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All 2019 May Vicar Writes

24 May 2019 | Vicar Writes

Thank You for Praying, Serving and Reaching Out

By Terry Wong
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Altar call at the English/Filipino rally

"...as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving,
to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 4:15

There is much that has happened in CoH last weekend which we can give thanks for. However, on this space, I want to give thanks for the way the SAC community has served and participated.

Photo
Photos by Roger Deng & Edwin Arokiyam

Firstly, the stance of praying. Since the Solemn Assemblies last year, there has been a continuous chain of prayer gatherings. The deep commitment to seek the Lord has been very edifying and I trust this will change our communal prayer life for the better.  We are thankful to Pastor Lian Swan and her intercessory team for their unwavering and inspiring commitment to intercession and a deep desire for revival for our church, city and nations around us.

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Leading in worship at the English/Filipino rally

Secondly, the stance of serving. It was challenging. Briefings to attend. The long hours on Sunday morning. We struggled to fill the number of volunteers but I know each one of you did your best to step in to help. Some of you couldn’t and your prayers for the event were good enough. Some of our staff worked very hard to provide the leadership and organisational energy needed. Notably, Adeline Hee, who did excellently in planning and marshalling our volunteers. The Filipino leadership team faced a setback as the pastor who was originally the vision-bearer and mobiliser for the rally had to leave the country for family reasons. Our staff, Ee May stepped in with unwavering commitment to serve and work with the Filipinos to host the Sunday morning rally. Those who were there would have seen that it was a festive and vibrant rally. There are many others whom I am not able to name but you know who you are. May this spirit of service continue every weekend here in SAC.   

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COH, children and families

Thirdly, the stance of outreach and welcome. Many have had the joy of inviting someone. And greater was the joy, when their guests responded to the message. This is precious: the experience of inviting someone to explore the faith. This entails a measure of boldness to invite and to overcome the awkwardness of conversations about the faith. In so doing, we plumb the depths of human relationships as we go beneath the superficial layers. Some are still doubting but let the love and conversations continue.

Even if they have not come to faith, the friendship should continue. In stepping out in evangelism, we are also reflecting on how all our Services in SAC can also be regular frontiers for people to find Christ. Wouldn't it be wonderful if every weekend in SAC, you could look forward to the opportunity to invite a family member or friend? What if we learn to posture every Service, whether liturgical or contemporary, to be more welcoming and sensitive to those who are still seeking or those who are new to SAC? Please pray and reflect with us.

Indeed as His grace extends to many more, may our Lord be glorified.

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Photos by Roger Deng & Edwin Arokiyam
19 May 2019 | Vicar Writes

So It Begins

By Terry Wong

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope
that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all. 
EPHESIANS 4:4-6

It has been more than a year of intense preparation. But, as a seed idea, Celebration of Hope has been germinating in our hearts for much longer. Since July 2015.

We have pondered on what it means and what it takes. We have sought God personally in the secret place. We have prayed corporately in the public space. We have put our heads together, planned, and publicised. We have put our money where our mouth is. We have drawn closer to the Lord and to one another. We see stronger ties and new friendships being forged. We see pastors and leaders from both the conservative and charismatic streams praying and dreaming together, determined to put feet to vision.

Thus far the Lord has helped us. 1 SAMUEL 7:12

Celebration of Hope is God’s idea! He has shown us that we can move and minister as ONE despite obvious differences in personality, leadership style, and church culture. We are united in more ways than we realise. Truth is, what unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us. And when we come together for a harvest campaign of this scale, we are  more convinced than ever that the Kingdom of God is infinitely larger than any local church, denomination, or alliance!

We are blessed to serve as ONE, firstly, as Christians: people who follow Jesus, people who belong to the community of the King. Deep down inside, we know we do this simply because we love our Lord. Secondly, we are in this together as fellow citizens and residents. We love our city-state. What a fantastic way to commemorate our bicentennial! Yes, in this historic year, we want to celebrate Jesus, the One and Only Person in heaven and on earth who deserves our undivided affection, unwavering allegiance, and unending applause. To God be the Glory, great things He has done!

We are pleased to welcome Evangelist J. John who will be proclaiming God’s Word along with others. God’s Word is alive and active. God’s Word is powerful. God’s Word is sharp. God’s Word can cut through every doubt and defence. God’s Word can pry open hearts to hear and obey Christ. We rejoice that God’s Word shall prevail at every rally.

We are overjoyed to offer our kith and kin as well as friends, neighbours, and sojourners the power of the Gospel for salvation (ROMANS 1:16). At every rally, we will also proclaim the Good News through a beloved hymn that has touched many generations.

You guessed it: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. Who knows? God might open the hearts of the unsaved and draw them to Christ even before the preaching starts.

So it begins. This weekend is a divine appointment for Singapore. Thousands of unsaved people accompanied by Christian friends will be descending on the SportsHub for six mega moments with Christ our Saviour and King.

In this final lap, every moment of every day, let us double up efforts to pray, engage, and gather. Cry out to God for divine favour.
Yes, nothing less than a divine visitation upon our land!
•    Perfect weather. Angelic protection. Zero security incident.
•    Excellent teamwork. Smooth ops. Effective AV.
•     Packed stadium. Majority unbelievers.
•     Holy excitement. Captive audience. Ready response.
•     Anointed Worship. Fragrant presence of God.
•     Powerful preaching of the Gospel. Mighty move of the Spirit!

So it begins. This the hour of His glory, the day of His power, the year of His harvest. Our confidence is in Him and Him alone. With joyful hope, we call on Him to do the awesome things that only He can do (ISAIAH 45:8, ISAIAH 64:1-4):
• Rend the heavens
• Rain down His Spirit
• Reveal Christ Jesus
• Illuminate darkened minds
• Soften hardened hearts
• Bend stubborn wills
• Save lost souls
• Turn Singapore Godward

Towards a Great Homecoming
— for God’s glory!

12 May 2019 | Vicar Writes

When the Lord is Their Shepherd

By Terry Wong

John has been a free-thinker all his life. Financially successful and now in his senior years, life has been good to him. He seemed to lack nothing. He did not see the need to change anything in his life. There were Christians around him. But it never occurred to them that John would be interested in the Gospel.

One person thought otherwise. John visits his neighbourhood doctor from time to time. Nothing serious. Coughs and colds and the like. This doctor, who is a Christian, initially saw John as just another patient. But one day, during a routine examination, he popped the question: "John, do you believe in Jesus Christ?"

Before that, John had been a secret admirer of his sister, a devout and loving Christian. So the doctor's question triggered something inside him: "Yes. I know many Christians. But none have asked me so directly. Yes, I am interested to hear."

The doctor led him to the One who could give him living water. That very day, John put his faith in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

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He was baptised a few weeks later, his sister looking on with tears of joy, and the angels rejoicing in heaven!

Looking back, John now realises that the goodness and mercy of the Good Shepherd had followed him and led him to the day of his salvation. Unbeknown to others, he has always been searching for green pastures and still waters. Through Jesus, his soul was restored.

This heartwarming story is a lesson for us all: It is never too late to ask, inquire or invite. Leave the rest to God. No one is too old to follow Jesus.

John’s secret hunger and thirst are not unique. There are many others just like him, just waiting. God wants to visit the seniors in their golden years. They can also experience the joy of John's discovery when you simply pop that one most important question: "Uncle, Auntie, do you believe in Jesus?"

Until the Lord is their Shepherd, they will always lack something.

Perhaps you know some who are stuck in a bad place, overwhelmed by ill health or broken relationships. Let the Lord use you to prepare a table of relief and hope for them in the midst of their "enemies".

Celebration of Hope has six different rallies you can invite them to. Include them in your guest list. Reserve a ticket for them. Accompany them by cab or by train to the stadium. If they are wheel-chair bound, no problem. On arrival, the ushers will guide you to the access lift that brings your entourage directly to a special seating area.

Indeed, the best gift we can offer the Pioneer Generation and the Merdeka Generation is a living hope that can only be found in one person. His Name is Jesus. And when the inevitable comes, when our seniors walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they will fear no evil for Jesus will be right there with them to comfort them. When they reach the other side, they will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. And they will be forever grateful to God and to you. Hallelujah!


Know some seniors who have yet to believe in Jesus? Pray for each one by name. Invite all of them to the Celebration of Hope rallies. Make all the necessary arrangements to ensure they are well taken care of before, during and after the event.

5 May 2019 | Vicar Writes

Reflecting on AGM 2019

By Terry Wong

I want to thank everyone who participated in last Sunday’s AGM. I was told it was a record-breaking attendance.

We heard about the challenge in keeping our annual operating budget in the black as we seek to fulfil all our financial obligations (joyfully!) in the ministry of the church, our Diocese and Missions. I remind, guided by Biblical principle, for each to "give according to what he has”, and this is reflected well in the discipline of tithing.

We unanimously supported the Restoration Works of the Cathedral, especially in the Nave areas. Fund-raising will be starting in earnest. The estimated costs of up to $6 million for the works to be carried out over three years is, of course, a hefty sum. We will be seeking grants from the authorities where they are available. This will only partially cover the costs and your support is needed. Be assured that the PCC, Building Development Committee and the Restoration Works Committee will be proceeding carefully at every step and decide prudently on the solutions and expenses involved. This also received unanimous support at the Chinese AGM.

We also supported the decision to begin fund-raising for the Phase 2 Project. We are almost reaching or have reached maximum capacity in many of our Services. Our need for ancillary facilities i.e. Sunday school, office and ministry rooms are dire. The Working Group has worked hard at identifying where the space needs are and the Advisory Group (architectural) has advised on the design and the selection of the right architect. Laud Architects presented an early design idea for us to begin to reflect on and to guide the cost estimates. The current estimate is in the region of $20-25 million. Both AGMs supported the decision to begin fund-raising by a majority of over 90%.

