May everything in SAC be used with purpose by a people concerned for the Gospel and His glory.

4 March 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Four Verbs: Isaiah 55:6-9

By Terry Wong
Photo

Seek, call, forsake and return - these early verbs which formed my Christian vocabulary during my spiritual infancy years - have stayed with me in my 42 years of journeying with Christ. They continue to mark the fact that I am always dependent on my Saviour and Father. I can never wean off this dependence. Nor should I ever try.

Though I know Him, I still seek Him daily. For wisdom in ever changing situations. For truth, as my heart is often deceptive and leads me in wrong directions.

Though I know by faith that He is near me, I still call out to Him. For at times, it feels as if He is far away. Even at times when I know He is near; when only a whisper will do; I still cry out. It may be fear or panic. I am only human. And yes, He is divine. I know He can never be deafened. And He will understand. He will not think me a coward.     

At my baptism and many other altar calls, I have laid down my rights. For countless times, I have sung “I surrender all.” And yet it seems like I still cling on to some things, behavior patterns, irrational fears and so on. I may have forsaken but still need to forsake again. I have let go. But still, today and tomorrow and the day after, I need to keep letting go.

I am home. I know it. I should never need to return. But as we sing in the hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing:

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”

And so, I return, and return and return again.

Each time, He abundantly pardons. His ways are higher than mine. He does not think the way humans do.

Thankfully.


Special note:
As a part of his Lent discipline, the Vicar has been writing meditations daily based on one of the lectionary readings of the day.

The meditations can be accessed from the SAC App's Lectionary Readings section. It is also posted at http://pastoralviews.blogspot.sg

For members who prefer hard copies, please contact Jowenna (jowenna@cathedral.org.sg, tel: 63376104 or leave a note at the welcome desk).

25 February 2018 | Vicar Writes

Vision 2020: Being a Church of Influence

By Terry Wong

It has often been said that the Cathedral is a Mother Church and a City Church. Due to her historic nature, her central and strategic location, the sprawling nature of her buildings and grounds, her role can be clearly seen. After all, the bishops and clergy meet here every week, and significant diocesan or national events are held here.

That said, we want to focus here on the Cathedral Community. This will be about spiritual influence, not historical or locational. In past years, SAC has been instrumental in planting new congregations across the city. She has also given generously to church building projects, especially in our deaneries.

In this new season, what does the Lord seek to do in and through us? This is a question for us to pray over and certainly something I have been doing since joining the Cathedral in 2016.

In 2018, can we pray over our role in helping parishes to develop, such as the Lat Krabang Anglican Church in Bangkok? Closer home, we are also reviewing how we can help our own church plants (i.e. Acts Centre) to have a firmer footing. Are there new fronts locally or in the deaneries which we should consider? What is important is to see our church planting efforts as an “overflow” of the spiritual and missional life of the SAC community, and not just the work of a few individuals.

This means that SAC needs to go beyond initial evangelism and engage in nursing the new congregation to full maturity. Here is where the maturity of ministries in SAC herself becomes important. It is very much in the spirit of Anglican missions to raise a parish community within a society for long-term influence. Here is where many parts of SAC can eventually play a part as many ministries can be involved if our longterm goal is to help a congregation to grow into a mature parish. We can think of the choir, Alpha teams, Connect groups ministry team, medical missions and even our cafe team! Everyone can be missional in their service.  

We will also have a responsibility to fulfil our heritage role over properties which are uniquely the Cathedral’s. It is a part of our Christian witness to be seen as responsible and having a sense of excellence. Society expects this of us and indeed, we are located centrally and visibly, right at the heart of this modern city.

We have sufficient diversity in skills, expertise and passion in our congregation to ensure that every part of the Cathedral can rise up to our varied responsibilities. As a clergy, I need to focus on the ministry of the Word and prayer. But at the same time, I need to permit and empower those who are able to carry out the work. Areas like our pipe organ, building facade, the quality of our tours, the bells, gathering, the displaying and storing of artefacts and the communications ministry, just to name a few, all have to be done well as an integral part of our community witness. In particular, the PCC is charged with assisting the Vicar in the care of “temporal” responsibilities and we will work together to ensure that we continue to do what we ought to do. 

18 February 2018 | Vicar Writes

Home and Family

By Terry Wong
Photo
jiā tíng (Family / Home)

Almost every culture or race has a festival where family, identity and culture are celebrated. For many Chinese, it will be the Chinese New Year (CNY) festival.

In most years, CNY sits uncomfortably with Lent. Feasting and fasting, noise and silence, gathering and coming away, the contrast cannot be more stark, and the Chinese Christian has to juggle between both. For many, observation of Lent starts later, afforded by a longer 40 day period. Having received the mark of ash, in the next few days he will be enjoying delectable feasts with his family. Hymns will give way to “Gong Xi, Gong Xi Ni…” CNY songs have always helped set the atmosphere through blaring Rediffusions of yesteryears  and today, through CNY programmes on flat-screen TVs.

In modern and urbanised Singapore, the concept of celebration as a village and clan is largely lost. Added to that, there is no noisy firing of crackers or fireworks to gather the village. And so, all across the city, in countless little huddles in HDB flats, mostly behind closed doors, the homing magnet gathers ties that bind.

The Reunion Dinner on CNY Eve is the most important gathering for most families. On the table will be dishes which carry the family tradition, may it be Nonya, Hakka or Hokkien. Therefore, home cooking is preferred, if at all possible.

No matter how strained family ties are, families still try to gather, and there is an unspoken forgiveness or a staying of grievances. As conversations flow, we remember that family is a given and a gift. Whatever or whoever, we ought to receive it with gratitude. Going beyond a truce, some mending may actually happen.

For a few days, work is set aside as the home becomes center stage. It has been a while since one stood at the balcony and looked at his neighbourhood. Or sat long enough on the sofa to be reminded of the special role of the living room in gathering the family. The ambitious readjust their perspective. After all, the home is a graveyard of ambition. As a proud father watches his children, the unquenchable desire for public honour recedes into the background. Problems at work are temporarily forgotten.

The second day will be about visiting relatives, and on the third day, close friends. For those who come from broken families, the reunion night can cruelly open some old wounds. I don’t think those wounds can be healed completely on this side of life. But CNY celebration stretches long enough to remind one that close and faithful friends are still some of the good gifts of life.

Indeed, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” James 1:17

As Christians, we can be grateful for the many gifts He has bestowed on us through our culture, family and friends. And most of all, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, who has called us into His family.

11 February 2018 | Vicar Writes

Come and Rest Awhile

By Terry Wong
Photo

Lent starts with Ash Wednesday Service this week. Like the calm before the storm of Chinese New Year Weekend(!), we have an opportunity to orientate our hearts towards the 40-day Season of Lent.

What we can also look forward to is the Lent Mid-day Prayers from 12.30 pm to 1.00 pm during the weekdays. We are blessed with a wonderful Nave which is a quiet oasis in the heart of the city. Tourists also visit her daily. To be able to hear the Scriptures, read and pray together for our city in the Nave is a privilege. Some may choose to fast while others can grab a quick lunch after that. The prayer time will be quietly led from the front and the approach will be meditative, where participants can have their quiet space to seek the Lord. It is good to just “come away.”

As Jesus once told his disciples, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)   

As a Year of Prayer in 2018, we have also broken it up into four quarters which we hope will be helpful in guiding our participation. This will also help us to focus our teaching and preaching.  

January - March : Personal Prayer
We will encourage and help members to observe their daily Devotion. We launch the Lent Mid-Day prayer on 14 February, and the first Prayer and Praise for the year on 23 February.

April - June: Praying Together
We continue to focus on Prayer & Praise, Prayer during our Service Camps, and will organise our first Prayer Retreat

July - Sept: Praying for our Nation
We will pray for our Nation during the 40-day run-up from 1 July till our National Day on 9 August. We will do this through the 40-day City@Prayer from 12.30 to 1.30 pm in the Nave and the three Solemn Assemblies in the evenings of 5-7 August.

October - December: Praying for the Harvest
We begin to build up our prayer and preparation for the evangelistic Celebration of Hope from 17-19 May 2019 at the Singapore National Stadium. The Diocesan Day of Prayer and Fast will fall on 3 November 2018.

With the new season of Alpha Course starting, do pray for people to invite. Daily, we are presented with opportunities as we meet our family, friends, colleagues, classmates and acquaintances. Even the strangers we meet can be a fresh opportunity. As always, it is genuine care and interest in an individual which opens up the door for the Gospel. If you set out to convert a person, that puts you in the category of a salesman, who is befriending someone with ulterior motives. None of us like people like these to bug us. But if we are authentic and genuinely care for the people around us, doors will open naturally. We have a great message to share and a gift to offer. Friendship first!

4 February 2018 | Vicar Writes

Pursuing The Heart Of God (Year Of Prayer)

By Terry Wong

What does it mean to be a people after God’s heart? The answer can be found in Acts 13:22: "I have found in David...a man after my heart, who will do all my will."

That is also embodied in the Lord’s Prayer: "Let Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven." As we anticipate 2019, the 200th year of the founding of modern Singapore; we continue to pray for His will to be done in and through our city-nation. This prayer is also captured in one of our theme songs, “Amen.” How do we know the will of God? This comes to us mostly through His revealed Word. In each generation, the Church also seeks to discern its application and voice in an ever-changing world.

But how can we discern His will in the daily affairs of our lives? Romans 12:1, 2 is helpful, with my own comments in brackets:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies (whole being) as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (city, family, sub-culture values), but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing (we will make mistakes!) you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Often wisdom and discernment come to those who learn to pray, seek His Face and immerse themselves in His Word. When we pursue intimacy with Him on a personal and daily basis, we cultivate and strengthen our love for Him (1 John 2:15). As we get intimate with and follow Christ, fruitfulness is the result (John 15:5).

When we have an appetite for prayer and seeking His face, joining others to do so in prayer gatherings will become natural and desirable.

Some of the steps to be taken this year:

  1. We will encourage each other to seek the Lord and read His Word daily. The daily lectionary readings can be accessed from the SAC App. Some may also want to sign up for Bible in One Year, which is written by Revd Nicky Gumbel and his team (https://www.bibleinoneyear.org/).
  2. We will be organising quarterly prayer retreats to teach and guide members who are seeking to rediscover or enrich their prayer and devotional lives.
  3. We will commit ourselves to the monthly Prayer and Praise (next meeting on 23 February).
  4. We will participate in the Year of Prayer events organised by Love Singapore and the Diocese.
28 January 2018 | Vicar Writes

Vision 2020

By Terry Wong

Vision 2020 is about working out a three-year envisioning process for SAC. As ours is a large parish, we need to go beyond annual planning. We also want to flow in tandem with the Diocesan three-year emphases: 2018: Year of Prayer; 2019: Year of Harvest and 2020: Year of Personal Discipleship.

The idea of a three-year “Vision 2020” provides us an opportunity to envision, pray, plan and work together to build up the life and ministry of SAC. Like a shared online document or Wikipedia article, I see this involving multiple writers and owners, both lay and staff. Over time we are both designing and building up the Lord’s work, co-labouring with the Lord who has promised that He will build His Church.

The process is just as important as the outcome, as working on clarifying a vision often helps us to focus our energies and prayers on what is most important in His Kingdom. Not only will it help us to “think wide” but to “think long.” We have to constantly think of the future and what we are laying behind for the next generations. Next year, we will be celebrating our 200th year of existence as a modern city. We can only marvel at the impact and witness of Christianity in this nation. Countless have served and dedicated their lives to the cause of Christ and that is the legacy we have inherited.

It is now for us to “serve God’s purpose in our own generation” (Acts 13:36). How does one ensure a lasting legacy? I am not talking about achieving something so great that it has a lasting mention in history or is remembered. I am talking about an influence that can be passed on to the next generation, who in turn will pass it on to those coming after them (2 Tim 2:2). We do this through three communities: our family, our church, and our nation. This can only happen if we serve God and not ourselves. In fact, most of us will not have our names or deeds recorded anywhere. We may not even be remembered. But this Christ-stamped influence will live on through those we have influenced.  

I just qualified recently to collect a part of my CPF. I have lived five decades and a half! What is my legacy of accomplishments which I can be proud of? Some may see my achievements as a clergy or a cookbook writer. But these kinds of achievements are ephemeral on the scale of God’s eternity purpose. For my deepest aspirations and motivations, I echo St Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2:19: my crowns are Christians whom I have encouraged, influenced and impacted through the various communities I have grown and served in, both in Malaysia and in Singapore. I seek to live my life and do my ministry that others may be encouraged, whether lay, pastors, or missionaries. If I have encouraged, inspired and helped someone to grow in Christ and walk in their destiny and calling, that will be what I have lived a large part of my life for. In other words, have I been a good follower of Christ? For if I have been, I would have been a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19).

21 January 2018 | Vicar Writes

A January Update

By Terry Wong

AGM 2018 is scheduled for 22nd of April. In preparation for that, we hope to organise one or two Town Hall Meetings. The first will be on the 25th of February at 2pm at the Cafe. We hope to look at a few issues, including how we may welcome foreigners who visit our grounds every Sunday and other areas of concern for the wider SAC community. A Town Hall meeting allows for feedback, information and discussions on issues that those who gather have interest in. We will announce the issues to be discussed as soon as we are able. If you feel certain issues need to be raised at these meetings, please email Vivien Chen at vivienchen@cathedral.org.sg.

SAC leaders will be gathered next weekend to pray and discuss around SAC’s “three-year Vision,” 2018-2020. When leaders stand together, heart to heart, any church will grow to be a strong one. Such a conference will help ministries Cathedral-wide to move in tandem together. When leaders know each other personally, partnership and synergy becomes possible. Indeed, each participant will get to know a few more who are serving in the same vineyard. These friendships are always precious in the Lord’s work.

I had a very good and fruitful meeting with the leaders from our Myanmar Worship Service (MWS) last Sunday. They hope to conduct health-checks for the foreigners on our grounds on a regular basis. This will be done in cooperation with SAC Medical Missions and the wider SAC family. There is currently one English class conducted between 11am to 1pm every Sunday. If you would like to help with this, please contact Moses Israeli at mosesisraeli@cathedral.org.sg. They have also started educating their members on how to keep the grounds clean and from there, also communicate the same to foreigners. Plans are also afoot to communicate to them to use restroom facilities outside of our grounds as our toilet facilities are limited and barely able to cope with the needs of worshippers every Sunday. Finding a balance of welcome, discipline and order is always a challenge, and we appreciate MWS’s help in this.

14 January 2018 | Vicar Writes

Staying Dependent On The Lord And One Another

By Terry Wong
Photo

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.

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”).

7 January 2018 | Vicar Writes

Conversations In The Bell Tower On New Years Eve 2017

By Terry Wong


This is a satire of the 8 bells that have been hung in our bell tower for 138 years. Each was named after one of the 12 apostles. Meant originally to be swung rather than struck and probably a full set of 12 instead of 8, cracks in the tower led to uncertainties about the tower’s safety. Church bell experts have advised that the tower is more than able to handle swinging bells and that those cracks were due to uneven movements of the heavily buttressed tower relative to the rest of the Nave. Plans are under way to review this and the Lord willing (and with some generous donations), the bells may finally get to swing and peal away. If you have questions or are interested to help, email bells@cathedral.org.sg

“Happy New Year, all!”

“Same to you, Andrew,” James replied, “But what is there to be happy about?”

“That another year has come?”

“Did you hear them singing ‘Another Year of Dawning’ earlier on?” asked James. “Another year of this, another year of that. For us, it will be another year of sedentary hanging!”

“Adding one more to the 138 years of same same,” said Bartholomew.

“... in this same dingy and humid tower,” quipped Peter. “It gets dustier every year.”

“And we have not even moved an inch! We were meant to swing...” John sighed.

“Let’s vote: in 2018, we shall go on strike!” James snarled.

“James, we have been “striking” for 138 years!” Andrew laughed.

“Andrew, you are the largest of us all and meant for a great swing and ring,” Peter reminded.

“Yes I remember. I was forged in the same foundry as cousin, Susan. I thought I was lucky when they selected me for a Cathedral in the Far East. It sounded exotic. I was to be shipped! Susan was trucked to nearby St Paul’s Cathedral. I thought, how boring. But there she still is, swinging and singing ever since. Sigh…”

“And I thought, there was supposed to be the 12 of us. Where are Philip, Simon, Jude and Matthias?” asked John.

Andrew reminded, “Alas, they thought this tower could neither take our weight or dance. So, they left them behind and they tied us up here. We are to sing only
when struck. There ain’t no dancing. ”

“But, we were made for that!” James retorted. “ I am not so sure now…” quipped Thomas.

“Thomie, if one gets used to living for less, that can quickly become the new norm.”

“Preach it, bro.”

“Think about that. We are adding another year to this ordeal. Can you recall the excitement and fanfare when they first hoisted us up to this tower?” Andrew mused.

“Can you recall how we welcomed the 20th century with twenty rings? It was supposed to be a bright new century!” said James.

“And then the wars came. I can still remember. It was at 4.30 am on 8th December 1941 when the bombs fell. Most of you were asleep but the grounds were shaking. I thought I did move an inch. There was a lot of commotion in the months after that. I have never seen so many soldiers in the Cathedral,” said Peter.

“Yes, I can still remember Lee Kuan Yew’s speech in 1959 and the cries of Merdeka! from the Padang. Those cries came into our tower and echoed around. I think we did resonate,” said James.

“Come to think of it, we have been through four nationalities: British, Japanese, Malayan and now, Singaporean,” said Andrew.

“Jia lat,” moaned Thomas.

“I can recall changes in the music. The Twist, Rock & Roll, Disco, Hip-hop, Gangnam Style and just this week, Zumba! And all we do here is vibrate...” Peter sighed.

“Hmm. Did you see the new Vicar popping up the other day?” Andrew asked.

“You mean that lanky and bellish-shaped guy?” Bartholomew answered. “Did you notice how he was panting? He looked so unfit! At least he paid us a visit.”

“Yeah, right, after more than 2 years,” said Thomas.

“I heard him muttering about making us swing. Maybe, just maybe…” Andrew hoped.

“I doubt,” said Thomas.

“Imagine, if we actually swing for the first time. What will you say?” Andrew asked.

“Swing for Singapore?”
“At last, seeing Singapore from a different angle.”
“Finally, my chance to hit the clapper. Better late than never!”
“Left right, left right.”
“No, front back, front, back.”
“Pealing, nothing more than pealing…”

“What will you say Andrew?”

After a pause, “Finally, the city hears our dance. Thank you Lord, thank you.”

“Happy New Year, all!”

“Same to you, Andrew,” James replied, “But what is there to be happy about?”

“That another year has come?”

“Did you hear them singing ‘Another Year of Dawning’ earlier on?” asked James. “Another year of this, another year of that. For us, it will be another year of sedentary hanging!”

“Adding one more to the 138 years of same same,” said Bartholomew.

