All 2022 December Vicar Writes
This is an excerpt of the Vicar’s Address
Please read through the substantial Annual Report to get a good sense
of the life and ministry in SAC for 2019.
We have been closed since the 19th of March. This is a historical first in more than 150 years of our history. We have been encouraged by the resilience of the SAC community in their commitment to the Lord, to the Church, to one another and to ministry and financial giving. We have experienced the effectiveness of our weekly online Services and weekday Sermons. Many of you have given good and helpful feedback. We have gotten to know our clergy and deaconesses better. Most of the Services have good community participation and have become acquainted with brothers and sisters from other Services. We have found a new appreciation of the hymns and songs sung by our choirs and worship teams.
The initiative to get our community to share their stories is a brilliant one. Many personal stories were submitted by individuals in our Community. One can say, that our Courier Magazine is taking a different shape.
The Cathedral SG Live app has also been a great blessing as a conduit for our sermons, podcasts, and other resources. Daily at noon, many have been gathering for prayers. If you have been listening to our radio, you will find that the content is getting better all the time.
Worship is more than just singing or listening to sermons. It is also about “works” and serving. Because we have not been using the Holy Communion liturgy, we are missing this benediction, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. In the name of Christ. Amen.” We want to thank those who have opened a way for us to serve our foreign workers, rough sleepers, and seniors, especially those who are housebound.
I should also mention that many members have been serving on the frontlines – healthcare, social, security, politics – and in the words of St Paul in Ephesians, we pastors have been equipping you for ministry out there by being diligent in the priestly work of facilitating prayer and worship.
Phase 2 is here and gradually, we are reopening, beginning obviously with areas like Holy Communion, capped at 50 for each Service. As we restart, we also need to think of how we are running our weekend Services. Timings, service length, and people density will obviously have to change. Density is related to space and we may have to enhance our facilities to improve social hygiene and church-going experience overall. We need to facilitate people's movement. Our toilet facilities will need improvement. We need to think about serving young families, children, and seniors. While we may freeze our Phase 2 building project, we can focus on restoration works and enhancements of our facilities.
The new PCC and sub-committees will have their work cut out for them for this AGM year. Please pray for us. I am mentioning these needs because we value your ideas and participation. There are many gifts and resources in our SAC community and we want to hear from you.
The Greek root word for church is “ekklesia” which means the assembly of called out people. Down through the ages, the Church has faced all kinds of persecutions and challenges to prevent Christians from coming together, to “dechurch” the Church. We can say after a few months of COVID-19, and this is true throughout Singapore, the Church is still the Church, more than ever and the Cathedral community will emerge from this AGM year even stronger together.
Absence has made the heart grow fonder: I will quote St Paul from Phil 1:3: “I thank my God for every remembrance of you.” I will end my address with a music video which best expresses all our feelings during this season.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
During this Covid19 season, the term “social distancing” (competing with “lockdown” as words of the year) may be a misnomer as we are actually talking about physical distancing. For a long time now, people know that they can socialise and be intimate without physical proximity. We can think of written messages, love letters, phone calls and in contemporary times, social media and so on. While these don’t displace physical gatherings totally, they complement them very well. During the circuit breaker, we can say that these physical gatherings have been totally displaced but yet, those who desire to commune will find that online options do serve us very well. We can hear the timbre of one’s voice and see visual cues very well. Some may actually find these online interactions even more helpful. If you are hard of hearing, you can increase the volume. If you haven’t already noticed, in Zoom meetings, people speak in turn. Conversations are better regulated and normally those who want to speak get a chance. And if we have time to gather our thoughts, we communicate better.
So, wither the need for physical gathering? Online gatherings can complement but should never replace the occasional physical meet-ups. And we all do miss communal singing and worship, including breaking the Lord’s bread as these are difficult to do online (though not impossible). Online gatherings tend to pre-determine participants but open gatherings (such as a church service) allow for walk-ins or outsiders. Some will argue about the importance of touch but I tend to see that as best reserved for family or very close friends. After Covid19, few will argue about that.
Then, there is the issue of a place. From time memorial, places and facilities have played a big part in the life of every society. Think of those that are directly derived from nature such as a tree, river, field or hill. They give rise to specific activities and social interactions. Man-made structures also play a similar role such as an arena, a synagogue, market or coliseum. They are culture-creating and tradition-forming over many generations. You will see this aplenty in the Psalms which sing about places and buildings. Communal life needs to be “facilitated.”
Perhaps what is needed is to find a new balance. This needs to be driven by intention. While we may bump into each other in physical gatherings, we go online because we want to meet. These online moments can form the “IBM” experiences (in between meetings) and enhance our friendship and our working together.
As the Psalmist indicates, desire (our soul longs) comes first before entering the ‘dwelling places.” And I think at the end of the day, this matters most. It is not about physical versus online. It is whether we long to be with His people. Or, not.
Some food for thought for this season.
We have 300+ who have signed up for our upcoming AGM. There will be a “contest” for the Parochial Church Council (PCC) seats as we have 15 brothers and sisters who have offered to serve for 12 seats. Some are already serving in the current PCC. Do pray about who you would want to vote to serve in the 2020-2021 term. This time around, we are also electing four Synod Representatives. In last week’s bulletin, we have shared in detail the role of the Synod Representatives. When elected, Synod Reps will serve in our PCC for three years. There is no contest for the People Warden’s position but the candidate will still need to obtain a minimum of 30% of those present to be elected.
Let me share a bit about the role of the wardens. They work closely with the Vicar, forming an inner circle that provides for ease of connection, confidential sharing on issues, close consultation and channelling communication between the congregation, Vicar and Bishop. PCC remains the supreme body that the Vicar and wardens will report back to. Wardens are also expected to be accessible by the Bishop and this is important to establish a network of accountability and feedback. Religious authority can sometimes be abused (or perceived as such by members) and feedback will be helpful for the Vicar’s self-awareness, or in cases where there is a serious breakdown of relationships, the Bishop or other diocesan senior officials can help to mediate. The reverse is also true as some members may sometimes put undue pressure on the Vicar or other clergy and the wardens can help to mediate.
We have the Vicar’s Warden, who is appointed by the Vicar, and the People’s Warden who is elected by the congregation. This has evolved into the idea that “the Vicar’s Warden protects the Vicar and the People’s Warden, the people.” This may seem intuitive but traditionally, both wardens actually play the same role in serving with the Vicar and the congregation. The title merely refers to how he was appointed/elected.
No system is perfect and at the end of the day, it is good Christian sense and maturity that govern how a church community functions. From time to time, there will be disagreements, not unlike the incident in Acts 6. The challenge for any church is not to stifle all disagreements but to learn to manage them in a way that is constructive. I do try my best, by His grace, to exemplify how I discharge my Vicar’s role by being open, accessible, and offer a listening ear for constructive criticism and feedback. And I hope that all those entrusted with authority will do likewise so that together, we can create a culture of open accountability and do our best to keep our community healthy and Christ-like. Heart to heart conversations are never overrated, through Zoom or otherwise! Indeed our witness to the world depends very much on how we love one other, as Jesus has foretold and taught (John 13:35). We are reminded in our liturgy constantly to “love God and neighbour.” If we seek to do this well, our influence and witness as a Church will be strong and Christ-glorifying.
I want to thank both the wardens and PCC for serving with me in this challenging season. I also would like to take this opportunity to announce that I am reappointing Keith Chua as the Vicar’s Warden.
We look forward to a Cathedral community that will grow stronger in love during this Covid19 season.
In preparation for the coming AGM, this is to help explain the role of our Diocesan Synod.
The Synod is a body comprising bishops, clergy and lay representatives from parishes. The Synod meets twice a year and like a “Diocesan AGM”, various diocesan functions are managed by this body. She is the decision authority for issues such as finance, governance, constitutions etc. This covers parishes, mission/deanery work, schools, medical/community services etc. She also works closely with the Bishop and the Standing Committee to support the vision of the Diocese.
Each Synod Session lasts for three years before the lay reps are elected again from the parish AGMs. The current Session ends in July.
In this new Session of Synod, there will be the appointment of Diocesan Office holders and election to Standing Committee and other Boards. Cathedral will elect 4 Lay members for the new Session. As a Synod Rep, the members can stand for election to various diocesan committees and boards.
In between Synod Sessions, the Standing Committee and Diocesan Boards meet to carry out the work.
The Cathedral has many members serving in these Boards. Here is a sample list of our lay members who are serving in the current Synod Session:
Standing Committee Keith Chua, Joseph Thambiah, Tan Kian Woo
Diocesan Registrar Charles Leong
Diocesan Treasurer Tan Kian Woo (Mandarin congregation)
Finance Board Chan Kheng Tek
Development Board Lee Chi Kuan
Missions Board Keith Chua, Joseph Thambiah
SAMH VP and Chairman of Audit Committee Andrew Goh
SACS VP Keith Chua
Provincial Standing Committee and Synod Reps Stanley Lai, Chan Kheng Tek
I trust this article is helpful even as we prayerfully elect our new Synod Reps.
Registration for AGM2020 closes Sunday, 7 June 2020, 12 pm.
More details at https://cathedral.org.sg/agm2020
It is going virtual and this we know.
Of a regular community of 3000+ worshippers, we have between 160 - 275 attending our AGM every year. Some may think that this is not too bad given how most AGM attendances generally are.
Can we respond differently to the coming one? Going online should make it easier for everyone to participate out of the comfort of your home. Your participation allows you to:
- Get an overview of how our funds are spent or how we are giving to external ministry and mission needs.
- Hear how we have to adjust our expenditure in the midst of economic downturn. You can ask questions and give us feedback before the AGM and for substantial matters, we can address them on the website for all to read.
- Hear the Vicar give an important address on the shape of life and ministry in the Cathedral during this season.
- Hear the Vicar’s Warden give a perspective “from the pew”, as a lay leader and a member of the congregation.
- Help elect the Parochial Church Council (PCC); of which four members will be elected as Synod representatives to serve in the new Diocesan Synod which will then work closely with our with our Bishop- Designate Titus Chung. As SAC is the Mother Church for the Diocese and her six deaneries, the strength of the clergy and lay leadership will be crucial. In fact, what happens here does have implications for the witness and role of the Church in our wider society.
- Help the church observe good governance as your voting and approval protect the life of the Church and ensure that key decisions are not just left to a few individuals. You are helping the church to abide by the laws of the land and “fulfil all righteousness.”
And to do all these, we hope to keep the virtual AGM well within an hour! In part, this is possible because much of the AGM work is done before the virtual AGM itself.
If you are an electoral member, please do get engaged in the AGM process. Your participation will signal your love and commitment to the Lord’s work in our vineyard.
Even as we prepare for early June’s “unease easing of restrictions”, we are already planning ahead on how church life can be lived out during this Covid19 season which could go deep into 2021. June’s easing of restriction for private worship for a group of no more than five from the same household should best be seen as allowance for the household to pray in a sacred religious space. Gatherings “between households” are still not permitted and we have yet to hear from the authorities if these private worship gatherings can be facilitated by clergy or pastors.
What we should continue to do is to build up our online communication, worship and ministries. Traditional means like using the phone should continue as well. Connect and Ministry Groups are already actively engaging in online meetings and I want to encourage you to join one if you are not connected to any.
We are actively preparing to run our next DCBS courses online in July. The same goes for our Marriage Preparation Course, and our Baptism/ Confirmation and Anglicanism Courses. We are also working on new tools to allow for interactive discipleship and learning groups. We will be surprised how effective it can be to learn online together. I will venture to say that for some areas, online facilities can be even more effective.
The Cathedral SG Live Radio App has been useful for daily prayers during set times and we will continue to expand on this tool. We are now considering how additional morning slots can be added. Our Youtube channel will contain a repository of all our past Online Services which you can go back to from time to time. We will also post to the channel all previous videos of key events in our community life.
All audio sermons and podcasts can be accessed too via our website or our app. Please listen to them again and like a “living Word”, past sermons can speak afresh. Our website will contain sermons from a few years ago.
Note that we have started preparing for our AGM on the 28th of June at 1 pm. Virtual, of course. More information will be released soon.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 2 Cor 9:12
Our Finance and Assets Committee met on Wednesday evening. We were encouraged to note that for the period of January to April, the Cathedral is not facing a deficit. The income (from tithing, pledges and offerings) received was able to meet the expenses incurred during this period. These expenses include missions giving to other churches and ministries, here and overseas.
This is certainly a point of praise that the whole SAC community can rejoice together in. Your love for the Lord and the work of His church is “overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”
I should pause to thank the Lord for each of you for the commitment to the Church and her ministry all these years. These go beyond your money to other resources as well, such as your talents, time and energy. You are giving your best, and these include missions and community work. In this season, this is being tested more than ever and the SAC community is passing with many flying colours.
Your positive participation in the “barebone” online worship life has been very heartening. Many of you also gave encouraging or helpful feedback, which further enthuse the teams working hard behind them.
Connect and Ministry groups are also taking the initiative to gather regularly online to encourage each other. The post-Service Zoom chat groups are also fun and encouraging to be a part of. It is always good to get to know new people or simply, just getting to know each other better.
Much is happening and I am not informed on everything. However, the Lord sees and He is glorified. As we continue to live for an audience of One, His Body will be encouraged and built up.
We are all missing the physical gatherings and meet ups. Till we are able to, let’s continue to seek first His rule and purpose for our lives (or “kingdom” in Matthew 6:33).
In so doing, His body will be edified.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’” Proverbs 31:28–29
She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family...” Proverbs 31:15
Can mothers live forever? If only. My own mother went home to the Lord ten years ago. Till today, my heart still aches when I think of how much I miss her. While I still have many around me who love me deeply and vice versa, my mother is simply irreplaceable. She is one more reason why I long for the day of eternal reunion in Christ.
I wrote this poem with the afore-said title in memory of her a few years back. I dedicate this to all the mothers out there.
Rising before the sun
Walking the markets
Wetting her feet
Seeking out the fresh
Plucking, choosing, haggling
The bagged produce
Straining at her fingers
She made her way home
The taps trickled
The leaves rinsed
The lesong rhythmed
The knife chopped
The pot boiled
Ever so softly
For her children were still
In their rooms,
in their dreams
The air came to life
Of pounded herbs
Of tossed sauces
Her children stirred
Do you know that interesting and inspiring “hope” stories are being released on a daily basis HERE. This may be the way to go to encourage our community to share their stories and experiences.