As a family, of course, we want to seek as much support and involvement as possible. We can always do better in our communication and we will seek to do that. Do watch the Vicar Writes space. Conversations will continue - including Town Halls - as the leadership explains and gather feedback. Some will feel the need for space more keenly than others. We need to converse and listen to one another. More than anything else, it is a sense of faith in the Lord’s provision as He calls us to bring people into the Kingdom, prepare for the needs of future generations and give priority to the work of the Church and the Gospel.

I have been involved in two previous parish building projects and understand that not all will see eye to eye on the issue of building and cost. We need to value our relationship in Christ above everything else and offer mutual respect and understanding even in disagreement. Beyond individual opinions, we need to think communally, not just for the present community but for future ones as well.

One encouraging indication was the way the needs for the Bells Funds were met. And we should never lose sight of the fact that the Pavilion project is made possible with minimal controversy because of a generous donation.

We also elected in a new PCC and the names should be in this week's bulletin. We want to thank those who have served in the last PCC as well as those who offered to serve and stood as nominees. The limited number of PCC positions should not deter us from serving the Lord elsewhere. Indeed, in SAC we want to create as many avenues as possible for members to serve and participate in the work of the Lord.

We are now barely two weeks before the Celebration of Hope rallies start. Will you be there, serving or inviting someone? And if for some reason you can’t, the Body of Christ will value your prayers.

28 April 2019 | Vicar Writes

Where There is Love, There is a Way

By Terry Wong

Evangelist J. John was in Singapore last year for a Pastors and Marketplace Leaders Gathering at St Andrew’s Cathedral.
With just a few weeks to Celebration of Hope, we share here some thoughts inspired by his message which still stir our spirits and move our hearts:

1. Love is action, whatever it takes!

"They made an opening in the roof above and lowered the man…” MARK 2:4

Four men took their paralysed friend on a stretcher to see Jesus (MARK 2:2-5). A huge crowd had gathered, jamming the access doors. Nobody could get in or out. The desperate four had no choice but to climb the roof and remove a part of it to create a hole large enough to lower the man on his stretcher to Jesus.

What a powerful picture of love in action! Indeed, love is more than feelings. Love is a verb. Love looks like something. Love is an active experience that can sometimes be precarious. And if biblical love requires risk and costs us time and energy to be the best neighbour we can be, then the four friends of the paralytic win hands down. They personify love in an extraordinary
life-changing way.

Celebration of Hope challenges every Christian to make extra-special efforts in loving Singapore. Non-believers make up 80% of our population. They are all around us: family members, friends, neighbours, colleagues, classmates, strangers. Where there is a will, there is a way. To this, J.John adds: Let’s lift up the roof of our thinking to get people to Jesus.

2. People are our focus, no matter what!

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 TIMOTHY 4:5

The Early Church faced persecution. At the same time, false teachers threatened to undo the fledgling Christian community with their fake gospel. Amidst all that, Paul exhorted his protégé, Timothy, to stay focused and faithful, to carry out the ministry expected of him, including the work of an evangelist. According to the original Greek text, the Apostle Paul instructs Pastor Timothy to think like an evangelist and lead his church like an evangelist, whether Timothy sees that as his spiritual gift or not.

In other words, eat, sleep, and breathe evangelism, no matter what. Evangelism is about pastoring the lost people of our city. We watch and pray, we search and rescue, we care and share. Pastoral care and evangelism are not mutually exclusive. They are integral to what it truly means to be the Church Jesus builds.

Celebration of Hope challenges every local church to pastor our city, to reach the world by reaching ‘our’ world. Be other-centric. Because when we are other-centric, we will naturally cultivate our web of relationships. We will pay close attention to the lost among us, many of whom we know in person and by name. We will get the Gospel conversations going. We will adjust our schedules to flow with theirs, and make sure we are there for them at the rallies. If our unsaved friends make a decision to follow Jesus at the rallies, well and good. But if not, the conversation continues, the pastoring carries on. Without a doubt, God will use Celebration of Hope to spark countless conversations between believers and unbelievers all across our city—for the sake of the Gospel.

ACT NOW.
Be other-centric. Get in touch with long-lost friends who have yet to follow Jesus. Be imaginative. Think out of the box. What are some ingenious ways to engage them? Cool ideas to warm their hearts and win them over for Jesus. Go the extra mile and accompany them to the rallies.

web www.celebrationofhope.sg
email info@celebrationofhope.sg
hotline 8710 6726

21 April 2019 | Vicar Writes

For He is risen

By Terry Wong

"He is not here, for He is risen, as He said." Matthew 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. 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, we can live in the present with 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 ushering in the new creation (or world order) with our Risen Lord giving us a glimpse of the life to come.

As for guest speakers, we welcome Dr Csilla Saysell who lectures at Carey College in Auckland. She has also previously lectured at St John's College, Nottingham and guest lectured at Cranmer Hall, Durham University in United Kingdom. Csilla is Hungarian and she is married to Philip Saysell. We also welcome Revd Dr Philip Huan from Church Life Resources. He and his wife Jenni Huan work very closely with us.

Here in the Cathedral, we run The Alpha Course which gives everyone an opportunity to explore the Christian faith. This is a good place to start if you are new to the faith. We warmly recommend this course to you and invite you to join us for the next one which starts 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. If you would like to visit or be a part of one of these groups, do drop us an email at connect@cathedral.org.sg.

We welcome you to be a part of the Cathedral community and hope that you may find a spot and space where you can grow in your faith and serve.

From the 17th to 19th of May, there will be a series of Celebration of Hope rallies at the National Stadium with UK Evangelist, Canon J John. There is information in the bulletin on how you can book tickets for this event.

Our Annual AGM is at 2.00 pm next Sunday 28th April at the Prayer Halls. Even if you are not officially a member yet but feel like you are one in heart, you are most welcome to join in. Lunch will be served from 1.00 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. We will also be discussing why we need the Phase 2 expansion project. Please do pray and let’s seek for whole hearted unity as we continue to steward our resources (finances, land, etc.) in obedience to His call.

From The Vicar, Clergy, Deaconesses, Staff and PCC Members... we wish you a Blessed Easter Day.

14 April 2019 | Vicar Writes

The Priceless One

By Terry Wong

"In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

We live in a day and age where people are reduced to numbers, alphabets and avatars. You are one of the thousands of likes on someone’s Facebook page. You roam the internet, hidden behind some avatar.

We live in city run by a super efficient civil service. It’s easy to feel that you are just a number, a national statistic. You feel that your demographic profile is just facts and stats for city planners and scenario-builders.

Without you realising it, some stranger living thousands of miles away is hacking away day and night to get to you. To these hackers, you are not mere data. You are a precious commodity to be traded, sold and circulated.  

You can’t help but feel used and devalued. So, to assure yourself that you are not alone, you join some gaming clan or you walk the streets. Yet, like ships that pass in the night, you discover that people are strangers in the night. People are talking without speaking. People are hearing without listening. All you hear is the Sound of Silence.

You step into a church service. But even there, you may remain incognito. Another statistic. You hear a lot but you are not heard. Someone might ask for your name or offer you coffee. If not, you quietly slip out, back into our own solitary world of one.

How precious is one?

Next to zero or next to nothing, as some will say. However, the Bible tells a different story. The one person, the one you, is all important to God. From Luke 15, we know that heaven pauses to celebrate when one lone sinner repents.

God is a personal God. He knows you by name (ISAIAH 43:1). And as a born-again believer, your name is in His book of life (LUKE 10:20). Every tear you shed is preserved (PSALM 56:8). Every strand of hair on your head is numbered (MATTHEW 10:30). Even in death, you remain precious to Him (PSALM 116:15).

Therefore, how we treat each person should be shaped by God’s perspective of the individual. When we invite someone to church, or to an Alpha course, or to Celebration of Hope, it is never about boosting some statistics. We invite the person simply because this person is precious to God and is deeply loved by God. In fact, this person is a human being of inestimable worth created in the image of God. This person can experience God’s love and feel its disarming effects in his or her soul and spirit. And this person can find meaning in life and fulfill God’s purpose for him or her.

You may be trying to invite many to Celebration of Hope. Well done! Remember the value of each ONE. Heaven rejoices over the priceless one—the one sinner who repents and gives his or her life to Jesus. What a wonderful hope we can offer to each person in our city, citizen or otherwise. One at a time.  

TODAY, spend time in prayer:

  • Thank God for His great love for you and for every human being.
  • Pray for unsaved family members and friends one by one, by name.  
  • Ask God to use you to show each one how precious he or she is to God.
  • Pray that each one will accept your invitation to Celebration of Hope.
7 April 2019 | Vicar Writes

Preparing for our AGMs

By Terry Wong

Our Parochial Church Council (PCC) and the Chinese Congregation Committee had a joint meeting last Sunday. We met to discuss Phase 2, which involves an underground development at the north-west lawn area.

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We viewed an early design plan by an architectural firm. This design has received input by a joint-congregational working team (usage and facilities) and an architectural advisory team (design), all of whom are members of SAC. If this phase is completed, we will have:

  • A combined office area for our staff. Currently our staff is housed in separate locations, with cramped office spaces.
  • A new 600-seater Hall to facilitate growth in our Services and meet the needs for various events.
  • Additional purpose-built rooms for CE teaching, small groups Bible studies, counselling and meetings.
  • New facilities i.e. resource library, heritage centre and music studio.
  • Parts of South Transept and North Transept which can be reserved to display their heritage features.
  • Each cluster at the Nave, CNS and Phase 2 with the right mix of facilities. The transept areas can have more Sunday school, teaching and ministry rooms to support the Nave worship Services. B2 rooms, offices and B1 Prayer Halls can support the CNS Services. This will minimise movement across our grounds and improve safety for children and the elderly.

