"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.
8 February 2020 | Vicar Writes
A Word For The Week
By Terry Wong
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."
2 February 2020 | Vicar Writes
Developing the Worship and Liturgy in the Nave
By Terry Wong
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.
25 January 2020 | Vicar Writes
Living a Rule of Life
By Terry Wong
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.
18 January 2020 | Vicar Writes
Called to Community
By Terry Wong
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.
11 January 2020 | Vicar Writes
Some Heads-Up For 2020
By Terry Wong
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.
4 January 2020 | Vicar Writes
Why I Write
By Terry Wong
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.
28 December 2019 | Vicar Writes
Of Creeds and Covenants
By Terry Wong
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!
22 December 2019 | Vicar Writes
Inspired By Those We Sing Of
By Terry Wong
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.
15 December 2019 | Vicar Writes
Walking On Egg Shells?
By Terry Wong
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!)
8 December 2019 | Vicar Writes
By Terry Wong
"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).
My fellow brothers and sisters, whether you are a citizen, resident or visitor, join in to give Him the honour and praise!
1 December 2019 | Vicar Writes
The Christian Year and Lectionary
By Terry Wong
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
17 November 2019 | Vicar Writes
Blessed To Be A Blessing
By Terry Wong
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.
10 November 2019 | Vicar Writes
By Terry Wong
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.
3 November 2019 | Vicar Writes
Receiving from the Lord at the Communion
By Terry Wong
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.
27 October 2019 | Vicar Writes
In quietness, I imagine a place where…
By Terry Wong
“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.
20 October 2019 | Vicar Writes
“Not Conformed… but Transformed”
By Terry Wong
Delegates at the 7th Global South Conference in Cairo, Egypt, 8th-11th October
"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.
13 October 2019 | Vicar Writes
A Note About Our Northwest Quadrant
By Terry Wong
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.
6 October 2019 | Vicar Writes
Restoring and Renewing
By Terry Wong
"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
29 September 2019 | Vicar Writes
Of Brothers and Sisters
By Terry Wong
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).
22 September 2019 | Vicar Writes
Duc In Altum
By Terry Wong
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?
15 September 2019 | Vicar Writes
Looking Back and Ahead
By Terry Wong
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.
8 September 2019 | Vicar Writes
On Human Sexuality
By Terry Wong
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:
"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.
25 August 2019 | Vicar Writes
Restoration Works to our Cathedral Building
By Terry Wong
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
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.
18 August 2019 | Vicar Writes
Loving The Thing We Tell
By Terry Wong
A bird's eye view of the Nave, filled to capacity at the Commissioning Service last Sunday, 11 August 2019.
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.
11 August 2019 | Vicar Writes
By Terry Wong
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.
4 August 2019 | Vicar Writes
Renewing our Commitment to serve the Jurong Community
By Terry Wong
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
28 July 2019 | Vicar Writes
Bury or Multiply?
By Terry Wong
“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?
21 July 2019 | Vicar Writes
The Cry for..and the Cry of Humility
By Terry Wong
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.
14 July 2019 | Vicar Writes
By Terry Wong
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.
7 July 2019 | Vicar Writes
Refreshing the Sounds of the Cathedral
By Terry Wong
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
30 June 2019 | Vicar Writes
Thankful for a Season in Your Path
By Terry Wong
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.
23 June 2019 | Vicar Writes
Will Cathedral Stand?
"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.
15 June 2019 | Vicar Writes
The “ABCDE” of Small Groups in the Cathedral (Part 2)
By Terry Wong
Last week, I shared about Alpha and Baptism/Confirmation. Please refer to it at cathedral.org.sg/abcde1 if you have missed it.
stands for our Connect Groups (CGs). We have currently over 90 CGs meeting in different homes in the city. Our CGs are given the freedom to decide when to meet, frequency and what materials to use. We only ask CG leaders to stay accountable and keep their pastors informed. These groups are “open” groups in that guests or visitors are welcome to join. These groups help to keep the Cathedral small and provide the context for spiritual friendship, mutual pastoral support and shared ministry. Most times, they will be gathered over Worship and the Word, with generous time given to makan and fellowship. One can say that CGs are the mainstay of the community life of SAC. A, B, D and E groups meet only for a season whereas CG stay together for a long time. It is not uncommon for CG members to be also involved in the other small groups for a season. Yet, a CG will remain a “home” where one has a steady sense of belonging.
stands for Discipleship Groups (DGs). It is a group that forms for a period of time, with a commitment to pursue studying of God’s Word together and sharing deeper about life and faith. It is a “closed” group and it may last from 6 months to two years. Currently, these groups are formed in an adhoc manner. Some Connect Groups function like DGs. Here, we also run the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Course (EHS) which has a more classical approach to helping Christians to grow. The small groups in EHS also provide the context for change and growth and normally will last for three months. In integrating more classical practices of Christian spirituality, the course can be misunderstood as being Roman Catholic or even heretical. Any keen student of Church history will know that there are practices that have grown with the church right from her early inception, such as meditation, silence and space. In fact the Anglican Church continues to keep some of these practices and there are streams which place more emphasis on it. The modern "post-Enlightenment“ church places a lot of emphasis on the mind, word and concepts, especially in evangelical circles. In recent years, many churches in Singapore have rediscovered some of these spiritual treasures. These practices were developed from the monastic movements in the early centuries (i.e. 2nd century onwards) as saints sought to live in holiness as the church. The monastic movement grew even more intensely as Christianity became more mainstream (i.e the Constantine era) and engulfed by wealth and the usual temptations that come with it. It is not surprising that Christians today are discovering these classical ways to practise their faith.
stands for equipping leaders. These are small groups formed for a focused purpose of mentoring or helping one to grow in his or her leadership responsibilities. Some of these mentoring relationships can be one on one. As a structured programme, we have left E to a more ad hoc approach. Developing leaders is something which I am very conscious of all the time, though I tend to lean more on organic rather than organised ways. A good environment and encouraging culture can encourage those with potential leadership gifts to surface. That said, a more extensive and intentional approach will definitely help SAC to build a stronger leadership base. This is something we need to approach with some urgency as the church is growing steadily. With Phase 2, there will be another season of growth. If we want to see SAC growing into a strong Christian community, good leaders who are able to pastor and disciple others will be important.
Small groups are critical to the life of the Cathedral. The modern city church has grown too large with emphases placed on large Worship Services which are run theatre-style with little community experiences. An ABDCE group is the backbone or spine of the Church. When they are working well, SAC will have the means to minister deeply and personally to each person joining us to seek after Christ. May we be found faithful in our dealings with every person entrusted to our community.
8 June 2019 | Vicar Writes
The “ABCDE” of Small Groups in the Cathedral (Part 1)
By Terry Wong
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you havelove for one another. John 13:34,35
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19
Post-CoH, we are giving sharper attention to personal discipleship. Understanding our context may help each of you to consider how you may be involved.
The "small group” approach is important to us. For ease of reference, we call it ABCDE.
Firstly, we have Alpha small groups, where seekers are being helped to discover the Christian Faith. Alpha is not just about the video talks, inspiring as they are. Actually the strength of the Alpha Course - and you will be surprised to hear this - is not found in the Course itself. I smile when I read online both the extreme praises as well as criticisms of the course which seem to assume that the Course itself is key to everything. Actually, every Course is about the small groups. Alpha is the local church community on display and in action. It is about the church community up close and in proximity with non-believers. A quick conversation about the Gospel at a bus-stop with a stranger is about an encounter with Christ. A ten week journey of small group relationships is also about encountering Christ, but as experienced through the Christian community. And so the key focus is not on how attractive the Course is, or how well it should be run, but whether we are attracting people to Christ.
