Vicar Writes


All 2018 August Vicar Writes

26 Aug 2018

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 Aug 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Aug 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Aug 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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