At both our AGMs, this early design will be shared with our congregations. We will be seeking for approval to begin fund-raising and continue to work on the design, which as it develops, will continue to be shared with the wider SAC community for comments and ideas.

We also discussed the plans for renovation works to restore and repair the Nave and other parts of the Cathedral. These plans will also be shared at our AGMs. Indeed, even as we think of new places, we need to continue to be good stewards of our older facilities.
 
Meanwhile, the plans to build the Pavilion are already underway and when completed, will be a wonderful addition to our space and ministry needs.
 
This Sunday is also a historic moment as we launch the new Tamil Service. Tamil is one of our four national languages and it will finally find a home in our Cathedral as a Worship Service. It is an exciting development. Please pray for Revd Joshua Raj and his team.

31 March 2019 | Vicar Writes

Households

By Terry Wong

One threat to family today may be due to the demise of the household (Greek - oikos).

These two realities, though connected, are not the same. The household is a social form, a locus where people commune with each other. One can be a part of a biological family (by birth) without being part of the household (by choice). And even if you are a single adult, you can be a part of a household with your aging parents, siblings or friends.

We may have homes but people may not really live in them. Parents are off to work for most part of the day and for some, evenings too. Children are off to school. In the evening, some dine outside or Deliveroo food in. Even if together, eyes may be on screens.

For Aristotle, the household is a family understood as a community of daily life. Not long ago, the home was the context for daily lives. Breakfast was shared together, even if conversation was brief and quick. Chores and responsibilities were shared. The Singer sewing machine rumbled as clothes were repaired. In the kitchen, if a chicken was being chopped, loud, irregular thuds were produced. If shallots were being diced, you would hear instead a quieter, hynoptic drumming. And there was always a cadence that rung from the sharpening of knives.

Today, these activities are “out-sourced internally” through our domestic helpers. We sleep, work, eat, stare at screens and sleep again.

The household is more than just a place of work. Lounge times, board-game times, meal times and even bedtimes are moments for mutual presence. Done enough and regularly, they form tradition and provide a template for one’s wider life. This household prepares a person to live in the state (civic life), as Aristotle has pointed out.

If we are to renew family life, we need to start with the household. It is a sacred sanctuary of shared work, life and belonging. I am aware that some homes are places of tension. If at all possible and with God's help, may we do our best to turn it into sanctuaries for life and living. At least we owe our children that.

Now, something needs to be said about the other households in life, notably, the local church. She is more than a place of worship. The Bible talks about it again and again. And I try to repeat these ideas as well in the way I pastor and lead the Cathedral as her Vicar.

We are a family, a community, a household.

She needs to be a happy household of trust, safety, love and friendship, where visions and dreams are shared. I sometimes meet Christians who are either "mercenaric" or "consumeric" in the way they look at the local church. If the former, they see the church as a place to get things done, for money raised to be given away, simply just a vehicle for missions and so on. For the consumers, they ask constantly what the church is doing to help them to grow, better sermons, better this and that. Indeed in Singapore, we have the phenomena of Christians floating from church to church for they have never grasped the true calling of a church as oikos. It is sad when you think about it.

Why can’t we just be friends — eating, laughing and praying together?

If one loses both natural and spiritual households, what a deep loss that is. Both are gifts from God. If you are reading this, it is still not too late. Change your attitude and get both you and your households in order. You will be enriched beyond measure and live life without regrets.

24 March 2019 | Vicar Writes

Of Strangers and Sojourners

By Terry Wong

Most of those murdered in the Christchurch mosques massacre were foreigners. Our hearts bleed.

As we celebrate our bicentennial, we should be reminded of Singapore’s early beginnings as a place of hope for strangers and sojourners. Our forefathers originated from many places near and far. They came in search of a new beginning and a better life. Many of them did not have high aspirations beyond the hope of a decent job and a safe place to raise a family.

We salute the early strangers and sojourners. They toiled to build Singapura on their backs, literally. For example, some of our city’s historical buildings were the hard work of convict labourers from India. Today, strangers and sojourners are still streaming into Singapore from all directions. Like those before them, they contribute to our nation-building efforts in significant ways. As you go about Singapore, take note of how many sojourners are hard at work building and beautifying our city, keeping it clean and green. These are the unsung heroes of Singapore’s on-going development. We owe them a tribute of gratitude.

While sojourners do not share all the citizenship rights and privileges of Singaporeans, they have the same spiritual rights as every one. Remember, each sojourner is a person of intrinsic worth, created in the image of God. Each one has the right to encounter Jesus and become a born-again child of God. We owe them the Good News of God’s love. The local church should be their first port of call. In fact, according to God’s Word, we are to treat them lovingly as equals, as family, as one of us:

  • Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners… LEVITICUS 19:33-34 GNT
  • You must see that justice is done, and must show kindness and mercy to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners who live among you, or anyone else in need. ZECHARIAH 7:9 GNT
  • I am the Lord, and I consider all people the same, whether they are Israelites or foreigners living among you. NUMBERS 15:16 GNT

Indeed, may our local churches reflect the big heart of God for all peoples. May we be havens of shalom for sojourners representing diverse creeds and cultures. May we welcome them warmly into the House of God and into our homes. Here in SAC, we have various services catering to different groups. Pray for the new Tamil Service starting on 7th April.

A vast majority have never heard the Gospel, not even once! The coming Celebration of Hope rallies present a great window of opportunity for us to engage them while they live and work here.

From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. (ACTS 17:26-27 GNT)

Will you please pray for these rallies?

  • Saturday 18 May: Chinese Rally in Mandarin | National Stadium | 7.30pm
  • Saturday 18 May: Indian Rally in Tamil | SportsHub OCBC Arena | 7.30 pm
  • Saturday 18 May: North Indian Rally in Hindi with English interpretation | Grace AG (Tanglin) | 7.30 pm
  • Sunday 19 May: Filipino Rally in English | National Stadium | 10.30am

And more than just pray, will you also spread the word and invite a sojourner or two to the relevant rally? Perhaps a Mainland Chinese neighbour, or an Indian construction worker, or a Filipino domestic helper. Please note that there will be half an hour of cross-cultural presentations by celebrities before the starting time. Be early and join in some inter-cultural fun!

17 March 2019 | Vicar Writes

Giving and Thanksgiving

By Terry Wong

Embedded in Judea-Christian teaching is the principle of stewardship, generosity and giving. This has effected how the Church and Christians have existed and lived in the world, though “not of the world” (John 17:14-15).

It has been a discipleship journey of learning to be generous in giving to the Church in her running of ministries, orphanages, social work, medical work and educational institutions. On top of that, Singaporeans have reached out to surrounding nations and much resource has been given to spreading the Gospel and uplifting of these societies.

Many Anglican parishes have also picked up a tradition of ensuring everything that is collected within a year is given away by the year’s end. Hoarding is not encouraged and not seen as an act of faith. A prudent general reserve is kept, and in some churches, investments such as properties and legacy funds are kept. But year to year, faith is expected of congregations to rise to the needs.

The Church also learns to do things better but cheaper, funded by a "currency of love". There is a high level of lay volunteerism. Church clergy, pastors and staff are not expected to command salaries similar to their equivalent secular counterparts. In some parishes, including Cathedral, some staff members work pro bono.

The Church's contribution to a society’s social, cultural and spiritual wealth is incalculable. I once attended a conference where a political expert lamented that some gifted Christians have dropped out as economic contributors. I think we should rejoice. Singapore will be a lot poorer today if everything in life is about a citizen maximising his capacity for wealth.

The Cathedral, as Mother Church, sets the pace and is a keen observer of good principles in giving. A huge portion of our “income” is given away to outside work, whether it is our own “blood, sweat and tears” or helping others with their ministries, here and abroad. Our own ministries are also given sufficient attention, with gifted staff helming and laying a foundation for growth now and in the future.

In an increasingly connected world, we also receive a lot of requests to help. A Singapore dollar goes a long way in other parts of the world. It is not easy, but our PCC and Missions Committees struggle to balance the budget and ensure we are helping as many as possible.

And so year after year, we are dependent on the commitment of the congregation to tithing, pledging and free-will offerings. The principle of tithing reflects a wonderful principle of proportion. If every Christian is faithful to his or her lot, we believe SAC can rise up to her obligations year after year. We need to sow a seed into God's Kingdom in time (future) and space (society and world).

Previous generations have given so that today, we may be able to continue the giving. God's Church constitutes an amazing ecosystem. May each of us do our part to “seek first His Kingdom.” (Matthew 6:33)

Indeed, it is a privilege and I invite you to join in this continuous stream of giving.

10 March 2019 | Vicar Writes

Being An Andrew

By Terry Wong

Think about it. Celebration of Hope (CoH) is really not about us trying to make it a success. Rather, CoH is a God-given opportunity for us to thrive and shine as His witnesses—especially in our bicentennial year.

In this kairos season, we are being encouraged to follow the inspiring example of a lesser-known disciple by the name of Andrew who is sometimes called The Bringer. Largely overshadowed by his dynamic brother, Simon Peter, we know little about Andrew. But what we do know is highly significant. Andrew personally took the initiative to find his brother and invite him to come and see Jesus (John 1:35-42). It seemed like a very small act. Yet this ministry of The Bringer is big and very important in God’s work.

In Singapore today, many are committed followers of Christ because:

  • someone cared enough to be a true friend
  • someone introduced them to Jesus via a conversation
  • someone invited them to an Alpha Course
  • someone brought them to a church event or cell meeting

And we can add that many met Christ because someone brought them to the Billy Graham Rallies in 1978. Will you be an Andrew? Will you be a Bringer? Towards Celebration of Hope, Christians are inspired to be an Andrew through the Andrew Initiative Training. The sessions conducted thus far have been very well attended, with the last one here fully subscribed. The training is informative, inspiring, and practical. The atmosphere is electrifying as Christians from many different churches and denominations rub shoulders and learn from anointed trainers who speak with passion. Many are gaining a new-found confidence to be effective witnesses for Christ. They will never be the same again!