“... in this same dingy and humid tower,” quipped Peter. “It gets dustier every year.”

“And we have not even moved an inch! We were meant to swing...” John sighed.

“Let’s vote: in 2018, we shall go on strike!” James snarled.

“James, we have been “striking” for 138 years!” Andrew laughed.

“Andrew, you are the largest of us all and meant for a great swing and ring,” Peter reminded.

“Yes I remember. I was forged in the same foundry as cousin, Susan. I thought I was lucky when they selected me for a Cathedral in the Far East. It sounded exotic. I was to be shipped! Susan was trucked to nearby St Paul’s Cathedral. I thought, how boring. But there she still is, swinging and singing ever since. Sigh…”

“And I thought, there was supposed to be the 12 of us. Where are Philip, Simon, Jude and Matthias?” asked John.

Andrew reminded, “Alas, they thought this tower could neither take our weight or dance. So, they left them behind and they tied us up here. We are to sing only
when struck. There ain’t no dancing. ”

“But, we were made for that!” James retorted. “ I am not so sure now…” quipped Thomas.

“Thomie, if one gets used to living for less, that can quickly become the new norm.”

“Preach it, bro.”

“Think about that. We are adding another year to this ordeal. Can you recall the excitement and fanfare when they first hoisted us up to this tower?” Andrew mused.

“Can you recall how we welcomed the 20th century with twenty rings? It was supposed to be a bright new century!” said James.

“And then the wars came. I can still remember. It was at 4.30 am on 8th December 1941 when the bombs fell. Most of you were asleep but the grounds were shaking. I thought I did move an inch. There was a lot of commotion in the months after that. I have never seen so many soldiers in the Cathedral,” said Peter.

“Yes, I can still remember Lee Kuan Yew’s speech in 1959 and the cries of Merdeka! from the Padang. Those cries came into our tower and echoed around. I think we did resonate,” said James.

“Come to think of it, we have been through four nationalities: British, Japanese, Malayan and now, Singaporean,” said Andrew.

“Jia lat,” moaned Thomas.

“I can recall changes in the music. The Twist, Rock & Roll, Disco, Hip-hop, Gangnam Style and just this week, Zumba! And all we do here is vibrate...” Peter sighed.

“Hmm. Did you see the new Vicar popping up the other day?” Andrew asked.

“You mean that lanky and bellish-shaped guy?” Bartholomew answered. “Did you notice how he was panting? He looked so unfit! At least he paid us a visit.”

“Yeah, right, after more than 2 years,” said Thomas.

“I heard him muttering about making us swing. Maybe, just maybe…” Andrew hoped.

“I doubt,” said Thomas.

“Imagine, if we actually swing for the first time. What will you say?” Andrew asked.

“Swing for Singapore?”
“At last, seeing Singapore from a different angle.”
“Finally, my chance to hit the clapper. Better late than never!”
“Left right, left right.”
“No, front back, front, back.”
“Pealing, nothing more than pealing…”

“What will you say Andrew?”

After a pause, “Finally, the city hears our dance. Thank you Lord, thank you.”

This is a satire of the 8 bells that have been hung in our bell tower for 138 years. Each was named after one of the 12 apostles. Meant originally to be swung rather than struck and probably a full set of 12 instead of 8, cracks in the tower led to uncertainties about the tower’s safety. Church bell experts have advised that the tower is more than able to handle swinging bells and that those cracks were due to uneven movements of the heavily buttressed tower relative to the rest of the Nave. Plans are under way to review this and the Lord willing (and with some generous donations), the bells may finally get to swing and peal away.

If you have questions or are interested to help, email bells@cathedral.org.sg

31 December 2017 | Vicar Writes

Thanking The Lord And One Another

By Terry Wong

For A Year Of...

  • Bulletin Writing...inspiration to write and for those who read them faithfully
  • Preaching...and those who listened attentively
  • Managing...for the work of PCC, wardens, sub-committee members and staff to ensure smooth running of SAC
  • Giving...where generosity has been shown for the Lord’s work
  • Creating...where designers, worship leaders, organists, singers, dancers, choir members and musicians have redeemed beauty, music and creativity for the Creator
  • Serving...servers, ushers, flower arrangers, kneeler-makers, cleaners etc who have kept the Lord’s House in good order
  • Going...SAC members who have crossed cultures to give and bless
  • Inviting...guests who participated in an Alpha Course, Connect Group or Weekend Service
  • Praying...alone, in small groups and in our prayer gatherings
  • Visiting...bringing church to the house-bound and infirmed
  • Leaving...where every saint who had returned to the Lord is remembered within the communion of saints
  • Cleaving...for new matrimony bonds and every father and bride who have walked the aisle
  • Bonding...for every Christian friendship formed or deepened
  • Loving...where every act done in love was a quiet eternal investment
  • Pastoring...where every Service Pastor, Service Leadership team and Connect Group has endeavoured to keep the Cathedral “small” and personal
  • Encouraging...where we have found room to give courage and embolden another
  • Forgiving...for every wrong thought, word or deed against one another and the Lord (and your forgiveness as I am sure this list has left out some)

Indeed, for everyone who count themselves as a part of the Cathedral community, we can say to each other:

“I thank my God for every remembrance of you.” (Philippians 1:3)

Thank You and thank you.

24 December 2017 | Vicar Writes

He Became Like Us

By Terry Wong

Why was Jesus Christ born into our world? A few reasons have been reflected on but there is one that few theologians will disagree with.

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Christmas is the supreme revelation of God’s “philanthropy.” That is, of God’s love (philea) for man (anthropos). It is a love that is shown by active participation in the other. Immanuel, “God with us”, he entered into our embodied world.

The human condition of being a “slave” to our body is no trivial matter. In my years of ministry, I have witnessed the terrible struggles that take place between a person and their body – in illnesses, addictions, mental disorders, and sexual struggle. That body traps a person also in his or her family and social circle, whatever joys or ills that may bring. It is a wrenching attempt to hold on to life itself through a body whose very limitations seem to hold us in thrall.

Through the centuries, the sheer ubiquity of the struggle often led to desperate attempts at ridding ourselves of all bodily attachments. In Jesus’ time, there were various religions and philosophies that were devoted to this idea: stoicism, pythagoreanism, various kinds of gnosticism and so on. St. Paul referred to some of these. The point was not only to tame the body, but to develop a mind and attitude that could somehow decouple itself from the body and its realities – through ascetic discipline and contemplation and so on, so that a person could achieve “peace” and “calm” – ataraxia as some called it.

It is not so different today. Even though we like to think of ourselves as being in control of our bodies in some new way, our anxieties, our medical manias, our clothing and fashion obsessions still show us who is master. The sexual struggles and addiction to drugs of our present globalising culture are the epitome of this: where our body masters us, restless and leading us away from any stable vocation in the world. St. Paul still cries out, with continued resonance: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

Such is the love of God, that unlike other human philanthropists, He did not just give generously. He Himself entered our world of wretchedness. Looked at from one perspective, it was a tragic life. He was born into an unstable environment, that marked pretty much the rest of His life, even if the romantic idea of Christmas festival may conceal that. A perfect human being who loves, gives and sacrifices for others. Yet He was betrayed and abandoned by those He loved. He endured a violent and shameful death.

Why? Paraphrasing, John 3:16, because He loved us so much that He became like us that we may not perish in our bodily wretchedness but find real life, now and forevermore.
God had shared in our human condition and showed us the way to freedom through His Son.

17 December 2017 | Vicar Writes

Home For Christmas

By Terry Wong

I can still vividly remember standing in front of the small Christmas tree with blinking lights. My mum brought us along to visit a Catholic family during Christmas time. As we were about to leave the home, we were asked to pick up a present from a pile stacked up at the foot of the tree. It was all very strange and new. The first impression I had was that Christmas was about love, home and giving.

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When I later became a Christian at 13, I was immediately plunged into the life and activities of the church. And yes, I simply love Christmas. Street and house carolling by candle lights was an in-thing then. We would move around in a bus and alight a slight distance and start singing as we walked slowly to the home that had invited us. We filled the neighbourhood with carols. And as far as I can remember, I have never missed a Christmas Eve Service. I can hardly remember those Christmas sermons. Somehow those carols were almost sermons in themselves and sung year after year, their appeal and message never diminished for me.

My experience of Christmas changed when I first came to Singapore for my studies. I was away from my home and all my closest friends from my home church. Standing alone one evening and hearing Bing Crosby croon “I’ll be home for Christmas” with blinking ferry lights synced to it, I realised that it is hard to celebrate Christmas without family and close friends.

This should not come as a surprise as the first Christmas was about a family of three. Jesus was not born to an unknown family and thereafter appeared to the world as a hermit. He came to them as a child and a son - with a family in tow - before they knew Him as the Son. Christmas was about family. And still is.

As a foreigner, again it was another church, an Anglican one who became a home and family for me. Yes, I have many warm and wonderful memories of Christmas in SJSM during the late 80’s. By then, street carolling was less in vogue. There were Christmas musicals and performances on Orchard Road and in shopping centres.

One should never underestimate the power of culture, especially one that is carried in carols, images of the manger and that of a baby held in the arms of his mother. Many in the world can connect well with these. Love, home and giving - how could anyone disagree with that?

This is why the Cathedral does her best every year during Christmas time to open up to the city through our Christmas@Cathedral (C@C) activities. Note some highlights:

  • The official opening will be on Thursday at 6 pm, after which we will have fun together at the Christmas Zumba workout. The clergy and pastors will be leading the pack!
  • This year’s C@C will include stalls selling arts and crafts, food, drinks etc.
  • Also new is the Art Jam, where you can try your hand at canvas and candle painting, piano-playing etc.
  • There will be quiet performances at the Nave, which will be bathed in special lights while the evening tours are going on.
  • Families and children will have special activities geared for the young at the Kids’ Carnival.
  • The larger performances will be held at the constructed stage.
  • There are also lunch-time performances at the Cafe.
  • Opportunities for conversations and prayers will be offered.

We have many who will be away from home this Christmas. Be with the Cathedral family this Christmas and help us reach someone.

10 December 2017 | Vicar Writes

The Sounds Of Advent

By Terry Wong
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The Christus Cantores Choir

We had a resounding start to the Season Of Advent with two packed concerts last Weekend. On Friday evening (1st Dec), we had the choir from St George’s Church, led by Joanna Paul, the Music Director of the same parish. They were joined by The Ministry of Bellz and the delightful Christus Cantores Choir, formed with children from various churches. The New Sanctuary was packed and it was indeed a music extravaganza. This concert was done in aid of SAC Medical Mission

On the first Sunday of Advent evening, Sir Dr Peter Low and the Cathedral Choir of the Church of the Risen Christ gave us a spiritual and inspiring start to the season of Advent. From sacred favourites to carols from round the world, in song, music and dance, we were invited to come and adore Christ the Lord. It was delightful working with them and they brought along a sense of excellence, imbued with simplicity, charm and spiritual passion.

It is a good sign that local churches today are able to give birth to some very good and mature choirs, enriching our worship through music. And they come with some Asian influences too. Indeed the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter are good seasons to celebrate Christian arts. May the Church continue to contribute excellently to our society in this area. When the music is done well, people will take note of the message. One can say that good music is in itself spiritual, beauty leading us to Beauty, drawing our being’s attention to the Creator.

Our very own Cathedral Choir is also excellent in many ways, led by our very able and often modest director, Lim Chin Kai. We can look forward to a very rich evening of Lessons and Carols on the 16th of Dec (Saturday), where the Christmas story is retold. And please start to invite a friend!

Christmas is also one of those rare moments where the world actually sings with us. Our grounds interface with the city almost seamlessly and our side walk (outside the Cathedral) is shared with the city, symbolising our place and call to be a City Church. It is a precious opportunity to reach out, be friendly and welcoming. By participating in the Christmas@Cathedral is one way of blessing the city. May we “let our Light shine.”

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Sir Dr Peter Low and the Cathedral Choir of the Church of the Risen Christ
3 December 2017 | Vicar Writes

Treasuring Our Christian Calendar

By Terry Wong

(Download the SAC App with the daily lectionary here)

This Sunday, being the first Sunday of Advent, marks the new Christian year which will end on 1st Dec 2018.

One of the first acts of God after delivering the Israelites out of Egypt was to speak to them about the importance of certain days and certain months (Ex 12:1-20). If the establishment of a calendar is crucial to the formation of the ancient covenant people of God, it is similarly critical for the spiritual health of the Church in today’s modern society.

God’s new covenant people need to experience and express the transforming power of our faith in radical opposition to the slavish culture and principles of the world. One way is to celebrate the Triune God’s act of salvation, anchored in the three main feasts of Epiphany, Pascha (Easter) and Pentecost. By observing the liturgical year the church rehearses and actualises the gospel narrative. This ensures that every part of the gospel is enacted and that a complete set of themes for Christian living is offered, such as:

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  • We died and are buried with Christ
  • We are raised with him to new life
  • We are filled with his Spirit
  • We advance the mission of God by the power of the Spirit
  • We await Christ’s return

The spirituality of the church is also enhanced through the awareness of her pilgrimage brought to life observing the liturgical year. It provides a framework in which the weekly liturgy is given its distinctive shape and meaning while the Daily Office (accessible from SAC App) reinforces and prepares for the Sunday liturgy. Each Sunday is shaped by the particular time of the church year in the lectionary, so that the church is made aware of her ongoing journey.

The church that is distinguished by certain “marks” or “core practices” reminds us that these practices are not our own invention but are the Spirit’s concrete works. It is the Spirit who makes these distinctive practices possible – practices that form the church. The Holy Spirit directs the church in her growth both through her established traditions and new ways of worship.

Contrary to popular understanding, the church should not be conceived as another entity within the larger creation but as prior to creation. The church precedes creation in that it is what God has in view from all eternity. Creation is the means by which God fulfils his eternal purpose in time. Scripture itself testifies to the logical priority of the church over creation by referring to the church as the chosen in Christ before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4), or to Christ who was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). The Church is more than an instrument in God’s hand; she is the fulfilment of God’s creation. The Church Calendar can stand at the heart of how we see time. 

Without anchoring herself within her living and continuing tradition, the modern church will have no long-term collective memory, nor will she be able to pass down an auditory and visual tradition to future generations. By separating the sacred and secular and confining the church to just a Sunday experience or Sunday school, the “Church militant” becomes subjugated to Creation, and we deprive our children of a deep resource which they could reach out to in their adulthood.

Note: I wrote this article with resources drawn from some of my Anglicanism students

26 November 2017 | Vicar Writes

I Once Was Blind, But Now I See

By Terry Wong

In my sermon, Diffusing the Light, I mentioned the life and work of Thomas Bray and SPG. I would be remiss not to mention the work of the more extensive Church Missionary Society (CMS) which came into the scene a hundred years later.

CMS was founded on 12 April 1799 at a meeting of members of a group of activist evangelical Christians whose number included Henry Thornton and William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was asked to be the first president of the Society, but he declined to take on this extra, significant role, and became a vice president. The founding Secretary was the Rev. Thomas Scott, the famous biblical commentator. Eventually, the CMS became a central vehicle of Anglican mission in West and East Africa, in India, the Far East, and parts of Canada.

The CMS grew out of a revitalised – or literally “revival” – evangelical faith.  And “revival” religion spread, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in different Protestant directions. But within Anglicanism where, with John Wesley, we can say the revival began in a new way, it was nonetheless always a social phenomenon, at least originally, one that was geared towards the same kinds of goals as Bray’s vision: building up a Christian “society” as it were, of common faith, life, and work.  The CMS kind of mission had vigour, of spiritual demand, possibility and power, and a willingness, finally, to try new things. It also leaned more towards the personal conversion of individuals and CMS worked freely with other Protestants in the field.

CMS’s contribution to the Anglican Church in Singapore is significant, helping to shape a largely evangelical approach to the Word, Ministry and Society. In the well-researched paper released in 2012, The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy, Robert Woodberry focused on the positive and major influence of “Conversionary Protestantism” on many societies. His work has been lauded in many august academic institutions. The pdf copy of his work is downloadable through a google search.

This major factor is ignored by many and it is of course, in keeping with the spirit of the times, all too easy to say that Western missionaries have messed up other cultures. But a careful observation of our life’s experiences or societies simply does not bear this out. My own experiences may be anecdotal, but indeed, “I once was blind, but now I see.” The tune which John Newton heard as a slave trader, which inspired his writing of Amazing Grace, very much expressed the work of Christian activists like William Wilberforce, who believed as Christians have always done, that God has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light. That light reached my world when I was 13, which was then all wrapped up in a crowded terrace house in Petaling Jaya. I can only give thanks for what the Gospel has done for me and my family.

Missions month in SAC may be over. But actually, every Sunday is Missions Sunday. As we gather to worship, we leave with the refrain that we may go out to “love and serve the Lord.”

Those who have come before us have lighted the way. May all those who come behind us find us faithful.

19 November 2017 | Vicar Writes

Caring for His House

By Terry Wong
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The repair and refurbishment of CNS is now completed. A new walkway to West House has also been laid. You can see some of these changes in the overhead photo above. Those at the Nave may have noticed some new sound speakers, the repositioned Sound and AV control desk (at the back) and the new “Ascension” Chapel at the north side of the Nave. It will take a while for the teams to get the sound right, so do be patient. All in all, we can expect better and more distributed sound. It will also take some time to furnish the new chapel. In due course, we will also explore linking Graham White Chapel with the Nave, mirror-imaging the way South Transept is integrated.


A lot of hard work has gone into it and we want to thank our staff, Kevin Quek and Dennis Low, Lee Chi Kuan, who co-chairs the Building Development Committee (BDC), and Revd Peter Cook. We are grateful for the many good team decisions made along the way as everyone was motivated to work towards what was best for this house of worship whilst keeping within reasonable costs. Work has also begun on the restoration of our organ pipes, made possible by a generous donation from one of our members. This is both a musical-improvement and heritage-restoration project. The project will take a year to finish as the expertise to restore the pipes can only be done abroad. Work has also started on the repairing and repainting of some of the walls in the Nave. However, some of the unsightly patches will remain for a while as a long-term solution is still being worked on.


The Senior Staff team had an inspiring and participative Planning Retreat recently. We have decided on the theme, “Pursuing the Heart of God”, a fitting one for 2018 which has been declared a “Year of Prayer” by our Diocese and the National Council of Churches. In my Vicar Writes two Sundays back, I wrote an article on “Pursuing the Heart of God.” This can be read on our website. One of the steps we are taking is to make our daily lectionary readings more accessible using our app “St Andrew’s Cathedral SG” (check for info in the Bulletin’s notice page). We want to encourage many of you to consider using it for a year, either following both the morning and evening prayer readings or just using a single set. We will also insert prayer items that will help guide us to pray together as a Cathedral  and community.


On 26 & 27 January 2018, we will be having our Leaders Conference. There, we will share more deeply about our plans for the year.  From February onwards, we want to build upon our Cathedral@Prayer, renaming it “Prayer & Praise” and putting more effort to give it the attention it deserves. Most important of all, the key to putting in “more effort”, is our participation as a Cathedral and making it our top priority.