This is how stories from our community can help. They acquaint us with another SAC member whom we may not even have met before in person. We hear about their ministry experience (such as the 289 work in Batam). We hear from a senior on how to cope while living within four walls. We receive gems of wisdom on how to live during this season. A mother chimes in on what we can do with our children being with us 24/7. A brother speaks about us being an aroma for Christ in a season where some have lost their sense of smell through Covid19. A doctor shared on the challenges she faced as a healthcare worker. We get to hear from those who were travelling and found themselves caught in no man’s land due to the lockdowns.
Have you read them? Have you shared yours? Why not? If writing is not your forte, we have a team who can help. Just send in your story as is.
Whether in writing, video or audio (Cathedral SG Live), we have established multiple forums for community communication to carry your contribution.
Is there a song you want to sing and share? Are you inspired to write a poem? Others are able to give helpful talks, from teaching the bible to tips on home cooking. How about creating some webinars? We already have thousands of viewers in our YouTube channel. Perhaps there is something you can contribute to make a difference in somebody’s life?
You are saying, “Vicar, I need time and energy!” As someone once said, “love = time + energy.” Perhaps a little love – for the Lord, the Gospel or His people - can be your source of motivation?
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Read the stories of #Hope:
“It is not right that we should give up preaching
the word of God to serve tables...” Acts 6:2
It has been a privilege to be able to preach consecutively on the two beautiful Easter accounts, the first involving Thomas and the other on the Journey to Emmaus. There is a flow in the lectionary in keeping with the liturgical season which can help us to enter more fully into the Gospel stories. You can also follow this more fully through Bishop Rennis’ midweek sermons.
One interesting outcome of the circuit breaker season is the simplification of life and work. Bishops and Vicars who are normally busy with management and leadership matters, can now focus on the ministry of the Word and Prayer. The church functions along with the society she is a part of, embracing the pace, high standards of management and financial processes. These often mean that it becomes unavoidable for the men of the cloth to spend considerable time on these issues.
Take the Easter period for example. If not for Covid 19, we will now be busy with preparing for AGM. And this means writing reports, ensuring the Phase 2 project is being updated and made ready for a second presentation to the body, ensuring that the new church budget is finalised etc. All these generate a train of work involving many parties, of which clergy often need to be involved and provide the needed leadership. I cannot imagine that myself or Bishop can spend this much time preparing well for the Easter sermons. I doubt that I will have the time to lead the daily noon prayer.
This season has been one huge pause button. We need to do a lot of prayerful reflection and deeper conversations on what church ministry means and what the Lord has called her to do and be. Reflect with us. Pray with us that we may find wisdom for a new season.
One interesting initiative which we are providing for this Sunday morning from 10.30 -11.30 am is a Zoom channel for prayer and ministry. If you would like to share your need with members of our pastoral and ministry teams and receive prayer, please join this room through this link HERE.
I am sure that by now, you are aware of all the measures and forums that have been made available for your encouragement and information. Get used to the new online bulletin as we continue to work on new initiatives.
You can help the Cathedral community by doing the following:
Participate as much as you can.
Log in, tune in, listen, read up and give feedback if you need to. You are not just doing this for yourself. You participate because the wider SAC community matters to you. You also care for those around you. You may come across something that is inspiring which you can now share. If you are not familiar with going on Facebook, this is the time to learn to do so. You can choose to be a passive participant. SAC has two Facebook pages. The St Andrew’s Cathedral page is the official page where only authorised persons can post but users can make comments. The other, Community of St Andrew’s Cathedral page, allows users to both post and make comments.
If you don’t like to use Apps (and believe it or not, you are really in the minority), this is the time to learn to do so. Apps are loved by millions because of their ease of use. Join in for the Call to Prayer at noon through the Cathedral SG Live App, which also has many other resources.
We also have 2 avenues, #hope + #strongertogether, for members to send in a video greeting from you or your family, write some words of inspiration, share a testimony, record a song and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Give us feedback (because you care) as the areas of improvement are limitless. This is a season where community participation should be lauded. The gifts in the community are immense.
For those with gifts, don’t bury them. Onlookers: don’t pour cold water or criticise their efforts. Yes, do give some words of advice or caution but do also cheer each other on. Courage is often needed and your encouragement will help. As we will see in this Sunday Online Service, we want to encourage the SAC community to share, speak, play (instruments) and sing.
While we may be dispersed, this is a season where our love for the community can go cold or become even stronger. Not everyone has wireless or know how to tap into our online resources. Do your part to reach them. Give a call. Read something encouraging to them. Let them know what has been happening. Summarise the sermons for them. Is there someone who can be encouraged by a call from our pastors? Please let us know.
Is there someone who is lacking in “essential needs”? Those who have more can share with those who have less.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3: 16-18
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
The Latin term “tabula rasa” (lit. blank slate) is often used to refer to the need to start afresh from time to time. Undoubtedly, this Covid19 may well have changed the way we do church. Perhaps some of these changes were already happening, albeit gradually and tentatively. Understandably, in a congregation with a wide demographic, it has not been easy to change our habits. Consider some of these concerns and opportunities which have been knocking on our doors.
Is there a “greener” way to do things? We waste a lot of paper every week: weekend bulletins, class teaching notes, minutes etc. In this day and age, I think (and you will agree), this call to change in this area has been a long time coming. And they do come with added advantages. Think of an e-bulletin with colour and links.
How about a better use of videos? Is there a better way to multiply our teachings, messages and sermons? Through the years in SAC, I have heard some amazing sermons, lectures and talks. However and rather needlessly, they are only heard by a few who were fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. While we need audios and podcasts (longer shelf life), some are better channelled through videos.
Text messaging has been with us for a long while via SMS and in these last few years, this has been replaced by WhatsApp. Messaging is now free and immediate. Links can be easily inserted, allowing you to probe further if you are interested in an event or talk. Why can’t we all rely on this channel for bits of info that are current?
Online Giving. We all know that since last year, the government has started on a nation-wide push to encourage online payment. Imagine if all of us can be comfortable with giving our tithes and offerings online. There is the occasional huge sum which some may be more comfortable with using cheques. Understandable. However, on most other occasions, direct online payments are efficient and safe. And it will also reduce the administrative workload for our Finance Dept.
What about a better use of our smartphone apps? Apps are popular because they make navigation very user-friendly. After all, all you need to do is “click”. That needs a soft jab of the finger. I have heard from many seniors that they find apps easy to use. You don’t need to squint your eyes to read Web text or figure out what urls to type. SAC’s website is useful, unavoidably needing many layers as access to information is important. People come into the web to search for all kinds of info: service timings, tours, weddings, courses, membership etc. But if all you want to do is to check on last Sunday’s sermon, the app is where you will go, especially if you are already a member.
With Covid19’s safe distancing and new hygiene standards, going online simply makes sense. Lest we think that this is cool and novel, no-touch and distant communication has been with us for centuries. Runners used to carry news from afar, with scrolled edicts in hand. Millions of letters have been carefully written for distant communication. Some have had far-reaching impact on human society. Think of the letters of St Paul. Every generation has their tools. It is up to us whether we care enough to communicate and use them. And by the way, thank you for reading this. You have inspired me to write weekly.
It is about time (and I think I heard a chorus of amens).
Have a Blessed Easter!
26th March 2020
Following the government’s directive, we are suspending our Services till past 30th April. During this season, our Services will go be going online.
A word about Online Services. Many, including myself, have found it helpful to be intentional in setting aside time to participate in the Service. If you can do so with someone else or with your family, that will be even better. Follow the “rubrics” of the Service - pray, sit, kneel (if you are able) or stand. Have your Bible in front of you and participate in the readings. We are keeping the Services very focussed with a duration of under an hour.
We have inherited some beautiful prayers in our Morning Prayer liturgy such as the rich Prayer of General Thanksgiving. Some of these prayers were penned through the centuries by saints of the church and when we pray them, we are enjoined in space and time with the wider communion of saints.
It should also be obvious that we will be running our Holy Week Services online. Perhaps for the first time in our church history, there will be no making or distribution of Palm Crosses. I can imagine that there will be many digital iterations of these crosses. It will however be an opportunity to share some liturgical prayers and rich hymns/songs and meditations to facilitate our worship and observance. For Maundy Thursday, we will be observing the Tenebrae in a different way. Good Friday will have her usual 7 meditations on the cross, accompanied by prayers and hymns. Easter Memorial Service at (3 pm) will be a simple Service to remember and thank those who have gone before us. And you are welcome to wake up early on Easter Sunday, at the break of dawn, to recapture the emotions of the first Easter morning.
There have been many Zoom meetings across the Cathedral community. Our PCC has been able to convene fruitful planning meetings via this channel; likewise, our staff and many Connect and Ministry Groups. The desire to communicate, connect and love is about the intention of the heart. The forms and tools are always secondary, whether it is the ancient art of putting ink on papyrus or the modern form of sending bytes into the digital space.
Another matter which some of you may have already experienced is an old-fashioned phone call from a pastor or staff. We are starting with our seniors, especially those whom we think may be less connected online. Or so we thought, as some have surprised us with their awareness of the online tools. It is also an opportunity for our Service Teams to have a better sensing of what is happening on the ground and perhaps during this season, this is an opportunity for new bonds to be formed or strengthened.
Brothers and sisters, I indeed thank God for every remembrance of you, borrowing the words of St Paul in Philippians 1:3. Stay safe and walk closely with the Lord.
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The people of God have been serving as a community through thick and thin and have weathered many epidemics. In our Old Testament, the many detailed teachings about personal and community hygiene, quarantine and food laws were simply because these were laws for a gathered community.
The Christian response to plagues begins with some of Jesus’ most famous teachings: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; “Love your neighbour as yourself”; “Greater love has no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends.” Put plainly, the Christian ethic in a time of plague considers that our own life must always put in service of our neighbour.
Historians have suggested that the terrible Antonine Plague of the 2nd century, which might have killed off a quarter of the Roman Empire, led to the spread of Christianity, as Christians cared for the sick. The more famous epidemic is the Plague of Cyprian in the third century, named for a bishop who gave a colourful account of this disease in his sermons. Probably a disease related to Ebola, the Plague of Cyprian set off a crisis in the Roman world. But it did something else, too: it triggered the explosive growth of Christianity. Bishop Cyprian told Christians not to grieve for plague victims but to redouble efforts to care for the living. His fellow bishop Dionysius described how Christians, “Heedless of danger … took charge of the sick, attending to their every need.”
A century later, the actively pagan Emperor Julian would complain bitterly of how “the Galileans” would care for even non-Christian sick people, while the church historian Pontianus recounted how Christians ensured that “good was done to all men, not merely to the household of faith.” Other church leaders observed and clearly taught that Christians were not immune to epidemics, who died along with everyone else. There is no “faith crisis” if Christians got their faith right and biblical in the first place. This is something which Singaporean Christians need to reflect deeper on.
This habit of sacrificial care has reappeared throughout history. In 1527, when the bubonic plague hit Wittenberg, Martin Luther refused calls to flee the city and protect himself. Rather, he stayed and ministered to the sick. The refusal to flee cost his daughter Elizabeth her life. But it produced a tract, “Whether Christians Should Flee the Plague,” where Luther provides a clear articulation of the Christian epidemic response: We die at our posts. Christian doctors cannot abandon their hospitals, Christian governors cannot flee their districts, Christian pastors cannot abandon their congregations. The plague does not dissolve our duties: It turns them to crosses, on which 'we must be prepared to die.”
How do we apply this in our modern societies, especially given the fact of how modern healthcare has evolved? It will be seen as foolishness if we needlessly sacrificed our lives. Acts of self-giving must be truly giving, i.e. of some benefit to others, even when no one is watching. Many who are serving in healthcare work are already imbibing these values, even if they are not of the Christian faith. Bishops and pastors should not abandon their posts but the way we offer in situ leadership will be different today. We who are “on the pews” will also need to reflect. The Christian motive for hygiene, sanitation and other forms of preparations should not arise solely from self-preservation but in an ethic of service to others.
The Church needs to help to “flatten the curve” and “gather responsibly.” But the dispersed Church community also needs to be out there - leading, serving, encouraging and giving.
This article draws from Lyman Stone’s "Christianity Has Been Handling Epidemics for 2000 Years” at https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/13/christianity-epidemics-2000-years-should-i-still-go-to-church-coronavirus/ and Revd Daniel Wee’s video talk at https://youtu.be/Qw0yC8mpqD4. This audio talk is also being looped at Cathedral SG Live.
There are some Christians - clergy and bishops included - who would observe Lent by going through a book. Just one good book and to read it entirely during the 40-day Season of Lent (sans the 6 Sundays in Lent). This also make sense in this Covid19 season.
Reading a good book can be very enriching. It takes some discipline and thus, finding a book which you derive some delight in reading will be helpful. If your working hours are hard and long, you may have to do with half an hour of reading just before bedtime and doubling that time during weekends. If you focus and stay on just one good book, you will be surprised how much you can gain from it.
What kind of book should you read? Being a pastor, you would expect me to recommend a good Christian one and I will. Every person’s reading habits will be different and we all have different topics which we are more familiar with. For some, a book like Eugene Petersen’s classic, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction would be a helpful read whereas others will find too heavy. Almost any book by John Stott would be a good read. Some new to the Christian faith may find Stott’s Basic Christianity helpful. Those who grew up reading good literature may prefer to wander in the world of C.S. Lewis. His list is rich and wonderful such as Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce and Surprised by Joy.
We have some good local Christian writers though it can be challenging to get a hand on those due to weak local distribution channels. We do try to carry some titles at our Welcome Centre.
As for current authors, Timothy Keller’s works are very accessible for the modern reader. The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren is unique or the beautifully written Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas, which tells the story of courageous William Wilberforce and the abolishment of slavery. Those seeking to know deeper about Anglican faith, history and distinctive will find Anglicanism by Stephen Spencer helpful. For some “hardcore” reading, On the Thirty Nine Articles by Oliver O’ Donovan will satisfy. I have been going through The Medieval Church by Carl A. Volz, filling in the gaps not covered by my Church History classes in theological college. And of course, knowing our own history is important and Joseph Thambiah’s History of Anglicanism in Singapore 1819-2019: The Bicentenary of Divine Providence, which is now available on Kindle and very affordable.
What about “secular” books? Bill Bryson’s The Body would be fascinating whereas the needful Orientalism by Edward Said will need a few seasons of Lent to read through at my pace.
For daily devotional readings, there is of course the Lent Devotional 2020, Follow Him by Bible Society. I am deeply enriched by the writings of Henri Nouwen, i.e The Way of the Heart or Raniero Cantalamessa’s Life in Christ, which has stayed with me for many years now.
Do pick your read in Lent and be blessed.