So, if you have yet to attend the Andrew Initiative Training, please note the session coming up.

ANDREW INITIATIVE TRAINING
Saturday, 16 March | 9am to 12.30pm
St John’s-St Margaret’s Church (30 Dover Ave, S139790)

ACT NOW!
Write to equipping@celebrationofhope.sg with the following info:
Name of Church:
Number of Persons Attending:

Do note that entry to the rallies is by ticket only. You can book the tickets using the COH App at onelink.to/coh2019.

If you would like to find out more about Celebration of Hope or have any enquiries, details are listed below.

web www.celebrationofhope.sg
email info@celebrationofhope.sg
hotline 8710 6727

3 March 2019 | Vicar Writes

Observing Lent

By Terry Wong

Do join the Cathedral community to welcome Lent at the Ash Wednesday Service. Do note that it will start at 6.00 pm and this means that just for that day, you must plan to knock off work early. Our Bishop will be speaking on “Make Lent a Special Season”. Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence; from the middle ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross, as this is offered during the Service.

Lent may originally have followed Epiphany, just as Jesus’ sojourn in the wilderness followed immediately on his baptism. It soon became firmly attached to Easter, as the principal occasion for baptism and for the reconciliation of those who had been excluded from the Church’s fellowship for apostasy or serious faults. This history explains the characteristic notes of Lent – self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study, and preparation for Easter, to which almsgiving has traditionally been added.

Now is the healing
time decreed
For sins of heart
and word and deed,
When we in humble
Fear record the wrong that we have done the Lord.

Latin, before 12th century

As the candidates for baptism were

instructed in Christian faith, and as penitents prepared themselves, through fasting and penance, to be readmitted to communion, the whole Christian community was invited to join them in the process of study and repentance, the extension of which over forty days would remind them of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, being tested by Satan. This pattern continues in most churches even if some no longer prepare catechumens for baptism on Easter Day.

The calculation of the forty days has varied considerably in Christian history. It is now usual in the West to count them continuously to the end of Holy Week (not including Sundays), so beginning Lent on the sixth Wednesday before Easter, Ash Wednesday.

There are many devotional exercises which may be used in Lent and Holy Week outside the set liturgy. The various forms of fasting are encouraged. At the Cathedral, we run daily noontime prayers and do check the bulletin for the details. The lectionary Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer readings, found in our App are also useful to set the devotional tone for this period. The Bible Society released a Lent Devotional which you can purchase.

Online copies are also available. You can also watch out for special devotional exercises (i.e. silence, Stations of the Cross) which are run by our Prayer & Spirituality ministry.

As Holy Week approaches, the atmosphere of the season darkens; the readings begin to anticipate Christ’s suffering and death. On Holy Week, we have invited Dr Csilla Saysell from New Zealand to be our guest speaker in various events, including noontime talks. Check the bulletin for details. As always, we will be having our Maundy Thursday Service, two Good Friday Services and the usual Easter Services, including the special Dawn Service.

Lent devotion is not just about abstinence and simplicity, but it also includes doing good works. We should renew our commitment to live and bear witness to the Cross and Gospel. Continue to pray for your acquaintances, friends and family members. Pray for opportunities to have Gospel conversations. We remind ourselves that lent observation is not just about including some extra religious activities. It is about the whole of life.

Do have a blessed Lenten season.

24 February 2019 | Vicar Writes

Lent and the Towel and Basin

By Terry Wong

The season of Lent is starting with Ash Wednesday on 6 March at 6 pm.

As for our pulpit sermons, apart from observing the First Sunday of Lent (10 Mar) and Palm Sunday (14 April), in preparation for the Celebration of Hope, we will be exploring some questions of life under the theme "Faith & Life.". We have scheduled a few guest speakers to preach alongside our pastors. It will be a good opportunity to invite your unchurched friends to explore the Christian faith. We will let you know at least a week before, what the topics are and who the speakers will be.

During Lent, we are also starting noontime daily prayers from 12.30 pm to 1.00 pm. On Wednesday, it will be a Holy Communion Service which ends at about 1.30 pm. On Friday, the intercessory group, City@Prayer will be leading the noontime prayer and participants should expect a more active prayer engagement. We will be offering daily prayer for our Church, Society and Nations.

We started our evening Alpha Course this week with the Introductory dinner on Wednesday. More than a hundred guests turned up, not counting our own members. We appreciate prayer for this run as Christians lovingly accompany seekers in their search for truth.

This evening course is not to be confused with Alpha Everywhere which is starting later in March-April. We will be hosting lunchtime groups on our grounds and if you will like to help, please contact Andrew Ho @ 63376104 ext 132 or email andrewho@cathedral.org.sg. Members are also encouraged to host Alpha in their home or office. Do let him know if you are interested to help in some way.

Meanwhile, do be "praying without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17) in this period of run-up to the Celebration of Hope. In praying, we discern the purposes of the Lord and His will and plans for our lives and that of the nation. The monthly regional prayer is one meeting not to be missed if you want to stay spiritually tuned in. We also have various prayer gatherings and you are encouraged to participate.

Being the season of Lent, I should also encourage you to use our daily Bible Lectionary readings in our Cathedral App. This can be on top of whatever devotional resource you are currently using. The lectionary readings can help you to stay close to the emphases of the church calendar with audio facilities for those who need it.

Another event to note is the Andrew Initiative Training on Sat 2nd Mar at 9 am. It will help you to better engage with COH rallies, show you how to invite friends and what you can do if they are interested to respond to the Gospel call. If you are not free on this morning, the same training is also offered elsewhere.

I know this is nagging, but we need many more of you to volunteer to serve at the English/Filipino rally. This Sunday morning rally will be a popular one, not just for Filipinos but just about anybody who can understand English! We can imagine that many foreigners will also be coming, including those from Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand and so on. Canon J John will be speaking. A few household celebrities will also be performing and sharing their testimonies i.e. Barbie Almalbis, MadRush and Coro Cantabile. This is an opportunity on a Sunday morning to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord" in a different way. We sometimes forget but the term “Service” (as in Sunday Services) originally connotes the idea of worshippers coming to serve on Sunday and to be sent out to serve Christ in the world. The idea of "being served” is a mistaken notion.

Indeed, with the coming Season of Lent, may we be reminded again of our Lord who serves us with a towel and basin (John 13:12-15).

17 February 2019 | Vicar Writes

In and Around

By Terry Wong

I had a wonderful time celebrating Chinese New Year back in my hometown Petaling Jaya, in the very house which I grew up in as a child. We reconnected with family members and relatives over traditional dishes. The burning of fire-crackers was permitted for a limited period of time and we relived some of our childhood experiences. Indeed, we experienced the same smells, tastes, sounds and sights of CNY that we grew up with. Connections with one's past are important and I am reminded again of the grace of God which has carried us through all these years.  

On behalf of PCC and the team working behind the Bells Project, we want to thank all who have donated to the project. PCC has made a decision to purchase another four bells, plus an additional one for training purposes. In terms of names, as St Paul is already part of the original eight, this also means that we can now add St Matthias (Acts 1:26).

The bells have arrived safely in UK since early January (pictured above) and are now being repaired and refurbished. We are hoping that they can be back this year and be a part of our contribution to the bicentennial celebrations and Diocese's Year of Proclamation.

The plans to refurbish and restore the Nave (i.e. walls, windows) are underway and at the coming AGM, we will give more details and the cost estimates. The Cathedral will be playing a role to host a special Lessons and Carols Service in December to celebrate the Bicentennial Year with the rest of the nation. We hope some parts can be repaired in time for that.

Can SAC raise 1000 ushers and 200 counsellors to serve in the English/Filipino rally on Sunday, 19 May? I believe we can but it will take many small groups or families to encourage each other to participate. In a sense, we are spending that Sunday morning to worship the Lord in a different way. On that weekend, we will be running only two Services, 8 am and 11.15 am. Please sign up today. Your early response is needed and will help us to ascertain if we need to now ask other churches to help. But we'd like to believe that the Cathedral community can rise up to this unique call!

This Friday evening, we will be joined by Christians from other Churches at the Regional Prayer Meeting to pray for our nation and the coming COH events. Let's be there and keep our hearts burning for the things of the Lord and the salvation of others. [We need to seek the Lord together as His family.]

In recent weeks, the Cafe has begun to serve some drinks in porcelain cups during the weekdays. This is one small step in seeking to be more responsible vis-a-vis our environment. Much more needs to be done in SAC in this area and at the right time, we will continue to take further steps.

And did you know that you can download a digital copy of our weekly bulletin? As more of you do this, we can reduce the copies being printed.

Visit cathedral.org.sg/bulletin to download our weekly bulletin.

10 February 2019 | Vicar Writes

The new St Andrew’s Adult Home and our friends from Mizoram

By Terry Wong

In the mid-80’s, I used to join short-term mission trips to the Riau Islands. I have this vivid memory of seeing this teenage boy locked up in a cage like an animal. It was a very disturbing sight.

Of course, in developed societies today, we are now a lot more aware of those with special needs like autism. Hence, we will not treat sufferers of this condition in that manner.

Our Diocese is deeply involved with this via the St Andrew's Autism Centre (SAAC) which operates a special school for children and youths with autism from 7 to 18 years old. It is challenging but rewarding work as we see families being helped. Along with that, SAAC also has facilities for a Day Activity Centre (DAC) for adults aged 19 and beyond.