12 November 2017 | Vicar Writes

Random Thoughts On Missions

By Terry Wong

THE NEED TO PAVE THE WAY
When I was serving in St James’ Church, we started the PeaceIran Project (2003) to help earthquake victims in the Iranian city of Bam. There was wide involvement from not just full-time pastors but many lay as well. The project required various skills. Most were not trained theologically or missiologically, but the work was such that there was room for many to serve. I noted that some will if they knew how. Even seemingly quiet members who were hardly involved in regular church ministry volunteered.

We sometimes preach until we are blue in the face about the need for commitment and sacrifice. We give altar calls and cajole people to “surrender all”. But all along, what may be needed is wise and astute leadership that will make it possible for people to serve. People are not able to cross to the other side because the bridge has not been properly built. We can take a leaf or two from early Anglican missions work, where huge efforts were made at paving the way for people to go.
 

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE CALLED?
In the mid-80’s I was involved in supporting the work of this missionary couple. One of them was clearly unhappy and not able to adapt to the local culture there. I also met another Singaporean couple serving in the same country but happy and doing very well. I wondered, “Will the Lord call a person to serve in a particular culture if he or she is not able to fit in?” And one sign of fitting in is joy and sense of being at home. I don’t think Missions is about one sacrificing himself or satisfying some inner guilt of not doing enough for Christ. I think such missionaries will end up being miserable.

We can’t serve well in another culture if we are miserable and if each day feels like a detention, i.e. we are in a place we do not want to be. This thought is by no means a sacred Missions principle. Sometimes, a person is called to do the dreaded, i.e. prophet Jeremiah. Even so, it better be the Lord’s calling. This thought did change the way I preach on Missions, not by imposing guilt but by asking people to serve out of a sense of deep calling. And we can be glad that our personality and gifts are never too far from what and where He may call us to serve in.

NOW EVERYONE CAN GO
There was a time where some spoke negatively of short-term Mission trippers. I stand accused as well as I have been on many of such trips, including to Karachi, Manila, Riau Islands, Bam (Iran), Hanoi, Bandung and so on. But if we want more to be involved, such exposure trips can be helpful. Some trips involve strengthening an existing work.
The advent of low-cost flights has made such trips easier. Some have skills that are very useful. There are some who go to Cambodia and other deaneries simply to test water wells and help make them drinkable or less harmful to humans.

Using Air Asia’s tag-line “Now everyone can fly,” indeed, “Now everyone can go.” If you are bent on serving long-term, then I will say please get yourself trained and learn the language. But if you can make a difference just by being there for a few weeks to help strengthen an existing work, I will say, go for it.

THE SACRIFICE OF EARLY PIONEERS
I can vividly recall the first Diocesan Missions Conference which Bishop Moses Tay headed. There was a clarion call for our parishes to be Missions-minded, especially in reaching ASEAN countries around us. The idea of “deaneries” began to take root. Nepal had not joined the ranks yet. It seemed such a far-fetched idea then. Indeed, in the mid-80’s, the work in most of our deaneries were slow and we faced many discouraging setbacks. It seems like the pioneering stage is always difficult. But these difficulties seem to have laid a foundation for the success of future work. I was in Muscat, Oman, visiting some missionaries when I received news about Revd Gerry Khoo’s sudden passing away in Thailand. I remembered receiving the news with some tears. I thought then that the Anglican work in Thailand might have suffered a fatal blow. I was completely wrong, of course.

Jesus said...

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).” Amen.

5 November 2017 | Vicar Writes

Diffusing the Light

By Terry Wong

This is a first part of a series of articles on the work of Missions through our Cathedral.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”2 Corinthians 4:6

The Cathedral is often called a “Mother Church.” This very term is actually found in our own Diocesan constitution (Article 16.9). The simplest way to understand this term is to state the obvious: a mother gives birth to children and nurtures them. Over the years, many congregations were planted across the island. Some later became parishes, which form a significant part of the 28 parishes we have today, with multiple language congregations. 

 It will be right to say that it is in the DNA of the Church to share the Gospel and offer the love of Christ to those who do not know Him.  When you think of the Anglican Communion, you see a Church in missions. 

 One of the great figures in Anglican missions was Thomas Bray (1656-1730).  Bray was a humble, diligent, practical, and extraordinarily loving parish priest. He was an indefatigable parish catechist, a promoter of lay and clerical learning.  In 1699 he founded the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the SPCK, which by the end of the next century had established hundreds of parish libraries in America and England, set up charity schools, and finally translated prayerbooks and other bibles. In 1701, he founded the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the SPG, which became the first formal Anglican missionary organization, responsible for the support of priests among British subjects abroad and for the conversion of native peoples.

 Bray describes what mission is about in a famous sermon he gave called “Apostolic Charity”, and the focus is important to grasp:  “turning many to righteousness” (Daniel 12:3). Bray goes on to say that, for the English Church it is a special calling, since the particular “light” of the British Nation and of her Church is so real and particular as to “diffuse” itself into the world almost naturally, if it is indeed allowed to. To them, he says, is entrusted by God the “stewardship” of her special gift – that of a “pure religion” and “liberty” together in one people. How is this done? Through “preaching, catechizing, and instructing” via the missionary endeavor of her clergy and lay leaders. One can only lament how far our British friends may have departed from this idea with Brexit. When nation is reduced to a secular and economic notion, this will be the result.   

 The same idea was also conveyed through the words of one of her sons, Resident Chaplain William Humphrey in his sermon on Pentecost Sunday, 1856. He was addressing the congregation of St Andrew’s Church on the subject of Missions. “The Malay part of the population was cared for by the zeal and piety of Mr Keasberry; but for the Chinese and Tamil and general native population of the Island, it was high time that the Church of England should begin to make some spiritual provision.  “I am thankful to observe,” he said, “that through the blessing of God on the operation of the Chinese Female Mission, we continue to have many enquirers, whom we have every reason to believe to be sincere in desiring to enter the fold of Christ. Thus we cannot stop if we would. We cannot withhold our attention from those, who so pleasingly require it; so that the congregation of St Andrew’s must, in spite of itself, become a Missionary congregation – a centre of diffusing to others the light, and comfort, and peace of the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified. 

 Monies were raised for the new Mission. Soon after, Chinese and Indian church workers were employed to reach their own. One can say that these early efforts seeded the outreach that will reach later generations of Singaporeans. Though of course, it had to be more than a hundred years later of further social disruptions and war occupation before Singapore emerged as a society of her own with a national identity. 

 In that Service, Humphrey was trying to ask members to give a dollar for the work of this new Mission. This month, we will be asking you to consider “Giving a Hundred,” to raise funds for the work of “diffusing the light” to our six deaneries: Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and Vietnam. May many “catechists” continue the work of preaching the good news to the many millions around us who do not know of the love of Christ. 

29 October 2017 | Vicar Writes

Martin Luther: 500 Years On

By Terry Wong
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It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517. With a hammer in hand, Martin Luther purportedly nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses on the the main north door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. In doing so, he unwittingly created a portal from the medieval to modern world, setting off in its wake radical changes in both Church and Society which are still felt today.

Luther was born in 1483 in what is now central Germany but then was a separate principality called Saxony. His parents tried to give him a good education and hoped he would become a lawyer. Instead, when he was twenty-one he became a Catholic monk. He wanted to earn God’s love but was tormented by the sense that he could never be good enough. He punished himself mercilessly until finally a wise mentor sent him to study and teach the Bible at the then new University of Wittenberg.

Not long after he arrived there, he became incensed by the church which said, in effect, that if people bought a certain document - an indulgence - it would provide God’s forgiveness for their (or a loved one’s) sins. Being a university professor, he wrote this list of ninety-five sentences to debate about the topic. He was a pious monk, intensely obedient to authority, who was convinced the pope could not possibly approve of turning indulgences and the forgiveness of sins into a kind of merchandise at the expense of Christ’s people.

What Luther did not know at the time was that the pope and the archbishop were the ones profiting from this merchandise, each claiming half of the take. So it was not surprising that events took a turn he did not anticipate. That list, the Ninety-Five Theses, stirred up a hornet’s nest in the church and began the Reformation. As it was dated on October 31, 1517, this date is seen as marking the beginning of the Reformation. 

Luther was called before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, at a meeting in the imperial city of Worms. Asked to take back what he had written, he refused and was declared an outlaw. Anyone could capture or kill him or turn him over to the authorities, in which case his death was likely. Fortunately, his own prince protected him, hiding him out in a castle where he began translating the Bible into German. In the process, he helped create the standard German language.

Luther wrote many influential books, most of which are still valued today. He was a pas-sionate, sometimes crudely mannered man. Imperfect like any other, in later life he wrote some unhelpful things about the Jewish people, statements for which the Lutheran church has apologised.

The winds of Reformation affected the Church in England, providing the spiritual motivations and political force for change.

To understand the full import and impact of Luther’s Reformation, modern evangelicals will do well not to domesticate Luther’s contributions to just the doctrinal idea of “justification by grace through faith.” We will not learn very much from the past if all we see in it is our own reflection. In fact, many modern Protestants will find Luther’s understanding of the Gospel and Sacrament problematic. 

But moving from dogma - and the battles and dividing lines associated with them - the spiritual commitment of the early Reformers and their quest for moral/devotional purity should continue to inspire us. Their emphases on hearing and reading Scriptures need to be reheard.

22 October 2017 | Vicar Writes

Pursuing the Heart of God

By Terry Wong

Having worshipped in and pastored congregations large and small, I have noted that the core principles that mark a happy and loving congregation do not change. Deep in our hearts, there is a yearning for His glory and presence. Without spiritual intimacy, programmes, buildings and gatherings can all sound very hollow. 

We were already duly warned in the letter to the angel of the Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:4) that a church can “lose her first love.” 

Prophet Isaiah put it more positively in Isaiah 40:31, “that they that wait upon the Lord shall mount up with wings like eagles…they will run and not be weary, walk and not faint.” To wait - as a servant would for his Master - is to be attentive to Him, to look to Him, to follow Him, to be submitted to Him. The church will not grow weary if she does that. 

In our Communion Services, we recite Deuteronomy 6:5 or the Gospel call (Matthew 22:37) to love God with our whole being. 

In Hebrews, to Christians, for whom the church assembly has become a wearisome (or even fearsome) thing, the writer urged in 12:1,2 to “run the race”, looking to Him who in the first place gave birth to the church and is perfecting her. It is another picture of pursuit. If we exclude Christ in the Church, the  scene of Jesus knocking on our doors that He may sup with us (Rev 3:20) may well speak to us proverbially.

The wheels may still turn - and there are enough resources in Singapore to ensure that. If we are not absorbed by the love of God, we will be self-absorbed. When God is lost, man looms. Mix the hubris of man with religion and you have a combustive potential in the wrong direction. Men and women scurrying around - like little orphans - looking and competing for love while the Father’s embrace is ignored. Or demi-gods, seeking for adulation and worship. 

In Question 2 in the Rule of St Basil, the inquirers ask: “For we have heard that He ought to be loved, what we want to learn is however, how this can be fulfilled.”

This short editorial offers no clear or simple answers. But like this ancient catechism, I urge us to start with the right question and the same concern. We may have missed the mark, the harmatia (Greek for “sin”) of it all. By the help of the Spirit, we need to retrace our steps and find our way again.  It may be the heart-numbing effect of habitual sins, the tolling effects of suffering, the deceptive philosophy of secularism, the spirit of religiosity or the neglect of our walk with God. Unless we set our hearts to pursue Him, to wait upon Him, with all our being, we will be lost.

It is often said that seeking after God (i.e. Jeremiah 29:13) is impossible for we cannot see Him. If only “He appears before me”, we wish. Yet, when it comes to the very tangible and daily presence of sentient beings such as our spouse, parents, children or our friends, we can fail repeatedly to love or pursue that commitment to do so. 

It is not about what we can see. It is about the orientation of our hearts

Like Peter in John 21, we need to be queried again by the One who loves us deeply - summarising the three questions into one - that we may know our own hearts. 

“Do you really love Me?”

15 October 2017 | Vicar Writes

Whatever You Do…

By Terry Wong

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

The Diocesan pre-School video was shown in all our Services last weekend. If you have listened and noted carefully, much can be gleaned from it. There is a unique influence of a work which has strong Christian values underpinning, and the covering provided by a local church. St James’ Church Kindergarten is 2000-strong today and Ascension Church’s Ascension Kindergarten is 600+. More than just numbers, along with other church-based pre-school work, they have been quiet but influential. Both do not have a problem attracting good teachers because it is not primarily driven by money or career-advancement opportunities. Purposeful and meaningful work is always attractive and self-sustaining.  

 Truths, such as contained in the Bible verses above, powerfully ensure that organisations are imbued with strong inner qualities. I have served in two growing parishes, the last one being St James’ Church as her Vicar for 14 years. I have had the privilege to lead and serve with “high-fliers” such as politicians, High Court judges, senior doctors, senior lawyers, super-scaled principals along with successful businessmen and women, corporate leaders and so on. In church, they prefer to be related to as just worshippers and disciples. They are “serving the Lord Christ”, and thankfully, not me. This explains why our churches can be and do so much. One highly successful corporate leader once remarked to me, “How can you have this small a budget and do so much?”  

 Political systems, money and connections cannot buy one thing - the human heart. One that is rightly conditioned and motivated, filled with the right desires, motivations, self-governing integrity, love, humility, “others before self.” Not only does the church need this, societies need this as well. That is not to say that church leaders are perfect, and indeed wonderful altruism can also be found amongst people of other faiths. I am merely pointing out that which is good and to urge that we may continue to walk in it. 

 I now come to the field of healthcare. A bishop once told me that the battle in this field “is already lost.” By that, he was referring to how financial greed and selfishness have gripped the profession and how it has strayed so far from the values embodied in the classical Hippocratic oath. But there is no area nor field which our Lord cannot redeem. Take for example the many medical doctors and nurses who have chosen the less lucrative path to serve in SAMH, SACS and other Christian hospitals like St Luke’s Hospital. There is a clinic at Serangoon Road (under Healthserve) which offers medical care for foreigners at a highly subsidised rate. In
SAC and many other churches, many healthcare workers are involved in overseas missions or crisis relief work. There are also countless doctors and medical workers - in government or private institutions - who have not bowed down to the god of mammon, many whose faith in Christ has shaped the way they work and behave, “as for the Lord and not men.”  

 Indeed, on this day, we can give thanks and be very grateful for all our healthcare workers for the testimony of their work. May the Lord reward them richly. 

 Many of the early missionary pioneers of our Church, Schools and Medical Services have served with their blood, sweat and tears, often under very discouraging circumstances and with limited resources. If they can see what is happening today, they will be deeply encouraged.

8 October 2017 | Vicar Writes

My Journal this Week

By Terry Wong

If I were to keep a daily journal, last week’s could have read like this: 

29th Sept Fri: Canon James Wong’s 78th Birthday Dinner Celebration

It wasn’t easy to cancel other events to be at this but I am glad we did. It was remarkable to hear Canon Wong share again about his journey into the renewal, though he had to do it seated down. It was moving and brought into remembrance again the fervour of the church in those years. Many in the room were impacted by James’ leadership and ministry. Two missionaries also shared and encouraged us to move the Church beyond her traditional and institutional walls. As I was leaving for home, a text message came in about Jessica Sim-Khoo’s critical condition. She was warded at TTSH. As I was nearby, I detoured to pay her a visit. Aged 85, she was having multiple organ failure. She returned to the Lord the next day. 

30th Sept Sat: Much of today was spent on sermon preparation. I said the opening words of welcome at the inaugural Myanmar Christian Conference held in the Nave. There are a few Myanmar congregations meeting in Singapore, and for the first time, they gathered together. It is an important sign of unity, and SAC and her Myanmar Congregation are more than happy to encourage this initiative.    

1st Oct Sun: I was happy to preach again from Psalm 73 at the 8 am Service. A deep and multi-layered Psalm, it was my privilege to unpack it for the congregation. The 11.15 am Confirmation Service had 40 over candidates with Bishop himself preaching and administering. Some candidates were visibly moved and ministered to during the prayer time. 

2nd Oct Mon: We have to send Mama back to PJ. It became a day trip because we could not leave the evening before. As always, a trip down memory lane to my hometown was restful and refreshing. We visited my three-week old grand-nephew and had a good time catching up with my PJ family. The KL-style wanton mee noodles, Penang Char Kuay Teow and (amazing) Satay Kajang reminded me that some foods are still best up-country. I have to say I am still stumped as to why SG still cannot get their satay right even with the “club” status here. The 4-5 hours on the road allowed us to catch up on previous talks, such as the insightful teaching on Anglicanism by Ephraim Radner when he was here in SAC in April. 

3rd Oct Tues: The retired Revd Howard Peskett gave a talk on pastoral leadership at our morning Clergy Meeting. He reminded us that Christian leadership is less about a strongman-solo approach. It should be marked by fellowship, partnership, teamwork and a sense of indebtedness to those who have served with us. This keeps us “needful of the minds of others.” This quality of serving with the community will ensure a strong parish where many have a sense of ownership and participation in her life and direction. I enjoyed some catch-up time over lunch with a peer clergy friend. Even with age and experience, ministry doesn’t seem to get easier. We ended up praying together. I felt led to pray that we may “let go” and cease trying to control our circumstances. The church and ministry belong to Him and we must always minister from this basis. 

____________________________________

Journaling is indeed an important discipline if we want to grow. Pausing to reflect helps one to turn life events into rich lessons.

1 October 2017 | Vicar Writes

Into the fourth Quarter

By Terry Wong

Five visitors turned up for the Visitors Lunch. We had a good time of conversations around the table. We hope to organise this about once in two months. It gives another opportunity for visitors who are seeking to go deeper in the faith or life of the church to do so. Do look out for the next one. 

We are hoping to start a Tamil Service next year. This will be significant. I am not sure why it has taken us so long but better late than never. As always, we trust the Lord to work out His will in His time. After all, Tamil is one of our national languages and both the language and culture has shaped our national life. This initiative will be led by the Diocesan Indian Board in partnership with the Cathedral. I believe some Cathedral members who can speak this language may be interested to help pioneer this new congregation. 

Note that I am referring more to the language than the issue of race. After all, we already have many Indians worshipping and serving in our English congregations. But expressing the faith in the vernacular or heart language is always important. We recall Revelation 7:9:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands...   

It happened at Pentecost when the Gospel was released through many Gentilic tongues. There were other moments too in the history of the Church, including the Reformation. Certainly this truth propels our missions work in languages and cultures where the Gospel is not yet established.
Please pray for this Service that it may grow into a strong and mission-minded congregation.