While the Covid19 fatality rates may be low, it has caused a severe crisis and disruption in many sectors of society. And as countries join the list of cases, this is being multiplied across the world. It is a very severe crisis. We know that many businesses are very badly hit.
U.S President John F. Kennedy employed this phrase in some of his campaign speeches: "In the Chinese language, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.” This idea became mainstream in the Western world in the 20th century and I am sure some of you would have heard or even employed this idea.
However, Chinese linguists and etymologists will disagree with this idea and explain that it was a mistranslation. This said, one reason why this idea may persist is because of one’s anecdotal observation of life. Or simply, it has moral value and power to encourage listeners during times of adversity. We did a lot of look-back during our Bicentennial last year. Taking our war years as an example, many opportunities arose from those 4 years of Japanese occupation which had a far reaching impact on the destiny of our church and nation. The cross-denomination solidarity within churches here would not have been the same without an ecumenical theological school like Trinity Theological College, which funnels many of our pastors and theologians. The idea for such a school was seeded in Changi Prison as church leaders were incarcerated and hobbled together during that period. And of course, the defeat of the British here and elsewhere in Asia signalled a post-colonial era of political independence. Out of the ashes, Singapore has succeeded quickly and brilliantly.
Even if the use of this idea as from a linguistic illustration is untrue, is it biblical? A book which spans a few millennials of human history will surely contain many accounts of "opportunities in crisis” and indeed that is so. The story of Joseph is littered with many turn-arounds. Joseph himself represented the story of how a life that was cast aside could, in times of crisis, find a larger significant and leadership voice. Or take the life of Jacob. He used many crises to advance his destiny, and his life in some way also represents that of the people of God.
More than anything else, a trust in God's sovereignty and control over our lives and human history can give us a different perspective towards setbacks as we believe that “all things work for good to those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).
If we think about the Cathedral, we can easily observe what lower attendances may result in; in terms of lost ministry opportunities and possible challenge to our financial health. In the midst of this, we have started new initiatives. As we live-stream our 8 am Service, a new channel is created for our worship service to reach out to many more, beyond those seated in the Nave. We have become more conscious of the need to upscale our approach to teaching through better use of video and online tools.
The new App has seen a significant increase in the use of SAC resources. Literally it is a season to “think out of the box.” Dots are being joined which are connecting SAC members to gifts and voices across our Cathedral and beyond this, to a wider world. Indeed, paraphrasing Isaiah 55:11, His Word that goes out from our mouths shall not return empty but accomplish that which He has purposed. Amen.
Personally, each of us are facing various challenges as well. Those with businesses and companies will be facing complex challenges. It can be a very stressful and depressing time for some. Let’s continue to pray for one another. May the Lord give you wisdom and strength to find new opportunities in your crisis.
If you are alert, you will know that the title above is also the tagline of our new Radio Streaming App.
The communications ministry of SAC has always sought to connect the SAC community to each other and the ministry and mission of the church. We also play a unique role as a Mother Church, connecting and resourcing our Anglican family here and in the deaneries. And as a church in the City, we are also a centre of spiritual and cultural influence, enriching the city in some unique ways. This is also consistent with the “physical” developments, may it be our building facilities or ministries.
This latest App simply enhances these directions. Firstly, we are using it as a conduit to the many media resources we already have, through curation or production. It is an “on-demand” library where you can have access to a wide range of resources for your personal enrichment. The resources include music and liturgy and tap on the rich heritage of the Anglican Church. Increasingly, there will be more educational talks and podcasts made available online. It goes without saying that online learning is now available in many universities in the world. Churches have every reason to do the same and add a biblical voice in the online sphere. Can you learn from the comfort of your home? Absolutely. We can imagine some DCBS talks or seminars being offered online. Some courses from our Faith and Life or Anglicanism tracks can be offered too.
Now, the streaming feature of the app simply allows us to curate some content for your daily edification. This feature also allows us to add “info bytes”: may it be a prayer, a piece of news or a devotional thought. We will also curate good Christian music for you, providing the necessary background information. Some of these songs can be in sync with what the SAC community is using for their worship. Those heading the worship ministry can use this app to educate as songs and hymns have an influential role in shaping hearts and minds. This can include locally produced music and indeed, we do have many gifted local singers and songwriters.
There are also plenty of good sermons around, whether preached in SAC or elsewhere. We would love to curate some of this for you. Some sermons ought to be shared beyond the local congregation. There are also some great podcast talks from our ministry partners which we can curate for you.
I should use the word “Apps” for SAC has two apps which function differently and complement each other. There are almost countless possibilities. An App, as with everything else, is just a tool. It can only facilitate a vision. It is not a vision in itself. It can only facilitate a Church community in her daily pursuit of the things of the Lord and a rich Christian community. Like any good tool, it can remain unused or otherwise.
The biblical call to pray unceasingly and to be a church which meets regularly for daily edification is finding modern expressions in a fast changing world. As we tune our hearts to Him, we will find the right avenues to grow.
You can download the app now by visiting the following link on your mobile phone:
“The worst may not be over, but it has not worsened.” The situation seems to be stabilising. This is how I see it even as we gather - or stay away- for another weekend of worship. As I said last week, we will do our best to “over-communicate.” We do appreciate the feedback we have received, and whatever steps we take need to be coherent and consistent across our Services.
Do note that the prevention factors advised by our Ministry of Health remain as the most important ones, such as the need for us to stay away if we have any symptoms of sickness, even if they are mild. We are now broadcasting (or live-streaming) our 8am Service weekly.
The multiple cameras in the Nave allow us to do it quite effectively. As the words read or sung by the congregation are projected on screen, this means that even from your home, you can meaningfully participate in the Service ie. singing along with the hymns and joining in the prayers. You can still watch the video later. My advice is that you don’t just run it in the background or watch it from your bed. Set aside time for intentional worship or do it together with your family for the needed focus and discipline. If you have a cup of coffee by your side, I would think that is acceptable! Giving is also an act of worship, a weekly discipline to be encouraged. Please note the online giving options that are available.
Should our Connect Groups meet? There is no blanket answers to this as each group is different. I have confidence that the leader and core members will find their own rhythm. Please pray for wisdom and love and care for one another in Christ.
While we may postpone our Alpha and Confirmation classes, this is a season where many need to hear the Gospel. We had a lot of training last year on personal evangelism and were reminded not to over-rely on event-based evangelism. This is a good time to pray and learn to “coffee” with your friends and seekers.
It is a different way of being Church and perhaps changes in recent years have positioned us to respond to this crisis. As we have been told in our clergy meeting, it is time our parishes take IT tools seriously. Indeed, we must. Good Christian Education courses can be made available online. We have so many good sermons preached every Sunday and this should be made easily available. Even if a member did attend a Service, to be able to hear what was being said in another is a blessing. Hymns and worships songs, sung in season, are another source of blessing. The SAC community needs to be connected online and our presence there can also be a form of our witness to the world. We do know how the latest tools can help seniors to be connected. Please do your bit to help some who may not know how to. With the use of apps, it has been reduced to the touching of an icon. It isn’t more complicated than that.
And as the Church goes “on screen”, we also realise that a huge majority of our city folks, especially those in the youth and young adults category are already spending a lot of time on screens. Our young people in SAC can participate and show the way and help SAC to level up.
About 12 years ago, I wrote an article on the importance of IT in the Trinity Theological College Journal and how it is changing the way we do Church. It was by no means an academic article with a list of footnotes and I am sure it was not highly regarded in some quarters. I know I will always have to struggle with sceptics for the rest of my ministry (God give me strength). I am seeing “what the Father is doing” and in prayer and reflecting deeply, I have always sought to serve His Church prophetically and by His grace, and to lead that we may go from point A to B. “What we should do, where we should be going” is a needed leadership responsibility. It can frustrate those who cannot see or who do not like changes or movements. I don’t always have the authority to get everyone headed in the right way. And so I keep talking, explaining, cajoling, writing etc. I am most comforted that this is His Body with many members, where each is to do their part and we let Him orchestrate.
This season will sift, reveal and test the authenticity, robustness and resilience of our faith and relationship with God. As Revd Hambali has shared, “this crisis can disciple us.”
"But we prayed to our God
and posted a guard day and night
to meet this threat.” Nehemiah 4:9
As the new year started, none of us anticipated another global virus crisis and locally, that we would be in this “DORSCON Orange” position. It is a time of testing for all.
As you will be able to see, we are stepping up our measures, guided by MOH and our Diocesan advisories. We also have an inter-congregational think-tank group that is working hard at implementing, improving and updating our measures. If you have any feedback, please drop us an email.
Your patient cooperation is appreciated. We will be releasing our Advisories digitally and through our weekend bulletin.
This verse from the book of Nehemiah is helpful as we consider the interplay of prayer with strategic planning, faith accompanied by works. The interplay of human responsibility and divine sovereignty has always characterised the response of the Church to issues of faith and life. I don’t think we can ever separate the two spheres as they come together integrally.
We have a deep trust in God and our prayerful attitude reflects our dependence on divine help. At the same time, to the best of our ability and knowledge, we act responsibly as we also believe that God uses our skills, wisdom and willingness to work hard. He certainly does not reward laziness, neglect and irresponsibility. We can also see this truth reflected in the tension a sick Christian may face in trusting for divine healing and yet seeking for medical help at the same time. Or whether a believer should buy insurance or have savings in the bank for a rainy day.
The amazing thing about our struggle with the unseen world of microbes and viruses is that given what we know today, human beings are just as vulnerable. Issues of personal hygiene (such as careful washing) are still very relevant and somewhat similar to ancient times. This is an ironic truth that I drew attention to as I preached last Tuesday at the clergy Communion from the lectionary Gospel reading, Mark 7:1-13.
We may gain some measure of mastery over viruses like smallpox with the discovery of vaccinations, penicillin and antibiotics and so on. Yet, we seem to be going back to square one again when faced with a new threat.
We recall the cherished Benedictine principle - Ora et labora - pray and work. And how may we pray during this season? Some have a tendency to speculate and imagine that this pestilence is yet another act of judgment on persons or nations.
In AD590, the bubonic plague was raging in Rome. As a corporate expression of repentance before God, Pope Gregory directed the populace to march in procession chanting the Kyrie Eleison, a prayer which we also say in our Communion liturgy: "Lord have mercy on us.” I believe this is the best response. We don't point fingers and find legitimacy in our suffering by attributing the cause of it to others. Instead, through “standing in the gap” intercession, we repent before our Holy Lord and declare again how much we need His mercy.
It is in a season where we gather less and cut down on meetings. This will be a season of “retreat.” Alone or with close friends and family, let's be more prayerful and let God search our hearts. The Lord wants to speak to your situation.
Last weekend, Pastor Grace Tan spoke on the importance of knowing God’s Word: reading, digesting, applying and living it. Bishop Rennis spoke on the importance of small groups or Connect Groups, as we will call them here. Even as the Season of Epiphany concluded, we have a good number of carefully prepared and prayed-through sermons where the "Word in season" is heard. As we are in different Services, I encourage you to dig around and listen to them online whenever you can. You will be blessed. These sermons are also in line with our focus on personal discipleship for this year.
I am away this weekend for the Installation Service of the Rt Revd J Melter Tais of the Diocese of Sabah, as the new Archbishop of the Province of South East Asia at All Saints Cathedral, Kota Kinabalu. He takes over from Archbishop Ng Moon Hing, who is also the Bishop of West Malaysia. The Province of South East Asia contains four dioceses: West Malaysia, Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore.
Bishop Melter became the 6th Bishop of Sabah in 2015 and was the first native of Sabah to be installed. A father of four children, Melter Jiki Tais was ordained into the Anglican priesthood in 1993 and had served in various capacities in many parts of Sabah, including Priest-in-Charge of St Margaret's Church in Keningau and St Peter's Church in Tenom, Rector of St. Mark's Church in Lahad Datu and St Luke's Mission District in Telupid. He is also a member of the Lambeth Design Group, planning the programme for Lambeth 2020.
Please pray for our new Archbishop as he leads the Province and her missionary work. There are difficult challenges in our Communion and as our Primate, he will also be making vital contributions in this area.
Revd Yessua, the Sub-Dean of All Saints Cathedral in Cairo (Egypt) will be spending two weeks at our Cathedral as an observer from the 1st to 14th of this month. Please welcome him warmly.
The Coronavirus Crisis has pretty much been the topic of many conversations throughout the Chinese New Year season. As a Cathedral, while we wait for updates and circulars from the Diocese, each of us can take some obvious responsibilities such as refraining from being at Services if we are ill and practising good hygiene. There are hand cleansers placed at strategic locations which we can make use of.
Meanwhile, we remember these words in Psalm 91:1, 5-6, which we can use to pray for ourselves and others:
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday."
We have written a meaningful article on Worship and Music in the Bicentennial Issue of our Courier Magazine which was released last month. It can be read here. Worship and music involves all of us.
I believe that the Cathedral, whether in the Nave or New Sanctuary, should always be using and even developing some of the best music. Music connects us with God: and there is much that can be said about the theology of Worship and the Creative Arts. Music and Creative Arts will always have a voice and place in the world that God has created.
It is not just about the "sacred and secular”, as if God is only found in the Church and absent in the world. We approach creative arts with our worldview that our Creator God has created a creative world. Some evangelicals seem not to delve in the culture and art of music unless it has evangelistic purposes. But art needs to be appreciated and developed for its own sake and in so doing, its voice and beauty will turn hearts to our Creator.
Sometimes the faith is sung first before it is believed. Good music has that power to connect the world with the messenger (church) and ultimately to God, from Whom all blessings flow. Last month’s Bicentennial Christmas Carol Service is one good example of the wide reach of good Church music. This is true whether in traditional or contemporary services. The heavenly sounds of change ringing bells, beautiful harmony of voices, passionate prayerful pleas of a contemporary Christian song, to the booming bass of a timpani or electric bass guitar, all these are part of good music which helps us to worship or proclaim evangelistically the truth of God.
Each of us do have our favourite genre which appeals more to us and may find another standing in the way of worship. And here is why the Church uses a rich diversity as we seek to reach all and not just some.
As per the title of this message, it is about the Nave. Yes, the Nave is a natural sound chamber and we can understand why choirs and even orchestras would like to sing or play in her. However, as a Cathedral, what we do possess is a very rich heritage of Church music, from age-old Near-east and Middle East culture (including Jewish), from 5th century continental monastic Benedictine to 17th century Bach, from medieval Celtic to post-Reformation English music, it is an inexhaustible repository which we can use.
And when we couple it with the Scripture and the Church’s seasons, we can draw from a rich musical and theological heritage. Doubtless, any Church which is new or missional, such as ours will need time, maturity and training to tap skilfully on the Church heritage. My sensing is that our rather grown-up Cathedral is poised to grow and develop in these areas.