This work now moves to another level with the completion of St Andrew’s Adult Home (SAAH) at Sengkang at the end of 2018. It is a home specially designed and built to meet the needs of adults with autism. It has the capacity to house 200 residents, and will also have a co-located Day Activity Centre (DAC) with a capacity for 50 adult clients. This is a new phase of ministry.

Each Home or Centre under Singapore Anglican Community Services or St Andrew’s Mission Hospital is supported by an anchor parish. The Cathedral is the anchor parish for this new St Andrew's Adult Home (SAAH). This means that we will be supporting the Chaplaincy work which provides pastoral care for clients and the caregivers. Wilson Sie is the chaplain there. Where possible, members can be encouraged to help and show the love of Christ to both workers and clients in this Home.

Photo

Most of the nurses and health-care assistants in homes like these come from surrounding countries. Recently 28 new staff flew in from Mizoram (Northeast India) to begin a 2-year renewable stint. They are mostly in their 20's and early 30's and all are Christians. We hosted a tea for them and introduced them to the Cathedral (see photo). Young and eager, they are a great bunch and beaming with so much potential. We are beginning to connect with them and are seeking ways to help make their stay and work here more comfortable and meaningful. By the way, weekly on our grounds, we have groups of workers from Mizoram who gather for social and worship purposes.

Our senior staff, Mrs Patricia Aw heads our community services ministries and will be the liaison person for this.

Do you think you can help in some way? Do email her at pataw@cathedral.org.sg

3 February 2019 | Vicar Writes

At the Heart of being a Church Family

By Terry Wong

We had a wonderful and inspiring regional prayer meeting on the last Friday of January. Watch out for the next one on Friday evening of 22nd February.

There are many meetings and events in the Cathedral but for me, prayer meetings are special. These meetings are not merely a presentation of a list of requests to God.
 
We don’t often say this very clearly, but the Lord Jesus is the Shepherd of this Church (Eph 4:15). The local church is a spiritual family and entity. We are a people of His presence. I co-taught the book of Revelation last year and through the letters of the seven churches, we were reminded again of the Lord Jesus’ presence and His love for each local church. This truth, more than anything, governs how I have served in every parish and how I see my role as Vicar. We live in an age where we are enamoured by the CEO and the power of leadership.
 
But the Church is different. When the human influence is exercised without reference to the Word, His Spirit and koinonia acceptability to His Body, something is tragically lost. And over time, the work can be seen to be "wood, hay and stubble" (1 Cor 2:11-13).
 
This is an insight which I found in greater clarity when I was serving in my previous parish. We were facing spiritual stagnation and the parish was struggling. I became acquainted with one of the leaders of Youth With A Mission (YWAM), who later became a very close spiritual friend. I was quite curious about the YWAM leadership approach to ministry and their deep emphasis on prayer and worship. Decisions made were collegial and often through prayer and seeking. This leader helped us to focus on the spiritual life of the parish, and our prayer and worship life took a positive turn.
We learned to be a people of His presence. We learned to "give the church back to Him."

My years of working in the Alpha Course ministry also exposed me to the spiritual culture and values in Holy Trinity Brompton. How can one local church exert so much influence globally? There I caught a vision of what it meant to be a church measured not just by attendance but influence. I saw a rich prayer and worship life and a leadership culture which aims at people becoming authentic followers of the Lord of the Church.
 
Worshipping and praying sharpens the clarity of what God is doing in our midst (Acts 13:2,3). It keeps us from an activism which is devoid of His presence. Prayer, worship and mission can never be separated. They are not separate events or activities, but a singular expression of a people who know who the Lord is and relate to each other as such.
 
Church prayer meetings also reflect home and family. It is one meeting which separates family from guests and indeed, the latter are very low in numbers, compared to our public weekend Services. We come “home" and we do what a church family should do. It has a different intensity in worship and prayer compared to your public Weekend Services. There are some who are affected or stumbled by the forms of worship or prayer in our prayer meeting. I will encourage one to get past that and get into the essence of these combined gatherings. There will be noise. There will be silence. Old and new. It does not matter if we are family and share a common vision that goes beyond forms.
 
Chinese New Year is round the corner. As families celebrate, it is the ontological and unchangeable family ties that gives meaning to a family gathering. This goes deeper than external forms and activities. It is just being family. Likewise, the church family experiences this when they assemble before the heavenly Father.
 
I don’t think I can share all this at one go. I know all this sounds a bit mystical. Understanding it will need some experience as well. This is a journey I encourage you to discover as well - together -  and I pray you will find it here.

27 January 2019 | Vicar Writes

Bringing Faith Back To Life

By Terry Wong

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

The new four-year cycle of DCBS has started. The turnout has been good and both the New Sanctuary and Prayer Halls are fully used every Thursday evening. DCBS has certainly taken root in SAC and we hope that eventually, it will also be run in other parishes.

We have always wanted to have a strong Christian Education (CE) Programme in SAC. The Church should be a centre of learning and be an important voice in the city. The starting place is to serve her own members through creating an environment of teaching, resourcing and learning. The usual network of Services and Connect Groups provides regular platforms for education, where most in SAC are regularly gathered. On top of that, we have been running CE classes, ranging from courses to one-off seminars. We have also been building up our resources, whether printed or online. The Courier is another “voice”, and this includes both printed and online articles.

In 2019, we will be rolling out a new track called “Faith-Life Track.” Under this, we will be focusing on how our faith and life should be integrated. The scope is wide and will cover areas where science, philosophy and the cultural milieu of the day are powerfully shaping our minds, lives and faith. Specifically, this can encompass areas like creation and evolution, including how we should interpret the early chapters of Genesis, the Christian view towards human gender and sexuality issues, education, the environment, politics/government, artificial intelligence, the rapid social changes in our highly connected world and so on.

We seek to equip the believers to better align their thinking in areas of life outside the church, with the goal of being able to live all of life to the glory of God. Facilitated discussions and readings form the core methodology of this series, giving participants a platform to ask questions and seek answers from the Word of the God and glean insights from other members of the Body.

We will go beyond classroom learning. We are also launching a Cathedral Podcast. It is almost like a modern form of radio. In 20 to 30 minutes, a listener can hear an interesting interview of someone who has some expertise in an area. It is not unlike TED talks, which is a powerful culture-shaper today. Added to that will be written resources, including books and modules.

Undoubtedly, young adults and youths will relate immediately to these as they are exposed to current secular views and powerful voices of today’s culture. However, those who are older will certainly benefit as well.

We have already formed a team which has been laying the ground work since last year. We value your prayers for wisdom and the resources needed to begin a long-term plan to establish this track in SAC. Stay tuned!

These steps are also in conjunction with our SAC's Year of Hope, with our involvement in the Celebration of Hope at the heart of it. Christians need to be better equipped in helping seekers as they consider the questions and searching issues of life. In the face of the latest ideas in the various fields, Christians will need to reflect on these ideas to better integrate their faith with what the world is discovering about God’s world, to put it from the Christian perspective.

20 January 2019 | Vicar Writes

You May Not Be The Same Again

By Terry Wong

Your life can be changed significantly this next 18 weeks. I am sure mine will.

"Lord, how can I be used by you to share the gospel and love of Christ with someone?" I have been praying this prayer. He is already giving me insights on who and where I could be involved.

People do have questions about our faith. Daily, people stream into the Cathedral for various reasons and some are very open to talk about the spiritual matters. Some have questions or objections, may it be philosophical or existential. If you get involved in an Alpha Course, you will find the small group experience is like no other.

My last experience in an Alpha group was about 6 years ago in my previous parish. It was a group of mostly well educated young adults and I was both challenged and enlightened by the questions which the current generation is asking. It was a ten week journey of interaction and reflecting together and I found myself able to be helpful. In particular, I was encouraged by how this bright Chinese scholar finally became a Christian after Alpha and followed Christ in baptism. She was asking some very sharp questions on the early chapters of Genesis and I found my theological training and reading helpful. This is not the forum to go into the details, but often a simplistic and naive reading of the creation accounts can be a stumbling block to faith for some without further explanations.   

In part, your life will be changed because you too need to ask again the basis for your faith. This is what sharing the Gospel will do to you. You will encounter questions that will be baffling. What can you say to someone who has gone through unspeakable suffering?

When you recite the Nicene Creed, do you really believe every word? And if you do, what are the implications? But you may have questions or doubts on some part of the faith. There is nothing wrong with having doubts as it is a part of growing as a believer. Some are are well studied in fields like history, cosmology, biology, psychiatry and philosophy. There are huge advances in these fields and in a highly interconnected world today, learning and discovery is accelerating at a pace never seen before in our human history. How can that impact our faith?

You will also encounter some who may not have deep intellectual questions about the faith. They simply want to know how one may be a believer. Why does one need to go to church? What implications are there for their lifestyles? Some will come to you for help as they are experiencing brokenness in their lives or destructive addictions of some form. Can Christ give them any hope?

And if you want to be a good witness, you know that your attitude towards your colleagues or classmates needs to change. As Christians, our number-one priority is to represent Christ well to family and friends. As He is honest, kind, loyal, and honourable, we should strive to be those things as well. All these qualities will contribute to a good reputation. If we have poor reputations, our message is tainted as well. Many will not heed our words when our reputations do not match what we claim to believe.

This is why a desire to be a good witness will be life-changing. I pray that each of us will find opportunities to grow deeper in Christ as we engage with the Celebration of Hope. 

13 January 2019 | Vicar Writes

The Legacy of Kindness

By Terry Wong

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

As I reflect on the passing away of Bishop’s father this week - Uncle Ponniah as I would normally call him - I think of kindness. He epitomised that for me as someone who was always encouraging with nary a hard word. In fact, the last words I heard from him were after the 11.15 am Christmas Service and again, they were kind, tender and encouraging.