The planning for Christmas@Cathedral (C@C) is happening in earnest. Steven Wong, Francis Tan, Soh Kim Seng and Ee May forms the core planning team. As always, we hope to see as wide a participation as possible by the Cathedral community. Adding to all that has happened in the last two C@C events, we will be adding more food and arts & crafts stalls, with profits going to community services. The amphitheatre will also be used. C@C this year will be more akin to the concept of a Christmas Village. 

On the staff front, many of you will be encouraged to know that Dinah Tan, who is the current Superintendent of the 9am Service Sunday School, will be joining the staff to head the Children Ministry in the Cathedral. This is a role held by Hambali but with his increasing pastoral responsibilities at the eleven:30 Service, it makes sense that we have dedicated staff focus in this area. The work of pastoring and discipling children and the way it overlaps with families is always challenging, yet fruitful and life-changing. Please pray for Dinah.

The Senior Staff will be having two days of Planning Retreat (10-11 Oct). Please pray for spiritual wisdom and “ears to hear” what the Lord is saying and “eyes to see” what our Father is doing.

24 September 2017 | Vicar Writes

Building Bridges

By Terry Wong

On the weekend of 14th-15th October, we will be celebrating Diocesan Healthcare Sunday and our Anglican Community Services Sunday (SACS/SAMH) in our Services. The Church and Christians have always been closely involved in medical work, whether as a career or in missions work. In many parts of the world, medical care is a lucrative business. We will always need to remind medical personnel of their call to help society. Those who are Christians need to do their part to reflect on the love and healing heart of God. We are also working closely with our Myanmar congregation to offer basic free health check on our grounds for foreign workers.       

From 17-21 Oct, we will also be hosting the Diocesan Missions Conference and Roundtable Consultation. How can we share in the work of the Gospel and help the Church in each country to grow and be established? What will be the role of the Cathedral as “Mother Church” in this? I should add this - and I am willing to be challenged on the veracity of this observation: there are more Christians who want to serve overseas than there are churches and organisations who are able to send them. Now, I am not talking about money or the often perceived notion that churches are not willing to support these workers financially. It is about whether individuals are able to contribute cross-culturally, their preparedness, maturity and so on. Linked to that is also whether churches or organisations are able to provide the support necessary for a ministry worker to function effectively in a foreign culture for the longterm. 

I was at the LoveSingapore Concert on 8th August. When the altar call was given to serve in Missions, hundreds queued to be prayed for. While it was encouraging to note the willingness to serve, many thoughts filled my mind as to whether we have done sufficient leadership work to build bridges that can help the individuals serve in another culture. This is an important challenge for the Cathedral to consider: the importance of missions bridge-building work. Zeal without wisdom is not going to help very much.

The Roundtable Consultation will be about, quoting Revd Chris Royers, doing missions Anglicanly. It is about revisiting our primal call as a Church to spread the news. And we can start by being faithful to our Anglican inheritance of the Bible, worship and a polity that encourage worship in the vernacular. The Anglican Communion has grown tremendously in the last century. When an Anglican missionary moves into a new society, while he or she may be individual-focused in ministry, the ultimate goal is to raise a local and on-going Anglican presence. It is about missions bridge-building work. 

A good and lasting bridge needs two strong and established anchors, one on each end. May we work hard at building these two ends. One on our end in SAC and the other in another culture. The Anglican way allows for this and it will need us to be faithful to our calling.

Adding to the above, November is our Missions Month, with the theme “Diffusing the Light.” We will share with you the details in due course. 

I hope to see many of you participating in the coming events. Come and help us build bridges.

17 September 2017 | Vicar Writes

And to the angel in the church at St. Andrew’s Road, write…

By Terry Wong

I  always wonder, if God were to send a letter to the Cathedral like He did to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, what will He say? We can look at the Cathedral in different ways. 

One common way is to view it as a prestigious historical church right at the heart of the city. She has some beautiful historical buildings and grounds, with a rich history. While the Nave is not as ornate or grand as other famous cathedrals, she does have an imposing presence. We can expect many visitors to drop in, and indeed, the Cathedral is probably one of the most photographed buildings in Singapore. She is a centre of arts and music, and in some ways, she is.

Another way is to see her as a church with a vibrant Christian community. This is also very visible, especially on weekends where more than 4,000 worshippers gather. There are events throughout the week: seminars, meetings, conferences, etc. The Cafe is a bustling place where members and visitors alike mingle. And many gather in our 80+  Connect Groups that meet all over the city. Cathedral is thriving in numerical terms and spiritual commitment. 

Corollary to this, the Cathedral is also a “Mother Church”, supporting parishes - especially planting new ones - and an important base for missions work, given her financial resources and manpower base. This aspect is often lauded and indeed, the Cathedral is giving and seeding God’s work in many directions, here and abroad. For this, we give Him praise.      

There is, however, one aspect of Cathedral life that is less seen and almost impossible to measure. And yet, no less important and closest to His heart. It is about the Cathedral out there, far away from St Andrew’s Road. It is about how we live out our faith and lives - in homes, classrooms and workplaces. It is about how we treat our domestic helpers and aged parents, how we behave behind the wheel. It is about how we treat our colleagues, whether our behaviour (as in faith in practice) glorifies our Father in heaven (Matt 5:16). It is about how we observe the principle of love (John 13:35), honour (Rom 12:10b) and justice (Micah 6:8).  

I will be the first to admit that doing the church thing is a whole lot easier; the building, the ministries and missions. To live my life as a Cathedral member that will make my Lord and my fellow members proud will always be more challenging. Yet this will be the most important. I was reading with intrigue an interview of our former Head of Civil Service, Lim Siong Guan. When asked what has caused the success of Singapore, he said:

“My conclusion, as I reflected on it, was that Singapore has succeeded for two basic philosophical or ideological foundational reasons. The first is that Singapore is a brand about trustworthiness. The second is more about the multiracial, multi-religious aspect of Singapore; how, as a society, despite our differences, we honour one another, give
space to one another, and appreciate the fact that we are different. And this idea about trustworthiness and honouring your word, respecting and appreciating other people, actually applies to virtually every aspect of life. It applies to families, to leadership in companies, to the community, the way we treat our neighbours, and the way we look at the people that we interact with.”

Food for thought indeed, as we continue to wonder what our Father may say to us!

10 September 2017 | Vicar Writes

Remember and Tell

By Terry Wong

The Heritage Committee met for the second time last Monday evening. It is chaired by Charles Leong and the members are Karen Chua, Philip Towndrow, Sharon Lim, Linda Ng, Nathene Chua and Samantha Lee. From the staff side, Joyce Ho and Vivien Chen join in.

The theme “Remember and Tell” was chosen to guide the work of the sub-committee. Three priorities will be looked at:

1. Knowledge Management

We are embarking on conservation efforts for objects which we have identified as historical material in our Cathedral. We will record and/or locate them within the Cathedral, Diocesan office and elsewhere (i.e. National Heritage Board collection). This includes documenting past publications which look at our Cathedral’s history. Even though we have limited physical space, we will also explore creative ways of displaying some artefacts from time to time.   

2. Telling the Stories 

We have a depository of many wonderful stories and testimonies. We can focus on various epochs or events from time to time. For early 2018, we are planning to tell the story of the Cathedral in the war years. We need to remember the faithfulness and sacrifice of believers then. This will be done through publications, information boards and guided tours. We are also exploring the possibility of using Apps for translation into other languages. Do you know of anyone who has lived through the war years or has access to personal stories or artefacts that pertain to our Cathedral’s history? Contact Joyce Ho at joyceho@cathedral.org.sg or email heritage@cathedral.org.sg. You are also welcome to speak with the committee members. 

In 2019, to coincide with the 200th year of the founding of modern Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles, we want to commemorate the early years of the Cathedral (mid 19th century, as St Andrew’s Church), which is of course wrapped up with the beginnings of our city-nation. Again, this will be creatively done to testify to what the Lord has done and the part Christianity has played in blessing our nation. 

3. New research

Building on the work done by a few, including Diffusing the Light by A/Prof Joseph Thambiah, we will continue to research our past. This will grow our depository of knowledge. As always, awareness of what has gone before us can guide us in the present and give us a deeper perspective of life and faith. It will also enrich the work of our volunteers and tour guides.  

The Heritage Committee seeks to help us to remember and tell our stories better. May the Lord be lifted up and glorified. If you would like to help in some way or have any feedback, please email heritage@cathedral.org.sg or contact any of the Heritage Committee members. We appreciate your prayers in this unique and important ministry of the Cathedral.

3 September 2017 | Vicar Writes

Who Am I

By Terry Wong

From memorial, when man looked at the world around him - when he considered the heavens, moons and stars - he occasionally wondered, “Who am I..that He should be mindful of me?” (Psalm 8)

I was at a public evening event recently where a Cabinet Minister was a guest of honour. I have met him a few years ago where we had some personal conversations. He was still a new and junior politician then. That evening, I was just another face in the crowd. When he was shaking some hands on the
way out, ours met too, albeit briefly. I did wonder, “Did he remember me? Could he recall my name?” But who am I, that he should pause for a “we meet again” conversation? Who am I, that he should retain my name in his memory given the countless people he needs to relate to?

It is only human to sometimes wonder about why someone important should even given us an eye-glance, let alone, a mindful occupation. 

From memorial, many individuals have stood at the threshold of a call to do something great and pause, asking this question and laced with self-doubt. 

Young Mary, when she was told that she would conceive, wondered about the physical impossibility of that. When Gideon was told that he was chosen to lead his army, he asked how could that be, given his poor ancestry and that he was the youngest and least important in his family. He was not born with a headstart that belongs to the socially privileged. (Judges 6:15)

In fact the “Who Am I?” question can illicit laughters of disbelief and incredibility as it did for Abraham and Sarah when they were told they would give birth to a son. Abraham was already a centenarian and Sarah, four scores and ten (Genesis 17-18). In this case they knew who they were only too well. What they could not come to believe was that God should choose them to parent a new lineage. 

Not surprisingly, Moses,  dubbed the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3), also asked, “Who am I?” when told he was to confront Pharaoh and lead his people out of Egypt (Exodus 3:11). After spending so many years in desert life, there was not much self-confidence left in Moses. 

Self-doubt is not a good characteristic of leadership, according to modern thoughts on this subject. However, classically and biblically, the humble pause and wonderment at one’s inadequacy may well predispose a person for the Lord’s work.

As He leads us to points of self-insufficiency, may we never imagine that it is beyond us to ask this question from time to time.

27 August 2017 | Vicar Writes

Dispassion

By Terry Wong

The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving. Proverbs 14:8

There is one principle undergirding our spiritual growth which is least taught or understood today. It has to do with the principle of self-knowledge or self-awareness. 

We hardly take soul-searching seriously unless we are hit with a crisis, i.e. a painful relationship breakdown or a major work failure. However, being self-aware is actually needed in our daily life, work and discipleship. Routinely, are we capable of asking these questions:

•     What are my motivations, the “whys” of what I do?

•     How is my behaviour impacting others?  

•     Am I dictated by a incessant need to please others? 

•     Is the “fear of man” determining my actions?

•     Why am I feeling downcast? Am I simply tired physically or are there some underlying issues which I am not at peace with?   

•     Do I have fears that I have not faced up to?

Am I capable of taking my intense feelings, positive and negative, out of the depths of my heart for a moment, and putting them where I can look at them – and where Christ can look at them?

It’s what the ancient spiritual traditions meant by ‘dispassion’. It’s a negative-sounding  word, and it’s not much better in Greek, because apatheia is the source of our English word “apathy”. But dispassion, apatheia, in the spiritual understanding of the early Christians, is about stepping back a bit from how we are feeling, what we think we are wanting, and what other people are wanting. We are saying: ‘Just a moment – can I make some space around these feelings, these instincts, these emotions, these desires? Can I create a bit of space and not allow my reactions instantly to be dictated by them?’ 

This applies equally to positive feelings of ecstasy and enthusiasm as to resentment or sadness. Stand back a little, give those feelings room to breathe; give yourself room to breathe. Ask, “What’s this really about?” Self-awareness, and this rather strange word ‘dispassion’, is about developing some sense of our freedom from the projections, the expectations and the busyness that control our lives. 

We can only get to dispassion when, in our prayer and in our life generally, we make enough space to reflect, to hear God. We encounter such moments when we pause to pray: “Search my heart, O God.” It is about being still enough  and to begin to realise who we really are. That self-awareness is often needed if there is to be change and growth. 

Something to this effect was happening in the conversations between Jesus and Peter in John 21. What did Jesus do to Peter? He simply asked questions. Deep and penetrating ones. They were questions that caused Peter to probe his own heart, his priorities and motivations. 

Sometimes, the real problem is not the absence of God but the absence of us. Even when we pray, our true selves are in absentia. In our busy city life, there are really no short-cuts to the practice of this discipline of apatheia. You have to find the space to be quiet and to be still. Sometimes another person, asking the right questions can also help us to find the space for self-awareness. 

I should add that often, we can rob the person from the needful path of self-discovery and discipleship experiences when we rush into defining a person’s problems or weaknesses. Instead, we should encourage the person to pray, reflect and seek the Lord. You need to help  him or her to step back and find the space to be more self-aware. From there, true growth and change will take place.

20 August 2017 | Vicar Writes

THAT YOU MAY HAVE LIFE, AND HAVE IT TO THE FULL

By Terry Wong

There is a new fascination with food in the globalised world of today, almost a new religion, where food is worshipped for what it is and nothing more. We eat and “have it to the full”.

 However, we would do well not to neglect the traditional aspects of food, which bring depth and beauty to the human experience, making it less selfish, self-aggrandising, where meals are set in the classical context of giving, community, family and relationships. The Bible offers some of these helpful perspectives.  

 Hosting a guest at one’s dinner table can serve as an expression of welcome and acceptance. To eat with someone is to embrace him. Jesus often ate with the rejects and outcasts of society, an association that drew the criticism of the self-righteous religious elite of his day. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes, sharing with them and engaging them in conversation. How often do we find ourselves connecting with others, even strangers, over a shared meal? Do you know that chatting with a visitor after a Service over a cup of coffee can be something our Lord will do?

 Meals and feasting also carry the idea of resting from labour. The Bible takes this further in its portrayal of a heavenly banquet as ‘salvation rest’ from work, and the ravages of sin and suffering in this world. When we feast and eat, we naturally experience an inner sense of rest. One of the most well-known passages in the Bible must be Psalm 23. The psalm begins with the image of a guiding Shepherd but ends with us being served by a Chef – “You prepare a table before me….” Psalm 23:5). Each meal can be a picture of that rest,
even if it just provides a brief respite in the midst of the stress of everyday life. Take time to enjoy food. If you are eating with someone, enjoy the conversation and company while being fully present and engaged. 

 Associated with the idea of rest is also the theme of homecoming. This is one reason the Bible refers to meals when it describes homecoming events such as the Parable of the Banquet (Luke 14:15-24). With each meal, whether in our homes, especially the precious Chinese New Year reunion dinner, or in church at the Holy Communion, we anticipate the great gathering in heaven with Christ.  Christians are simply grateful that they are forgiven and accepted by the Father, and they remember this over a spiritual meal. 

 The idea of welcome, rest and home is also powerfully portrayed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31). The youngest son squanders away his inheritance. He returns in shame, hoping for his father’s forgiveness yet feeling unworthy to be called his son. His father does much more than forgive. He throws a lavish feast which includes a fattened calf to celebrate the restoration of a son who had gone astray. He exclaims: “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” To gather around the table again reflects the reinstatement of the son’s position in the family. In feasting, the family celebrates the ties that bind. Yes, a family that eats together stays together.  

 It is not difficult to imagine the importance of a meal before an Alpha Course or after a Worship Service. It is as deeply spiritual as a Prayer Meeting!

 Jesus said, ‘’I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). My prayer for you is that food and feasting is not just about a tasty dish, an Omakase or Degustation meal. It may delight the palate but adds little else to life. That you experience food in the context of rich relationships with your friends, family and your Creator. That to me is to have life to the full.

13 August 2017 | Vicar Writes

A Christian approach to the issue of Same-Sex attraction

By Terry Wong

We were very blessed recently by the ministry of Revd Dr Wesley Hill. He gave a talk at at our Parish Workers Communion and also spoke at a conference organised over the weekend. 

 Hill is assistant professor of New Testament at the Trinity School for Ministry, an Anglican College in Pittsburg USA. Hill shared his personal journey as a Christian who gradually discovered that he has same-sex attraction and how that needed to square with his commitment to God’s Word and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  A celibate Christian now, he is both convinced of and convicted to follow God’s Word and the traditional (inherited) teaching of the Church.  

 He also challenged the Church to take a hard look at her emphases, especially the “idolisation of marriage” and underplaying the power of community living and spiritual friendships. 

 Hill explained how, typically, this Christian hope for sexual minorities lends itself to one of two options, both focused on marriage. The first, that homosexuals can change their sexual orientation and eventually participate in a heterosexual marriage; the second, that homosexuals can find hope in participating in a homosexual marriage.

“My story doesn’t allow me to locate my hope in either of those options,” Hill said. “Instead, what I found is that the hope God was calling me to in the gospel was hope that came in the form of a positive call to love, precisely in my celibacy.”

This sounds like it could mean a life of loneliness and a very depressing prospect and Wesley spoke to those kinds of questions.

After growing up in a “sheltered environment” where he had little to no exposure to homosexuality, Hill realised in college that ignoring his homosexuality was not the path toward redemption. “I began a process of bringing my questions to my faith rather than keeping my questions and my faith separate,” he said.

Hill explained that his own context has led him to a hope revolving around a vocation that encourages fellowship among Christians — the vocation of spiritual friendship. He views this idea of spiritual friendship not only as a call to sexual minorities, but also as a vocation for Christians in general, which allows more room for those who feel called toward celibacy.

This may be the first time I am sharing my thoughts on gay issues. Actually these concerns have dominated my thinking for many years now, often happening around my pastoral ministry to those struggling with sexual difficulties, same-sex or otherwise. I have said all along that the cause of same-sex attraction, whether nature (“born this way”), environment or a bit of both is a moot point. What is important is how we may guide the person to grow in discipleship. 

I agree with Hill that we need to develop a more thought out theology and practice of spiritual friendship in the life of the church. In our desire to protect marriage (promiscuity and unfaithfulness are not a lesser threat than LGBT issues) and melded with our Asian values of expecting everyone to marry, we may have idolised marriage and family to the neglect of the celibate person. The church as a family and community is vital to the life and health of every Christian. 

Regaining a theology of spiritual friendship can help us shift the balance away from the idea that romance and sex are what you need in order to be a fulfilled person. Revd Dr Ephraim Radner said very much the same thing in a talk he gave to a Young Adult group when he was here in April. In our highly sexualised world, it is all too easy to imagine that “romantic love” is the goal of life. In fact, romantic love is often a cheap, selfish imitation and replacement of
true love, as classically understood and experienced.  

In the Cathedral, we will seek to be vigorous as we help each other to think biblically and practise our faith in a fast-changing world. It is never easy to stay faithful to Christ, whether you are a heterosexual, homosexual, single or married person. It has always been so, right from the beginning of time . 