We currently have some of our musicians and singers in training in Theological or music colleges. On 15th February, we are also commemorating the evensong which was held here in the Cathedral on the same date in 1942, just after the British surrendered. This one hour service will be deeply meaningful for those who have loved ones who suffered or died during the war years. We are inviting the small Anglican Ensemble Choir (an inter-church choir) to facilitate this evensong. I am working with Chin Kai and his team on enriching the liturgy and music for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and where possible, draw from our Anglican heritage. We can expect some rich (even if sombre) use of liturgy and music, and our own choir, handbell choir and organists and other musicians will be serving. And we can expect a joyous ringing of bells on Easter Sunday.
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalm 25:8-9
While the year is still new, I want to continue to speak on things which can help us to prepare for a "year of personal discipleship.” One gift which has always helped the faithful is the rule of life. When you really think of it, we do have these rules which shape the way we lead our daily lives.
Take meals for example. Luciano Pavarotti once said, “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Meals help us to form a daily rhythm, forcing us to pause and lay aside whatever we are busy with and enjoy a plate of something. Sometimes it is a "eat and meet" thing, where we catch up with someone over lunch. Often it is a personal pit stop amidst the frenetic pace of a day. If I am eating alone, I often enjoy meals with a Kindle in hand, catching up on one of my favourite periodicals. In the evening, the family put everything aside to devote time to eating and one another. Public holidays such as this Chinese New Year weekend are also important pauses.
Now, if you are a Christian, you need a rule of life to give shape to your spiritual life, nourishment, health and growth. This rule gives you a daily rhythm and discipline, to create a space in a crowded life to hear His voice, worship Him, examine our own hearts, reflect on our attitudes, behaviour and so on. What may constitute this rule of life?
Daily prayer and Bible reading is one. Find one source which works for you. When I was starting out, I found Daily Bread helpful. Most times, I prefer to read the Bible on my own (without commentary). I also find it helpful to read Scripture as listed in the daily lectionary. These two apps are free and useful: St Andrew’s Cathedral SG or Church of England Daily Prayer. There are three sets of readings daily. You can choose just one and use the morning and evening sets respectively. Our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer is also found in the Cathedral App and that can alert you to pray for other parts of the diocese. Weekly, we also post our intercession items by Saturday as it is released in our bulletin for the weekend. These are prayerfully chosen by our Intercession ministry, and done in a way in which we can pray together. The thing about using the lectionary is the joy of knowing that many in the world are also reading from the same texts throughout the day as the sun rises and sets across the nations.
I also find Christian reading needful for my own life and ministry. Even if I don’t work as a minister, I am sure I will remain an avid reader. Reading is just an avenue for someone who desires to learn and grow. There is so much to learn, so much to read and I need a few lifetimes to go through the books I love. I wish I have more time to attend Christian courses in theological schools and keep learning.
The rule of life includes keeping ourselves physically fit and healthy. I am not very good with this myself with stops and starts but I keep trying. Some combine walks with their daily prayer. The Cathedral app has audio readings. Teaching and writing is another discipline to keep. One learns the most if he is working at helping others to grow. Even writing a cookbook needs focus and discipline and I see it as something of a responsibility (with joy, of course).
This is a big topic and I am only introducing some ideas here. If you don’t have a rule of life which has been reflected on, prayed and duly considered, 2020 may just fly by. In fact, the first month just did and we are now in the midst of a weekend of Gong Xi Fa Cai.
Happy Chinese New Year. And please make the rest of 2020 count.
We concluded an inspiring Leadership Conference recently. From now on, we will hold two Leadership Conferences each year, in January and July. Each Conference would involve a fellowship dinner followed by a session on Friday evening, then by Saturday morning sessions. We will be announcing the July dates soon.
Last Friday, we were treated to a delicious Nonya dinner cooked by our Food Ministry team - chicken braised in buah keluak, garlic and some tamarind paste; Sambal Prawns were added with the paste made from blended onions, chillies, fermented shrimp paste (belachan) and garnished with diced kaffir lime leaves; for vegetables, we had Nonya Chap Chye: chinese cabbage cooked in brown soy bean paste and garlic. As Southeast Asian and local as the meal could get, it was finally complemented by an iced bowl of pandan, gula melaka, red beans and coconut milk flavours.
Pause. If this is sounding like a page from a cookbook - a for keeps for home cooks - it is deliberately so. Last year, when I was going through the Courier archives, with some issues as far back as the 1890s, I observed that in between the usual bible teaching and ministry reports, there were articles on recipes, tips on house plants and comments on the social events of the day. The Courier was a community magazine. And indeed, why not. The recent Bicentennial Courier issue reflects a bit of that.
Coming back to the Leadership Conference, the opening meal is a reminder that a healthy family will always know how to eat, commune and laugh together. If it is “all pray and no play”, I wonder sometimes if we are trying to be even more “spiritual” than Jesus and his disciples or the early church communities. Isn’t discipleship about the whole of life? Isn’t missions about the growth of Christian communities, about the overflow of the Church cross-culturally? If we do not know how to be a church here, what can we offer to other cultures?
How can iron sharpen iron unless they stay together long enough? This is one reason why the fellowship and friendship amongst pastors and leaders in SAC are so vital. For when we value our mutual commitment to each other and our common call to community, the rest of the flock will also pick up the right signals. When we speak well of another leader, it builds community. When we do the reverse, it weakens.
Very early on in my Christian life, my view of community was shaped strongly by David Watson’s classic book, Discipleship, where he devoted two chapters to it. He said that "community is both the basis and goal of evangelism and discipleship.” After 30 years of active ministry, most of which was hewn in local church communities, I cannot agree more with what he said.
May 2020 be a great year for you as you grow "in-community" here in SAC.
The TOP for the Pavilion was secured on the 12th of December 2019. For January, we have to close up the Pavilion to allow the contractor to finish off some of the works, including the work of equipping the kitchen/pantry. During the latter half of January, we will install the audio-visual (AV) system. Works will also be done to make the place safer for pedestrian access as there are various step-up areas to navigate.
After these works, the Pavilion can be used again for functions. We will set some broad guidelines on the use of this “Parish Hall”, including ensuring that it can be freely accessed during peak public hours, especially during Sunday mornings. As for a covered linkway to access the Pavilion from the Nave when it rains, we will be working on the design and location and seek approval from the authorities. Before the covered linkway is up, we hope to be able to use the temporary tents in the meantime as a covered thoroughfare.
As for Phase 2, we hope to start the fund-raising phase soon. The Parochial Church Council (PCC) has appointed a team to work on the design details with the architect. We can expect the team to also look at facilities for the specific needs of young children, young families with infants and accessibility needs of seniors. Part of the planning will include how we will be redesigning or refurbishing the decanted office areas in the upper floors of the South Transept. Before and/or during our AGM (3rd May), our architect should be able to present more detailed plans for information and input from the congregation. May the Lord grant wisdom to the building team and as always, input and ideas from members are most welcome.
This year should also see the genesis of SAC Family Life Ministry, which is spearheaded by a Core Team led by Dinah Tan and her husband, Francis Tan. They have been working hard since the second half of 2019. The goal of this ministry is to support families in the area of marriage and parenting. At the heart of the ministry will be the running of courses like the Marriage Course (for married couples), the Parenting Course for Children and the Parenting Course for Teens. The courses will serve as an on-going conduit for a ministry which will involve teaching, support from more experienced couples and just as critical, mutual support amongst those who are on the same journey of life. It is important to note that these courses are not aimed at problem-solving but to enrich and support Christians in living out their faith (i.e living as Christus disciples) in the context of family life. The Marriage Course will commence on Wednesday 4 March, for 7 weeks and The Parenting Course for Children, on Saturday 18 April for 5 weeks. Watch our bulletin, notice boards and website for more details.
In due course, we will also look at ways to support those who are singles (whether by choice or not). Actually much of the life and ministry in the Church is already engaged with supporting everyone through each stage or season in our lives. The experience of the Christian community is already a rich gift in this direction, i.e. worship-ministry together and mutual friendship support, especially through our Connect or other Ministry Groups. We can also look forward to our second run of the Sexuality Conference on 6th of June (Saturday), organised by our Faith and Life Team.
Those who enjoy the teaching, song-writing and singing ministry of the gifted American singer-songwriter Michael Card can look forward to his ministry with us on 13th to 15th March. More information will be released in due course.
It has been another year of weekly writing. I think I have not skipped a beat except for some weeks where it was appropriate for another person’s message to be printed, such as some of Bishop’s special messages.
The idea of a Vicar’s Write was seeded years ago through my friendship with the late Bishop Albert Vun, who was serving as a Vicar then. “Just write something, Terry, so that the flock can hear your heart. Even if you do not feel inspired to share a special message, just tell them what you did for the week.” I started to do that and it has since become a weekly habit.
Not everyone likes to write (even if they do want to communicate) and I have realised that writing, like other areas such as speaking, drawing or calculating, may come easily for some while others may have to work hard at it.
It is more than just a piece of writing (and I am sure there are many better writers in SAC); it is an expression of a pastoral relationship and in my case, that being of a Vicar of course. This became more needful in the Cathedral as I do not attend every Service and this is one way of keeping in touch with the flock. Even for the Services I attend, I do not always have a chance to share with the congregation. It was very different in my previous parish where they got to hear me weekly, either through the sermon or notices.
Sometimes certain aspects of the vision of the church need to be shared. There are weeks when I feel very inspired to say something, perhaps even prophetic as a word in season. Other times, it is an expression of some pastoral concerns or just a routine sharing of life in the church. In doing so, it should be obvious that I am also trying to foster a sense of unity of vision and strengthen our community bonds. Every Vicar needs to play the role of being the “focus of unity” for a Parish and this space allows me to do that.
If for some weeks I simply shared about personal details about the week that has passed, I trust that you will not see it as a form of personal indulgence or blogging. Like personal illustrations in a sermon, life speaks to life. This space can also be a substrate for God’s Word to speak on the issues of our day. From time to time I have seeded them for us to reflect on, perhaps some new perspective or a better way of looking at issues. How we think matters and indeed our Bible is full of ancient proverbial wisdom (not just in the Wisdom books). The truth can set us free (John 8:32) and our minds need to be renewed and transformed (Romans 12:2).
And of course, through the ages, pastors and church leaders had always written regularly, even if not weekly. We have the Bible before us because men of old had written. The Church has an incalculable wealth of great writings and books because men and women have disciplined themselves to reflect and put their thoughts into words, whether etched in stones, inked in parchments or typed on screens. Way into the future, researchers will be glad for this weekly account of life in the Cathedral. In fact, you can walk down memory lane by just a quick reading of the weekly message posted on our website.
I am an avid reader and perhaps this is one reason why I write. Reading has been an amazing source of growth for me since I became a Christian at 13 and I hope this habit, if not already acquired, will be in your resolution list for 2020.
May 2020 be another year of growth into Christlikeness and maturing in wisdom for each of you.
We need to reaffirm our creeds and renew our covenants (i.e. our promises and vows) from time to time. Our lives will be drifting, free-floating or going down the rabbit hole aka Alice in Wonderland - often heading into disaster zone - without these creedal anchors and the "ties that bind”, may it be family, marriage, friendships, church commitments or faith.
Coming to creeds, the important ones are the The Nicene Creed, The Apostles Creed and our Baptismal Creed. We don’t read The Apostles Creed enough, which ironically is better framed for a public confession. In part, this is because it is found in our Morning Prayer (Matins) liturgy but we don’t do Matins on Sunday. As for the Baptismal Creed, we get to reaffirm it during Easter Sunday and our New Year Services.
Why are these Creeds important? The most obvious reason is because they frame our Christian beliefs. As with all creeds, we need to reaffirm them as our beliefs can get unclear and woolly with time. Some of us may have been experiencing an overload of pain and suffering. Sometimes these tragedies can void us of any sense of meaning and purpose in life. There is just no energy left to carry on. Reaffirming these creeds steadies our lives, reminding us of the timeless grace and faithfulness of God.
The Creeds also join us with the communion of saints in space and time. Like Elijah, we realise that we are not alone (see his lament in 1 Kings 18:22 and the Lord’s reply in 19:18). In time, we affirm with believers through the ages. In space, we are reminded that we are part of a much wider Body. It is strange how narrow-minded some parts of the Christian family can be and we are so easily divided over many secondary issues. The Creeds remind us of what truly matter and what can bind us together regardless of race, culture, church affiliation and nationality.
If creeds remind us on what we should hold on to, covenants focus on our resolve to have a “long obedience in the same direction.” Confessions are one thing but it can be quite another to live them out consistently. The way promises and covenants work is that they are meant to be kept all the time. Imagine telling your spouse that you would like to remove your ring and have a short vacation from your marriage! If we only keep our promises some of the time, we know we have failed. This is one reason why we confess our sins, failures, shortcomings and renew our covenants regularly. It is confessing how much we need His grace, that we may be forgiven and renewed to live out our promises.
May we renew our faith and commitments as the year turns.
Have a Blessed New Year!
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
This Bicentennial has been a very special year for many of us. We have looked back. We have researched. We have dug up hidden “artefacts.” I echo the feelings of those who have worked hard in the past: we have been richly blessed by the lives of those who have come before us.
It wasn’t difficult at all; if not a huge privilege; for us to write, tell and sing of them. Our mission and motivation at working hard at the Bicentennial Christmas Carol Services; including the publication of a special edition of the Courier; were simple: we needed to tell their stories well, that our Father may be glorified. And after that, we recede into the background. For the real heroes and heroines are not on our stages, pulpits or pews today. They are long gone. To bask in their glory would have diminished the very stories we are attempting to tell.
In the process, what lessons can be drawn from these historical observations?
Think of the Christian faith of some of our English forebears which formed their values and shaped the way they seeded our society. While there are some truths about how the imposition of a Western world view has its own ills (i.e Edward Said in his magisterial book Orientalism), a belief in a God of Creation should underline our conviction that every culture at every season needs to be challenged by His revelation through Word and Creation (Psalm 19); even if at times, this had to come through another culture.
The English Reformation in the 16th century and the flowering of education (through breakthroughs in printing) led to a Christianisation of a nation where almost every child needed to study Greek and Latin in schools through catechisms where Biblical truths were carefully taught. The same education finally led to the abolishment of slavery: we should be familiar with the heroic efforts of William Wilberforce. Stamford Raffles was a very close friend of William, and they lived as neighbours. Raffles shared some of these values and permitted Christian missionaries to serve in the earlier years of our city.