We must have all heard about the Singapore Kindness Movement. It is a valiant effort though we may wonder whether it is making any difference. The Bible teaches a lot about kindness and perhaps it is in worshipping communities where this needs to be taught and her leaders encouraged to exemplify.

Reflecting on the verse above, firstly, kindness is extended to one another. We hardly use the term to refer to our attitude towards God, i.e. we will not say we need to be kind to God. Kindness is offered voluntarily to another imperfect human being or someone caught in an imperfect situation. Instead of uttering a harsh word (which may be right), we choose instead to have a kind response. That can stop a situation from cascading into relationship-breaking or stress-inducing situations for the other.

To be “tenderhearted” is another wonderful thought. That is opposed to being “hard-hearted.” Again the idea here is not about giving what one deserves. The guiding point is the giver choosing a different course of action or response. It may be a small reaction but if marked by tenderness, it often soothes and heals.

“Forgiving one another...” - kindness and forgiveness also go together. Here the Bible teaches the idea of kindness as a response when you are personally affronted. You have every right to feel that a corresponding reaction should be exacted. We don’t use this word but it is simply “revenge.” We move beyond being annoyed to saying or doing something to get back at the person. Or we keep holding a deep grudge or bitterness in our heart which eats into us and also affects our relationship with others.

Again and again, when we find ourselves in this situation, we are called to look to the One who has forgiven us. After all, in something as basic as the Lord’s Prayer, we are already told to forgive one another as God has forgiven us. Indeed, “as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

I have been a pastor now for over 30 years. Sometimes people ask me how I manage to cope. “We don’t envy your position”, I am often told. The Singaporean Christian community often reflects the values of her society’s culture: competitive, rule-based and perfectionistic. Truth be told, the strongest resource is found in digging deep into my relationship with Christ. Where I confront my own frail humanity where again and again, He forgives me. His holiness, love, humility and perfection is such that my own wretchedness is exposed. It is when I realise that I have been forgiven that I am able to forgive. It is a terrible religious delusion to think that as Vicar, I am morally superior to those around me. My own sinful condition is largely shielded from those around me.
When they react to the little portions which leak out, the Holy Spirit often reminds me that it would be a lot worse if they knew the whole truth.

In other words, I don’t have any rights except the right to forgive. If I have debts to pay, it is the debt to love. For God in Christ has forgiven me. People who know they are forgiven will know how to forgive. This truth is simple but profound. It can bring healing and wholeness to any Christian community.

Don’t search for a perfect community for there is none. Find one and be kind. You will never know how far it will go. Like Brother Draviam Ponniah, the legacy of a kind soul will live on in the family for generations. And as we can testify, is also seen consistently in his sons: Bishop Rennis, Revd Jeremy and Andrew.

6 January 2019 | Vicar Writes

A Year of Hope

By Terry Wong

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Next Sunday, across all our Services, we are starting a new Sermon Series entitled "A Hope for All." This series will reflect on the stories of men and women in the Bible whose lives have been transformed by the saving power of God. You will find that each of them is very different and yet the Gospel has a way of reaching them at a point of need. This sermon series can help us to prepare for the Celebration of Hope (COH) events in May this year.

One can say that Singapore is far more heterogeneous as a society today compared to the society that experienced the visit of Dr Billy Graham more than 40 years ago. The diversity of race, culture, the wide educational exposure (including overseas education) and our global nature as an international gateway city mean that we cannot assume we understand the people we are talking to.

Photo

Yet Scriptures record human experiences spanning many centuries and across different lands. These stories continue to live on through the Church as she grows and embeds herself into many different languages and cultures.

Even here in the Cathedral, we have come across so many different and interesting stories of conversion and spiritual experiences. We are enriched when we come to understand how the Gospel can work so differently for another person. Being a Christian for over forty years now, I have of course gone way past the initial glow. But when I encounter fresh testimonies, I am reminded again of the power of the Gospel to change lives and bring hope. And I find a new encouragement to share the Gospel even if the person I am trying to reach may find it so remotely irrelevant. It may start that way. Just be faithful to love and share and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

This is the reason why we believe that this gospel hope is for all. We are reminded of the words of St Paul in 1 Timothy 2:3-6:

"This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."

I can think of no greater privilege than to help another person to find faith in Jesus Christ. Singapore today, rich in diversity and a home for over two million non-citizens is an exciting place for the sharing of the Gospel. May the Lord love, speak and heal through each of us.

30 December 2018 | Vicar Writes

Thanksgiving To…

By Terry Wong
Photo
A photo taken from the Cathedral Bell Tower in 1863. This photo is released in "Singapore Then and Now" by Ray Tyers, Landmark Books, 2018

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12

Reflection, remembrance and thanksgiving come together.

We will be reminded - again and again - to remember in 2019. Being the bi-centennial year, we will of course be remembering what Stamford Raffles and our colonial leaders have done for our city.

However, it is also valid to say that history is strewn with many unrecognised factors, movers and shakers. Old Singapore already existed before the British came to shore. Surrounded and protected by other lands and islands, it meant that she has a steady and growing existence, almost uninterrupted by natural disasters.

Situated on a busy sea route also meant the merchants from the surrounding region and world were calling to port constantly. With the advent of faster and better ships, the English and Europeans came a calling, transforming our maps forever.

Arabic and Indian merchants left their imprint with the increasing importance of the spice trade.

With the internal wars and rise of Communism in China, this meant that many sought a better life in this island. And highly capable and educated missionaries who could not enter China came to Singapore instead.

Our early political leaders had the foresight to seek for education in developed countries, most of which had values imbued from years of Christian civilisation.

It is a long list of many factors that have shaped Singapore today.

I am coming to my point.

When we say we are thankful, is that a passive reaction almost akin to saying “we are so lucky!”? Or are we thankful because we believe that people and nations have a destiny and that God has both created and called us as such?

In other words, whether reflecting over our personal lives or that of the nation, we are thankful to Someone. As the psalmist extols in Psalm 100:4: Give thanks to Him!

This will be the Christian attitude. While we make attributions to factors that have shaped our nation and our lives, we always recognise the Hand that has moved them. Theologically, we sometimes use this big word “sovereignty of God". Pick up the Bible and read and you will find that this truth underpins every book in her.

I should not forget to add that thanksgiving is also sometimes expressed to our fellow human beings. As St Paul will say in 1 Cor 1:4, "I give thanks to my God always for you…”

As the year ends, take some time to think about the Lord. Take some time to thank those around you. And as you step into the Bi-Centennial year, never forget to give thanks to the One who "causes nations to rise and fall (Job 12:23)."

23 December 2018 | Vicar Writes

Preparing For A Different Year

By Terry Wong

2019 will be special in many ways for us in SAC. As you might know, we are preparing for the Celebration of Hope rallies from 17-19th May and this is going to change the shape of our year as a Cathedral community. We know COH is organised to bless our wider Body of Christ and our society. We can also ask, how can COH be a blessing to us here at SAC?

You may have heard of this phrase: "If you change nothing, nothing will change.” So, we are asking each of you to consider these:

That we participate in COH as small groups. This will be largely through our Connect groups but many of you can also band together through other ways. This is the way we are going to sign up to help with the logistics (ushers etc) for the Filipino-English rally on Sunday morning (10.30 am, 19th May). This is also how we will encourage each other to participate in the training on Friday evenings in January, culminating with the regional prayer at end January. We are going to encourage each other - via small groups - to pray, engage and gather (PEG) our friends and family members who do not know about the love of Christ. This means we have to plan differently for the first five months of the year. If you proceed BAU (business as usual) with your Connect Group plans, your group is going to miss out on this unique opportunity.  

That we engage deeper in prayer. We will be hosting a monthly regional prayer gathering on the last Friday. Be there yourself and encourage your group to come along. Apart from that, we also have smaller prayer groups which meet each week to seek the Lord. Think of joining one of them. I cannot think of anything that can be as powerful as prayer that will keep us engaged with God's Kingdom work.

That we free up space in order to focus. I am asking that we go lighter on other activities during this period (Jan-May) that are not related to outreach or prayer. We cannot keep adding without subtracting. This is one way we can serve each other while ensuring we are not distracting ourselves or others from the urgency of the harvest. Some of these distractions may not be events but trivial issues or conflicts that can consume an inordinate amount of time and energy which have no useful or lasting purpose. There is this cliche which puts it very simply: “Don't sweat the small stuff."

That we be more intentional as we think about how we may plan our activities. For example, interest group activities are important. Activities like cooking demos, birthday parties, talks on money management and so on can be very relevant to our non-Christian friends. I have personally conducted some cooking demos for Cell groups (not from SAC) where many guests turned up. I will be most happy to serve our Connect Groups here and there are others in our food ministry who can do likewise. I am sure you can think of other activities. My point is, if you are not intentional with connecting with your friends, it will be a tall order to get them interested to go to the Stadium with you.

Remember, if you change nothing, nothing will change. Start now and make 2019 a special year for you, your group and the SAC community. Invest 2019 with eternal value. Live it without regret. Let Him be glorified in our lives.

16 December 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Present Under the Tree

By Terry Wong

Christmas and the year-end is a great season to reach out to our friends and family. We have a variety of events coming up this week where you can invite someone to.

As a boy, coming from a non-Christian home, my early exposure to the Christian faith was through carols. And believe it or not, a Christmas tree! I followed my mum to visit the home of a Christian family. I can still remember the curiosity in my heart when I was asked to pick a present from a pile underneath the tree. We should never underestimate how little things can convey the love and joy of the Christian faith to those who have very little exposure to it.

Our Lessons and Carols Service is a popular annual event, hosted by our very own choir. The Nave will be a beautiful setting as we celebrate this season with great music and readings. We are doing our best to ensure that there is enough room for everyone, including the use of South Transept. Those with children are encouraged to use the transept.