I close with the words of Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

Note: Dr Wesley Hill’s talk can be streamed from our website in the sermon section

6 August 2017 | Vicar Writes

Thankful for…

By Terry Wong
Photo

Safety 
No need to glance back 
We can saunter with friends
Laugh, love, chat
Even when the sun has long set.

Beauty
Greens that give shade 
Blooming bougainvillea
Easing the eyes
Coloring the journey

Efficiency
The city works
The city works
Decisions made 
Carried out.

Integrity
A word is a word
The agenda is as written
No hidden ones in hearts
No whispers
The sum is as stated
No hidden extras.  

Equality
You can if you can
Ideas valued for what they are
Not for where they come from

Order
The voice of the community
Guided by agreed principles
Not arbitrary wishes of the few.

Stability
That we may plan
Way ahead
For our children
And our children’s children

Freedom
To worship
To hear creeds
To admire
To disagree
To choose a new creed


I am thankful for
Singapore. 

“I urge that .. thanksgivings be made for all people (nation), for kings and all who are in high positions…”  1 Timothy 2:1

30 July 2017 | Vicar Writes

“The Local Church is the Hope of the World…”

By Terry Wong

Pastor Bill Hybels boldly declared. 

It is hard to dispute that. I am a firm believer in the local church and this is one reason almost the whole of my working life has been invested in her. This conviction is not over and against para-churches or inter-church organisations/movements, as these have their role. 

The reasons are many, whether biblical or anecdotal.

Our Lord Jesus Himself focused on small communities. And 12 was indeed very small. The biblical letters in the New Testament were mostly addressed to small local churches. Some can be as small as the Connect groups we have in SAC today. And then, there are seven letters in Revelation... 

The almost daily community in prayer and mutual accountability is second to none. In the local church family, you don’t get to choose who you like to be with. In love, humility, grace and lots of forgiveness, you learn to work together. There is no back door. At least that has been so for me and no matter how difficult the conflicts can be, we learn to love and accept one another. Through that we truly grow.  

In the local church, we eat, sing, pray and sit to listen to sermons together. New believers are added from time to time, but the company remains very much the same. Same pew, same hall and more or less, same pastor. Boring? Maybe. Fruitful? Absolutely. Time and constancy produces deep and lasting results.

Think of Missions. While there are the occasional lone rangers, some of the most lasting work was done by local churches. We sometimes forget, but the Anglican Church herself is a missionary movement that has planted parishes which are deeply integrated into societies. The same can be said of an Assembly of God or Methodist Church. 

I served for a stint as the National Director of Alpha Singapore. I saw some amazing ministry in the workplace and prisons, avenues which the local church is not directly involved in. And yet, it is always small groups in long and rich accountability which bear lasting fruitfulness. At some point, I realised my calling was in the local church and decided that the best way I can help other churches to do Alpha well is for the parish to be a good model. 

  It has been 41 years since I first joined a local church. But by His grace, I still wake up each day, excited about what He is doing through her. Whether based at Dover Road, Holland Road or St Andrew’s Road, the parish grows more savoury and luminous with time. 

It is undoubtedly my personal calling to be a local church pastor. I find that a great privilege. Do join in the journey. It may be generally pedestrian with occasional bursts. And journeying together has its own stresses. But walk long enough, and you will experience the richness of a faithful community that grows up together over many generations. 

She is, indeed, the hope of the world.

23 July 2017 | Vicar Writes

MINISTRY UPDATES

By Terry Wong

The response to our current Alpha Courses is encouraging, both at LYnC (youths) on Saturday and the regular one on Wednesday evening. We are offering our friends and walk-ins an opportunity to explore the Christian message in the context of small group conversations and friendship. Christians can also choose to participate in this Course to clarify or refresh their faith. Being held in the city, it is convenient for office workers to pop in for dinner, hear the talk, get into small groups and leave by about 9.30 pm. For this and other reasons, we put in more effort to offer “home-cooked” meals. These always open up the hearts of our guests and incentivise everyone to participate in the dinner where the conversations begin every Alpha evening.  This small group experience continues if they do join the Baptism and Membership (Confirmation) Courses and the Connect groups. This small group track complements the large group Worship Services.

We are also in the process of forming a Worship and Creative Arts Ministry, which includes music, dance, drama, audio-visual (sound) etc. It can help to give support for better coordination of the various teams, groups and activities at both the CNS and Nave. There are Cathedral-wide events which can be better organised and supported. As creative arts are also used for evangelism and missions, this will be another aspect for this ministry to look into. 

One of our LYnC leaders and staff serving at CITY Community Services, Kenneth Ernest has started the 6-month Youth Pastor Discipleship Training Course conducted by YWAM Singapore. Joshua, who has served a year in a southeast Asian city, is also  participating in the Course. Do pray for them as we continue to train and prepare those who are considering serving in the full-time ministry for the longer term. 

According to statistics, we have at least 1 million followers of Christ in this city. As most of them are active in their faith, try to imagine the amount of Christian or faith-inspired activities daily and weekly. I have learned long ago that when it comes to the Lord’s work, release and encourage rather than control will bear much fruit in the long run. This is also in keeping with how the world has changed these past 30 years with the advent of the Internet. We have progressed from communications through sound waves (radio), airwaves (TV), audio visual via storage (i.e tapes, movies, DVDs) to wireless digital. So what is so special about the Internet age? Isn’t wireless digital only another step of progress, a change in degree and not in kind?

One word - interactive. Radio, TV and movies involve only active participation of a few and make the majority passive consumers. But the computers and now, smartphones empower the individual to “create content.” Encyclopaedias are now almost obsolete with the advent of digital-pedia. We now have millions of writers, thinkers, speakers and so on, all creating their own connections and sub-groups. The exponential people to people connection and empowering of the individual to contribute actively means that traditional forms of centralised control, leadership and management are no longer the only ways to get things done, or the most efficient. In the Church, having both a unified and led vision (for the sake of unity, community and synergy) and an environment where individuals can thrive (for the sake of creativity, initiative and personal ownership) is vital. SAC herself has to navigate through some of these societal changes but as always, we know the Spirit is leading His Church. 

Sister Judy Teo officially retires in July. She has served in the Cathedral for 27 years. Retirement is never an easy thing but I trust that in the church community, we can approach this differently for all the good reasons. Let’s continue to show our support and appreciation for our dear sister who has served us so well and will continue to do so in other ways.

16 July 2017 | Vicar Writes

The Influence of the Small

By Terry Wong

“The Kingdom of God...is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants…” Jesus in Matthew 13:32

The G20 nations have been meeting the past week. We ask whether the lives of every citizen on planet Earth is being affected by a meeting comprising a small group of leaders. After all, they are all very human, shaped by their own culture, experience and background, which is always way too small when it comes to the complexity of our world today. The ignorance sometimes is at a very basic level: a first world leader thought that PM Lee is the President of Indonesia! 

They do have a role. Perhaps they can slow down the the rate of increase in our sea water levels (a possible challenge for our future), reduce the chance of more violent conflicts in our region, or make decisions that could improve our business environment, thus improving our personal capital. Perhaps. 

But one thing we can be very certain about is that the factors that will influence your life the most will be those around you: your family, your friends, fellow members in church, etc. In a globalised world dominated by the media, we are sometimes led to think that the ordinary John Doe (or Ahmad?) has no real influence or importance in this world. To really have influence, you have to do big things or be big yourself. 

Wrong. History, if we are to examine it carefully, showed that individuals can have real influence, even if the person is not important to the media or of any public interest. 

Consider: “The greatest of these is love”, St Paul proclaimed in 1 Cor 13:13. Indeed it is, in this life and forevermore. The love you show to another and vice versa, will have lasting consequences. All the political systems, may it be a state-driven (communism, socialism) or capital-driven (capitalism), find their limitations because the timeless reality is that for individuals, families and communities, it is love which matters most. 

Here is why we need to remind ourselves that the church community - and the values we share together - matters. And love, in the smallest of areas, matter. How we truly love Christ and one another, everything that we seek to do as a church, be it evangelism, missions or worship, will have lasting fruitfulness. When we are connected to each other, able to hold each other accountable, value friendship as much as tasks and doing work as a
team, we are being a people as God has created. 

In other words, let’s make Cathedral a safe place for everyone seeking for acceptance and true love. Let’s ensure that ministry springs out of community, instead of fracturing it. Community before tasks, not the other way round. And yes, community before missions. It is a rich Christ-filled community that will truly change the world. An apostle or missionary is a “sent one” precisely because a community is behind every missionary endeavour. 

After all, didn’t Jesus Himself say, “By this shall all man know you are my disciples…if you love each other as I have loved you.” (John 13:34,35)?      

G20 decisions may not change the world. But we can. 

9 July 2017 | Vicar Writes

“Blessed are the Pure in Heart…”

By Terry Wong

In the tradition of the Church, this beatitude has been interpreted in three ways: ascetic, mystic and moral.

The mystical interpretation focuses on the vision of God. Gregory of Nysaa taught on our need to contemplate on God and to purify our hearts from any worldly ties or distraction. By clearing our hearts, we will be able to see God more clearly. Later, Saint Bernard said, “Purify your heart, free yourself from all things, become a monk, that is, become singular of heart.”

The ascetic interpretation focuses on chastity. This is the most common interpretation today and understandably so, in our highly sexualised societies. If one can live with temperance and abstinence from immoral expressions of the lusts of the flesh, he or she will be able to see God more clearly. Experience-wise, we know this to be true as guilt and shame often stand in the way of our sense of God’s presence. 

This may surprise us, but this interpretation was not very common in the early centuries of the Church.  Instead, the moral interpretation was the most common, where the focus is on one’s intentions. It fits the best in the immediate context of the Gospel texts. Jesus taught that what determines purity or impurity of an action - whether in praying, fasting or giving - is located in our intention. Likewise, sin starts not so much with an act but intention e.g. anger that leads to murder, and lust that leads to adultery. 

Jesus was an excellent example of one who is “pure in heart.” In Mark 12:14, the Jewish religious leaders observed, “We know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God.” Jesus’ strong rebuke of hypocrisy is another reflection on what “impurity of heart” means. 

St Augustine taught clearly on this. He said, “All our works are pure and well-pleasing in the sight of God, when they are done...with a heavenly intent, having that end of love in view...It is not therefore, what one does, but the intent with which he does it, that is to be considered.” 

I believe all three interpretations have some truth in them and taken together, take us deeper into this beatitude. But I would like to call attention to the moral interpretation of intention as this is more easily missed today. In our social-intensive lives, where so much is determined by how others view us, we can all too easily slip into an ‘acting’ mode. A lifetime of ‘acting’ can form or ‘deform’ our hearts in ways which we know are neither pleasing to God nor fits well into our aspirations to be better human beings.

Like the ancient prayer, we need to constantly ask, “Search me O God and know my heart today.” It is a lifelong aspiration to be what is pure, good and God-like, and to ensure that we grow inner qualities of love, humility, purity of intentions, integrity and so on. These qualities are universally recognised and when seen in us, attract people to God.  May we live for the audience of One that one day, we may hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

2 July 2017 | Vicar Writes

Learning to Bless One Another

By Terry Wong

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up...” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

We had a blessed time at the Cathedral Family Camp in June, where 200+ members gathered for 3 days of learning, worship and fellowship. We were blessed by the ministry of Wee Hian, his son, Andrew and Andrew’s son, Benjamin. It was apt for the theme “Living a Legacy”.  

We were challenged in many ways, including the need to learn to embrace the principle of blessing and encouragement. It is true that in a perfectionist city like Singapore, there is an unspoken tension of not just striving for excellence, but a daily avoidance of mistakes, imperfections and weakness. A psychiatrist told me that many Singaporeans are struggling with not so much OCD, as in Obsessive Compulsive Diosorder but OCP, the last word being Perfectionism. We walk around with hearts like tightly wound-up springs ready to explode at the slightest agitation. 

I will be the first to admit that I sometimes exhibit OCP symptoms in my leadership. I can be quick to point out errors, ungracious and discouraging to my fellow leaders, something which I need to constantly apologise for. Email communication is often an avenue which reflects our inner unpaused thoughts. I write and speak in a way which I often regret. 

I sometimes wonder whether the mixture of our own Asian migrant survival instincts, Singaporean values and a high-morality based evangelical Christianity has produced a certain approach to life here. It is no wonder that churches that preach strongly on grace are attracting so many as it offers a needed alternative, even if many regard their teachings as unorthodox Christianity. But I challenge us to reflect deeper on Scripture and our society and ask the right questions. It may be that churches that claim to be orthodox are in need of change themselves.

In fact the Oxley Road saga has made me ponder on these thoughts as well, if you were to reflect deeper on it. The way we are, as in the culture we grew up in is not changed in a day. But we can be more intentional in looking at His Word and if discipleship is change, seek to change in this area, even if slowly. Here is where as a Church community, we can help each other. If we are to be salt and light for the city, that should be about contributing a deep value change in our society. They need to hear the Gospel, and that is correct. But the true Gospel changes. And it blesses.

Perhaps one place to start living the principle of blessing is to gather to praise and pray. The Cathedral is more than just an Anglican Institution. As many have said, it is a ‘National Church’. That is one way of saying that it belongs to the Body of Christ. It is indeed a right thing that we are opening it daily for Christians to gather to pray for our nation in this 40 day period from 1st July to 9th August, from Monday to Friday 12.30pm to 1.30pm. Don’t come because you want to please someone or live up to the expectations of others. But do it out of joy for the Lord. Embracing the daily discipline of prayer and worship is something you will not regret, an ancient gift which God has given to His people that they may live life to its abundance. 

Prayer is one activity which nourishes and gives us energy for life. Indeed, we do not live on bread alone.

25 June 2017 | Vicar Writes

“For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”  (Philippians 1:21)

By joyce

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. 

 

Blessings,

Terry & Jennifer Wong

18 June 2017 | Vicar Writes

Making better use of our current space and facilities

By Terry Wong

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

Living for the City of God

By Terry Wong
Photo

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

Creating Space for God to Act

By Terry Wong

“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. 

28 May 2017 | Vicar Writes

Lengthening our Cords and Strengthening our Stakes

By Terry Wong

In June, we will be welcoming two new ministry staff. Chia Kum Meng is a staff returnee. He will be heading our Seniors Ministry, to be assisted by our current staff, David Ng. David is also involved in the Senior Members’ Fellowship (SMF). What is “Seniors Ministry”? It encompasses all our ministries with our seniors. Ministry by age groups - similar to children, youth and young adult ministries - plays an important part to mobilise and equip members sharing the same stage in life to grow and live out their Christian faith. 

We do need to be very pastorally attentive to the needs of some seniors. Some do not have the support of their younger family members. Some are in need of daily nursing care or have to be housed in nursing homes. Some are house-bound and at a stage where it takes  a lot of effort just to attend Services. If we are not attentive, it can be very easy for some of our members to slip away unnoticed. In fact, one of the major reasons why we worked so hard at a new database system is because we see that as one way to help improve our pastoral care to them. Who is in need of visitation? When did it happen and by which group? Are some being neglected? An active and well-used database can help us to know where our flock is and what their needs are. Kum Meng will be working closely with various groups to strengthen our pastoral care network. 

Many seniors can be actively serving and giving too. They can serve in Connect Groups, Discipleship Groups or Alpha groups. Some can go on mission trips. Special courses and seminars can be run. More day-time events can be organised for seniors to bring their friends too. Already, many seniors are giving and serving. One of Kum Meng’s roles is to ensure that anyone who is seeking to serve is able to do so.     

Khoo Ee May will be coming in to serve in the Music Ministry. She worships and serves at the 9am Service along with her husband, Simon Hayes and their children, Patrick and Aerin. This Music Ministry covers the whole spectrum of worship and ministry through music, both in the Nave and in CNS.  She will be focusing more on the Services in CNS. She will be supporting the various worship teams ministering in Services there and helping to train potential musicians. We also have many important music events which need good administrative coordination, whether in the Nave, CNS or Welcome Centre. Gifted as a musician herself, with a passion for the church to glorify the Lord, her joining the team will help us to grow these areas. Currently, our Choir Master, Lim Chin Kai serves part-time as a staff in leading our choirs and organ musicians. Dennis Low heads our PA ministry and coordinates the Worship ministry at the eleven:30 Service. Steven Wong heads our Dance ministry and helps to coordinate Creative Arts events. With Ee May joining in, we now have 4 staff serving in the area of Creative Arts and Music Ministry. They will be working closely as a team along with many of our lay volunteers.   

Still on the note of the “new”, we will also be starting the process of birthing a new Indian Service in SAC. This is historically significant as the Indian language (Tamil) is one of our National languages. While we do have many Indians worshipping in our English Services, we have yet to run one for those who are Tamil-speaking. In the earlier days, we started Tamil Services but they were hosted elsewhere, i.e. St Paul’s Church, Christ Church. With the continual arrival of new migrants from India, it makes sense for the Cathedral to host an Indian Service. The Anglican Indian Board (chaired by Revd Canon Steven Asirvatham) will be coming behind this Service. Starting in July this year, we hope to run a monthly prayer gathering for those who are interested to serve in this Service. If you like more information on how you can be involved, do contact Jowenna Quek (email: jowenna@cathedral.org.sg or call 63376104) and leave your name and contact details.

May we continue to “lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes.” (Isaiah 54:2). 

21 May 2017 | Vicar Writes

May we be one that the world may believe

By Terry Wong

The idea of a small band of believers meeting regularly is rooted in the Gospels. Jesus did that with his small band of disciples. Likewise, the early church often met in smaller and intimate settings in homes. To say that our Connect Groups (CG) carry the essence of our church ministry and life is not a stretch of biblical imagination. We want to invite you to share your spiritual journey with a band of believers. 

As a pastor, I have often felt exasperated trying to connect personally and pastorally with my members. When my previous parish had about 300+ members in the earlier years, it seemed a lot easier. SAC is currently ten times that. I am learning that, rightly so, the Vicar cannot be at the centre of everything. He has to trust his CG leaders and Pastors to be the proximus to those who need the presence of someone. The CG keep the Cathedral small and personal.   

This week, we welcome Archbishop Glenn Davies from the Diocese of Sydney warmly to our morning Services. Glenn is here to speak at our Diocesan Synod. He is a wonderful friend of our Bishop. In many ways, our diocese has had a good partnership with the Diocese of Sydney through the years. Our Biblical Studies has its roots in Sydney’s Moore College’s biblical programme. Various bishops and clergy had visited us and did ministry with us. We often work together in the missions work in the deaneries, especially Indonesia and Laos. We continue to learn much from one another.

If you are an astute observer, you will notice that the Cathedral has many Anglican friends. Over the Holy Week period, we were deeply enriched by the ministry of Dr Ephraim and Annette Radner from Wycliffe College Toronto. Then some of us spent a week in London with Holy Trinity Brompton, where our close friendship with Nicky Gumbel and his associates was rekindled. And this week, we celebrate our ministry with the Diocese of Sydney who plays an inspirational role in encouraging like-minded Anglican parishes who want to remain biblically faithful. 