It is back to the question of loving and welcoming one another. If the words of Jesus here and in the Great Commission are to be understood together, gospel proclamation is just a small part. It is in the "making of disciples” through the life of the community that people are being drawn to Christ. The phrase “too close for comfort” best describes what each small group in Alpha seeks to provide. If you are willing to be real in allowing God's grace and love to be seen through your life, you can be a real blessing. Forget about anxiously trying to convert people. Be real and love them into the Kingdom.
stands for Baptism/Confirmation. The Baptism and Confirmation Course is actually one Course in two parts. Again, this course places emphasis on small groups. While like Alpha, there is teaching at the start, it is through the small groups that new believers are being helped to grow in their faith. The Confirmation Course allows us to talk about matters peculiar to an Anglican Church and our vision and values as a Cathedral. Here, we also seek to help believers transferring from other church traditions. We are not seeking to “Anglicanise” participants. But we want them to be introduced to our traditions so that they can be enriched and equipped to worship comfortably with us. What is the Nicene Creed? What is the Trinity? Why do we do the things we do? Why do we worship the way we do? Why should we be pledging or giving free-will offerings? How are these monies used? All these are talked about at our Confirmation Course.
We also seek to supplement the Baptism Course with “Barnabas” groups, a reference to the more generic term, "Follow-Up groups.” Barnabas groups lean more on the personal things that a new Christian needs to be aware of such as how can one be assured about their faith, read the Bible or do the daily devotion. As we only run two Baptism Courses per year, the ad hoc nature and flexibility of this small group ensure that we are always giving priority to the needs of new believers. The initiative comes from the ground, so to speak. If you are a mature and responsible believer, you can certainly do your part to help. Oftentimes, the new believer may be a friend and you are the best person to spend some time with him or her. The New Life Kit, a local Anglican resource is very useful in this regard. We also encourage the use of other materials. These are on sale at the Welcome Centre.
I will leave CDE to next week’s bulletin.
2 June 2019 | Vicar Writes
You Are Important To God And Us
By Terry Wong
I have been hearing much feedback and testimonies from members about their experiences of the Celebration of Hope. Do find some opportunity to share your testimonies. Some of you can also write in as these testimonies can be of encouragement to the wider body. Do email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your thoughts or feedback.
Let’s also be alert to the opportunities to welcome new Christians or seekers who drop into our Services every weekend. If you would like to find out more about the Christian faith, do have a chat with the pastors after the Service. We will also be starting the 10-week Alpha Course on 10 July. This Course is geared towards those inquiring about the Christian faith. There will be a good home-cooked meal served as a way of helping everyone to settle in and get into the mood for conversations. Then there will be a video talk cum documentary on topics like “Who is Jesus?”, “What is the Bible all about?” and so on. What follows immediately is perhaps the best part of the Course: participants meet in small groups to explore the issues of life and faith together in a fun and safe environment where the views of every participant are respected.
I have met many whose lives have been transformed after they attended Alpha. I will always say that issues of life deserve our commitment of time to explore. You will not regret giving time to this. Join in for one session and you can always decide if you want to stay on. And many do!
We are also hoping to start some Follow-up Groups. What are these? These groups are helpful for new Christians who would need to be helped to practise their new found faith. Write in to email@example.com if you have any questions on this.
For those who want to strengthen their basis for faith in our modern world, we are also running the Faith & Life Course - “What does Science have to do with God and me?" - where there will be a dedicated team which will be guiding and facilitating the learning process. There has been an acceleration of scientific learning and findings, fuelled by instant and easy communication between scientific communities all around the world. How do these square with what we believe with life and the world? Do you have questions that sometimes trouble you or cause you to have questions about your faith? I will encourage you to take this opportunity to attend this unique course which is available on our doorsteps.
Life is not just about knowledge and learning. It is also about relationships and belonging. We have over 90 Connect Groups which meet all over the city. I am sure you can find a group which you can fit into.
No one should have to go through the rigours of life alone. Even if you are a loner, the fact is we are all a part of a community. At times, we can’t cope with life alone. There are seasons in life which can turn suddenly into dark and cold winters. No one is an island. Those around you can help. Suicide is never an option for it will inevitably affect those around you. As one way of ending life, it passes on the problems and griefs to others. There is such a thing as dying well and suicide is not that. Look for help please.
24 May 2019 | Vicar Writes
Thank You for Praying, Serving and Reaching Out
By Terry Wong
Altar call at the English/Filipino rally
"...as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving,
to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 4:15
There is much that has happened in CoH last weekend which we can give thanks for. However, on this space, I want to give thanks for the way the SAC community has served and participated.
Photos by Roger Deng & Edwin Arokiyam
Firstly, the stance of praying. Since the Solemn Assemblies last year, there has been a continuous chain of prayer gatherings. The deep commitment to seek the Lord has been very edifying and I trust this will change our communal prayer life for the better. We are thankful to Pastor Lian Swan and her intercessory team for their unwavering and inspiring commitment to intercession and a deep desire for revival for our church, city and nations around us.
Leading in worship at the English/Filipino rally
Secondly, the stance of serving. It was challenging. Briefings to attend. The long hours on Sunday morning. We struggled to fill the number of volunteers but I know each one of you did your best to step in to help. Some of you couldn’t and your prayers for the event were good enough. Some of our staff worked very hard to provide the leadership and organisational energy needed. Notably, Adeline Hee, who did excellently in planning and marshalling our volunteers. The Filipino leadership team faced a setback as the pastor who was originally the vision-bearer and mobiliser for the rally had to leave the country for family reasons. Our staff, Ee May stepped in with unwavering commitment to serve and work with the Filipinos to host the Sunday morning rally. Those who were there would have seen that it was a festive and vibrant rally. There are many others whom I am not able to name but you know who you are. May this spirit of service continue every weekend here in SAC.
COH, children and families
Thirdly, the stance of outreach and welcome. Many have had the joy of inviting someone. And greater was the joy, when their guests responded to the message. This is precious: the experience of inviting someone to explore the faith. This entails a measure of boldness to invite and to overcome the awkwardness of conversations about the faith. In so doing, we plumb the depths of human relationships as we go beneath the superficial layers. Some are still doubting but let the love and conversations continue.
Even if they have not come to faith, the friendship should continue. In stepping out in evangelism, we are also reflecting on how all our Services in SAC can also be regular frontiers for people to find Christ. Wouldn't it be wonderful if every weekend in SAC, you could look forward to the opportunity to invite a family member or friend? What if we learn to posture every Service, whether liturgical or contemporary, to be more welcoming and sensitive to those who are still seeking or those who are new to SAC? Please pray and reflect with us.
Indeed as His grace extends to many more, may our Lord be glorified.
Photos by Roger Deng & Edwin Arokiyam
19 May 2019 | Vicar Writes
So It Begins
By Terry Wong
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope
that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all. EPHESIANS 4:4-6
It has been more than a year of intense preparation. But, as a seed idea, Celebration of Hope has been germinating in our hearts for much longer. Since July 2015.
We have pondered on what it means and what it takes. We have sought God personally in the secret place. We have prayed corporately in the public space. We have put our heads together, planned, and publicised. We have put our money where our mouth is. We have drawn closer to the Lord and to one another. We see stronger ties and new friendships being forged. We see pastors and leaders from both the conservative and charismatic streams praying and dreaming together, determined to put feet to vision.
Thus far the Lord has helped us. 1 SAMUEL 7:12
Celebration of Hope is God’s idea! He has shown us that we can move and minister as ONE despite obvious differences in personality, leadership style, and church culture. We are united in more ways than we realise. Truth is, what unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us. And when we come together for a harvest campaign of this scale, we are more convinced than ever that the Kingdom of God is infinitely larger than any local church, denomination, or alliance!