Another lesson to be drawn is the authentic unity that was forged “in the trenches” of the war years. Both Changi Prison and the Cathedral served as hubs for Christians of every stream. Today the Church has undoubtedly benefited from the wealth of the city and has gained significant social standing. Unlike our counterparts in the war years — who were literally disrobed and stripped to their bare bones — today, church leaders meet under very different circumstances, often adorned in glorious array.
My last word shall be this: that we need to drop the celebrity culture and consider what being Christ-like means. We would certainly honour our forebears if we love everyone equally, as Christ has commanded us. These include people of other faiths and closer home, Christians from different streams need to respect one another.
We have sung about them. By His grace, let’s also live like them.
Any attempt to thank our staff and members for serving is akin to walking on eggshells: as some are bound to be missed out. And so, sometimes pastors like to apply Jesus’ teaching on the parable of the unworthy servants:
"So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’
This is indeed convenient (!) even if questionable, as an imposition on anyone, unless it is from the Lord Himself. This principle may have undergirded my attitude towards serving in the church since I became a Christian at 13. I was actively serving in many areas, from ushering to playing the bass guitar in the worship team. I served on many committees, served as a worship-leader, sung in choirs (I am a very average singer!), served in many mission trips from the rural town of Mentakab (Pahang, West Malaysia) to the rural islands of Riau, travelling on a boat, served in newsletters/magazine teams and rather disastrously, even taught in a Sunday school class of small children! It was years into being a Pastor that I discovered that I could cook and that opened another door for serving, often behind the scenes.
The unique thing was the fact that it was drummed into us ( and many of my fellow Christians of that generation) that it is a privilege to serve in church. We were certainly no “strawberry generation.” Like "Gurkha soldiers" of the church, we were very hardy: we could take unfair criticisms, handled appreciation-deprivation work and served faithfully even if no one noticed. We stood up to a lot of imperfections in the church, knowing full well that we were very imperfect sinners; saved by His grace. We were easily contented, deeply loyal and never thought of changing church when troubles brewed or when we got hurt. In fact, we were trained to "ask not what the church can do for you, but what you can do for the church” (this is not from the Bible but paraphrased from J.F. Kennedy!). rather be anonymous, if you please.
In fact, when I came to Singapore for my studies, this was the same attitude I carried into the church I attended. It was a very small Anglican congregation then at St John's - St Margaret’s Church (1985) and by the second Sunday, they had put me up to play the guitar for the worship team! I became a parish worker in 1986, and a clergyman of the Anglican Church in 1992. So you can see, I have been stuck in a one-job-one-employer-one company ever since. In my entire life, I had only one job interview. How unexciting, right?
Now, this is just me and I am not asking you to do the same, though I trust it may encourage you somewhat. This idea will, of course, need to be balanced by many other teachings of Jesus and the Bible about the need for thanksgiving and giving honour where it is due. In fact, we are told again and again, that there will be heavenly rewards for faithfulness, of crowns and acclamations, such as “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I’m sure we would all look forward to that!
I did say at the start that we do have a list of people to thank. After the intense Bicentennial Services, a bumper Courier issue built on historical research, additional Bicentennial display panels at the linkway, a fantastic turn out at the efficiently organised Myanmar COH outreach, we know that many have been hard at work. Christmas is not even over yet and we still have some significant events in the lineup.
However, I have conveniently found an excuse to say that I am running out of space. I shall lift my feet off the eggshells of personal acknowledgements in public and say: you know who you are...
and He knows! I shall indeed thank the Lord for every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).
Have a blessed Christmas! (Signing off as a grateful Vicar and feeling relief!)
"Summon for me the people so that I can tell them my words,
that they may learn to fear me all of the days they are alive
on the earth and so that they may teach their children.”
Deuteronomy 4:10 (Lexham English Bible)
Most Bible versions will use terms like "gather" or "assemble" for this verse. But somehow the word "summon" conveys a greater sense of urgency or obligation, a mandate that needs to be obeyed.
To equate our nation and existence with Old Testament parallels may seem audacious and self-serving. And indeed some nations (and kings and queens) have abused these ideas of divine calling to justify the idea of their supremacy over others.
It is, however, a Christian idea that a people or nation’s calling and raison d'être for existence is divine in origin, not to stamp one’s supremacy but to obligate one to serve the world. It is a self-consciousness that we are a people who were blessed with blessings that were not our own (i.e. 1 Chronicles 29:14b). And arising from this sense of humility and gratitude, we serve.
Therefore, we are summoned
- Out of our self-occupation to our sense of destiny to serve His wide purpose in time and space.
- To pause to “say grace” over the spread on our table as a nation (Psalm 23:5), whether in seasons of abundance or want.
- That we may gather and remember, for ourselves and those coming after us.
- To sing, for we are a people who have songs from our shared history and destiny.
This is why these milestone gatherings are always important, Sunday Worship, Easter and Christmas Services and yes, Bicentennials. Surely, our 200 years of existence as a “founded” modern nation should be a moment for deep spiritual commemoration.
I have never quite fathomed why the bells had to be restored and enhanced in 2019. Yet the winds of the Spirit led us to do it and in a way, they have a summoning role to call us to worship. The coming Bicentennial Christmas Carol Service is a unique idea in itself, celebrating the event of the birth of the Christ and that of our nation in one breath. We are acknowledging the true Architect of our nation, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” (Ephesians 3:15).
This Thursday evening’s Service is an event not to be missed. If you have not been able to secure tickets, we will be preparing good overflow AV facilities at the CNS and Prayer Halls so that as many as possible can participate in this unique event.
My fellow brothers and sisters, whether you are a citizen, resident or visitor, join in to give Him the honour and praise!
Using the Church Lectionary
We have just started a new liturgical year as we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent. For a write up on the significance of the Church liturgical year, do read from this link bit.ly/do-tcc.
Until recent years, one can only access the Diocesan lectionary through printed copies. Now, this has been made available in our App (Cathedral SG) We have also included the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer and the occasional Cathedral prayer items. If you follow the lectionary, you will complete reading the Bible in three years and the whole Book of Psalms every month. Some will choose to just follow the Morning or Evening Prayer readings. If you are a new Christian, it will be easier to read the Gospel reading for the Holy Communion service as that is laid out in a daily sequence. The readings are also available in audio and this makes it accessible for those who are visually-challenged or for listening when you are commuting. Another blessing of using the lectionary is how it will connect you to special festivals or help you to remember influential Anglicans in the past whom have contributed to the life of the Church. It will also connect you to important events or developments in SAC or the Diocese.
I am aware that not many Anglicans here are used to following the lectionary. But one can always start and it will take a while to form a good habit. You can still use it on top of whatever devotional materials you are used to. One interesting thing about using the daily offices (that is another name for the lectionary) is that you are using something that has been with the Church since her early days. And if enough of us are using it, there is also a sense of our gathering around His Word and observing the liturgical year together as a community.
The Shape of the Christian Year
Much like the gospel the Church proclaims, the calendar the Church keeps revolves around these two divine movements:
— the invasion of the Incarnation, and
— the triumph of the Resurrection.
The former is remembered through the Christmas cycle, from Advent until Lent, and the latter through the Paschal/Easter cycle, from Lent until Pentecost.
The Incarnation (Christmas Cycle): from Advent to Lent
Advent: The Church year begins with Advent, normally around the end of November or the start of December. It is a season where we await Christ’s second advent to judge the living and the dead and also to celebrate his first advent at the Incarnation. Christians await the return of Jesus the Messiah to renew all things.
Christmas begins with the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ on December 25 and extends for twelve days of celebrating the Incarnation.
Epiphany begins with the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ and extends to the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ [at the Temple; Luke 2:22-52]. This season commemorates the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles in fulfillment of prophecy, as exemplified in the visitation of the Magi.
The Resurrection (Easter/Paschal Cycle): from Lent to Pentecost
Lent: Just as the Christmas cycle begins with a season of preparation, so the Paschal cycle begins with Lent – the period of fasting and penitence from Ash Wednesday until Holy Saturday. Because Lent lasts for forty days, not counting the six Sundays which are celebrations of the Resurrection, it recalls Christ’s fasting during temptation in the wilderness.
Holy Week: The last week of Lent, Holy Week, remembers the last week of Christ’s earthly life, beginning with Palm Sunday’s commemoration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Paschal Triduum (“three days”) begins on the evening of Maundy Thursday and lasts until evening on Easter Sunday. It includes: Maundy Thursday (commemorating the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper and Christ’s washing of the disciples’ feet); Good Friday (a commemoration of the Crucifixion); Holy Saturday (remembering Christ’s time in the tomb); and Easter Sunday, which celebrates the triumphal Resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Easter — then lasts for fifty days — first for forty days until the remembrance of Christ’s Ascension to the Father’s right hand (Acts 1:1-11), and then for ten more days until the commemoration of the Holy Spirit’s descent at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41). This season emphasises the typological fulfillment of the feasts of Unleavened Bread and Weeks in the Christian celebrations of Easter Sunday and Pentecost.
“Ordinary” Time: The Season after Pentecost — The time between Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost, focusing upon the Tribune identity of God) and Christ the King Sunday (the Sunday before Advent, proclaiming Christ’s Lordship)—from approximately June through November—is called the Season after Pentecost, or Ordinary (numbered) Time.
This remainder of the liturgical year is “the time in which the church is to live out its calling in the world, fulfilling the mission of God”. Instructed in the school of sacred time, Christians go forth to love and serve the broken world which God has invaded, and over which He triumphs
The Pavilion is almost completed. While her construction was relatively quick (6 months), it was an idea which was many years in the making. SAC had always faced a shortage of covered communal spaces. The temporary white tents did help to meet some of these needs. However, the tent was never meant to be a permanent solution.
Various ideas were proposed but they did not secure approvals from the authorities (i.e URA, PSM). About more than a year ago, the authorities advised us to explore a solution using the north lawn. We are grateful to Mr Chan Sui Him (a member of the Chinese congregation) and DP Architects for working on the concept and the authorities for their advice and support.
The project finally got underway with an end-November deadline in mind so that it can be ready to support the many Christmas-related activities in December. We look forward to using it soon.
Like a “Parish Hall,” this Pavilion will be set aside for multipurpose communal use. It will be naturally ventilated and the two sides of glass panels will be kept open. Though it has air-conditioned facilities, this will only be for occasional use and of course, the glass panels will need to be drawn.
We can expect an official blessing Service sometime in the first quarter of next year. Indeed we have much to be thankful for.
The current tented area also acts as a covered walkway, ensuring that users of the Nave have cover from weather elements as they leave the Nave. These needs will not be met by the new Pavilion. We ask for your prayers as we discuss with the authorities in exploring a solution for covered walkways. Given the thousands who worship with us every Sunday and the needs of children and seniors, a practical solution will be needed.
We can look forward to some exciting events in the Advent and Christmas Season. Details are released in our bulletins and websites. We are still looking for volunteers to support the Myanmar Outreach on 8th Dec and the Filipino Outreach on 15th Dec. The Bicentennial Carol Services will be an amazing evening of choral and carol singing by some wonderful choirs. This year’s will be unique as we are also giving thanks for our nation as we celebrate our bicentennial. Information will be given soon on how you may attend if you wish to.
Each of us will also have an opportunity to participate in the Diocesan Give Him a Hundred Project in support of the work in our deaneries. Please give generously and you can be assured that every cent will be multiplied many times over for the work of the Gospel and Church in these countries.
We are blessed…that we may bless.
A few weeks ago, I was richly blessed through spending almost a week at a Benedictine community overseas. The solitude and silence of monastic life was healing on its own. I rode on the daily discipline of doing the offices with the monks. They do a daily seven and I was happy to join in for the Anglican duo.
St Benedict (6th century, Italy) and his monastic movement had been influential in English Christianity, of which we are beneficiaries. The three-fold Rule of Prayer (Regula): the daily office (Opus Dei), the private devotion and the community Eucharist was embedded in the life of the Church. It is both monastic and secular (as amongst laymen), found in both the East and West Church, common for all the various orders (Franciscan, Ignatian etc) and heavily shaped our Book of Common Prayer.
The Regula continues to shape the way we do church. Even in our contemporary Services, this three-fold order is found. Much more can be said but there is a lot of superficial or selective understanding of the Church (and Anglicanism), of which one remedy is good systematic education so that our ideas of the Church are properly shaped. Here in the Cathedral, we need to plough the depths of our Church heritage and this is one area which we will continue to give priority to. Orthodoxy is shaped by both our beliefs and our worship. In fact, both are integral: a creedal faith shaped “in Regula.”
Coming back to the monastery, every mealtime was “luxurious.” By that, I am referring to Scripture and other readings being read as we went through simple but delicious soups and mains, served to the table. It was a feast for all the senses.
The cottage I stayed in was right in the middle of a wheat field. It was pitch dark at night accompanied by a deafening silence, broken occasionally by rabbits scurrying around or howling winds. Almost every night, the Southern Cross, Mars and the Orion Belt can be traced if one chooses to.
It is one of those things which I wish I had done earlier. Busy and distracting modern city life can be destructive spiritually and humanly. We do need to pull away occasionally. Even Jesus will go away into the desert or find quiet in the early hours of the morning. I don’t think we can afford to do less.
Though alone, I was accompanied by some saints, mostly "absent brethren” in the likes of Meister Eckhart, Henri Nouwen and St Benedict. I was also blessed by catching up on a book on English Spirituality (from which I drew my above sharing about the regula). It’s Anglicanism from the angle of the development of her ascetically and spiritual beliefs and practices. And of course, I had lots of Bible time: reading, being read to and meditating.
Without a doubt, this break is not something some of you can do easily given your work commitments or the costs of overseas travel. As I shared in the bulletin two weeks ago, we need to imagine a “place” here where this can be our regular experience. Join me in praying for a Church that is digging deep in her heritage.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 1 Cor 11:24-26
For some of our Services, the Holy Communion is a weekly experience. Others have it fortnightly. Why do we celebrate the Communion at all?
For a start, this is a tradition handed down to us. Paying attention to the words of Scripture, St Paul said, "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you…” (v 23). And He went on to speak of an event, not just a teaching. It was one where on the night our Lord Jesus was betrayed, he took bread and broke it, he took the cup and drank it, saying this bread is my body for you, this cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this in remembrance of me.” That for the disciples later, this act, indolent with his cross-sacrifice, was obvious.
What was Paul’s specific instruction? The phrase “Do this in remembrance of me” can be translated “Do or make this as my memorial.” We are not just given something to say. We are not given form of words. We are given an action, something to do or perform. And as we do so, we continue to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. In this “in-between times”, we continue what was handed down to us from the apostles.