Indeed over the years, the richness and diversity in the Communion have enriched our Diocese and Cathedral deeply and richly. We are further removed from the original culture and socio-politico context and therefore, less conscious of the divisions and labels. It has been the wisdom of our past bishops and clergy to build friendship and partnerships with a wide spectrum of orthodox Anglicans. As many of our clergy were trained in an ecumenical setting in Trinity Theological College, that has also equipped us well in this direction. The Church also mirrors what is happening in our government: Singapore is small and needs to be friends with everyone. 

This has positioned the Diocese to humbly serve and relate with the wide spectrum of many orthodox Anglicans in the Communion. This is also important for our deaneries, where we play a role of bringing the best in the Communion to serve and seed the mission fields. 

Strive for unity, said St Paul. We also saw Jesus pray deeply for it in John 17. Unity is hard work, where we share our hearts
and speak well of each other even if our methods and historical heritage are different. May Cathedral continue to be a microcosm of this and be one centre to inspire shared life and ministry within His Body. May we be one, just like the Trinity, that we may be in Christ, so that the world may believe that He has sent us. (see John 17:21)

14 May 2017 | Vicar Writes

When one single Parish can be much for the Lord

By Terry Wong

As you may know. I served as National Director of Alpha Singapore for a few years from 1999 onwards. I was enriched in many ways through the association with the wonderful folks at Holy Trinity Brompton London and the exciting work of Alpha, which was growing rapidly here and worldwide. Marked by a love for the unchurched, a global missional vision, a child-like openness to the Holy Spirit, creativity with excellence, a gospel that reaches the spheres of politics, prisons and business, and a generosity Christ-centered unity towards Christians from other Churches, it was my privilege to be a part of this movement.

As the work grew more demanding, I stepped down to focus on parish ministry. In the past year, I am finding that my ministry here in the Cathedral is reconnecting me with HTB and Alpha in new ways. What precipitated it was of course our desire as a parish to reach young and globalised urbanites. It was Keith Chua, my warden, who first hinted to me that perhaps HTB could help us in this. Much has happened since and today we have vibrant eleven:30 Service and the Alpha Course seem to be going through a renewal itself. 

Another step to take was to send some of our leaders to connect with what is happening in Kuala Lumpur and London. In January, Ps Hambali, Joel and Cheryl Tan joined a small pastors Experiencing Alpha programme in London. In March, we send a larger team, mostly from eleven:30 Service to the Alpha Conference in March in KL. Last week, Keith and Irene Chua, Vivien Chen, Ds Bessie, Jennifer and myself attended the Leadership Conference and Alpha Week events. There isn’t space here to share what we have experienced though we can certainly look forward to some articles in Courier-online or in our print issues. We hope to send more pastors and lay leaders for future conference in KL or London. 

What is clear is that a single parish can be much for the Kingdom of God. My view of what a local church can be was deeply changed. It is not just about attendance but influence. One highlight of the post-conference Alpha gathering was an insightful and moving interview of both NIcky Gumbel and his predecessor, Sandy Millar. 40 years ago, when Sandy took over as VIcar, HTB was a small struggling parish attended mostly by senior people. There were very few young people. Sandy recounted the journey of the parish and we were amazed at what the Lord has done. Today HTB is a highly influential and fruitful parish. She has planted and renewed many parishes through the years. She has blessed the world and wider Body through Alpha, Marriage and other ministries. HTB has also done much to promote unity within the Body of Christ. It is a parish which is generous, uncompetitive (I hardly hear HTB leaders censuring other churches), missional in vision and most of all, she has stayed humble, prayerful, dependent on the Spirit and God-fearing. Nicky still draws a fixed Vicar’s salary and he does not benefit financially from the exponential growth of Alpha or the sale of resources. This obviously sets the tones for the rest of the work.   

In their story are lessons which every other Anglican parish can learn from. This is one reason why I like our leaders to visit and get to know this parish. There are also many large churches here in SIngapore but I do not find the same matured and Christian values undergirding them. Indeed, we need to think deeply about what “success” should really mean when it comes to the work of the Church. In this, our young churches here which have benefitted from the rapid success of Singapore need to be linked with older churches in other societies and be held accountable. We need to reflect deeper, read His Word more carefully, treasure our Church tradition and history, understand better how we are fitting with the rest of society and think longterm. We are indebted to our Church pioneers and we owe it to future generations. We need, like David, to serve out His purpose in our generation.

7 May 2017 | Vicar Writes

Post AGM and Pre-Camp Reflections

By Terry Wong

There was some unusual amount of passion expressed at the last AGM. Better passion than indifference, I suppose. However, for future AGMs, we will implement protocols to ensure good order. We will also organise more “Meet the PCC or Vicar” sessions so that there is opportunity for questions, clarification and feedback. I will continue to use Vicar Writes to communicate, and trust that this will be one helpful channel. We welcome the new PCC. They will work at implementing various processes to strengthen the running of the church ministry and mission.  

The ministry in SAC is varied and often complex, and even if we have different opinions on how things should be done, we need to trust that those entrusted with decision-making would have properly consulted and prayed through. This trust is important. 

I recall being involved in the new building project at St James’ Church a few years ago. The new facilities have given three times the space compared to the old facilities. The membership has doubled 4 years after the project has completed, and today she is the 4th largest parish. She is still growing on a weekly basis. I can still recall, earlier on, how a dear couple decided to leave SJC because they did not believe in the building project, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority supported it. 

If the church is forced to conform to the views of every individual, as you can imagine, so much will be lost. I call this the LCD effect, where the church sinks to the “lowest common denominator.” We are familiar with the phrase “common sense” but we often use it to mean that someone is illogical if he does not have it. But the original meaning is simply that of a common versus an individual approach to what is right. In this day and age, we need to recover biblical group-think, community wisdom and trust less in the independent individual’s capacity to arrive to what is right and more importantly, never lose sight of the Lord who leads, guides and directs our paths. 

As I look back at my church experience  and spiritual formation, Church Camps have always been important milestones. I will share why and intertwine it with this coming biennial SAC Family Camp.

There is something special about sitting under the ministry of the Word in a focused way for a few days. Akin to a Conference, it allows for a more systematic and focused way of spiritual learning, reflection and nourishment. To this end, we are privileged to have Chua Wee Hian, his equally gifted son, Andrew Chua and Andrew’s son, Ben Chua with us. It is a family in action and connecting with the various age groups, especially at the workshops which are grouped around our seasons in life. Wee Hian himself is both a man of the Word and Spirit, and there is a special message that the Lord has laid in his heart for SAC. 

Is SAC your home? Can it be? We sometimes think that when people make decisions about settling in a church, they look at the facilities, music and preaching. To a degree, perhaps so. But one huge factor is - are we friends and family? Here is where Camps, more than anything else, have helped gather worshippers to grow in a community.  This is why we call it a “Family Camp”. It is a camp for the SAC family!

Would you like to know more SAC folks and make new friends? It is not easy, given the many Services we have. A camp is precious opportunity to get to know others and often, a few good friendships can have huge consequences for the years to come. I can still recall the conversations I had with members when I attended all the congregational Camps last year. 

Do you care about the vision and calling given to SAC? Again, Camps is a good time to grasp that better in order that you may know how to meaningfully and effectively contribute. I have met many members who are saying: “Don’t just feed us. Let us participate!” A camp can help a worshipper to find his or her place of meaningful service.

A time out for the family - church camps have a balance of what is spiritual and fun which is very meaningful for families. And this includes multi-gen groups ranging from grandparents to children. With the motto “there is something for everyone”, the Camp is planned with the whole family in mind. It is a joy to see families gathered together and camp time is always memorable.

30 April 2017 | Vicar Writes

We Keep Keeping On

By Terry Wong

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.” 

Photo
23 April 2017 | Vicar Writes

Serving from Down and Under

By Terry Wong

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

Blessed Easter to all!

By Terry Wong

“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 alpha@cathedral.org.sg for more information.

We also have many Connect Groups where you can connect with other friends in the Cathedral. Do contact us (connect@cathedral.org.sg) 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

Were you there?

By Terry Wong

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

Fishers of Men

By Terry Wong

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.  

26 March 2017 | Vicar Writes

“Pick from among you…”

By Terry Wong

“And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2-4)

We have started the PCC nomination process earlier this year to make it easier for members to respond. PCC stands for “Parochial Church Council.” Chaired by the Vicar, this Board is the primary body endowed with the authority and responsibility over the affairs of

the church. She also represents the church in her dealings with external bodies.
The PCC is nominated and elected annually
in our AGM. The Vicar’s Warden is appointed by the Vicar whereas the People’s Warden is elected by the body. There are also four Synod reps elected, who serve for three years and participate in our Diocesan Synod body.  

Various sub committees are formed by the PCC to cover more specific needs of the church. Some of them include:

Finance and Assets Committee: This committee oversees the finances and assets of the Cathedral. This includes the external mission givings and related issues of financial governance. 

Building and Development Committee: This team oversees the development of our facilities and grounds to meet the ministry and community needs, may it be alterations or expansion.   

Heritage Committee: The team oversees the gathering and care of our historical archives and the development of our exhibits and tours. It will also help to liaise with the authorities and the public on matters of interest.  

Security Committee: This team oversees the security of our grounds and ensure continued and safe use for all. As the Cathedral is very open in her grounds and as a community, this team will also help to keep watch to ensure responsible behaviour of all concerned.   

Hospitality Committee: This team oversees the softer “people aspects” of our community, including providing drinks, hospitality, directional signs etc and ensure that the Cathedral can be a “home” for many. 

There are also other committees which are not listed here. They are all appointed by PCC, directly or indirectly. Most of them are chaired by a PCC member. In listing some of them here, you can also pray about serving in these sub-committees. We strive to find a balance, where there is a combination of paid staff team and active lay volunteers, all working hand in hand with the balance of responsibilities shifting according to the needs of the seasons. They will each contribute according to their training, experience and giftings. The Church is blessed with wonderful people  resources and this enables us to minister and function well in an ordered manner. The distribution of the decision making processes ensures an even-handedness and wisdom in the decisions we make.

To this end, I want to remind us to serve in the footsteps of the Lord, where there is inter-submission (i.e Ephesians 5:21), humility, graciousness and purity. In recognising His Body, we also seek to be a people of His presence, treasuring the guidance of the Spirit and the inspired wisdom of the Body of Christ, and prayerful in all we do. Having a strong Christian culture in our midst will ensure a community which can continue to grow with the least encumbrance of people politics, private agendas and self-interests.   

Let’s contine to strive side by side for the sake of the Gospel. (Philippians 1:27)

19 March 2017 | Vicar Writes

the need to connect

By Terry Wong

In a modern society which is “connected” in so many ways, the irony is that there are many individuals who have been left isolated. With the advance of medical care, people are living longer. Those without adequate financial or family support often end up living their senior years on their own. Many are often excluded from the usual social networks, most of which are digital in part. Unless our efforts are intentional, many seniors will just be bypassed. This also includes minority groups who may be shut out due to language or lack of other forms of social connections. 

In the Cathedral, these needs can be more acute due to the higher percentage of seniors and foreigners in our midst. I often ponder with the  staff and PCC on what this may mean for the way we structure or prioritise our ministries. We are still examining how we can strengthen our pastoral ministry to our seniors and be better in coordinating our efforts. Our ministry to seniors needs as much energy and vision. It need not be just about senior care and engagement. Many can be challenged to serve, minister and give. I can think of our intercession ministry, Missions, Seniors Alpha etc.

This is also one of the reasons why we see the need to take our database of people information seriously. We intend to work towards a system of pastoral care which is more effective. I am aware that many, both staff and lay, are already serving from their hearts. An effective information ministry can help to improve our coordination and prioritise our efforts. 

We have been putting in effort to support our Myanmar Service, which in turn is already engaging with some of the needs of foreigners visiting our grounds every Sunday. The security personnel are also planning an effective role to ensure that there is order and propriety. The church should always welcome all and sundry. That said, the church grounds and activities on it should befit the message and image of His Church.  

The Cafe is now fully licensed. Seniors (above 60 years old) can benefit from a discount on what is already fair pricing of our beverages and food items. Do make full use of the cafe to invite friends. Use it as a place of meeting. Hang around and get to know members from other Services or congregations. Where people gather, there will be ministry. We are also actively looking into improving the acoustics. As always feedback is welcome and there is a box where you can drop your feedback in. You can also write in to cafe@cathedral.org.sg

I have met many young adults and youths in our various Services who seem unaware of their peers in the Cathedral family. Occasionally, it is good that we can all meet and be acquainted. There will be some good “home-cooked” food at the young people event this Friday. The speaker is very engaging and humorous. It will be fun and meaningful. Do sign up if you are in this age category.

5 March 2017 | Vicar Writes

When Its Time To Close The Door

By Terry Wong

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matt 6:6

You may have close friends or colleagues who have experienced a broken marriage as a result of extra-marital affairs. One contributing reason for this is when a spouse develops intimacy with another person of the opposite sex. As a person spends less time at home, and more at work – coupled with work travels abroad - this can happen easily. What may begin innocently as a need to relate can develop into disastrous consequences.

There is an exclusive ‘twosome’ space in marriage, which should never be violated. It’s the intimacy between two persons – which started by ‘leaving and cleaving’ - which forms a foundational strength for a lasting and healthy marriage. When the ‘twosome’ space is intruded, the space is lost as there is no room for a third. 

Both the inability to be alone and toremain in a two-some commitment is also mirrored in our relationship with our Father. The passage in Matt 6:1-6 touches on the need for secrecy in giving and praying. Both giving (Christian service) and praying (Christian living) is in need of privacy and ‘twosomeness,’ away from the glare of the public and our intense need for recognition by our fellow-men. We need to treasure that intimate part of our relationship with God, which is both exclusive and intimate, and best conducted ‘behind closed doors.’ Jesus was not making a statement against public ministry or praying, something which he and his disciples did often. He was asking us to search the intent of our hearts, which is also reflected on whether we are able to practise our faith ‘in secret.’ Through that, we find we are more able to develop an ‘unhypocritical’ and ‘audience of One’ spirituality. Where we love God alone, and alone; to be wholly loved by Him. In fact, a life lived before God ‘behind closed doors’ is more able to shine consistently for him as a ‘city on a hill’ or ‘light in the bushel’, something which Jesus just taught in the preceding chapter.

Jesus touched on the insatiable needs within us to seek for men’s approval and affirmation. And in Singapore, where community interaction is intense, everyday passes by with that pressure. Whether in the home, workplace, classroom or event in the church, the quiet battle rages on. It can be an intense and constant struggle. I believe one can only wrestle with it by being alone with God. Jacob wrestling at the mud of Jabbok comes to mind. Or St Paul learning in his early days; how to be alone with God in the desert. Even our Lord Jesus needed those Gethsemane moments.

This Lent is a good time to start ‘closing the door’ again. Stop having “extra-spiritual affairs.” And may we continue to discover true Christian joy of walking closely with our Father day by day.

26 February 2017 | Vicar Writes

being fishers of men

By Terry Wong

We had a Confirmation Service two Sundays ago. It is a great joy to see the spiritual journey each has taken, with some starting as seekers in previous Alpha Courses. I was also deeply warmed by the time of fellowship spent with Bishop Moses Tay and Cynthia. They have a deep and evergreen faith and earnest love for the Lord which have always inspired me, whether when I first started as a parish worker or presently as a Vicar.  

 The Alpha Course started with the Intro Dinner last Wednesday. It was very encouraging with 190 people participating, more than half being guests. As always, numbers only indicate to us the level of interest in the Course, and when it comes to sharing Christ, it is always about the immense worth of one person: his life, his history and the love and plans that God has for him or her. Another encouraging thing to note is the higher than usual number of younger guests and the involvement of those from the eleven:30 Service, which is certainly adding to this dynamic. 

 Last weekend, we were blessed by the preaching ministry of our young deacon, Revd Alvin Toh. Over at the eleven:30 Service, Pas Hambali launched the sermon series based on the book of Philippians. 

 On the 11th of February, our medical work amongst migrant workers received some recognition. At the 80th Anniversary of Mar Thoma Church, DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam presented a plaque of appreciation, which was received by Dr Joseph Thambiah. 

 It has been a while, but the Diocese also made two new deaconesses. Ds Laura Seet has served many years as a parish worker in St John’s-St Margaret’s Church. In fact she was one of my first colleagues when I started my ministry there with campus students. Ds Anong is the founding pastor of Banchang Anglican Church (Thailand). She has a deep love for people and great evangelistic zeal. Astute observers should be able to see that our sisters play critical roles in ministry, leading and preaching in the life of the Church, whether lay or fulltime. Gender is never an issue to influence (and that to me is real leadership) and ministry, and indeed the office or positions are often over-rated. When the church is liberated by the Spirit and His Word, the Body will rise up to ministry and this is what our Diocese has been experiencing. In our Cathedral alone, we can see that to be true. Jesus once said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Follow Jesus and each of us can live influential lives. 

 And talking about influence, I was very encouraged just listening to the eulogies given at Marian Tay’s wake. She is Canon Louis Tay’s sister. In spite of her struggle for 19 years with cancer and other challenges, she has lived out her life faithfully to the Lord. Some others have the amazing privilege to live beyond the expected life span, such as the late Bishop Chiu Ban It. His life is marked by a childlike obedience to the Lord. The first Asian Bishop of Singapore, he was never enamoured by the trappings that came with the office in those early post-colonial days. Instead, he babbled like a child when he allowed the Spirit to fill Him and did many things that one will not expect a respectable Anglican Bishop to do. The Diocese is what she is today, and in part, we have our “founding spiritual fathers” to thank. This Friday evening, at the memorial Service, your faith will be inspired just by being there. He joined the throng of heavenly witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) who inspires us not just with their cheering from the stands, but from the footprints they have left behind for us on the tracks.    

19 February 2017 | Vicar Writes

REVIVE US AGAIN

By Terry Wong

At last month’s PCC meeting, being the first meeting of the year, we spent some time in sharing thanksgiving items for SAC in 2016. Various matters were shared, such as:

•    The start and growth of the eleven:30 Service

•    Greater sense of cooperation across the Services

•    Stronger sense of community and love

•    Good planning and start of Cathedral Biblical Studies (CBS)

•    Effectiveness of the Alpha Course

•    Growth in Myanmar Service

•    More Connect Groups

•    The impact of the weekly Vicar Writes

•    Growth in our Services

Each was also asked to share one item for prayer. What was constantly hoped for is REVIVAL IN SAC, as some longed for the spiritual life and vitality experienced during the 70’s onward. I believe they are also expressing the prayers and hope of many in our congregation. 

We may find it hard to describe in clearer detail what revival may mean but somehow, in our hearts and seeing, it is one of those things that we intuitively understand, especially if you have been a Christian for a while.  