We are blessed to serve as ONE, firstly, as Christians: people who follow Jesus, people who belong to the community of the King. Deep down inside, we know we do this simply because we love our Lord. Secondly, we are in this together as fellow citizens and residents. We love our city-state. What a fantastic way to commemorate our bicentennial! Yes, in this historic year, we want to celebrate Jesus, the One and Only Person in heaven and on earth who deserves our undivided affection, unwavering allegiance, and unending applause. To God be the Glory, great things He has done!
We are pleased to welcome Evangelist J. John who will be proclaiming God’s Word along with others. God’s Word is alive and active. God’s Word is powerful. God’s Word is sharp. God’s Word can cut through every doubt and defence. God’s Word can pry open hearts to hear and obey Christ. We rejoice that God’s Word shall prevail at every rally.
We are overjoyed to offer our kith and kin as well as friends, neighbours, and sojourners the power of the Gospel for salvation (ROMANS 1:16). At every rally, we will also proclaim the Good News through a beloved hymn that has touched many generations.
You guessed it: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. Who knows? God might open the hearts of the unsaved and draw them to Christ even before the preaching starts.
So it begins. This weekend is a divine appointment for Singapore. Thousands of unsaved people accompanied by Christian friends will be descending on the SportsHub for six mega moments with Christ our Saviour and King.
In this final lap, every moment of every day, let us double up efforts to pray, engage, and gather. Cry out to God for divine favour.
Yes, nothing less than a divine visitation upon our land!
• Perfect weather. Angelic protection. Zero security incident.
• Excellent teamwork. Smooth ops. Effective AV.
• Packed stadium. Majority unbelievers.
• Holy excitement. Captive audience. Ready response.
• Anointed Worship. Fragrant presence of God.
• Powerful preaching of the Gospel. Mighty move of the Spirit!
So it begins. This the hour of His glory, the day of His power, the year of His harvest. Our confidence is in Him and Him alone. With joyful hope, we call on Him to do the awesome things that only He can do (ISAIAH 45:8, ISAIAH 64:1-4):
• Rend the heavens
• Rain down His Spirit
• Reveal Christ Jesus
• Illuminate darkened minds
• Soften hardened hearts
• Bend stubborn wills
• Save lost souls
• Turn Singapore Godward
Towards a Great Homecoming
— for God’s glory!
12 May 2019 | Vicar Writes
When the Lord is Their Shepherd
By Terry Wong
John has been a free-thinker all his life. Financially successful and now in his senior years, life has been good to him. He seemed to lack nothing. He did not see the need to change anything in his life. There were Christians around him. But it never occurred to them that John would be interested in the Gospel.
One person thought otherwise. John visits his neighbourhood doctor from time to time. Nothing serious. Coughs and colds and the like. This doctor, who is a Christian, initially saw John as just another patient. But one day, during a routine examination, he popped the question: "John, do you believe in Jesus Christ?"
Before that, John had been a secret admirer of his sister, a devout and loving Christian. So the doctor's question triggered something inside him: "Yes. I know many Christians. But none have asked me so directly. Yes, I am interested to hear."
The doctor led him to the One who could give him living water. That very day, John put his faith in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
He was baptised a few weeks later, his sister looking on with tears of joy, and the angels rejoicing in heaven!
Looking back, John now realises that the goodness and mercy of the Good Shepherd had followed him and led him to the day of his salvation. Unbeknown to others, he has always been searching for green pastures and still waters. Through Jesus, his soul was restored.
This heartwarming story is a lesson for us all: It is never too late to ask, inquire or invite. Leave the rest to God. No one is too old to follow Jesus.
John’s secret hunger and thirst are not unique. There are many others just like him, just waiting. God wants to visit the seniors in their golden years. They can also experience the joy of John's discovery when you simply pop that one most important question: "Uncle, Auntie, do you believe in Jesus?"
Until the Lord is their Shepherd, they will always lack something.
Perhaps you know some who are stuck in a bad place, overwhelmed by ill health or broken relationships. Let the Lord use you to prepare a table of relief and hope for them in the midst of their "enemies".
Celebration of Hope has six different rallies you can invite them to. Include them in your guest list. Reserve a ticket for them. Accompany them by cab or by train to the stadium. If they are wheel-chair bound, no problem. On arrival, the ushers will guide you to the access lift that brings your entourage directly to a special seating area.
Indeed, the best gift we can offer the Pioneer Generation and the Merdeka Generation is a living hope that can only be found in one person. His Name is Jesus. And when the inevitable comes, when our seniors walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they will fear no evil for Jesus will be right there with them to comfort them. When they reach the other side, they will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. And they will be forever grateful to God and to you. Hallelujah!
Know some seniors who have yet to believe in Jesus? Pray for each one by name. Invite all of them to the Celebration of Hope rallies. Make all the necessary arrangements to ensure they are well taken care of before, during and after the event.
5 May 2019 | Vicar Writes
Reflecting on AGM 2019
By Terry Wong
I want to thank everyone who participated in last Sunday’s AGM. I was told it was a record-breaking attendance.
We heard about the challenge in keeping our annual operating budget in the black as we seek to fulfil all our financial obligations (joyfully!) in the ministry of the church, our Diocese and Missions. I remind, guided by Biblical principle, for each to "give according to what he has”, and this is reflected well in the discipline of tithing.
We unanimously supported the Restoration Works of the Cathedral, especially in the Nave areas. Fund-raising will be starting in earnest. The estimated costs of up to $6 million for the works to be carried out over three years is, of course, a hefty sum. We will be seeking grants from the authorities where they are available. This will only partially cover the costs and your support is needed. Be assured that the PCC, Building Development Committee and the Restoration Works Committee will be proceeding carefully at every step and decide prudently on the solutions and expenses involved. This also received unanimous support at the Chinese AGM.
We also supported the decision to begin fund-raising for the Phase 2 Project. We are almost reaching or have reached maximum capacity in many of our Services. Our need for ancillary facilities i.e. Sunday school, office and ministry rooms are dire. The Working Group has worked hard at identifying where the space needs are and the Advisory Group (architectural) has advised on the design and the selection of the right architect. Laud Architects presented an early design idea for us to begin to reflect on and to guide the cost estimates. The current estimate is in the region of $20-25 million. Both AGMs supported the decision to begin fund-raising by a majority of over 90%.
As a family, of course, we want to seek as much support and involvement as possible. We can always do better in our communication and we will seek to do that. Do watch the Vicar Writes space. Conversations will continue - including Town Halls - as the leadership explains and gather feedback. Some will feel the need for space more keenly than others. We need to converse and listen to one another. More than anything else, it is a sense of faith in the Lord’s provision as He calls us to bring people into the Kingdom, prepare for the needs of future generations and give priority to the work of the Church and the Gospel.
I have been involved in two previous parish building projects and understand that not all will see eye to eye on the issue of building and cost. We need to value our relationship in Christ above everything else and offer mutual respect and understanding even in disagreement. Beyond individual opinions, we need to think communally, not just for the present community but for future ones as well.
One encouraging indication was the way the needs for the Bells Funds were met. And we should never lose sight of the fact that the Pavilion project is made possible with minimal controversy because of a generous donation.
We also elected in a new PCC and the names should be in this week's bulletin. We want to thank those who have served in the last PCC as well as those who offered to serve and stood as nominees. The limited number of PCC positions should not deter us from serving the Lord elsewhere. Indeed, in SAC we want to create as many avenues as possible for members to serve and participate in the work of the Lord.