However, this Christian tradition is much more than just a past memory or pious nostalgia. The word remember, or anamnesis, is significant.
Research into the Old Testament way of understanding God’s works in the past as the Jews celebrate them in the present through rituals can be helpful. In this respect, the continuing Jewish celebration of the Passover meal is an example. Anamnesis is an "objective memorial” where, as one celebrates the past, God’s saving acts continue to be effective in the present. The benefits of his death and resurrection are received and experienced in the here and now by faith with thanksgiving; yet, the historical event remains "once for all" and never repeated. This is made abundantly clear in Scriptures (see Romans 6:9-10, Heb 9:25-28). It is not a repeated death; Jesus is not re-sacrificed.
Yet, it is not just a psychological recall either. The unanimous tradition of the Church (in the east and west) in the first millennial testify to this: it is an active memorial, where we appropriate for ourselves what Christ had given to us in the past, and is still giving. In this sense, he is the true celebrant at every communion. It is something enlivened by the Spirit as we meet as his people and gather in His Name. We are united with him and enter into the mysteries of His death and resurrection. We centre our lives on it. In so doing, we also offer our own lives for His Service, remembering that at the heart of the Christian faith is self-sacrifice.
Instead, at every Communion, let’s re-centre our lives on the heart of what Christ had timelessly done for us: His saving act for our holy reconciliation and our future hope for a wholly reconciliation.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” Ephesians 3:20
One can draw away from the world. For just a while (Mark 6:31). Being apart, he now sees clearly how incongruent and self-destructive modern life has become. Our early fathers used to see the world as shipwrecked, where one needed to swim for his life. Not towards the world but away from. For many of us, we drift compliantly, letting the tides take us deeper into spiritual wreckage.
One can be in solitude. He pulls away from the demands of self amongst others. He takes a respite from the need to be loved, thought well of and praised. He walks off the stage, out of the limelight. In the audience of One, he begins to see himself as he truly is. He gets a right perspective of issues, people etc. He comes to his senses (Luke 15:17).
One can meditate. A few sentences of Scripture at a time. While there is a place for reading long passages of Scripture, pausing and going deep can only be experienced when one is not in a hurry. It is not about analysing Scripture. Why was that said? When was that said? What was said? There is a time for inductive Bible Study, but not in this place. One asks instead, what is God saying to me today through His Word?
One can read. Writings that matter. Those that feed the soul. Planting seeds that seem to be ever growing in our interior world. Where words and ideas are not highlighted in pages, but inside of us. Captured forever as inner wisdom which continues to guide us through life. Shaping our intuitions and instincts. Some precious words are from the dead, our "absent brethren.” Harder to read and grasp, they write in un-modern ways which we are less accustomed to. Like all things of worth, it takes effort to understand. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
One can grow compassion for others. Solitude breeds compassionate solidarity. For when one sees himself as he truly is, he refrains from doing “life-reading” of others. This is the peril of judging, where in our minds we play god (or the devil?) and categorise people into the good and the very good, the bad and the very bad. When we allow God to deal with the log in our eyes, we have no view left for the speck in others (Matt 7:3). Instead, we accept others as Christ has accepted us. We love, we feel, we “com-passio” - we suffer along side (com: along, passio: suffer).
One realises that apart from Christ, one can do nothing (John 15:5). This is a daily discovery that comes through being more conscious of our being than doing. Being in the presence of God, praying and relying in Him. His Spirit shapes our being and in turn, our lives become life-giving. We bring the presence of God into the lives of others. We stop discouraging others, making them cower in fear. We encourage (embolden) them instead into the fulness of their destiny in God.
I will continue to imagine aka to pray, for such a place for me, for you, for us.
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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 12:1-2
As a part of a delegation led by the Archbishop of our Province, Ng Moon Hing, and our Bishop Rennis Ponniah, we were deeply involved in the Anglican Conference, the Seventh Global South Conference at Cairo, Egypt (8-11th October). Delegates from at least 18 Provinces were represented and we reflected on the theme “Not Conformed…but transformed” based on Romans 12:1-2
When dioceses in the Provinces disagree on some fundamentals of the faith or are exploring fresh approaches, there are processes for the issues to be discussed or resolved. However, what processes are there to guide how Provinces related to each other at the Communion level?
Before 2003, the Communion thought we had sufficient processes and mutual trust to manage disagreements. The unilateral consecration of a bishop in same-sex relationship went ahead in 2003, in spite of commitments to a common discipline which were debated and voted on at Lambeth 1998. When the consecration was announced beforehand, pleas from Anglican leaders all over the world for restraint were ignored.
At the surface level, this may seem to be just about the issue of homosexuality. Far deeper than that, it is also about more fundamental issues about the place of Scripture, tradition and what holds our Church together. And Western hegemony has also shaped the attitudes of some Western Anglican leaders towards their "Third World" counterparts.
The issues are of course complex. But it is a fact that the vast majority of Anglicans - both in the West and round the world - do believe that the faith of the Anglican Church should be upheld, and our Church life together does matter. In a very good sense of the word, we love the Communion and we treasure the faith heritage that has been passed down to us. If aspects of our faith, morals and pastoral practices need to be changed, then there should be a proper process of listening, discussions, debate and so on. But if these processes are ignored, then those who do so have simply chosen to walk apart.
Much of Global South’s work is to seek to positively bring "healing to the fabric”, find ways to build trust again, and relational commitments that can ensure we can do mission together without such future severe disruptions. There is a silver-lining in this crisis as it has helped bring many Anglican Provinces closer together and our communion life is richer than ever.
For those interested, I recommend that you read the latest Covenant Structure which was adopted. You can go to the globalsouthanglican.org for a copy of this as well as the accompanying communique which also expresses the voice of this Conference.
One can say, the Anglican Communion is growing up in the midst of modernity and the fast emergence of new scientific, sociological and moral ideas. While this may appear novel, it has always been this way for the Church from the infancy of her earlier centuries till now.
The Biblical words of Romans 12:1,2 continue to guide us as we seek to work out our faith in our modern contexts. And even as we pause to think about the Communion, we remind ourselves that the Christian life is lived by each of us and as a local SAC family.
It is a communion - continually shaped by the appeal of St Paul - which we have between us and shared across the world.
We have closed our grounds for gathering and picnicking by foreigners (mostly from Myanmar) for a few months now. There were some security problems which we had to manage. And there were also events like the NDP and F1 race to manage, along with the Pavilion works.
However, a team has been planning to reopen some parts of our ground. We have strengthened the involvement of our Myanmar Worship Congregation and with Revd Moses Israeli now serving as full-time clergy, we will step up our communications concerning security issues and cleanliness of the grounds. Members from other Myanmar worship congregations are also assisting. We will now fix a closing time (i.e. 5 pm).
Our BMW ministry (Befriending Migrant Workers) is also involved and we are looking forward to our continual ministry with them through the offering of English teaching classes, cooking classes, teaching life skills and so on. The Cathedral wants to continue to be welcoming to all even as we seek to find the right balance re individual freedom and communal discipline. If you would like to help in some way, please contact Lawrence Wee at email@example.com
More than just about space, may we continue to be kind and considerate towards all. May our light so shine that our Father is glorified (Matthew 5:16).
The Pavilion should be completed by mid-November. “Phase 1” would have completed, along with the completed lift at South Transept. One remaining question is the need for linkway covering at the area adjacent to the Nave if we are to remove the white tent. We know how chaotic it will be pre and post Services on Sundays, especially if it rains. On this, discussions will be ongoing with our architects and authorities.
We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of Phase 2. We are seeking approval at November’s Synod to start fund-raising, which is likely to begin in early 2020. Meanwhile, there are a lot of details to work regarding the design and we are seeking to involve many from our community at various levels to ensure there is good input for the design.
The New Sanctuary and her ancillary facilities (CNS) has served us very well since 2005, providing significant space for growth and ministry development. Phase 2 will address some of our pressing needs for space as well as creating new potential for growth. The completion of Phase 2 will also allow us to repurpose some of our present facilities. We will find various ways to update all our congregations regarding the design development and to allow for interaction and feedback channels.
"Let them deliver it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD,
and let them give it to the workmen who are in the house of the LORD to repair the damages of the house,
to the carpenters and the builders and the masons and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the house.
2 Kings 22:5,6
The brochure to raise money for our Heritage Fund is inserted in today's bulletin. It will furnish the background for the project and you should be able to see that this planning has involved many years of careful consultations and preparations.
Being good stewards with what we already have is a fundamental responsibility even as we seek to cater for growth and consider new facilities. As has often been said, the Cathedral is dripping with history from the time when the land was allocated in 1822 (which makes 2022 another bicentennial to note).
Are we doing these works because the building has been gazetted as a monument by the authorities? Common sense of stewardship responsibility would have obligated us to keep the building in good shape because of the spiritual significance of this site. She has been the centre of worship, community and city-wide witness. As an Anglican bishop remarked concerning the role of church buildings and the care we should put in the design:
"At present the Church may be mistaken for a Town Hall, a College or an Assembly Room. The strangers resorting to this great emporium of commerce have no means of knowing for what it is destined. By the erection of a tower and spire, rising about 50 feet above the balustrade of the roof, its sacred design will be manifested, and the surrounding heathen will see the honour we put upon our religion, and the care we take to mark the reverence for the solemn worship of Almighty God by the appropriate distinctions of its outward appearance." 1
Our desire to honour God through our buildings, the priority we give to worship and preserving the architectural features which distinguishes the witness of the church should continue to guide the way we maintain and build on this site. While it may be a “monumental obligation”, it is also our privilege that we have a historical building right at the heart of our land which will always mark her age (19th century) while the surrounding land is being landscaped and developed for the growth in worship and ministry needs.
As recorded for us in 2 Kings 22, restoration of the temple in Jewish history often went hand in hand with the renewal of worship and spiritual lives of the people, and in particular, the return to the Word of God.
The Word is about our discipleship/following of Christ and our witness to the world about His saving grace. This is one reason why SAC has moved beyond her Nave facility to develop further on her land. 2005 was another significant year when the Cathedral New Sanctuary (CNS) was built.
We restore to honour what we had been given (Nave and land) and yet renew it (land) for the on-going work of Word and witness.
1 Views of Bishop Daniel Wilson, Bishop of Calcutta in Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore 1819-1867, p289-290
And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.”
But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 18:20, 21
Properly speaking, I belong to two Orders. The first one happened on the 1st of May 1976 when I became a Christian. The second one happened much later when I was ordained as a deacon in the Anglican Church. The thing about “families and orders” are that they both have a stable and permanent ring to it.
These are orders one should never quit from. It is a lifelong pledge and reflects a deep sense of belonging, where one's identity and calling is wrapped up in.
In a sense, 66 confirmands joined the order of God’s family last Saturday. I can say that they have “become Anglicans”: valid not just in our diocese, but worldwide. Indeed, we welcome them warmly into the Cathedral family.
Rootedness, especially in this day and age is important. Confirmation is our traditional Anglican way of strengthening the faith of a teenager who was baptised as an infant. There will be a teaching and preparation course ("catechism”), as the teenager comes of age. Currently, the age which our Diocese has set is 14. For those who converted and were baptised as adults, it becomes a way of admittance into the Church membership.
I should add that Confirmation was normally ministered immediately after baptism and one can see the spiritual significance of the Bishop laying his hand, impart the Spirit and accepting a baptised person into the Church. This sacramental aspect of Confirmation (as a part of baptism) is somewhat lost in these days where due to practicalities, both rites are administered separately.
In the Confirmation Course, we introduce some distinctives of the Anglican Church. We are starting an Anglicanism track under our Christian Education department in 2020. The areas which will be taught over a few courses will include our Biblical beliefs/doctrines, the history of our Church and Worship and Liturgy. This will be a good way to explore further the introductory ideas taught at Confirmation and is properly speaking, our continuing Catechism track.
Apart from rooting one's faith and appreciation of His Church, it is also about being aware of the rich diversity in the Anglican Church worldwide. In fact, a good Anglican Course will even lead one to appreciate the grace gifts in other parts of the Body of Christ.
All said, the words of Jesus in Luke 18:20-21 can lead us into a deeper sense of being brothers and sisters. When we hear His Word and obey, such as forgiveness, love, humility and so on, we experience a rich fellowship in Christ. This order is more than just a permanent status, it can be a deepening experience. This is one reason why you may feel a deeper sense of kinship with a practising Christian regardless of his or her denomination affiliation.
Indeed as we are reminded in our liturgy, when we walk in the light, we will have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7).
Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4
We are familiar with the account of Jesus’ encounter with some of the fishermen-turned-disciples in Luke chapter 5. They had toiled all night without any catch. In obedience to Jesus’ command “put out into the deep”, they let down their washed nets again and had a bumper catch.
The Latin phrase Duc In Altum - "put out into the deep" - can be a prophetic rallying call. We need to move out of the shallow brackish waters of our comfort zone into the roiling deep waters of a fast-changing late post-modern and early post post-modern (!) world.
It is both a pastoral and missionary call.
In being pastoral, we have an eye on and a caring heart for the needs of our flock. The needs will range from felt ones like loneliness, fear and spiritual dryness to more intellectual needs like questions about the faith, questions arising from existential experiences of suffering or the rod lightning issues of the day such as social inequality, LGBT etc. Without over labelling, obviously the needs depend on one’s life-cycle and exposure. Those who are younger and more in tune with today’s educational and cultural formation will be more sensitive to some issues. Those who were brought up in the culture of yesteryears will have a different set of presuppositions. The interactions across the cultural sections are also keenly felt in families and some of these needs can be vicariously felt.
Using the words of Paul in Colossians 1:28, are we able to "proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ”?
The warnings of the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 11) are not just for new-Christians but applicable for the life-span of a Christian. For some, are the effects of the seeds of the Word, having grown some roots, being removed or choked? Are Christians quietly lapsing in their faith because questions are not being addressed, the presence of life-faith dissonance or the creeping and gripping effects of sin, snuffing out every sense of God’s presence in one’s life?
As for missionary, this is about evangelism and civic engagement. Are we willing to “put out into the deep” and be engaged with the seeking questions that dissatisfied citizens of today’s world are asking? Going into the deep will, of course, include our more traditional ways of incarnational mercy giving, where we quench physical thirsts before sharing the Gospel. But incarnation includes walking into the world and sharing the same table as “publicans and sinners” (Jesus in Mark 2:16) or like St Paul in Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34), being able to share the Gospel on their grounds. Indeed, what are the tables and grounds of today?