The yearning for more, the “magnificent obsession” or “holy dissatisfaction,” phrases which other Christian leaders have used is an essential expression, a heart cry of one who loves the Lord and longs for His Kingdom to be fully revealed. We intuitively know that we are always off the mark when it comes to returning to our first love. We long for more, for a deeper reality, for  a felt presence of the Lord in our daily lives.

The heartfelt lyrics of the prayer in song, Consuming Fire by Tim Hughes reflect this: 

There must be more than this

O breath of God, come breathe within

There must be more than this

Spirit of God we wait for You

Fill us anew we pray

Fill us anew we pray

 

Consuming fire fan into flame

A passion for Your name

Spirit of God fall in this place

Lord have Your way with us

 

The final prayer of the Revelator, also expresses this loving and yearning heart cry: “Even so, Come Lord Jesus.”  (Revelation 22:20) 

It need not be a passive cry or desire. Often, what stands in the way could be us. Our lack of prayer and attention to the Lord, His Word, our selfish sinful habits and our preoccupation with things and gadgets which drains our attention and energy can all stand in the way of a blessed life.

 

Some of the matters ever will be waited
on the Lord in our worship and prayer
every month at our Cathedral@Prayer.
Do join us. 

12 February 2017 | Vicar Writes

Growing in Maturity

By Terry Wong

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31,32

A few years back, I was having a conversation with a new Christian acquaintance who was obviously intelligent and educated, at least in terms of the usual academic education. He was absolutely convinced that Sept 11 was an inside job. I was flabbergasted. How is it possible that an intelligent man could think that way? And I am sure that you have often heard things from supposedly mature Christians which can leave you dumbfounded and make you wonder, “Where did that come from?” 

Education remains crucial if we are to understand the world that God has made and how it changes with time and the movements of culture. Good education is a systematic, layer upon layer discipline. We have a hotchpotch mix of ideas from books, conferences, info off the Net and deducing stuff on our own. We have knowledge and information but they are not ordered nor template-forming in shaping the way we understand the world, within (self-knowledge) and without (sociology, philosophy, history and science). We know enough, or we think we do, to manage immediate issues but we are poorly prepared for life and all it entails in space and time. The focus on technical education (as opposed to the humanities) is also not helpful. The same ignorance can affect the way we interpret Scriptures, approaching it with the same “technical angle.” 

With the fast movements and fusions of culture in this globalised world, we can easily be caught flat-footed. Spiritually, with these rapid changes, some Christians can
be caught up in a sense of ennui and lose a sense of direction. Unable to adapt or appreciate the “new” things which God is doing, we long for the more familiar experiences from yesteryears.  

And being poorly equipped philosophically, many Christians feel they are intellectually on the defensive. Their faith will be crushed if truth is truly confronted and if they read too widely. Is our God and His world that small and fragile? 

What I am writing here needs to be read alongside with last weekend’s Vicar Writes. At the end of the day the heart is more important than anything else. After all, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We need to be clear on this. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” But for those of us in a position of influence (i.e leadership), it is beholden on us not just to be good in heart, but to be wise in mind too. The rapid changes in our society mean that the Church cannot afford to remain silo-ed in the way she learns and thinks. 

I end with recounting an experience I had with a conservative Anglican leader while I was doing my sabbatical in Toronto in 2014. He is highly respected and one of the leaders of the more conservative part of the Anglican Church which has broken away from the official one due to differences in doctrines. With sadness on his face, he told me that he made the mistake of not being properly educated theologically when he was younger. It meant that he could not provide the leadership needed when liberal ideas were swarming the Church.  

Good reading and attending good Courses are good avenues for maturity. Surround yourselves with deep and dialectical friendships with great minds who can challenge your opinions and assumptions about life. Adopt an attitude of truth-searching. Know for the sake of knowing, not to impress. And don’t be driven by the fear of the need to please others. Be true to yourself. And at the same time, be open to learn from others especially gifted teachers in the Church. Learn to be a lover of God and indeed the Spirit will guide you into all truth.

5 February 2017 | Vicar Writes

Lord,  I want to be a Christian in my heart

By Terry Wong

This is a line from a classic Negro spiritual song which some of us may be familiar with. I remember it from time to time, as I did this week. The whole chorus is just that line, with a beautiful haunting melody. 

It reminds me of where it all starts and where it matters most.  The Bible uses the Greek term kardia for the nerve centre from which we desire, think, act and react.  

As we grow older, or time progresses, life does get more complicated of course. We philosophise, theologise, theorise, and since it rhymes, improvise and compromise as well. Life moves from the basic commitments of love, faith, faithfulness, integrity, sincerity and humilty to that of ideas and concepts. And as we progress in ‘maturity’ in ideas and articulation of them, strangely, we become more immature in our basic behaviour and life. As we grow, we seek mastery over others, events and our own progress. Yet at the same time, we lose mastery over ourselves and the very simple values and practices that we know from the kardia of our lives. 

So, when we say a Christian is mature, what do we mean? Does this mean that we cease to read the Bible regularly and yet we are able to articulate spiritual solutions for society? Does it mean that we cease to be loving, kind and considerate towards those dearest to us, while we reflect on the deepest ideas of sacrifice for mankind and society? Does it mean that we try to save the whole world but lose our own family? Do we think of overseas missions but are clueless about sharing the gospel to an inquiring neighbour or colleague (and we have not even thought of an Alpha invitation!)?

The list goes on. And somewhere in our heart, the Negro spiritual hums quietly. We remember that Jesus said that ‘unless we become like little children, we will not enter the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).’ St Paul also alerts us: ‘But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Cor 11:3)’

I said “as I did this week.” It is a word for me as much as it may be for some of you. Perhaps a Canon needs it even more as the complexities of life and ministry can easily drown out the Negro spiritual line. 

Pray for me as I will for you. That we will always want to be followers of Christ …in my heart.

29 January 2017 | Vicar Writes

Use or Enjoyment?

By Terry Wong

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:2,3

St Augustine, as he reflected on gratitude, identified two fundamental modes of relating to reality: use and enjoyment

 

To use means taking up what is currently before us for the purpose of some greater end. Most of us are working towards a greater purpose and aiming to achieve something. This will be especially true in a society like ours. Some of these purposes are focused on self.  There was a stage when we tried to get the best degree possible to secure a better future. Some of our fellow students become our competitors. Then we go through a stage of searching for a life-partner.  Every friendship, connection and Facebook post become an opportunity to project a better image of ourselves. We started working and we join an office where we join many of our colleagues in the same race. If a promotion is possible, you want it. 

Using, using, using: people, things and opportunities to push ourselves a bit further ahead. 

Others have more altruistic motives. They share the same mode of use in life, yes, but for the sake of others. And as above, every stage of life provides a context and opportunity for this. This is to be lauded for Jesus did tell us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but to lose his own soul?” You may have seen movies like Regarding Henry, Patch Adams or the more recent Up in the Air  and wept some tears of regret. 

The mode of use in life has its place for self or others. 

Enjoyment has a different character. When we enjoy something, we are grateful for it, resting in the blessing of its presence. Some of you will remember the first time you held your firstborn in your arms. Your child gave you a new incentive to leave work early and rush home. When I was on a 3 weeks mission trip after Sarah was born, I was terribly Sarah-sick by the second week. Someone said that the home is a destroyer of ambition. Indeed. Time seems to stand still when I am at home with the people I love. Or it may be a book, a friend or a cup of cappuccino. Or it may be a moment spent with your aging parent. 

So which is better, use or enjoyment as modes of living? We can debate about it. 

St. Augustine teaches that we can only truly enjoy God and others in God. If we live to enjoy God, that is the ultimate. For the things and people we enjoy without God, is finite and often end up in sad memories. But in Christ,  we are living not just for the present but for eternity. And in enjoying Him, we see people, things and the world around us with a different perspective.  

Perhaps there is something after all in the first line of the Shorter Westminster Catechism: “Man’s chief aim is to enjoy God and glorify Him forever.” 

22 January 2017 | Vicar Writes

Remembering Our Roots

By Terry Wong

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. Psalm 143:5

There is something unique about Chinese New Year.

What is it?

Is it about the food? Bak Kwa, Choi Keok (Chai Buay) and Lohon chai (Chap Chye)?

My late Mum often made Yin Tai (braised pork knuckles) for the Reunion dinner. It was spectacular as the skin and fats were the first things you saw. When it is placed on the table, the whole thing shimmered. No kidding. If you looked carefully, you can also see an image of yourself after the shimmering stopped. You dug in with your chopsticks, shattering your portrait. You let a piece melt in your mouth. The flavour and texture hit you as the unmentionable swirled in your chops – rich, creamy, fruity, spicy and aromatically complex. Swine can be better than wine, as they say.

Carnal and carnivorous, the Wongs had a way of celebrating CNY. 

Or is it because of how we laugh ourselves silly watching the funny Jackie Chan movies? This will be more common in Malaysian homes but Cantonese humour indeed is in a class of its own. Or is it being enthralled by the endless kungfu movies, which do not seem to run out of moves? 

Or is it the sound of fire crackers? In squeaky clean Singapore, I have to say that I miss the noisy CNY atmosphere in Petaling Jaya. Malaysia boleh. This extends to huge rows and rounds of fire crackers, with a mother lode of it towards the end, which ends with a huge bang, made to shake you out of your skin. In the aftermath, with your ears still ringing, we could see the red evidence littered all over the garden. I often wondered that it should be easy for the local police, aurally and visually, to locate the crime scenes. When they did come, more reds were handed out. No matter what the laws were (and still are!), this noisy tradition cannot be silenced. 

But does this make CNY special? If there is an event which holds memories as far back as I can remember, right to the early years of my childhood, it can only be this festival.

This makes it special: it is about family.

It is about the process of traditioning, where we can never forget what made us, the cultural environment which we grew up in. Every CNY connects us to the past, including memories of some beloved family members who have passed away. It connects us to customs and traditions. Some were long abandoned (like gambling), especially when one embraced a new faith. But I am glad much also remains, like ang pows, how we wish one another at the stroke of midnight on the eve, and of course, how family and friends gathered around the same classic dishes and snacks: Kueh Bangkit, Kueh Kapit, Pineapple Tarts etc.

Today, I am a Singaporean, a Christian and a Pastor to boot. Many of the Wongs have since found our faith in Jesus Christ. But I have not ceased to give thanks to the Lord for my childhood home in PJ, the Wong family and that we are undeniably Chinese, blessed with traditions to remember and celebrate.

In every cultural festival, we celebrate and remember our roots. You will have your own.

Remember how He has wombed and homed you, along with the loved ones you grew up with. 

Have  a blessed Chinese New Year everyone.

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15 January 2017 | Vicar Writes

as the year starts…

By Terry Wong

There has been a very good response to the Cathedral Bible Studies. For a start, the teaching will be anchored by the core team. Once the template is firmed up and vision/values established, and with the team-teaching approach, we are planning to include more on the teaching or facilitators panel. The team has worked very hard to plan this and more work lies ahead. This is very much about the life of the Cathedral and the responsibility of helping members to get into the Word. In a busy society like ours, this needs a consistent and sustainable focus and dedication. 

If CBS is where we dig deep in the Word, it is in our Connect Groups that we grow, serve and learn with a part of His Body. If you are not in one, please do consider joining one. 

In evangelism, we are blessed with the ministry of the Alpha Course. This weekend, Pastor Hambali and Joel Tan will be attending a special pastors training exposure in Holy Trinity Brompton, London. We want to continue to invest in our younger leaders as we seek to refresh the Alpha ministry. The new eleven:30 Service is also seeking to twin with the use of the Course to reach the unchurched.

The eleven:30 Service is barely a month old but it has been doing very well as it meets in the refurbished Prayer Halls. They celebrated their first Holy Communion together last Sunday. While it was set up primarily to create space for the younger among us to lead and serve, it is a Service which is open to all. In one of the Sundays in February, we hope to organise an official launch. 

I was privileged last weekend to be at most of our Weekend Services. I am reminded again of the diversity in each Service but they share some important common values. I am heartened to see the effectiveness and faithful ministry of the Service Pastors and their leadership teams (both staff and lay) as they seek to do their best to build effective and strong Services.

I sat in the Cathedral Women Fellowship (CWF) meeting last Saturday. It was good that we were able to have some discussions as they seek to find areas of needed service and ministry with changing times. If you have any thoughts and suggestions do let us know. With effect from 20th of January, the Coffee Corner at Graham White Library will be closed due to lack of volunteers and how some of these needs are already being met through the Cafe. We should pause and give thanks for how this Corner has served so many over the years, bringing a bit of home and warm hospitality in what is largely a cold historical building. We are grateful to CWF for anchoring this ministry. 

The Graham White Library has a multipurpose use and we have added one more role for it: as a base for the Nave Tour ministry. In the weekdays, we hope to set up a simple lounge so that visitors can gather and have conversations about history and of course, the faith. We are also planning to refurbish the kitchen so that it is better able to serve the current needs of our community and ministries.   

8 January 2017 | Vicar Writes

2017: Another year to read

By Terry Wong

As followers of Christ, every year presents an opportunity for us to grow. Life experiences will come to you naturally as sources of enrichment (or otherwise) and often, these are outside your control. But you have the ability to think, to speak, to read, to reflect and unless you are facing a serious illness, you have the energy and time to ensure that your life is internally directed, and not driven by external circumstances. 

This is why it is essential that you are reading, meditating and reflecting. You need to find a regular system that fits best for you but undoubtedly, you cannot hope to drink from God’s Word if it is a quick stopover. The mind needs time to settle in and pull away from the daily cares and concerns. Another wonderful opportunity is to participate in our Connect Groups, Cathedral Biblical Studies (CBS) and other CE courses.     

Reading, especially good books, is another important source of growth. Trust me, if there is something that you will be doing in 2017 without regret, it is reading. You will look back and be glad that you did. I will share with you some from my 2016 list but bear in mind that I am a pastor. My list may not be helpful for you but nevertheless, I hope it inspires you.  

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Top on my list for 2016 is “Desiring the Kingdom” by James K. A. Smith. A Christian philosopher, he asks us to reflect carefully on how and why Christians grow (Christian education) and the process by which they do (worship). He dug deep into Scriptures and history (Augustine, Calvin) and challenges the modern fixation on information gathering as the only source of growth. Having been in ministry now for 40+ years, I do agree with him on many points from my own observations. Much of what he said here helps me to reflect on our life and ministry here in SAC.    

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The Vocation of Anglican Theology gives summaries of the thoughts and works of important Anglican theologians (and there are not many). I find in there some gems, such as the writings of John Jewel and Michael Ramsey.  

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Amazing Grace, authored by Eric Metaxas is superbly written and a very enjoyable and inspiring read of the biography of William Wilberforce, who served in politics in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was instrumental in the abolishment of slavery. His influence overlapped with the early years of the start of Anglican work in Singapore. It made me think of whether I share the same purity of motives in my own endeavour to serve out His cause. 

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First Things is a monthly magazine published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life. It seeks to ensure that faith has a place in shaping policies in the public square. The articles here have helped to equip me to better understand and deal with the relentless influence of secularism, which we sometimes (wrongly) assume to be the only credible voice in the West, and that Singapore is inevitably headed in the same direction. It has also helped me to be more discerning of the popular articles I find on the Net or The Straits Times, most of which are written by those wedded firmly to the spirit of the age.  

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Orientalism, the classic by Edward Said is critical of the West’s patronising way of imposing a worldview and defining realities which are not native to the culture and experience of the people under their subjection. There is much food for thought here on the clash of cultures and how our own often shape the way we look at others.  This is increasingly important for Singapore, as we are now “patrons” to many countries around us.   It is also applicable to our own society’s inter-racial and inter-faith relations.

Space can only permit me to list these few books. I have a few more that are contant companions for bite-size reflections such as Augustine’s Confessions, Raniero Cantalamessa’s Life in Christ and Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion. 

May 2017 be another year of great reading. Don’t find the time to read: make time for it. 

1 January 2017 | Vicar Writes

Thank You

By Terry Wong

It takes effort to say “thank you.” That was what my dear friend, the late Bishop Albert Vun reminded me of in his last sermon. As the year turns, I want to take some time to pause and give thanks, perhaps where it is least expected. And I hope it adequately expresses your inner thoughts too. 

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In 2016, I want to thank the Lord for…

Every dear brother and sister who had been promoted to glory in 2016. They have left the cares of mortal life behind as they are embraced by a loving Saviour. We want to be thankful for every day we have spent with them. 

Every suffering that they and we had encountered. A broken body, a broken heart or dashed hopes. No matter how deep the pain was, we take comfort that it will be only for a “little while”, as You have always reminded us.  (1 Peter 1:6). Through some, we learned from it and grew. Through others, we never knew why. There can be only tears for You to wipe when we see You face to face (Rev 21:4).   

Every act of love that we have received, in small or big ways. And every act of love we can show to another. Some of us spent the year largely on care-giving. That there is someone we can love in the most mundane of ways, we are thankful.

Every person who has smiled and encouraged me. We have felt hurt - and remember - those hurtful words. Even for these words, they were moments for pause and reflections. A criticism was an opportunity for self-realisation that had led to change and growth. 

Every person we have got to know in this large community in the Cathedral. We are often lost, feeling lonely though not alone. Some of us do not feel significant and hardly anyone notices when we are missing from church. Yet, there was always someone less noticed, that we were able to reach out to.

Every pastor, staff and member who has taken the time and effort to share church with those who were not able to step into the church premise at 11, St Andrew’s Road. Stuck to the bed, wheelchair and often very much home alone (yes, even when I was in an old folks home), you have brought joy, fellowship, the holy meal and His presence right into my room. Cathedral came to me and for that, I am thankful. 

Every friendship that I have made. Being single had its moments of struggle. And envy, at the many happy couples that I see in church. Yet, I have made friends in church and over the course of the year, we have been family to each other. For that rich intimacy in Christ, I am thankful.

Every moment of restoration, for we are often lost, selfish and behaved like sheep gone astray. We do not feel we have deserved it but yet again and again, your grace was there. Life, broken as it sometimes was, could be renewed (made new) again.

Every moment I have been enriched in my relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. I could think of many things that could have shortened my life in 2016. But I do not want to rejoice that I am still in one piece. Instead, I want to rejoice that come what may, my name is written in the Book of Life (Luke 10:20).

I know Jesus and He knows me. This matters most.

Thank You.

25 December 2016 | Vicar Writes

The Step That Will Matter Most

By Terry Wong

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16, King James Version.

I walked a total distance of 9.82 miles and took 21,166 steps last week. And so I was told, informed by one of these gadgets which I am sure some of you have as well.

That is quite pathetic. Such is modern life, or at least the kind of rather sedentary life I am living now.

When I was a teenager, I could cover that distance in an hour for that would be the distance I will have to cover on foot or on a bicycle, as these were the affordable ways I could go to my first church in Petaling Jaya.

That’s right. I was overwhelmed by the gospel and the love of Christ at 13. That changed everything for me. I began to learn to love God (and thus the frequent walker miles) in response to His love for me.