This year’s Christmas@Cathedral (Fri-Sat, 21st-22nd) is not as elaborate as previous years as we take a breather. That said, there is a great lineup of musical performances at both the Cafe and Nave. We also encourage you to support the Capitol Christmas events on Sun 23rd from noon onwards, which is hosted by churches in the vicinity.

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All the Services next weekend along with the Christmas Services will provide rich opportunities to invite someone. Take note of the details in our bulletin and posters. We are expecting a very full Christmas Midnight Eucharist service. This year, I believe we will be able to provide the best possible overflow experience at CNS with the latest connection and visual upgrades. It will be facilitated to encourage participation. We want to ensure that those sitting there will feel they are a part of the congregation in the Nave, worshipping the Lord together through the carol-singing and  the Ministry of the Word and Sacrament. If you can’t get seats in the Nave, bring your friends to CNS.

Our home is also a good place to celebrate the season and for those who are able, may it be a great way to stay in touch with our family and friends. And as I have shared, you will never know what the presents under the tree will mean for your guests. Little touches of love will go a long way.

9 December 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Vision of the Cathedral

By Terry Wong

The historic and strategic location of the Cathedral - along with her calling as a Church - has always invested her with a sense of vision and mission. Each generation seeks to refresh and continue these. The vision can be laid out in this way:

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  1. A Home in the City
    The Cathedral is an oasis and home in the midst of a bustling modern city. We seek to be a quiet place where one can find solace in and peace with God. We welcome all to meet, pray, attend services, meet as Bible Study or prayer groups, enjoy a drink etc. Being at the heart of a cosmopolitan city, we will endeavour to provide worship avenues and create social spaces for people of different races, languages and backgrounds.

    We are mindful that many in our city will need help and support. We want to create spaces for healing, restoration and spiritual formation. Matthew 11:18-20
     
  2. A Monument in the City
    The Cathedral’s history is intertwined with our city nation. Ours is a city which was built by many foreigners. Our rich heritage bears testimony to the contributions of many peoples: Scottish, English, Australians, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Arabs and so on. Devout Christians have served as inspiring examples of love and sacrifice and helped to instil good values. These are some of the seeds on which this city is built. Hebrews 13:7

    As a monument and heritage centre we seek to be good stewards of our rich heritage and “remember and tell” the story well, to current and future generations. We will preserve and build on our rich music, arts and historical aspects of our monument. As our nation progresses, this story is still unfolding. We need to keep good records of developing stories so that future generations will remember and tell. May we be a monument to His glory. Psalm 105:1-3
     
  3. A Voice in the City
    The city is not just about people and space. It is an intersection where the latest ideas collide with those from antiquity. We seek to offer a Christian voice and make contributions to the ongoing debates. Acts 17:22-34

    We seek to help Christians to reflect deeper on their faith and strengthen our prophetic voice. We will work at building a strong Christian Education programme and use various platforms – old or new – to engage with Christians and other citizens. Ephesians 4:14-15
     
  4. A Mother Church for the Diocese
    This is our inherited ecclesial role. We are called to be a diffusing light to those around us, including neighbouring nations. We will seek to set an inspiring example in all that we do, to encourage our Anglican parishes here and in the deaneries. Areas will include worship, prayer, biblical teaching, community-building, outreach to the poor and needy, evangelism, missions, church-planting etc. We pray that other Anglicans or Christians who visit the Cathedral will find her to be an encouraging and inspiring church. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8
     
    Note: Earlier iterations of these statements were first released in 2016.
2 December 2018 | Vicar Writes

Welcoming the Season of Advent

By Terry Wong

Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent on 2nd December till the Sunday before Christmas Day, our sermons will be focusing on the season of Advent. Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgment.

The anticipation of Christmas under commercial pressure has also made it harder to sustain the appropriate level of alert watchfulness, but the fundamental Advent prayer remains ‘Maranatha’ – ‘Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16.22).

Purple is the traditional liturgical colour. In the northern hemisphere, the Advent season falls at the darkest time of the year, and the natural symbols of darkness and light are powerfully at work throughout Advent and Christmas. The lighting of candles on an Advent wreath is a common practice and helps families or the church to count down towards Christmas.

The First Sunday of Advent also starts the new liturgical year. The liturgical calendar of the Anglican Church enables us as a worshipping community to remember, appreciate and celebrate the entire life of Jesus Christ each year. The gospel is the central focus of the Christian calendar. It encompasses six major seasons, namely, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Trinity. The period stretching from Advent to Easter follows the life of Christ, with Pentecost concluding the Easter season seven weeks later. Between Pentecost and the next Advent is a long period called “ordinary time.” This is the "time of the church", where the church is reminded of her calling in the world, fulfilling the mission of God until the next season of Advent and Christmas, which “functions as the proclamation of the Parousia.”

Here in our Cathedral and Diocese, as it happens in other places outside the UK, we have adapted or contextualised some of these practices. As always, our liturgical practices will evolve, shaped by our local needs and customs, while trying to maintain some continuity with the past and our wider Communion.

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Some comments on the collect for the first Sunday of Advent (front page of bulletin). Thomas Cranmer employs the splendidly effective imagery of darkness and light, coupled with Christ’s glorious return at the end of our time. This collect draws on similar phrases in the epistle from Romans 13, and anticipates also the gospel from Matthew 21 that describes Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem. This prayer encourages us to have a posture of both penitence and anticipation during this season.

Do keep a look out for the various events organised in the Cathedral and in our home groups (Connect Groups). There will be many opportunities to introduce someone to the message of Advent and Christmas.

25 November 2018 | Vicar Writes

Diversity and Space

By Terry Wong

The Cathedral was in the news last Sunday. Obviously, the issue of the bells is of public interest.

This may be a good opportunity for me to explain the policies and principles which guide the way Cathedral manages her heritage responsibilities.

We do feel responsible to maintain them well in honour of previous donors and to preserve our heritage. Sometimes, we have to meet expectations from the government authorities or wider society. In this respect, we share similar responsibilities with other churches with heritage interests such as our sister parish St George's Church, The Armenian Church and some Roman Catholic parishes. There are many who appreciate Church music and the arts, and being a church in the city, we have the opportunity to connect with the wider society.

These heritage responsibilities need not stand over and against our fundamental spiritual responsibilities such as missions and worship. For this reason, when it comes to heritage matters, we often seek to have more targeted fund-raising instead of tapping on our existing general funds, which is contributed from the tithes and free-will offerings. The government also has ways to help in the upkeep of our monuments facilities, and where possible, the church tries to tap on these funds. In other words, while we may fund-raise for the Bells Project, we do not allocate funds for it from our general fund. In this way, we allow those who see its cultural value to contribute. To each his own.

We respect the community in SAC with her diverse interests and gifts. We seek to find a place for everyone to serve, whether it is in flower arrangement, cooking, stole-sewing or bell pulling! Speaking personally, I have more interest in the clashing of the spatula with the wok than that of the clapper to the bells. But I have met Christians here who are deeply interested in the bells and enamoured of the unique sounds they create or the mind-blowing mathematical patterns generated.

We believe that we should create space for every member to serve and use their gifts. Our diverse gifts can be channelled to enrich the Church rather than create conflict through competing interests or voices.

As God's Word reminds us, “whatever you do, do it to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).” The attitudes and motivations of one’s heart matter more than anything else.

We do not let these concerns distract us from the ministry responsibilities of the Church and it is not difficult to see how active the Cathedral is in local and overseas missions (for further information, one may read the latest Missions handbook). Some of these ministries reach some of the poorest sectors of our societies. We are also involved in crisis relief work in Lombok and Palu.
The Cathedral also feels a sense of deep responsibility to help other Anglican parishes or missions. Recently, we contributed $600,000 to the Church of the Epiphany's new building project from our property fund. The leadership shown by SAC also helps to garner support from other parishes. I should add that our property fund is also enriched by legacy giving*. Members have donated properties and other possessions to the Cathedral over the years. The management and sales of some of these properties enable the Cathedral to be generous in responding to building needs here and in our deaneries.

The clergy, deaconesses, pastors and PCC appreciate your continual prayers as we seek to lead and manage this vineyard well. We are grateful as always for the many generous givers out there who give their time and money to serve the Lord. Without you, we would not have been able to fulfil our wide range of responsibilities.


* For legacy giving, please visit anglican.org.sg/page/legacygiving
   A full story of the Bells and the costs involved will be released in the January issue of The Courier.

18 November 2018 | Vicar Writes

As We Approach The Season Of Advent…

By Terry Wong

The Diocesan Synod met on the 9th and 10th of November. The Synod is made up of clergy and elected lay representatives from our parishes and deaneries. The Synod assists the Bishop and the Standing Committee in the running of the life and affairs of the Diocese.

Some building projects were approved at the Synod, including the Pavilion. The latest design has been submitted to URA by our architect. As mentioned before, a generous worshipper in one of our Services is contributing to this project. Since a few years back, this person has journeyed with us in our search for a permanent alternative to the white tents adjacent to the Nave. We are also grateful for the help and advice of the authorities (URA and PSM). If all goes well, this project will be completed by the fourth quarter of 2019.

At the Synod, in his presidential address, Bishop shared on the need to keep a dedicated focus on the Lord and the work of sowing and reaping as we inch closer to the Celebration of Hope rallies in May next year. His full address, entitled “Total Dedication for God’s moment” can be read in the latest November issue of Diocesan Digest. He also urged us not to be distracted by matters of lesser importance or matters for “another time.”

One way which I have always found helpful to keep the spiritual focus is communal prayer. Life in our busy city has its usual busyness. Through prayer, we discern the will of the Lord and His Kingdom purposes in the daily  routines and concerns of our lives. Every relationship we have, from acquaintances to family members can be infused by the presence and lordship of Christ. It can change the motives of our hearts and texture of our conversations, framing natural opportunities for the gospel to be shared.

