A Time For Every Matter

A Time For Every Matter

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All 2018 April Vicar Writes

29 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

A Time For Every Matter

By Terry Wong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Cathedral AGM: Why Should I Be There?

By Terry Wong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's continue to be faithful in this pilgrimage.

15 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

About Service Camps and Foreigners on our Grounds

By Terry Wong

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the points of our discussion:

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

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

8 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

Praying Together

By Terry Wong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 April 2018 | Vicar Writes

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

By Terry Wong
Photo

Why should anyone believe in a crucified Messiah?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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