For God so loved my world…and there wasn’t much in it to be loved, or at least, that was how I would think then of my rather ordinary life and unusual family and relatives. There wasn’t much in my world that deserved any notice, let alone divine love. But I was part of the “ that whosoever believeth.” I was a breathing homo-sapiens who had a will to act and believe. That was good enough.

I already had vague ideas of God then. Through my own brother Clement, who first converted, I learned that God sent His only begotten Son. That He had a face, a voice and a life I could relate to. A fellow homo sapiens who is also divine, His name is Jesus. Among some of the first hymns I learned (and loved since then) is “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” That friendship touched and changed every area of my life.

At that age, I wasn’t thinking very much about what “perish” meant. But I did wonder about “eternal life.” As I said, my life wasn’t much then and the thought of an everlasting load of it was not an attractive notion. At a Bible Study group, I learned that it is a reference not just to a life without end but life of a certain kind. It can be lived with purpose as one centres it on following Jesus and fulfilling His call. It is a kind of life that is not snuffed out by mortality as it has an eternal purpose.

My Sundays, friends and community changed. My friends and community too. In fact, I hardly had any friends then, at least not the kind that were almost family, as I met in church. I loved the youth fellowship which met every Friday. And then on Sunday, it was the church service and yes, Sunday School.

I began to learn to love my Mum and surprised her on Mother’s Day with some penned affection. My school life was transformed as I saw my fellow students as people I can give to and not just get from. My studies took on a new purpose.

I have always felt lonely as a boy in a family that was busy trying to survive financially or busy gambling away (literally sometimes) whatever gains. In becoming a Christian, my personal
world was transformed.

I took the one step that mattered.

To choose to believe in Christ and follow Him. As you read this, you must be in one of our Christmas Services. You too can take your first step in response to God’s love for you through
His Son, Jesus Christ.

Among the thousands of steps you take for the week, and millions in life, this is the one step that will matter most.

18 December 2016 | Vicar Writes

Christ the Lord

By Terry Wong

...for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

There is a great deal of confusion about Christmas and its origins. A church here in Singapore declared recently that they will not celebrate Christmas anymore because it is a “pagan festival.” Really? My heart dropped.  

Christmas had a long tradition in the Church. It is a feast which is central to our liturgical year. By early 4th century, the Church was already celebrating Christmas on 25th December. Why that date? No one really knows. The Orthodox Church celebrates it on 7th January. The Council of Tours (567 AD) declared the 12 days after Christmas and before Epiphany as a unified festival, thus giving importance to both 25th Dec and 6th January. Now, everyone knows that Jesus was not born on 25th Dec or 6th Jan. (Hint - I was born very near one of these dates and this is factual!) But everybody knows that the date is not nearly as important as the spiritual truth the Church remembers and celebrates.  

As both society and the Church celebrated Christmas, to be expected, there were both religious and secular traditions, which have evolved. This is also influenced by the phases societies go through, from being Christian to post-Christian in some parts of the Western world today.  

In the Judeo tradition, Jews “redeemed” pagan festivals and cultic practices and put their Creator God at the centre of these. The Church do that to other festivals as well, including Jewish ones.  In fact, the Church had christianised Jewish festivals. Jewish Pentecost (giving of Law) is now the Church's Pentecost (giving of Spirit). Jewish Passover is now the Christian Triduum (Maundy Thursday to Easter). The weekly Sabbath (Saturday) was changed to Sunday. In each, the lordship of Christ is celebrated. 

The Church had always continued this Christmas tradition in a biblical way for purposes of worship, discipleship formation and outreach to the world. For the Church to return to Jewish festivals is to confuse her CHRISTian heritage. I met a Jew who converted and is now serving as a Pastor. He asked: “Why are some churches turning back to what I have left behind, at great sacrifice, to follow Jesus?” Good question! And I should add, we need to read the Book of Hebrews carefully.  

To do away with Christmas is sad on all fronts. Our children will grow up only with fesitvals like Chinese New Year or Deepavali. Jewish festivals? So, you want to introduce Bar Mitzvah to your boys? Don’t get me wrong. I have a deep respect for other faiths. I am just being self-critical and as one of the pastors of the Church saying: we should not sabotage our own. If we drop Christmas, we no longer have a festival where non-Christians can peer in and wonder. I used to be one of those. All those biblically rich religious carols (not talking about “how I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus last night”), traditions and practices will be thrown away. Instead of passing on a legacy as custodians, we leave future generations bereft.  

Why is this happening in some churches? Ignorance of church history and our Christian heritage, the deep influence of secularism, an individualised biblicism, (where we interpret the Bible as we see fit in the here and now and ignore the Church in time and space) and a distrust of church scholarship/sound learning could be some of the reasons. 

I am ranting and venting. Pause. I am glad this column has a word limit.  

Blessed Christmas everyone. And continue to make Jesus Lord of everything.  

11 December 2016 | Vicar Writes

About Thanksgiving and Renewal

By Terry Wong

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As the year ends, you will be hearing sermons on thanksgiving. What does this word mean? Even our Holy Communion, sometimes called eucharisteuo, came from the word “thanksgiving” in Greek.  

To be thankful as Christians is to acknowledge what God is doing. This is why an attitude of thanksgiving is an essential part of being a Christian and one reason why it is all over the Scriptures. We have to admit that in our younger Asian societies of migrants, where we have brought with us an ethos of survival (and thus competition), thanksgiving is not the most natural of our traits. 

I am not always thankful but I should be. Coming as a “migrant” to Singapore with only one bag in hand in 1984, I can still remember how lonely and homesick I felt in my first Christmas here. The blinking lights were decking the hostel building and synchronising to some carols. It was a setup to induce homesick feelings. 

I could never imagine then that I would be where I am today, family and church-wise. That Singapore can be truly my home in every sense of the word. I should be very thankful to the Lord for Hismany blessings. 

You remember the hymn “Count your blessings?” Try counting and naming your blessings. You need to be intentional but it is well worth the effort. It will change your perspective. 

Associated with thanksgiving is a spirit of encouragement and affirmation. If we can see what God is doing today and through others, it changes our perspective of people, the church and what we see around us. 

Being a young society, there is also a lack of confidence in our roots. We are not strong in humanities either (theology being  a part of that), being a largely technical society (and yes, just memorise Scriptures!) , we are not as confident when it comes to renewal, returning to first principles and thinking out of the box. And so, we blindly copy traditions and practices that have been handed down to us, often without understanding why. 

Coming down to what we do as Anglicans here in SAC, here is where in this “new season,” we need prayerful conversations on the “hows and whats” (and even whens!) of our Services. I think a lot of what we are doing, and also carry on conversations with those who are studied in liturgy and theology. No, we are not headed for some radical changes but tweaks are to be expected as even liturgy itself is dynamic and in need of renewal with the passage of time. 

In being thankful and affirming, we see what the Father is doing in our midst and align ourselves to His purpose. 

That said, it is not always possible to do things perfectly. There are so many different parties working together to ensure every service runs
well but these coordinations are not always perfect. I can still recall in a Good Friday Service in my previous parish where the preacher, who was supposed to do 3 short meditations decided to do three full length sermons instead, even though he has been carefully briefed. The Choir director was on the brink of a nervous breakdown, and seated with me on stage kept gesturing for me to do something. I sat calmly and put on a brave front, knowing that there is not much I could do to hold back the over-enthusiastic preacher. The service has to go on even if its length is not welcome. 

And so,  I here end with the oft quoted line from the movie Hotel Marigold: “Everything will be alright in the end so if it is not alright it is not the end.” 

Indeed, let’s learn to give thanks in everything!

4 December 2016 | Vicar Writes

Living through the Liturgical Year

By Terry Wong

Not many of us were aware, but the first Sunday of Advent marks the start of another liturgical year. Within the liturgical seasons of the church, the Christian faith is not only conveyed through the weekly celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on the Lord’s day, it also commemorates God’s history of redemption in Christ, anchored in the three principal feasts – Easter Day, Ascension Day and Pentecost. 

From a macro perspective of the rhythm of the festivities (high points) and ordinariness (ebbs) within a liturgical year, different elements of the dynamic of the Christ-life is heightened and celebrated. For instance, the church enters into an expectation and celebration of the coming of Christ during the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany cycle (Nov-Feb) and repentance and rejoicing during the Lent/Triduum/Easter cycle (Feb-April). These two high points in the Calendar is interspersed by two periods of Ordinary time characterized by a focus on the teaching of the church woven within its sense of continued mission to the world within the active presence of the Spirit. 

It helps the church to proclaim and live out the comprehensive set of major Christian themes. Some examples of how this is worked out would be for our Services to focus on the cost of discipleship during the season of Lent or the importance of being continually filled with the Spirit during season of Pentecost.

Undoubtedly, the liturgical year has been commonly presented as if it were an effective lesson plan educating about the life of the church. We recall the “bobble-head” Christianity I spoke off last weekend. However, this perspective is secondary in importance compared to the reality of its power in transforming our Christian life. Massey Shepherd states the traditional view with vigour and clarity:

The Christian year is a mystery through which every moment and all the times and seasons of this life are transcended and fulfilled in that reality which is beyond time. Each single holy day, each single gospel periscope in the sequence of the year, is of itself a sacrament of the whole gospel. Each single feast renews the fullness and fulfilment of the Feast of feasts, our death and resurrection with Christ. 

The church should not be conceived as another entity within the larger creation but as prior to creation. The church is chosen in Christ before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4). Shaping our lives and giving priority to the liturgical year reminds us of this. 

Observing the liturgical year with its repeated cycles also allow for a formative, pedagogical and collective experience of church life. In being comprehensive, it also helps us to reflect on the fuller reality of life and faith with her fair share of joys and pains, clarity and confusion, joys of holiness and the despair of sinful living. In our deepest pains, we are reminded that it is always a little while as we pilgrim from earth to heaven, where no segment of time is static. 

 

Note: This article draws from a paper written by one of my students (Ian Chew) in the Anglicanism Course at Trinity Theological College.

27 November 2016 | Vicar Writes

There’s a Wind a-blowin’

By Terry Wong

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. (John 3:8)

There’s a wind a-blowin’, all across the land
A fragrant breeze of Heaven, Blowin’ once again
Don’t know where it comes from, Don’t know where it goes
But let it blow over me
Oh, sweet wind, come and blow over me

David Ruis’ song captured the imagination of many in the 90’s. Living in a highly technological world where we seek better control all the time, there is a work of the Lord that is mysterious, often unpredictable and catches us by surprise. 

Being an avid student of the church in her rich 2,000 years of history, I have become more aware of the modern influences which have reduced Christianity to a “bobble head”, where faith has become nothing more than just cerebral ideas and concepts. I was at a renowned evangelical church when I was in Toronto for my Sabbatical. The passage was Acts 2 and I was flabbergasted to hear the preacher reducing the work of the Spirit to just “reading the Bible.” There was a short Q & A and some clarification was sought and it was obvious to many that there was terrible exegesis done that morning. But the denominational line has to be toed. In my 40 years of Christian living , I have never heard Acts 2 treated this way. God was reduced to printed words, literally and even in that, He can be found only in the right Bible versions. It was a form of Christian agnosticism.   

With that I turn to a significant start and launch this weekend (not my cookbook!): that of the eleven:30 Service. In the first few months of my ministry in the Cathedral as a Vicar, I was approached again and again to do something for the “dechurched”: youths, our sons and daughters who have either left the church or the faith. Bishop Kuan had alerted me that this is one of the priority areas which I need to look into as a new Vicar.  Apparently, the Cathedral is not a relevant place for the young and if they want to grow or be community-connected, they should find it elsewhere. That begun a few weeks of praying and sensing: O Lord, what can we do? 

When I was at the CITY Leaders retreat, the Lord dropped a word in my heart, “If the young in the Cathedral are important, why is the work reduced to the fringe? Why don’t they have a primetime slot?” In any discussion of a possible new Service, only slots outside of Sunday morning could be considered because “it is full everywhere.” 

And so we turned our focus to the perimeter facilities around the Cathedral. Is there a suitable Hall which is walking-distance from SAC? Yes, there are but we have to be prepared to pay. And even then, we needed to be prepared to live with inconvenience as it meant that we would have to set up and repack after every Service. While we were in the midst of searching , we realised that the Prayer Hall was actually available, that is, if we can find alternative space for the Sunday School groups meeting there. 

That was what we did. To make the space suitable for a Service, like a blank canvas, we could renovate this Hall from ground up. We might as well invest in doing so, and the same Hall can be used of course for many other meetings throughout the week. So, the venue is secured. Hallelujah.

The next step was to build a leadership team and core group. How can we bring young people together when we have had such a chequered experience in the past? Furthermore, various groupings of youths and young adults have sprouted. Building a common vision will not be easy. 

And so, the preparation needed to include a gathering of the core community who will serve in and anchor this service. Ably led by Pastor Hali and  a very dedicated and prayerful staff team, we have seen the “wind a-blowin’.” Service Pastors have been very encouraging too and did what they could to support it. As the Service launches this week and we remember St Andrew’s Day, the core team has indeed done what they could. From here, we will continue to work and serve to build up this Service but always mindful of the presence and work of the Lord. And more than just a Service which gathers at eleven:30, it signals one more frontier for ministry to reach the unchurched. 

Not every young person or young adult needs to be at this Service. Many are comfortable worshipping and serving in the other Services. Please continue. The task of this new Service is to reach out, especially using the Alpha Course-Service combination, to those who are out there.

It’s exciting. Pray with us and may the wind of the Spirit continue to blow.

20 November 2016 | Vicar Writes

Doing Missions Anglicanly

By Terry Wong

This is a phrase which I first heard Revd Chris Royer mention in our Cathedral Missions Conference last year. It is a phrase, like a spring that is so tightly wound up that to open it suddenly, somebody might just get hurt. Such is its force, and its potential needs to be harnessed carefully.

The thing is, Anglicans worldwide are learning to be a Church. Our history is short and our birth wrapped up with the intrigue and politics of 16th Century England. Once begun, it became a river with floods and droughts, earthquakes and new beds, dams and bridges, that shook and rattle the Church and the world. Some of that is still felt today. We aren’t sure if these are earthquake aftermaths or perhaps, we are right in the middle of a major one.

“Though with a scornful wonder the world see her oppressed, by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,” somehow the Church marches on, clinging on the promise, “I will build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Perhaps more than others, we exhibits some of this “brokenness.” It is good that we have this sense of our flawed genesis and identity as we relate to the world and the wider Body of Christ. I like what Archbishop Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) once said:

“While the Anglican Church is vindicated by its place in history, with a strikingly balanced witness to the gospel, to the Church and to sound learning, its greater vindication lies in pointing through its own history to something of which it is a fragment. Its credentials are its incompleteness, with the tension and travail in its soul. It is clumsy and untidy; it baffles neatness and logic. For it is sent not to commend itself as the “best type of Christianity”, but by its very brokenness to point to the universal Church wherein all have died.”

We offer this same brokenness as we seek to plant new churches and ministries in our Deaneries. We do not want to increase competition or fragment the Body of Christ further. In humility, we seek to bring unity, cooperation, reasonableness and collegiality in the way we do church. The way we do it is in itself a testimony. Many of our deaneries are led by multinational teams. We want to be respectful of other cultures and refrain from importing divisions that are prevalent elsewhere.

Protestant Churches have an inherently fissiparous nature (there is always something new to protest against!), and some of these competitive “we are more biblical than you” continues to this day. I still hear of pastors, eager to grow their own churches, saying things to the effect that theirs are the kind of churches Christians should flock to because of whatever they are focused on (i.e. preaching expository or preaching prosperity). I wish pastors can think long-term, broader, kingdom-minded, church-based but not church-bound, care equally for the city and wider Body, and have less a tendency to form cultural bubbles or spiritual ghettoes. But history keeps repeating itself, especially with newer churches, some of which are influenced by foreign movements with blinkered agendas.

Anglicans need to continue to think longterm and learn from the past as we seed new churches in our Deaneries. To this effect, there are encouraging signs and I am encouraged by the Deans and their teams. They are not sowing seeds of divisions but everywhere Anglican work goes, we bring a holistic message of Christ which we pray, can continue to unite and bring healing to the Body.

Give Him a Hundred is a good opportunity to show your love and encouragement to those labouring in the deaneries. Do contribute on the weekend of 27th November. 

13 November 2016 | Vicar Writes

Following Christ In The Other Half

By Terry Wong

“There are many who follow our Lord halfway, but not the other half,” said Meister Eckhart, a German theologian and mystic who lived in the 13th century. We obey, but only up till a point.   

I will say, by experience, that living the Christian faith halfway can be miserable. But oh the joy of unreserved obedience. When such a commitment comes in a human life, God breaks through, miracles are wrought, society-renewing divine forces are released and history changes. 

There is a degree of holy and complete obedience of joyful renunciation and sensitive listening that is breath-taking. It is not just a difference in degree but kind, when one follows Him with the second half. Jesus said it poignantly, “You must be born again.” (John 3:3) and St Paul repeated it,“If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.” These are not half-way images. It is not both this and that. It is either or. “Choose you this day, whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)  

It is a call to a life of deep peace and joy, filled with the light of God. Jesus said, “When your eye is single, your body is full of light.” (Luke 11:34) Everyone of us desires to live this kind of life. 

It starts with a deep work of God, what we may call an experience of God (the subject of last Friday’s musical) or encounter with Him. “All Thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.” (Psalms 42:7). His love sweeps us into His loving centre - away from a dark, self-destructive and contorting world -where marks of glory are on all things, and the marks are blood-stained and cruciformed. When one beholds, one sighs, as did Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28) When we see God, as Moses knew, death comes. Death to self, the giving up of the other half. St Paul, when he saw the vision of Christ, was so transformed that he declared, “The life I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Gal 2:20)

We need this flaming vision, without which, the Christian life is a moral drudgery. From this first step, we move to the second of obeying now. Begin where you are, in the little things, obey, submit, yield. Live every moment in His presence, something which the Bible sometimes call “ceaseless prayer.“ This internal communion with God and continuous prayer is essential. Whether at home, in school or work, it can be carried out day and night. “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart, be all else but naught to me, save that thou art; be thou my best thought in the day and the night, both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

If you do fall, pick yourself up and start again. Don’t wallow in the mud. Let the Spirit convict and submit to His grace. Broken-ness is the path to healing. Relax and let God take control. Don’t grit your teeth in self-determination. Let the Holy Spirit blow through every fibre of your being.      

Further note: This piece of sharing is inspired by Thomas Kelly’s “A Testament of Devotion”, a book which I can only digest a few pages at a time. Such is its spiritual immensity. This book, written more than a century ago, needs to be read as we seek to follow Christ in modern urban life. While the piece above may seem to over simplify the challenge of a devoted life, the book needs to be read in entirety to be fair to the author’s message. And we do need to reflect on how we may apply it in our modern and hedonistic (dominated by self and sex, ego and ecstasy or pride and desire) culture.