We are now barely two weeks before the Celebration of Hope rallies start. Will you be there, serving or inviting someone? And if for some reason you can’t, the Body of Christ will value your prayers.
28 April 2019 | Vicar Writes
Where There is Love, There is a Way
By Terry Wong
Evangelist J. John was in Singapore last year for a Pastors and Marketplace Leaders Gathering at St Andrew’s Cathedral.
With just a few weeks to Celebration of Hope, we share here some thoughts inspired by his message which still stir our spirits and move our hearts:
1. Love is action, whatever it takes!
"They made an opening in the roof above and lowered the man…” MARK 2:4
Four men took their paralysed friend on a stretcher to see Jesus (MARK 2:2-5). A huge crowd had gathered, jamming the access doors. Nobody could get in or out. The desperate four had no choice but to climb the roof and remove a part of it to create a hole large enough to lower the man on his stretcher to Jesus.
What a powerful picture of love in action! Indeed, love is more than feelings. Love is a verb. Love looks like something. Love is an active experience that can sometimes be precarious. And if biblical love requires risk and costs us time and energy to be the best neighbour we can be, then the four friends of the paralytic win hands down. They personify love in an extraordinary
Celebration of Hope challenges every Christian to make extra-special efforts in loving Singapore. Non-believers make up 80% of our population. They are all around us: family members, friends, neighbours, colleagues, classmates, strangers. Where there is a will, there is a way. To this, J.John adds: Let’s lift up the roof of our thinking to get people to Jesus.
2. People are our focus, no matter what!
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 TIMOTHY 4:5
The Early Church faced persecution. At the same time, false teachers threatened to undo the fledgling Christian community with their fake gospel. Amidst all that, Paul exhorted his protégé, Timothy, to stay focused and faithful, to carry out the ministry expected of him, including the work of an evangelist. According to the original Greek text, the Apostle Paul instructs Pastor Timothy to think like an evangelist and lead his church like an evangelist, whether Timothy sees that as his spiritual gift or not.
In other words, eat, sleep, and breathe evangelism, no matter what. Evangelism is about pastoring the lost people of our city. We watch and pray, we search and rescue, we care and share. Pastoral care and evangelism are not mutually exclusive. They are integral to what it truly means to be the Church Jesus builds.
Celebration of Hope challenges every local church to pastor our city, to reach the world by reaching ‘our’ world. Be other-centric. Because when we are other-centric, we will naturally cultivate our web of relationships. We will pay close attention to the lost among us, many of whom we know in person and by name. We will get the Gospel conversations going. We will adjust our schedules to flow with theirs, and make sure we are there for them at the rallies. If our unsaved friends make a decision to follow Jesus at the rallies, well and good. But if not, the conversation continues, the pastoring carries on. Without a doubt, God will use Celebration of Hope to spark countless conversations between believers and unbelievers all across our city—for the sake of the Gospel.
ACT NOW. Be other-centric. Get in touch with long-lost friends who have yet to follow Jesus. Be imaginative. Think out of the box. What are some ingenious ways to engage them? Cool ideas to warm their hearts and win them over for Jesus. Go the extra mile and accompany them to the rallies.
"He is not here, for He is risen, as He said." Matthew 28:6
The resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the foundation on which Christianity is built. Without the resurrection, there would have been no Christianity, and the most dynamic movement in history would not have been. Easter is the dawn of a new hope in our pilgrimage through a present world that is passing. We know what is coming, and therefore, we can live in the present with purpose and confidence. That is why Good Friday can only be called ‘good’ because of what has happened in the first Easter. If Good Friday is about the pain and suffering in the present creation which is passing away, the first Easter was about ushering in the new creation (or world order) with our Risen Lord giving us a glimpse of the life to come.
As for guest speakers, we welcome Dr Csilla Saysell who lectures at Carey College in Auckland. She has also previously lectured at St John's College, Nottingham and guest lectured at Cranmer Hall, Durham University in United Kingdom. Csilla is Hungarian and she is married to Philip Saysell. We also welcome Revd Dr Philip Huan from Church Life Resources. He and his wife Jenni Huan work very closely with us.
Here in the Cathedral, we run The Alpha Course which gives everyone an opportunity to explore the Christian faith. This is a good place to start if you are new to the faith. We warmly recommend this course to you and invite you to join us for the next one which starts in July. If you are interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We also have many Connect Groups where you can connect with other friends in the Cathedral. If you would like to visit or be a part of one of these groups, do drop us an email at email@example.com.
We welcome you to be a part of the Cathedral community and hope that you may find a spot and space where you can grow in your faith and serve.
From the 17th to 19th of May, there will be a series of Celebration of Hope rallies at the National Stadium with UK Evangelist, Canon J John. There is information in the bulletin on how you can book tickets for this event.
Our Annual AGM is at 2.00 pm next Sunday 28th April at the Prayer Halls. Even if you are not officially a member yet but feel like you are one in heart, you are most welcome to join in. Lunch will be served from 1.00 pm. We have put up posters of the nominees for PCC with the basic info in various spots in the Cathedral. Do keep a lookout, pray for them and prepare to vote. We will also be discussing why we need the Phase 2 expansion project. Please do pray and let’s seek for whole hearted unity as we continue to steward our resources (finances, land, etc.) in obedience to His call.
From The Vicar, Clergy, Deaconesses, Staff and PCC Members... we wish you a Blessed Easter Day.
14 April 2019 | Vicar Writes
The Priceless One
By Terry Wong
"In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”Luke 15:10
We live in a day and age where people are reduced to numbers, alphabets and avatars. You are one of the thousands of likes on someone’s Facebook page. You roam the internet, hidden behind some avatar.
We live in city run by a super efficient civil service. It’s easy to feel that you are just a number, a national statistic. You feel that your demographic profile is just facts and stats for city planners and scenario-builders.
Without you realising it, some stranger living thousands of miles away is hacking away day and night to get to you. To these hackers, you are not mere data. You are a precious commodity to be traded, sold and circulated.
You can’t help but feel used and devalued. So, to assure yourself that you are not alone, you join some gaming clan or you walk the streets. Yet, like ships that pass in the night, you discover that people are strangers in the night. People are talking without speaking. People are hearing without listening. All you hear is the Sound of Silence.
You step into a church service. But even there, you may remain incognito. Another statistic. You hear a lot but you are not heard. Someone might ask for your name or offer you coffee. If not, you quietly slip out, back into our own solitary world of one.
How precious is one?
Next to zero or next to nothing, as some will say. However, the Bible tells a different story. The one person, the one you, is all important to God. From Luke 15, we know that heaven pauses to celebrate when one lone sinner repents.
God is a personal God. He knows you by name (ISAIAH 43:1). And as a born-again believer, your name is in His book of life (LUKE 10:20). Every tear you shed is preserved (PSALM 56:8). Every strand of hair on your head is numbered (MATTHEW 10:30). Even in death, you remain precious to Him (PSALM 116:15).
Therefore, how we treat each person should be shaped by God’s perspective of the individual. When we invite someone to church, or to an Alpha course, or to Celebration of Hope, it is never about boosting some statistics. We invite the person simply because this person is precious to God and is deeply loved by God. In fact, this person is a human being of inestimable worth created in the image of God. This person can experience God’s love and feel its disarming effects in his or her soul and spirit. And this person can find meaning in life and fulfill God’s purpose for him or her.
You may be trying to invite many to Celebration of Hope. Well done! Remember the value of each ONE. Heaven rejoices over the priceless one—the one sinner who repents and gives his or her life to Jesus. What a wonderful hope we can offer to each person in our city, citizen or otherwise. One at a time.
TODAY, spend time in prayer:
Thank God for His great love for you and for every human being.