We recall the words of Jesus: “I will build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18). It seems like the Church is on the defensive and often we retreat into our own cultural and intellectual bubbles or echo chambers. But this promise is about the Church advancing and boldy (but lovingly) gate-crashing hellish parties. Are we able to? Are we willing to?
Will we gird up our loins (Ephesians 6:14) and Duc In Altum?
By now, you would have read the report in The Straits Times on 10th September about the Cathedral being given a grant of more than $1 million from National Monuments Fund for our restoration and maintenance works. We are grateful for this provision and it will go a long way towards the $6 million needed for this project. We will be starting our fund-raising soon where you will be given an opportunity to contribute.
We had a Pastors Planning Retreat this week, where we gathered for two days at a conference room in Church of our Saviour, made available through the generosity of the Vicar, Revd Daniel Wee and the parish.
We started by doing a review of some of the developments in our Cathedral life and ministry since 2016. In particular, some of these major questions have been guiding our pastoral leadership:
- What is an Anglican Cathedral right at the heart of the City called to be and do?
- How may we "watch what the Father is doing” (John 5:19) and learn to listen, discern, rely and depend on the guidance of the Lord? Often, He also speaks through circumstances and others.
- How can we strengthen our sense of community and family, where we prioritise friendships over achievements?
- How can we learn to be a "people of His presence", and be a prayerful, worshipping people and relating to each other in the fellowship of the Spirit?
- How can we build our Services that they may reflect their calling and vision? This will include seeking to grow in effectiveness in every area.
- How can we build depth in the Word, be more aware of our Anglican identity, our calling as a Mother Church and inherited role vis a vis the wider city?
- How can we address contemporary concerns confidently?
The themes we have used include:
2016-2017: Roots Down, Walls Down, Bridges Out
2018: Pursuing the Heart of God (Prayer)
2019: Year of Hope (Celebration of Hope)
We also reviewed ministry areas which have grown and some areas which have receded. We then continued the on-going process of planning for 2020 and beyond. We tried to project ahead for the next 3 years. Apart from our Services, we looked at the major areas of our ministries, including sensing where more leadership or work is needed. We will be focussing on the area of intentional discipleship and mentoring in the coming years. In terms of space, we will be preparing to work through the design details for Phase 2 and her impact on ministry possibilities post-2022.
In providing pastoral leadership, we are also aware that we are engaging our lay leadership and the whole parish. We need to contribute to an environment of trust and creative freedom where individuals can grow in their destiny (calling) and teams can flourish together.
Please continue to pray that we may be found faithful to His calling in every season.
Sometimes, enquiries are received concerning the Cathedral’s position on issues pertaining to human sexuality, including those of same-sex attraction.
When Anglican bishops gathered at the Lambeth Conference in 1998, the resolution below was debated on and accepted. This resolution frames our Diocesan stance on the matter.
Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 on 'Human Sexuality'-
- commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
- in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
- recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
- while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
- cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
- requests the Primates and the ACC (Anglican Consultative Council) to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
- notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.
Links to the fuller context for this resolution are found in the online version of this article:
For the Kuala Lumpur Statement:
Conference on Sexuality, organised by the Christian Education Department of the Cathedral
This will be held 9am to 12.30pm, 14 September, to help us navigate the confusion pertaining to matters of human sexuality. All are welcome.
"And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth,
having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they
should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him…” Acts 17:26,27
Paul's message to the Areopagus serves as a good reminder for our Bicentennial reflections. The arrival of Raffles was a pivotal moment. As our Prime Minister has said, "Raffles landed at a spot near here and persuaded the Sultan of Johor to allow the British East India Company to establish a trading post in Singapore. That was a crucial turning point in our history. It set this island on a trajectory leading to where we are today.”
Indeed, Singapore’s history is one of many arrivals throughout the centuries. Through the rise and ebb of the tides on our shores, we have become what we are today. Others are still arriving. Our city is still becoming.
Some of us have “felt our ways toward Him and found Him" (Acts 17:27a). There are many stories just within the Cathedral community herself. Our spiritual growth has been intertwined with that of the nation. Whether we are born here or belong to one of the arrivals, we have grown to love this city and nation. I have always felt that being a Christian should deepen this commitment even more, for we sense the divine call to seek the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7).
Both church and nation are richly indebted to those who have come before us. As Bishop Chiu Ban It has said in our 150th Festival Courier magazine in 1969, "If we ignore the past, we cannot understand the present or forecast the future.”
In our Bicentennial Sermon Series, we will attempt to reflect on Scriptures and our past. And in doing so insightfully, be thankful for what we have and where we are today. Various guest preachers, many who have a role in the wider society or church will be invited to guide our reflections. These sermons can also guide us to reflect deeper on our own call and the part we can play to seek first His Kingdom (rule) as a Christian and citizen.
In the Bicentennial Christmas & Thanksgiving Carol Service on 12th and 13th December, we will also have a chance to celebrate God’s blessings and favour upon our beloved nation over the past 200 years. Hosted in our Nave, the Diocese of Singapore, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) and the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Singapore are the co-organisers of this event.
The evening’s programme will include organ recitals and the ringing of the Bells. The main service programme will be anchored by the Choir of Sidney Sussex College Cambridge and a Combined Church Choir of Singapore. The event on the 12th is an open Service whereas the one on the 13th will be by invitation only.
The last significant work to the building was done in 1991/92 when the roof tiles had to be completely replaced. Some plaster repair and repainting works were also carried out at that time, together with other minor works within the building.
Periodic repainting has been carried out since then. Our building faces the usual effects of weathering but over time, unsightly plaster peeling and blistering has surfaced. Since 2012, we have been testing various options to find a more permanent solution. We also compared notes with recent repair works in other historic buildings in the city and West Malaysia. Solutions have been explored and tested and the team has arrived at some conclusions.
The Building and Development Committee (BDC) set up an RWC in 2018, comprising members from English and Mandarin congregation to plan the work and see to its implementation, working with staff from our Estate Management team. Advised by Prof Yeo Kang Shua, our Conservation Advisor, the Restoration Works Committee (headed by Lee Chi Kuan) have tested and arrived at a workable solution.
Replastering and repainting areas on the internal and external walls will be the costlier aspects of the next phase of works. As we look closely at some areas, we are likely to encounter new issues which will need to be resolved, adding to the costs. The team had to do works on the Bell Tower recently and encountered unforeseen issues. That was a good place for the team to build up their experience and projections for other areas in the building.
As mentioned in April's AGM, we are estimating the costs of the next phase of restoration works to be around the region of $6 million. We are grateful to be given a grant of $977,000 by the Preservations of Sites and Monuments for this project. We also received another pledge of $750,000. The rest will have to be raised and soon, we will make known to the congregations how they can contribute.
Other works will include electrical works to remove unsightly cabling that grew along with the changing needs in the Nave. There will be the eventual replacement of internal and external façade lighting, and the air cooling system and timely to do a review of our fire prevention measures and safety issues.
Below is a fuller list of areas which will be covered in the next phase of restoration works:
- Plaster and painting of the external and Internal walls of the main building and the Transepts.
- Electrical works – below floor channeling for cables, relocation of sub-distribution board (DB) at the back of South Aisle, replacement of lighting fixtures to the interior and the external facade, replacement of air-cooling system and plumbing work at the vestry and sacristy.
- Fenestrations – work on the clerestories, protective glazing for the stained glass at the East windows and west porch; repair of window frames
- Carpentry / joinery – Repair or restore pews, stalls, wood furniture, windows,
- Replacing the West Porch gate with glass door
- Poultice marble cleaning, replacement of carpet, wood floor
- Washing of roof tiles, and
- Cleaning / restoring memorial plaques, artefacts
- Cleaning of roof slates
The Cathedral is a part of the civic district and has a significant place in terms of heritage and as a tourist attraction. Our building needs to be kept in a good state of repair as a witness to our sense of stewardship and responsibility.
We had an unexpected record attendance of 766 at our Evensong cum Organ-Bells Commissioning Service last Sunday. We are grateful for the huge support and interest in our Cathedral heritage and music.
In my sermon, I reminded all present that church music and arts were inspired by our worship of God and the proclamation of the Gospel. Quoting one of our previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, who said this to address the rise of liberal Catholicism in the Anglican Church:
“The full recovery of the doctrine of the Church is bound up with the return of the Gospel of God. Catholicism, created by the Gospel, finds its power in terms of the Gospel alone. Neither the massive polity of the Church, nor its devotional life, nor its traditions in order and worship can in themselves serve to define Catholicism; for all these things have their meaning in the Gospel, wherein the true definition of Catholicism is found.” 1
Indeed, the musical instruments, architectural and cultural heritage of the Church find their meaning in the Gospel. Even as we restore, refurbish and enhance our music heritage, we remind ourselves what they are purposed for. May we not lose the whole purpose of why we do what we do, as C.S. Lewis had warned:
"Every poet, musician and artist, but for grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling, till down in deep hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him.” 2
This is a reminder for every artist: musicians, organists, flower arrangement teams, bell ringers and yes, even writers, pastors and preachers! May we not be drawn away from the "love of the thing we tell to a love of the telling."
St Paul will tell young Pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:14 - "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” We are stewards over the church’s treasures, both temporal and spiritual. Our role is about passing on the treasures of the Church faithfully.
Now that the pipes are fully restored and the bell project is almost complete, the restoration and repair works in the Nave will continue in earnest. I should pause to add that we have also “recovered” the beautiful and regal room at the Bell Tower. Those who are involved in the Bell-ringing ministry will get to enjoy that space.
Indeed, our Cathedral is a place that is dripping with history and amazing stories from the past. With the guidance of our PCC, Heritage Committee and Staff team, may we continue to unearth, preserve, remember and tell the story better to a new generation. The wider society is also interested in our past and heritage. We have a duty to serve the society well in this regard.
As Bp Chiu Ban It said in the Courier magazine released for the 150th year festival in 1969: "If we ignore the past, we cannot understand the present or forecast the future."
1 A.M. Ramsey, The Gospel and the Catholic Church, (London: Longmans, Green, 1956), p. 179.
2 C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “...when you shall gather together for an assembly, you shall sound, … and the priests,
the sons of Aaron, shall sound with the trumpets; and it shall be to you a perpetual statute throughout your generations.” Numbers 10:10
From days of old, long before we had other ways to send signals to the community, big sounds created from things were used - such as loud musical instruments, bells, gongs, cymbals, etc. The sounds acted as signals to direct the community as to what was to be done, who to do it and when. These sounds were signals to guide people who were moving together.
We see some of that in the passage from Numbers 10:1-10 amongst the Israelite community. Trumpet sounds were used to call to assembly, to break camp in an orderly fashion, to rally troops during war and of course, to add to joyous feasts of worship and celebration. Sounds added an auditory sense to remembrance, that they may remember that He is the Lord their God.
These traditions were carried over to Christian communities and churches as well. Since the late 19th century, our Cathedral bells rung to signal that a worship or prayer service was about to start. It was also a time teller, announcing the coming of the night and alerting town folks of evening curfew time, and they should be careful if they were still on the streets. It was as if the sound of bells was breathing a prayer from our compline: “Lighten our darkness we beseech thee, O Lord, and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night…"
Our city and audio landscape have changed significantly over the years. Today, there is little ‘communal hearings’ beyond the occasional testing of the city’s security siren. We have sounds - lots of it - but as a cacophony from the malls and streets. And some are only heard - often very loudly - within one’s ear canal. Using earphones of noise-cancelling grade, the rest of the city is shut out.
Hearing together: how we miss that! In a modern and highly individualised society, where increasing atomisation is replacing social connection, privacy rights above community, we may be losing some communal treasures of old.
Coming back to our bells, their significance, enhanced by the latest refurbishment and restoration, will continue to carry many layers of significance. As a faithful and constant sound, it will continue to remind us that with changing times, "Jesus is still the same, yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). It will remind us to align our lives with His Kingdom purposes. It will remind us that many who had their sounds in the past had been resilient in their faith, even in moments of great suffering.
As a city sound, while it no longer has the same function in our changed landscape, it should still ring to remind the city of her need for transcendence in a very material and temporal world.
Some of you may have read media reports that SAC was considering closing down our Child Development Centre (CDC) at Jurong West St 51. This decision was not undertaken lightly and we were responding to the financial struggles our childcare centre has been facing these past few years.
SAC is not adverse to seeing this as a ministry and supporting the work financially. But we were also asking all the hard questions of due diligence as this is a sector which is known to be self-funding or even profit-making. If the demand from the community has dropped after serving her in this manner for 30 over years, we did wonder if we should shift our attention to another need in the community. After all, this childcare work was driven by the call to serve the community.
I am sharing this so that you are aware of the values and principles which drive the way the Church stewards her resources. Apart from finances, what is sometimes not seen is the high level of human leadership and pastoral resources invested in every community work we do.
Over seventy concerned parents cared enough to give us feedback and offered some support. They are telling us that this work is still valued by the community. Encouraged by that, our management team, led by Soh Kim Seng, worked on a practical plan to strengthen the work. This gave the PCC good enough reasons to make a decision to continue running this centre.
We were also helped by Minister Desmond Lee’s visit to the centre last Friday (26th July). Coincidentally, he is the Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF) and also the Jurong GRC MP. MSF and MOE jointly oversee the pre-school sector through her agency, ECDA (Early Childhood Development Agency). We discussed practical ways which can help the centre to do better, including seeking grants for families which may be struggling with paying the fees. We are also in discussions with our Anglican pre-school arm, St James’ Pre-school Services (SJPS) to find various ways to strengthen our programmes and training of teachers.
This work started in 1986 and was officially opened by Bishop Moses Tay in 1987. It has a wonderful theme “Let the children come to Me” and paintings on the wall illustrate this. She has been a blessing to many children and their families all these years. Our Westside Anglican Church has been offering active chaplaincy support.
We can say that things are looking up for this centre. Last Saturday morning, many parents turned up to support the teachers, and the joy on their faces can be seen on our bulletin banner.
We cherish your continual support and prayers. If some of you feel led to serve in our Management Committee, do email our chairman at firstname.lastname@example.org
“We are heirs to the past, stewards of the present and trustees for the future.”
- from a 1959 SAC Stewardship Campaign brochure.