In particular, please pray for opportunities to sow in friendships as you work with your Connect Group members to organise a home Christmas party and invite friends. Do also bear in mind the many Christmas events which you can invite your friends to.

Advent will begin very richly with the performance and ministry of Sir Peter Low’s Choir on the Sunday evening of 2nd December. The costs of the tickets ($50/centre, $10/side aisle) - in support of Sulawesi Relief Fund - are well below the costs of tickets which this same choir will charge elsewhere. If you have been to one of their concerts, you will agree that it is of the highest professional standard. And yet, the musical experience is deeply spiritual and moving.

I should not fail to mention that our choir’s Lessons and Carols on the 16th of Dec (Sunday evening) is also a very special event. There will be a short Gospel message. Do invite your friends.

As the year turns, we can look forward to the January issue of our Courier magazine. The team has decided to release two issues per year, in the first and third quarter of the year. The editorial team is spearheaded by Philip Towndrow. While we wait for the printed issues, do note that there is a Courier Online where many teaching articles and testimonies are posted.

11 November 2018 | Vicar Writes

Of Buildings and Bells

By Terry Wong

Most of you would have heard by now that we are designing and building a Pavilion on the north lawn. Discussion and plans have been underway since a few years back to find a suitable overflow area to replace the current temporary tents adjacent to the Nave.

Earlier ideas were mostly concentrated on the northeast (koi pond/amphitheatre) areas. After further consultations with URA and PSM, we were advised to think of the propect of building a pavilion on the north lawn, directly on top of the CNS Sanctuary. That began another round of design submissions and discussions and the latest concept reflects the guidance given by URA/PSM. The costs will be covered by a generous donor.

Apart from serving as an overflow community area, the tent has also acted as a covered passageway for the busy thoroughfare between the West Porch and North Transept Hall. This means that we will need to obtain permission to provide an alternative. We are all aware of how difficult it can be when it is raining cats and dogs during our back- to-back Services. There is also heavy ponding in the West Porch area, an issue which is being looked at.

The audio-visual facilities at the heavily used New Sanctuary (CNS) are being upgraded. Again, thanks to a generous donor, we are able to install a new visual system which is already garnering very good feedback. The current audio system has served us very well for over ten years now. But with irreparable faults, a new system is needed.

We are also embarking on expansion plans to cope with the need for more office space, ministry rooms (Sunday school, teaching, meetings, counselling) and worship spaces. Termed “Phase 2”, this project will take 3-4 years. Some of the ideas have been presented in previous AGMs but we hope to present an actual design and estimated costs at next year’s AGM. Various groups and committees are currently working on this project.

On the heritage side, you would have also noticed that we have "quietly" launched the Bells of St Andrew’s Cathedral Project. We are praying that those who have a special  interest in this project will rally around and support it. It is a heritage responsibility which we are glad to be able to finally get round to fulfil. A well written brochure can be obtained at various points in the cathedral. You can also access it here at https://cathedral.org.sg/bells

We are also planning to start restoration works for the Nave Monument. The last major restoration work was in 1991. Having spent a few years in research and experimenting with plastering works, we are now ready to do some significant restoration works, which are expected to take 2-3 years to complete. In addition, we expect significant maintenance work may be required from time to time, between major restorations. We will be tapping on our reserves but we plan to set up a new Heritage Fund as well. Keeping a Heritage fund on the radar constantly will allow members and friends to contribute on a regular basis.

We appreciate your continual support and prayers as we endeavour to be good stewards of all that the Lord has entrusted to us.

This writeup is submitted by Keith Chua, who chairs the Building and Development Committee (BDC).

4 November 2018 | Vicar Writes

A Seed Which Grew

By Terry Wong
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What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19

We were in Phnom Penh over the weekend to dedicate the the new seven storey Church of Christ Our Peace (CCOP) and also to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Deanery of Cambodia.

Two other clergy were ordained with me in 1993. Revd Don Cormack served as the first Vicar of CCOP. He was the author of the popular book, The Killing Fields. Revd William Mok was eventually sent by Bishop Moses Tay (1996) to serve for many years there as Vicar of CCOP and later, as Dean of Cambodia. It was novel then for a Singaporean clergy to take this step, as it meant crossing culture and many years of language learning. This, Revd William took in good stride and I have always admired him for his tenacity in serving in such a challenging place.

I heard a lot about the work there but never actually visited it. I heard about the villa which our Diocese bought and invested in to house this fledgling work. I heard about the ministry difficulties there. Even then, we weren’t sure that this piece of property can be secured given the political uncertainties of the land. Property ownership functions differently in an emerging third world country and I can recall difficult discussions in Synods and committees.

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As it turns out, the Lord is building His Church in Cambodia. A few more churches were planted in smaller towns and villages. The first Asian clergy who was ordained from one of our deaneries was Revd Tit Hieng in 1999. He grew up under the Khmer Rouge regime and came to Christ through the ministry of our first Anglican missionary, the Revd Don Comack. Today Revd Tit Hieng is the Vicar of the Rural Mission District where the majority of our Cambodian members are located. His vision is to develop these missionary districts into self-supporting Anglican parishes.

Eventually Canon Wong Tak Meng became the dean. A few missionaries from other Provinces (such as the Anglican Church in North America, ACNA) were also sent. In 2013, Revd Gregory Whitaker began his ministry as priest in charge of the English Service. The service grew and it is almost 300 on a good Sunday morning. Revd Jesse Blaine, who is fluent in Khmer, heads the Khmer Service which has grown to about 80 today. Revd Steven Seah was based there from 2017.

At the same time, our Cathedral has been very involved in Project Khmer H.O.P.E. This work has also grown and the details are found in the Mission booklet which will be handed out this month.I

was listening to Mr Andrew Tay’s sermon online. He was speaking on Onesimus from the book of Philemon and his challenge to us is to be more involved in prisons work. This is another opportunity to be involved in sharing the love of Christ.

28 October 2018 | Vicar Writes

Pray Engage Gather

By Terry Wong

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.  John 1:41,42

This week, the Senior Staff Team is setting aside two days for planning. With the coming Celebration of Hope rallies (COH) in May next year, we are having a different take to the shape of this period. We want to work out the details of the three PEG cycles.

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PEG stands for Pray, Engage and Gather.

Pray. We start by praying for those with whom we want to share the Gospel. This person can be a family member, a friend, a colleague, an acquaintance or even a stranger.  We pray regularly for him or her. Praying also clarifies our motives. It is not about meeting a “target” or trying to “win” a person for Christ. It is not a numbers game or to convert a person to our side. It is about giving this person an opportunity to meet Jesus (see John 1:41,42). As we pray, may the Spirit fill our hearts with God's love for those around us.

Engage. Our prayerful desire moves into loving action as we seek to engage or connect with others. It can be an invitation to meet up for a chat over a meal, attend a concert, a birthday or Christmas party. Or pausing to listen and show some care. Every friend and acquaintance is a precious gift in life. You are not an insurance agent seeking to sell a product. I cannot think of anything that can be as effective a friendship-killer as harbouring an ulterior motive in wanting to know a person. It chills the air when the person suddenly realises it. If the friendship is genuine and longterm, trust me, there will be many God-given opportunities to share the love of Christ in word and deed. However, not everyone you are engaging with needs to be “your friend.” Don’t freak out your security guard or your subordinate across the office. If your behaviour has been Christian (i.e you have not been rude and dismissive but caring and warm), your invitation will be appreciated even if some were to refuse it politely. I shouldn’t be telling you this! Any person should intuitively know that there are many ways to be authentic and bless the people around us.

Gather. Here is where the Church is assisting you. We are organising Christmas@Home by encouraging Connect Groups to host Christmas parties. It may have been a while since your group has welcomed guests into the home. And nothing will be as natural as a Christmas party. I once talked with an unbeliever who attended a Christmas event in church. He said it was his first time. I asked him why it took him so long. He said, "No one invited.” I think you get the point. Then, there is Alpha Everywhere starting in early 2019. SAC will be levelling up and will add one if not two lunchtime Alpha Courses to our regular Wednesday evening run. SAC will provide a warm and welcoming venue, good food and drinks and screen the Alpha Film Series. It is for you to gather your friends/colleagues and help form a small group comprising hosts and guests. Talk. Eat. Watch. Discuss. Go back to office. Easy enough? And of course, lastly, from March 2019 onwards, we will focus sharply on the COH stadium events. More will be said at the right time.

Pray. Engage. Gather. Peg, peg and peg again. May these three cycles help us to be an Andrew to those around us.

21 October 2018 | Vicar Writes

Just One

By Terry Wong

I am doing something unusual today. I want to share with you a few years’ statistics of our services’ weekly attendance which was shown at our recent Chapter Meeting.

Our Chapter, PCC and Staff do monitor the trends of services’ attendance and givings from time to time. We are not enamoured of statistics and neither do we run the church "by figures.” However the trends do tell us something about what has been going on. One can reflect on these trends and come to understand a bit more the various dynamics affecting our church growth and life. I can imagine that our discussions can get very interesting as we imagine what the reasons could be behind the trends.

Whatever the statistics and trends may be, as a church, we need to endeavour to remain caring, personal and relational as a church community. You will recall the article where I reflected on the parables of the lost coin, sheep and son in Luke 15 “Don't Ask Why".

The point must not be missed - it was just one. We may watch the trends and statistics occasionally, but we need to watch the “one” constantly. And even if our friends fail us, we are reminded of God our Father who cares for each of us. As Jesus said in Luke 12:7: "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Seated in the service this morning, take some time to get to know someone who may be a stranger to you. We come closest to His heart when we show attention and love to someone created in His image.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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
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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 129 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 129 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 129 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 129 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 129 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 129 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.

Photo

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. 

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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.