Pray for unsaved family members and friends one by one, by name.
Ask God to use you to show each one how precious he or she is to God.
Pray that each one will accept your invitation to Celebration of Hope.
7 April 2019 | Vicar Writes
Preparing for our AGMs
By Terry Wong
Our Parochial Church Council (PCC) and the Chinese Congregation Committee had a joint meeting last Sunday. We met to discuss Phase 2, which involves an underground development at the north-west lawn area.
We viewed an early design plan by an architectural firm. This design has received input by a joint-congregational working team (usage and facilities) and an architectural advisory team (design), all of whom are members of SAC. If this phase is completed, we will have:
A combined office area for our staff. Currently our staff is housed in separate locations, with cramped office spaces.
A new 600-seater Hall to facilitate growth in our Services and meet the needs for various events.
Additional purpose-built rooms for CE teaching, small groups Bible studies, counselling and meetings.
New facilities i.e. resource library, heritage centre and music studio.
Parts of South Transept and North Transept which can be reserved to display their heritage features.
Each cluster at the Nave, CNS and Phase 2 with the right mix of facilities. The transept areas can have more Sunday school, teaching and ministry rooms to support the Nave worship Services. B2 rooms, offices and B1 Prayer Halls can support the CNS Services. This will minimise movement across our grounds and improve safety for children and the elderly.
At both our AGMs, this early design will be shared with our congregations. We will be seeking for approval to begin fund-raising and continue to work on the design, which as it develops, will continue to be shared with the wider SAC community for comments and ideas.
We also discussed the plans for renovation works to restore and repair the Nave and other parts of the Cathedral. These plans will also be shared at our AGMs. Indeed, even as we think of new places, we need to continue to be good stewards of our older facilities.
Meanwhile, the plans to build the Pavilion are already underway and when completed, will be a wonderful addition to our space and ministry needs.
This Sunday is also a historic moment as we launch the new Tamil Service. Tamil is one of our four national languages and it will finally find a home in our Cathedral as a Worship Service. It is an exciting development. Please pray for Revd Joshua Raj and his team.
31 March 2019 | Vicar Writes
By Terry Wong
One threat to family today may be due to the demise of the household (Greek - oikos).
These two realities, though connected, are not the same. The household is a social form, a locus where people commune with each other. One can be a part of a biological family (by birth) without being part of the household (by choice). And even if you are a single adult, you can be a part of a household with your aging parents, siblings or friends.
We may have homes but people may not really live in them. Parents are off to work for most part of the day and for some, evenings too. Children are off to school. In the evening, some dine outside or Deliveroo food in. Even if together, eyes may be on screens.
For Aristotle, the household is a family understood as a community of daily life. Not long ago, the home was the context for daily lives. Breakfast was shared together, even if conversation was brief and quick. Chores and responsibilities were shared. The Singer sewing machine rumbled as clothes were repaired. In the kitchen, if a chicken was being chopped, loud, irregular thuds were produced. If shallots were being diced, you would hear instead a quieter, hynoptic drumming. And there was always a cadence that rung from the sharpening of knives.
Today, these activities are “out-sourced internally” through our domestic helpers. We sleep, work, eat, stare at screens and sleep again.
The household is more than just a place of work. Lounge times, board-game times, meal times and even bedtimes are moments for mutual presence. Done enough and regularly, they form tradition and provide a template for one’s wider life. This household prepares a person to live in the state (civic life), as Aristotle has pointed out.
If we are to renew family life, we need to start with the household. It is a sacred sanctuary of shared work, life and belonging. I am aware that some homes are places of tension. If at all possible and with God's help, may we do our best to turn it into sanctuaries for life and living. At least we owe our children that.
Now, something needs to be said about the other households in life, notably, the local church. She is more than a place of worship. The Bible talks about it again and again. And I try to repeat these ideas as well in the way I pastor and lead the Cathedral as her Vicar.
We are a family, a community, a household.
She needs to be a happy household of trust, safety, love and friendship, where visions and dreams are shared. I sometimes meet Christians who are either "mercenaric" or "consumeric" in the way they look at the local church. If the former, they see the church as a place to get things done, for money raised to be given away, simply just a vehicle for missions and so on. For the consumers, they ask constantly what the church is doing to help them to grow, better sermons, better this and that. Indeed in Singapore, we have the phenomena of Christians floating from church to church for they have never grasped the true calling of a church as oikos. It is sad when you think about it.
Why can’t we just be friends — eating, laughing and praying together?
If one loses both natural and spiritual households, what a deep loss that is. Both are gifts from God. If you are reading this, it is still not too late. Change your attitude and get both you and your households in order. You will be enriched beyond measure and live life without regrets.
24 March 2019 | Vicar Writes
Of Strangers and Sojourners
By Terry Wong
Most of those murdered in the Christchurch mosques massacre were foreigners. Our hearts bleed.
As we celebrate our bicentennial, we should be reminded of Singapore’s early beginnings as a place of hope for strangers and sojourners. Our forefathers originated from many places near and far. They came in search of a new beginning and a better life. Many of them did not have high aspirations beyond the hope of a decent job and a safe place to raise a family.
We salute the early strangers and sojourners. They toiled to build Singapura on their backs, literally. For example, some of our city’s historical buildings were the hard work of convict labourers from India. Today, strangers and sojourners are still streaming into Singapore from all directions. Like those before them, they contribute to our nation-building efforts in significant ways. As you go about Singapore, take note of how many sojourners are hard at work building and beautifying our city, keeping it clean and green. These are the unsung heroes of Singapore’s on-going development. We owe them a tribute of gratitude.
While sojourners do not share all the citizenship rights and privileges of Singaporeans, they have the same spiritual rights as every one. Remember, each sojourner is a person of intrinsic worth, created in the image of God. Each one has the right to encounter Jesus and become a born-again child of God. We owe them the Good News of God’s love. The local church should be their first port of call. In fact, according to God’s Word, we are to treat them lovingly as equals, as family, as one of us:
Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners… LEVITICUS 19:33-34 GNT
You must see that justice is done, and must show kindness and mercy to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners who live among you, or anyone else in need. ZECHARIAH 7:9 GNT
I am the Lord, and I consider all people the same, whether they are Israelites or foreigners living among you.NUMBERS 15:16 GNT
Indeed, may our local churches reflect the big heart of God for all peoples. May we be havens of shalom for sojourners representing diverse creeds and cultures. May we welcome them warmly into the House of God and into our homes. Here in SAC, we have various services catering to different groups. Pray for the new Tamil Service starting on 7th April.
A vast majority have never heard the Gospel, not even once! The coming Celebration of Hope rallies present a great window of opportunity for us to engage them while they live and work here.
From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. (ACTS 17:26-27 GNT)
Will you please pray for these rallies?
Saturday 18 May: Chinese Rally in Mandarin | National Stadium | 7.30pm
Saturday 18 May: Indian Rally in Tamil | SportsHub OCBC Arena | 7.30 pm
Saturday 18 May: North Indian Rally in Hindi with English interpretation | Grace AG (Tanglin) | 7.30 pm
Sunday 19 May: Filipino Rally in English | National Stadium | 10.30am
And more than just pray, will you also spread the word and invite a sojourner or two to the relevant rally? Perhaps a Mainland Chinese neighbour, or an Indian construction worker, or a Filipino domestic helper. Please note that there will be half an hour of cross-cultural presentations by celebrities before the starting time. Be early and join in some inter-cultural fun!
17 March 2019 | Vicar Writes
Giving and Thanksgiving
By Terry Wong
Embedded in Judea-Christian teaching is the principle of stewardship, generosity and giving. This has effected how the Church and Christians have existed and lived in the world, though “not of the world” (John 17:14-15).