Towards the end of the Gospel of Matthew, we encounter one of the parables of Jesus which has a unique and forceful message. It focuses on the idea of potential. I am referring to the Parable of the Talents. The servants who were able to multiply the Master’s money were praised. The one who buried the money, fearing that it will be lost, was damned. Let’s hear it again:
"You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 24:26-30
As you read Matthew 24, which also contains the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, the context becomes clearer. A parable, like all stories, has a point or a main message. It is not just teaching a business principle, i.e. if you don’t multiply your money, you are being irresponsible. In fact, this common principle, already practised in ancient societies, became an illustration for a wider message, which is found in verses 23 and 29:
"You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much...For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
In context, it is obvious that this is an indictment against the Jewish religious leaders who stood against the teachings of Jesus and His flock. Those who have been "entrusted much" were having a gatekeeper mentality. They were “insufficient” for what God is doing (Virgins), they did not count as their own those who were persecuted and instead acted as perpetrators (Sheep and Goats) and they “safeguarded” their religious inheritance over and against the work of God which was “multiplying” His saving grace to be inclusive of Gentiles as well.
And when we really think about it, the message of this parable can be timeless and applicable across many cultures and epochs of time, in “time and space”, a phrase which I often use. We who have inherited a rich work of God from the past have a tendency to resist the new ways in which newer generations are being reached and blessed.
We are asked to be faithful with what He has given us. Some of us have much, others are given less. This includes authority as well. Faithfulness extends beyond gate-keeping and "keeping it safe." It is about being faithful to the task and call.
Think of what Singapore has become, two hundred years after Raffles landed. Think of the religious freedom we have here, and thus, the freedom to share the Gospel. Think of what we possess: good education, wealth, health, influence and so on. What are we doing with all these for the sake of His Kingdom?
And as a Cathedral family, we ponder on our strategic location, rich heritage, potential for Gospel influence, cross-cultural missions, Mother Church role and so on.
Will we bury what we have? Or will we multiply it?
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
I can still remember vividly how the words of Psalm 131 spoke out to me during one of my morning devotions. It sustained me during a heady period of involvement in the work of Global South and Communion work in the period post 2003, speaking to me continuously as our small diocese grappled with complex issues affecting our Communion.
The "things were definitely too great and too marvellous for me” and I had to find freedom from being over-occupied with the politics of the Communion. I had felt during this period that this sense of deep inadequacy was important, of “letting go”, that these affairs may not crush my spirit and affect my work as a Vicar then (St James’ Church), which relatively, seemed so small, so local and yet, was my saving grace during that period. I can remember having to give a sermon in one of her Services after organising a very eventful Conference where I found myself caught in the middle of an ecclesiastical storm. I was emotionally so depleted that I felt that if the Lord had not helped, I would have nothing to say to that small congregation.
Then, and many times since then, I have known humility as a precious gift that has kept me "saint and sane.” I don’t think that one can ever attain this elusive gift. It is a very deepening cry for more of it and in turn, the cry is an experience in and of itself (thus, the title of this article). St Paul phrased it in another way in Romans 12:3, “I bid everyone of you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…” St Francis of Assisi used to say, “What a man is before God, that he is and no more.”
The work of humility is a quest for one’s true self, saving us from blind ambition (ambition of the will) and self-delusion (presumption of the mind). If God “raises the humble and despises the proud” (see this amazing set of repeated quotes throughout the Bible: Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 3:34; Proverbs 29:23; Matthew 23:12; Luke 1:52; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5), this is because humility brings a person closest to the truth.
“What have you that you did not receive?”, as Paul will cry out in 1 Cor 4:7. And he went on to say, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” The Bible leads us to this sense of pure nothingness, that we may be able to “Count others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). Freeing us from egoism, humility lowers us to elevate others.
Jesus did not just stop at teaching self-humility. He moved to serve others (washing feet). Then He embraced humiliation. He went from the upper room to the cross. It is one thing to think to ourselves that we are lowly, quite another when others think we really are! To allow others to tell us the truth about ourselves - through rebukes, corrections and criticism, to the point of humiliation - is to find true freedom. To the Pharisees, Jesus said, “How can you believe who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes only from the only God” (John 5:44). In refusing to seek glory from others, we save ourselves from “vainglory”, an old English word which has gone out of fashion these days. St Paul said, “To keep me from being too elated…a thorn was given me…” Humiliating experiences bring us closer to the truth.
And St Paul went even further when he said we should complete his joy by being of the same mind as Christ (see Philippians 2:2-5). What mind? In 2:8, “Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus who…humbled himself.” Humility has now gone beyond the work of man to the work of God which we must imitate. “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart”, words that can come only from a true Human Being in Matt 11:29.
So much needs to be said but within this limited space, we have tried to grapple with one of the best virtues that Christianity has given to mankind. In our world today, this idea is still mocked at. In the different Asian cultures we grew up in, some of these core ideas don’t fit. In the church, we struggle with keeping the world out of the very value which Jesus has laid for us (himself and literally) as our foundation.
May we constantly pursue this truth, a pursuit which in itself, is a partaking.
Last Sunday, Revd Hambali Leonardi and Revd Calvin Wee were priested. They have served for more than a year as deacons. A clergy grows in community and may we continue to provide an encouraging environment for them to grow in their leadership and ministry.
Hambali is currently serving as Service Pastor of the eleven:30 Service. He also serves in the 9 am Service Team, which is currently headed by her Service Pastor,
Ds Bessie Lee. Hambali also leads our Alpha Course ministry team. Calvin will assume the role of the Service Pastor for 4.30 pm Service. He will also serve in the 8 am Service Team. He is also the clergy in charge of our Worship and Creative Arts Ministry (WCAM).
Moses Israeli was also made a deacon. He has served for many years now in our CITY Community Services and our Myanmar Worship Service (MWS). His Archbishop, Stephen Than was present to pray and lay hands on him, along with another bishop from the Province of Myanmar, Bishop David Nyi. Moses has also just completed his studies at Trinity Theological College and should be able to focus full-time on the pastoral needs of MWS and also assist in our outreach to foreign workers.
As of 16th June 2019, as he turned 67, Revd Freddy Lim retired from his employment as a clergy of the Diocese of Singapore. The Cathedral has decided to re-engage him as an Auxiliary Clergy. In our next issue of the Courier magazine, we will do a more complete write up of his ministry journey. Indeed retirement is an important milestone where we can pause to reflect and give thanks for the ministry of our clergymen and pastors.
As a part of our leadership renewal, Revd Freddy will step down as Service Pastor of the 4.30 pm Service but he will continue to assist with the work of pastoring as clergy in that Service and in the wider community at SAC. He remains Service Pastor of the Hokkien Service.
I should pause to say something about the special ministry of my clergy brothers who have retired but continue to serve as Auxiliary Clergy. Their names are listed on the front page of the bulletin. As people live longer and healthier, the government and society in general are constantly debating and reviewing the age of retirement and the associated process. I will leave the details of the debate to another forum. On balance, we have found it fitting to find various ways to enable them to continue their pastoral ministry.
Indeed a clergy-member relationship is unique and an important source of support as one traverses through life. As one ages into senior years, life has its own challenges and various forms of alienation will set in. It helps that the Church can provide a stable point of pastoral connection for the community through clergy and pastors who are familiar with fellow ageing members with a shared history. Generally, we try to encourage them to focus on direct pastoring and leave the leadership and management responsibilities to our regular clergy. This also fits well with the idea that a clergy is called for life and can continue to serve in whatever capacity his health will enable him.
The Bells have returned! They rolled in majestically on a 40-foot trailer on the 28th of June. It was quite a sight to behold for those who were blessed to catch those moments. Last December, they were removed and shipped to John Taylor and Co. in Loughborough, where they were refurbished and five new bells were casted, bringing our set to 13.
Now that they are back, there seems to be an air of excitement. It seems that even those who wouldn’t consider themselves as enthusiasts are awed by the presence and sight of them up close. Various works are being done at, the bell tower and in one or two weeks time, they will be hung up. In due course, we will share more information about the bells and the bell-ringing ministry. It is likely that by early August, we will hear them ring again.
The bells will be on the ground for another week or so. This Sunday, for some part of the day, the bells will be on display and docents will be on hand to answer questions.
Meanwhile, we are grateful that the organ project is completed. Some may not realise that during a period from the 1970s to 2008, our organ was completely electronic. The pipes fell into disuse during this period. The project to restore the pipes, some which are more than a hundred years old, began in 2008. The first phase involved 400 over pipes. The second phase, which began in 2017, involved 600 over pipes. They have been refurbished and were installed last month. One set of pipes was placed at the South Vestry to accompany the choir. The other set of 12 wood pipes now stand on either side of the silver organ pipes at the West gallery. The pipes whether in the Vestry or the West Gallery, can be played from the same console without complications. The sound from this combination organ is now richer and fuller.
We are very grateful for both the Bells and Organ committees for their passion and hard work. In persevering and enhancing our rich heritage, we pray that the Lord will continue to be glorified in and through his Church.
We plan to commission the organ and the bells on the 11th of August at the 5 pm Service.
We are recruiting new members for the bell ringing ministry, which is headed by Benjamin Tai and Andrew Ang. If you are relatively fit and have a passion and call to be involved, please write in and tell us something about yourself and your interest to join us. Email: email@example.com
On 1st of July, I would have completed four years of ministry as Vicar here. There is much that Jennifer and I can be thankful for. We have been warmly welcomed by each of you. We have found new friends and made new acquaintances. PCC and lay leaders have been supportive. My fellow clergy, deaconesses, pastors and staff have worked well together in a season of change which is not always easy to navigate.
The ministry, calling and life here is very rich. There is a wonderful co-ownership of the calling and ministry responsibilities here. While I have to provide leadership in some areas, very often it is about permissioning, as many of you have become vision-bearers in your area of gift or influence.
Some changes have been visible. Such as, the cafe, the new position of the sound console in the Nave, the new eleven:30 Service, dropping the 7.30 pm Service, the refurbished organ pipes and bells, the new Pavilion (under construction) etc. Communications have been kept current with a new look bulletin, website, active social media, an SAC app, etc.
New ministries include the dynamic eleven:30 service where young people are leading and vision-bearing, the new thrust in heritage work with the new Heritage Committee, a "delicious" Food Ministry, DCBS and Faith and Life tracks, Cathedral Podcast, the Befriending Migrant Workers ministry, the ministry to the Homeless, a new Family Life Ministry and the latest kid on the block, the Tamil Service. The renewed Intercessors Ministry has also played a key role as we sought the mind of the Lord together. They have helped host some milestone intercession events. Creative Arts, music and worship in both the Nave and CNS have been refreshed as well. Every Christmas@Cathedral was eventful. We have had some memorable and inspiring concerts and recitals in the Nave, some by our own choirs and members, others from without. And of course, this year’s Celebration of Hope was a milestone experience for SAC, and the effects are still reverberating.
We can be thankful for every area that we sense has been refreshed, growing or showing signs of life and fruitfulness.
Some changes or growth signs are less visible and indeed difficult to measure. Are we more loving as a community? Are we more welcoming? Are we more mission or evangelism minded? Are we more prayerful? Are we more open to the work of the Spirit? Areas that are less tangible or measurable can be very important.
And have there been mistakes, a weakening or reversals? There are not a few, as we reflect back. Lessons can be learned. And yet, we should not lose our joy when things are less than perfect. I am sure I have made leadership or pastoral mistakes or been found wanting in some areas. You may know some. The Lord certainly knows - all. We continue to allow His grace to work within our lives, transforming us into His likeness day by day. I have said in my first message shared at the Camp in 2015, that I hope I will continue to grow as a Christian as I journey with this new family and find mutual encouragement. Indeed, I have.
Some clergy and staff have moved on. Some have retired. Some are serving in a different season as auxiliary clergy. And a few have returned home to the Lord. Just recently, we bid farewell to Chay Sing Wah, a long standing and active member here. Saying goodbye is always difficult.
I often ponder on the seasons shared together and friendships experienced. I am reminded of some of the lyrics from Wayne Watson’s “A Season in your Path”:
I guess God alone deciphers
When people need each other most
Who will be the blessed receiver
And who will be the gracious host
And all a servant here can do
Is unto the Lord avail
Content at times to be the wind
And at times to be the sail
Some old memories make me cry
Remembering the good times makes me laugh
But all inall I'm richer
For the happy and the sad
And I'm thankful for a season in your path.
"Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12: 26-29
June is traditionally a “break” month for many of us. Some of us may go on family vacations while others may be gathered at church camps or conferences.
Some of us who were at the 9 am Service Camp in Bangkok were blessed by the rich fellowship and the Word sharing by Bishop Moses and Cynthia Tay. I will document here a sermon by Bishop Tay which he shared on the last morning of the Camp, the one message he gave as Cynthia was doing most of the teaching.
He reminded us of the “shaking” on Pentecost Sunday in 1986. The roof of the Nave cracked due to the MRT underground works. It was an event which also precipitated the idea of a new Service at Victoria Concert Hall, which eventually started in 1989. This Service celebrated her 30th Anniversary this year. Having grown and given birth to both the Saturday 4.30 pm and Sunday Eleven:30 Service, indeed there is much to give thanks for.
He shared how he was humoured by a letter sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury then, conveying condolences for the “loss of the Cathedral”! It was just a crack at the roof and the Cathedral was still standing. But God's Word reminds us that everything in the world can be shaken as God is a consuming fire. What are the values which will stand in God’s Kingdom?
Firstly, he pointed to the need for oneness.The unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:23 is more than just a unity of purpose. It should involve the very essence of our spiritual “being.” For this is a unity in Christ and with one another. We need to surrender everything to God: our gifts, discernment, habits, successes and lifestyles. We need to hear, listen and obey.
Secondly, we need to love as Christ loved us. It is a kind of love which involves laying down our lives for one another. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends “ (John 15:13). Will we? Can we? Only by the grace of God. It is a love which is self-giving, where our self is "laid down” that another may be blessed.
Thirdly, we need to be prayerful. Being intimate with the Lord and staying in touch with him keep us authentic. We should not pretend to be what we are not. Cheap fakes will be shaken and will not last in His Kingdom.
Bishop Tay’s mind is sharp as ever though his raspy voice has noticeably weakened. He is 81 now, and given that the Bible speaks about 80 years being a time given by God, he said he feels like a "one year old” all over again, given the physical limitations he is experiencing from day to day. Many of us have experienced him as a spiritual father and may his life and ministry continue to speak and inspire us.
|6 Nov |
Missions & Evangelism
|2 Oct |
The Power of God
|4 Sep |
The Joy of the Lord
|7 Aug |
The Urgency of Time
|3 Jul |
A Different Worldview
|4 Dec||Are you ready for Advent?|
|6 Nov||Missions & Evangelism|
|2 Oct||The Power of God|
|4 Sep||The Joy of the Lord|
|7 Aug||The Urgency of Time|
|3 Jul||A Different Worldview|
|8 May||Who are we?|
|3 Apr||He died in our place|
|6 Mar||The one who endures|