Assembling Together

Assembling Together

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All 2018 July Vicar Writes

29 July 2018 | Vicar Writes

Assembling Together

By Terry Wong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We pray. We desire. We fast. Together.

Photo
22 July 2018 | Vicar Writes

Life and Death

By Terry Wong

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

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

It is a book about life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life and "unlife" truly matters.

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

15 July 2018 | Vicar Writes

Shepherding People Into The Kingdom

By Terry Wong

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 July 2018 | Vicar Writes

Helping The Cathedral To Dig Deeper

By Terry Wong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Church is digging deep when each of you participates.

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