It has been a discipleship journey of learning to be generous in giving to the Church in her running of ministries, orphanages, social work, medical work and educational institutions. On top of that, Singaporeans have reached out to surrounding nations and much resource has been given to spreading the Gospel and uplifting of these societies.
Many Anglican parishes have also picked up a tradition of ensuring everything that is collected within a year is given away by the year’s end. Hoarding is not encouraged and not seen as an act of faith. A prudent general reserve is kept, and in some churches, investments such as properties and legacy funds are kept. But year to year, faith is expected of congregations to rise to the needs.
The Church also learns to do things better but cheaper, funded by a "currency of love". There is a high level of lay volunteerism. Church clergy, pastors and staff are not expected to command salaries similar to their equivalent secular counterparts. In some parishes, including Cathedral, some staff members work pro bono.
The Church's contribution to a society’s social, cultural and spiritual wealth is incalculable. I once attended a conference where a political expert lamented that some gifted Christians have dropped out as economic contributors. I think we should rejoice. Singapore will be a lot poorer today if everything in life is about a citizen maximising his capacity for wealth.
The Cathedral, as Mother Church, sets the pace and is a keen observer of good principles in giving. A huge portion of our “income” is given away to outside work, whether it is our own “blood, sweat and tears” or helping others with their ministries, here and abroad. Our own ministries are also given sufficient attention, with gifted staff helming and laying a foundation for growth now and in the future.
In an increasingly connected world, we also receive a lot of requests to help. A Singapore dollar goes a long way in other parts of the world. It is not easy, but our PCC and Missions Committees struggle to balance the budget and ensure we are helping as many as possible.
And so year after year, we are dependent on the commitment of the congregation to tithing, pledging and free-will offerings. The principle of tithing reflects a wonderful principle of proportion. If every Christian is faithful to his or her lot, we believe SAC can rise up to her obligations year after year. We need to sow a seed into God's Kingdom in time (future) and space (society and world).
Previous generations have given so that today, we may be able to continue the giving. God's Church constitutes an amazing ecosystem. May each of us do our part to “seek first His Kingdom.” (Matthew 6:33)
Indeed, it is a privilege and I invite you to join in this continuous stream of giving.
10 March 2019 | Vicar Writes
Being An Andrew
By Terry Wong
Think about it. Celebration of Hope (CoH) is really not about us trying to make it a success. Rather, CoH is a God-given opportunity for us to thrive and shine as His witnesses—especially in our bicentennial year.
In this kairos season, we are being encouraged to follow the inspiring example of a lesser-known disciple by the name of Andrew who is sometimes called The Bringer. Largely overshadowed by his dynamic brother, Simon Peter, we know little about Andrew. But what we do know is highly significant. Andrew personally took the initiative to find his brother and invite him to come and see Jesus (John 1:35-42). It seemed like a very small act. Yet this ministry of The Bringer is big and very important in God’s work.
In Singapore today, many are committed followers of Christ because:
someone cared enough to be a true friend
someone introduced them to Jesus via a conversation
someone invited them to an Alpha Course
someone brought them to a church event or cell meeting
And we can add that many met Christ because someone brought them to the Billy Graham Rallies in 1978. Will you be an Andrew? Will you be a Bringer? Towards Celebration of Hope, Christians are inspired to be an Andrew through the Andrew Initiative Training. The sessions conducted thus far have been very well attended, with the last one here fully subscribed. The training is informative, inspiring, and practical. The atmosphere is electrifying as Christians from many different churches and denominations rub shoulders and learn from anointed trainers who speak with passion. Many are gaining a new-found confidence to be effective witnesses for Christ. They will never be the same again!
So, if you have yet to attend the Andrew Initiative Training, please note the session coming up.
ANDREW INITIATIVE TRAINING
Saturday, 16 March | 9am to 12.30pm
St John’s-St Margaret’s Church (30 Dover Ave, S139790)
Do join the Cathedral community to welcome Lent at the Ash Wednesday Service. Do note that it will start at 6.00 pm and this means that just for that day, you must plan to knock off work early. Our Bishop will be speaking on “Make Lent a Special Season”. Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence; from the middle ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross, as this is offered during the Service.
Lent may originally have followed Epiphany, just as Jesus’ sojourn in the wilderness followed immediately on his baptism. It soon became firmly attached to Easter, as the principal occasion for baptism and for the reconciliation of those who had been excluded from the Church’s fellowship for apostasy or serious faults. This history explains the characteristic notes of Lent – self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study, and preparation for Easter, to which almsgiving has traditionally been added.
Now is the healing
For sins of heart
and word and deed,
When we in humble
Fear record the wrong that we have done the Lord.
Latin, before 12th century
As the candidates for baptism were
instructed in Christian faith, and as penitents prepared themselves, through fasting and penance, to be readmitted to communion, the whole Christian community was invited to join them in the process of study and repentance, the extension of which over forty days would remind them of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, being tested by Satan. This pattern continues in most churches even if some no longer prepare catechumens for baptism on Easter Day.
The calculation of the forty days has varied considerably in Christian history. It is now usual in the West to count them continuously to the end of Holy Week (not including Sundays), so beginning Lent on the sixth Wednesday before Easter, Ash Wednesday.
There are many devotional exercises which may be used in Lent and Holy Week outside the set liturgy. The various forms of fasting are encouraged. At the Cathedral, we run daily noontime prayers and do check the bulletin for the details. The lectionary Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer readings, found in our App are also useful to set the devotional tone for this period. The Bible Society released a Lent Devotional which you can purchase.
Online copies are also available. You can also watch out for special devotional exercises (i.e. silence, Stations of the Cross) which are run by our Prayer & Spirituality ministry.
As Holy Week approaches, the atmosphere of the season darkens; the readings begin to anticipate Christ’s suffering and death. On Holy Week, we have invited Dr Csilla Saysell from New Zealand to be our guest speaker in various events, including noontime talks. Check the bulletin for details. As always, we will be having our Maundy Thursday Service, two Good Friday Services and the usual Easter Services, including the special Dawn Service.
Lent devotion is not just about abstinence and simplicity, but it also includes doing good works. We should renew our commitment to live and bear witness to the Cross and Gospel. Continue to pray for your acquaintances, friends and family members. Pray for opportunities to have Gospel conversations. We remind ourselves that lent observation is not just about including some extra religious activities. It is about the whole of life.
Do have a blessed Lenten season.
24 February 2019 | Vicar Writes
Lent and the Towel and Basin
By Terry Wong
The season of Lent is starting with Ash Wednesday on 6 March at 6 pm.
As for our pulpit sermons, apart from observing the First Sunday of Lent (10 Mar) and Palm Sunday (14 April), in preparation for the Celebration of Hope, we will be exploring some questions of life under the theme "Faith & Life.". We have scheduled a few guest speakers to preach alongside our pastors. It will be a good opportunity to invite your unchurched friends to explore the Christian faith. We will let you know at least a week before, what the topics are and who the speakers will be.
During Lent, we are also starting noontime daily prayers from 12.30 pm to 1.00 pm. On Wednesday, it will be a Holy Communion Service which ends at about 1.30 pm. On Friday, the intercessory group, City@Prayer will be leading the noontime prayer and participants should expect a more active prayer engagement. We will be offering daily prayer for our Church, Society and Nations.
We started our evening Alpha Course this week with the Introductory dinner on Wednesday. More than a hundred guests turned up, not counting our own members. We appreciate prayer for this run as Christians lovingly accompany seekers in their search for truth.
This evening course is not to be confused with Alpha Everywhere which is starting later in March-April. We will be hosting lunchtime groups on our grounds and if you will like to help, please contact Andrew Ho @ 63376104 ext 132 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Members are also encouraged to host Alpha in their home or office. Do let him know if you are interested to help in some way.
Meanwhile, do be "praying without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17) in this period of run-up to the Celebration of Hope. In praying, we discern the purposes of the Lord and His will and plans for our lives and that of the nation. The monthly regional prayer is one meeting not to be missed if you want to stay spiritually tuned in. We also have various prayer gatherings and you are encouraged to participate.
Being the season of Lent, I should also encourage you to use our daily Bible Lectionary readings in our Cathedral App. This can be on top of whatever devotional resource you are currently using. The lectionary readings can help you to stay close to the emphases of the church calendar with audio facilities for those who need it.
Another event to note is the Andrew Initiative Training on Sat 2nd Mar at 9 am. It will help you to better engage with COH rallies, show you how to invite friends and what you can do if they are interested to respond to the Gospel call. If you are not free on this morning, the same training is also offered elsewhere.
I know this is nagging, but we need many more of you to volunteer to serve at the English/Filipino rally. This Sunday morning rally will be a popular one, not just for Filipinos but just about anybody who can understand English! We can imagine that many foreigners will also be coming, including those from Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand and so on. Canon J John will be speaking. A few household celebrities will also be performing and sharing their testimonies i.e. Barbie Almalbis, MadRush and Coro Cantabile. This is an opportunity on a Sunday morning to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord" in a different way. We sometimes forget but the term “Service” (as in Sunday Services) originally connotes the idea of worshippers coming to serve on Sunday and to be sent out to serve Christ in the world. The idea of "being served” is a mistaken notion.
Indeed, with the coming Season of Lent, may we be reminded again of our Lord who serves us with a towel and basin (John 13:12-15).
17 February 2019 | Vicar Writes
In and Around
By Terry Wong
I had a wonderful time celebrating Chinese New Year back in my hometown Petaling Jaya, in the very house which I grew up in as a child. We reconnected with family members and relatives over traditional dishes. The burning of fire-crackers was permitted for a limited period of time and we relived some of our childhood experiences. Indeed, we experienced the same smells, tastes, sounds and sights of CNY that we grew up with. Connections with one's past are important and I am reminded again of the grace of God which has carried us through all these years.
On behalf of PCC and the team working behind the Bells Project, we want to thank all who have donated to the project. PCC has made a decision to purchase another four bells, plus an additional one for training purposes. In terms of names, as St Paul is already part of the original eight, this also means that we can now add St Matthias (Acts 1:26).
The bells have arrived safely in UK since early January (pictured above) and are now being repaired and refurbished. We are hoping that they can be back this year and be a part of our contribution to the bicentennial celebrations and Diocese's Year of Proclamation.
The plans to refurbish and restore the Nave (i.e. walls, windows) are underway and at the coming AGM, we will give more details and the cost estimates. The Cathedral will be playing a role to host a special Lessons and Carols Service in December to celebrate the Bicentennial Year with the rest of the nation. We hope some parts can be repaired in time for that.
Can SAC raise 1000 ushers and 200 counsellors to serve in the English/Filipino rally on Sunday, 19 May? I believe we can but it will take many small groups or families to encourage each other to participate. In a sense, we are spending that Sunday morning to worship the Lord in a different way. On that weekend, we will be running only two Services, 8 am and 11.15 am. Please sign up today. Your early response is needed and will help us to ascertain if we need to now ask other churches to help. But we'd like to believe that the Cathedral community can rise up to this unique call!
This Friday evening, we will be joined by Christians from other Churches at the Regional Prayer Meeting to pray for our nation and the coming COH events. Let's be there and keep our hearts burning for the things of the Lord and the salvation of others. [We need to seek the Lord together as His family.]
In recent weeks, the Cafe has begun to serve some drinks in porcelain cups during the weekdays. This is one small step in seeking to be more responsible vis-a-vis our environment. Much more needs to be done in SAC in this area and at the right time, we will continue to take further steps.
And did you know that you can download a digital copy of our weekly bulletin? As more of you do this, we can reduce the copies being printed.
The new St Andrew’s Adult Home and our friends from Mizoram
By Terry Wong
In the mid-80’s, I used to join short-term mission trips to the Riau Islands. I have this vivid memory of seeing this teenage boy locked up in a cage like an animal. It was a very disturbing sight.
Of course, in developed societies today, we are now a lot more aware of those with special needs like autism. Hence, we will not treat sufferers of this condition in that manner.
Our Diocese is deeply involved with this via the St Andrew's Autism Centre (SAAC) which operates a special school for children and youths with autism from 7 to 18 years old. It is challenging but rewarding work as we see families being helped. Along with that, SAAC also has facilities for a Day Activity Centre (DAC) for adults aged 19 and beyond.
This work now moves to another level with the completion of St Andrew’s Adult Home (SAAH) at Sengkang at the end of 2018. It is a home specially designed and built to meet the needs of adults with autism. It has the capacity to house 200 residents, and will also have a co-located Day Activity Centre (DAC) with a capacity for 50 adult clients. This is a new phase of ministry.
Each Home or Centre under Singapore Anglican Community Services or St Andrew’s Mission Hospital is supported by an anchor parish. The Cathedral is the anchor parish for this new St Andrew's Adult Home (SAAH). This means that we will be supporting the Chaplaincy work which provides pastoral care for clients and the caregivers. Wilson Sie is the chaplain there. Where possible, members can be encouraged to help and show the love of Christ to both workers and clients in this Home.
Most of the nurses and health-care assistants in homes like these come from surrounding countries. Recently 28 new staff flew in from Mizoram (Northeast India) to begin a 2-year renewable stint. They are mostly in their 20's and early 30's and all are Christians. We hosted a tea for them and introduced them to the Cathedral (see photo). Young and eager, they are a great bunch and beaming with so much potential. We are beginning to connect with them and are seeking ways to help make their stay and work here more comfortable and meaningful. By the way, weekly on our grounds, we have groups of workers from Mizoram who gather for social and worship purposes.
Our senior staff, Mrs Patricia Aw heads our community services ministries and will be the liaison person for this.
We had a wonderful and inspiring regional prayer meeting on the last Friday of January. Watch out for the next one on Friday evening of 22nd February.
There are many meetings and events in the Cathedral but for me, prayer meetings are special. These meetings are not merely a presentation of a list of requests to God.
We don’t often say this very clearly, but the Lord Jesus is the Shepherd of this Church (Eph 4:15). The local church is a spiritual family and entity. We are a people of His presence. I co-taught the book of Revelation last year and through the letters of the seven churches, we were reminded again of the Lord Jesus’ presence and His love for each local church. This truth, more than anything, governs how I have served in every parish and how I see my role as Vicar. We live in an age where we are enamoured by the CEO and the power of leadership.
But the Church is different. When the human influence is exercised without reference to the Word, His Spirit and koinonia acceptability to His Body, something is tragically lost. And over time, the work can be seen to be "wood, hay and stubble" (1 Cor 2:11-13).
This is an insight which I found in greater clarity when I was serving in my previous parish. We were facing spiritual stagnation and the parish was struggling. I became acquainted with one of the leaders of Youth With A Mission (YWAM), who later became a very close spiritual friend. I was quite curious about the YWAM leadership approach to ministry and their deep emphasis on prayer and worship. Decisions made were collegial and often through prayer and seeking. This leader helped us to focus on the spiritual life of the parish, and our prayer and worship life took a positive turn.
We learned to be a people of His presence. We learned to "give the church back to Him."
My years of working in the Alpha Course ministry also exposed me to the spiritual culture and values in Holy Trinity Brompton. How can one local church exert so much influence globally? There I caught a vision of what it meant to be a church measured not just by attendance but influence. I saw a rich prayer and worship life and a leadership culture which aims at people becoming authentic followers of the Lord of the Church.
Worshipping and praying sharpens the clarity of what God is doing in our midst (Acts 13:2,3). It keeps us from an activism which is devoid of His presence. Prayer, worship and mission can never be separated. They are not separate events or activities, but a singular expression of a people who know who the Lord is and relate to each other as such.
Church prayer meetings also reflect home and family. It is one meeting which separates family from guests and indeed, the latter are very low in numbers, compared to our public weekend Services. We come “home" and we do what a church family should do. It has a different intensity in worship and prayer compared to your public Weekend Services. There are some who are affected or stumbled by the forms of worship or prayer in our prayer meeting. I will encourage one to get past that and get into the essence of these combined gatherings. There will be noise. There will be silence. Old and new. It does not matter if we are family and share a common vision that goes beyond forms.
Chinese New Year is round the corner. As families celebrate, it is the ontological and unchangeable family ties that gives meaning to a family gathering. This goes deeper than external forms and activities. It is just being family. Likewise, the church family experiences this when they assemble before the heavenly Father.
I don’t think I can share all this at one go. I know all this sounds a bit mystical. Understanding it will need some experience as well. This is a journey I encourage you to discover as well - together - and I pray you will find it here.
27 January 2019 | Vicar Writes
Bringing Faith Back To Life
By Terry Wong
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
The new four-year cycle of DCBS has started. The turnout has been good and both the New Sanctuary and Prayer Halls are fully used every Thursday evening. DCBS has certainly taken root in SAC and we hope that eventually, it will also be run in other parishes.
We have always wanted to have a strong Christian Education (CE) Programme in SAC. The Church should be a centre of learning and be an important voice in the city. The starting place is to serve her own members through creating an environment of teaching, resourcing and learning. The usual network of Services and Connect Groups provides regular platforms for education, where most in SAC are regularly gathered. On top of that, we have been running CE classes, ranging from courses to one-off seminars. We have also been building up our resources, whether printed or online. The Courier is another “voice”, and this includes both printed and online articles.
In 2019, we will be rolling out a new track called “Faith-Life Track.” Under this, we will be focusing on how our faith and life should be integrated. The scope is wide and will cover areas where science, philosophy and the cultural milieu of the day are powerfully shaping our minds, lives and faith. Specifically, this can encompass areas like creation and evolution, including how we should interpret the early chapters of Genesis, the Christian view towards human gender and sexuality issues, education, the environment, politics/government, artificial intelligence, the rapid social changes in our highly connected world and so on.
We seek to equip the believers to better align their thinking in areas of life outside the church, with the goal of being able to live all of life to the glory of God. Facilitated discussions and readings form the core methodology of this series, giving participants a platform to ask questions and seek answers from the Word of the God and glean insights from other members of the Body.
We will go beyond classroom learning. We are also launching a Cathedral Podcast. It is almost like a modern form of radio. In 20 to 30 minutes, a listener can hear an interesting interview of someone who has some expertise in an area. It is not unlike TED talks, which is a powerful culture-shaper today. Added to that will be written resources, including books and modules.
Undoubtedly, young adults and youths will relate immediately to these as they are exposed to current secular views and powerful voices of today’s culture. However, those who are older will certainly benefit as well.
We have already formed a team which has been laying the ground work since last year. We value your prayers for wisdom and the resources needed to begin a long-term plan to establish this track in SAC. Stay tuned!
These steps are also in conjunction with our SAC's Year of Hope, with our involvement in the Celebration of Hope at the heart of it. Christians need to be better equipped in helping seekers as they consider the questions and searching issues of life. In the face of the latest ideas in the various fields, Christians will need to reflect on these ideas to better integrate their faith with what the world is discovering about God’s world, to put it from the Christian perspective.
20 January 2019 | Vicar Writes
You May Not Be The Same Again
By Terry Wong
Your life can be changed significantly this next 18 weeks. I am sure mine will.
"Lord, how can I be used by you to share the gospel and love of Christ with someone?" I have been praying this prayer. He is already giving me insights on who and where I could be involved.
People do have questions about our faith. Daily, people stream into the Cathedral for various reasons and some are very open to talk about the spiritual matters. Some have questions or objections, may it be philosophical or existential. If you get involved in an Alpha Course, you will find the small group experience is like no other.
My last experience in an Alpha group was about 6 years ago in my previous parish. It was a group of mostly well educated young adults and I was both challenged and enlightened by the questions which the current generation is asking. It was a ten week journey of interaction and reflecting together and I found myself able to be helpful. In particular, I was encouraged by how this bright Chinese scholar finally became a Christian after Alpha and followed Christ in baptism. She was asking some very sharp questions on the early chapters of Genesis and I found my theological training and reading helpful. This is not the forum to go into the details, but often a simplistic and naive reading of the creation accounts can be a stumbling block to faith for some without further explanations.
In part, your life will be changed because you too need to ask again the basis for your faith. This is what sharing the Gospel will do to you. You will encounter questions that will be baffling. What can you say to someone who has gone through unspeakable suffering?
When you recite the Nicene Creed, do you really believe every word? And if you do, what are the implications? But you may have questions or doubts on some part of the faith. There is nothing wrong with having doubts as it is a part of growing as a believer. Some are are well studied in fields like history, cosmology, biology, psychiatry and philosophy. There are huge advances in these fields and in a highly interconnected world today, learning and discovery is accelerating at a pace never seen before in our human history. How can that impact our faith?
You will also encounter some who may not have deep intellectual questions about the faith. They simply want to know how one may be a believer. Why does one need to go to church? What implications are there for their lifestyles? Some will come to you for help as they are experiencing brokenness in their lives or destructive addictions of some form. Can Christ give them any hope?
And if you want to be a good witness, you know that your attitude towards your colleagues or classmates needs to change. As Christians, our number-one priority is to represent Christ well to family and friends. As He is honest, kind, loyal, and honourable, we should strive to be those things as well. All these qualities will contribute to a good reputation. If we have poor reputations, our message is tainted as well. Many will not heed our words when our reputations do not match what we claim to believe.
This is why a desire to be a good witness will be life-changing. I pray that each of us will find opportunities to grow deeper in Christ as we engage with the Celebration of Hope.
13 January 2019 | Vicar Writes
The Legacy of Kindness
By Terry Wong
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
As I reflect on the passing away of Bishop’s father this week - Uncle Ponniah as I would normally call him - I think of kindness. He epitomised that for me as someone who was always encouraging with nary a hard word. In fact, the last words I heard from him were after the 11.15 am Christmas Service and again, they were kind, tender and encouraging.
We must have all heard about the Singapore Kindness Movement. It is a valiant effort though we may wonder whether it is making any difference. The Bible teaches a lot about kindness and perhaps it is in worshipping communities where this needs to be taught and her leaders encouraged to exemplify.
Reflecting on the verse above, firstly, kindness is extended to one another. We hardly use the term to refer to our attitude towards God, i.e. we will not say we need to be kind to God. Kindness is offered voluntarily to another imperfect human being or someone caught in an imperfect situation. Instead of uttering a harsh word (which may be right), we choose instead to have a kind response. That can stop a situation from cascading into relationship-breaking or stress-inducing situations for the other.
To be “tenderhearted” is another wonderful thought. That is opposed to being “hard-hearted.” Again the idea here is not about giving what one deserves. The guiding point is the giver choosing a different course of action or response. It may be a small reaction but if marked by tenderness, it often soothes and heals.
“Forgiving one another...” - kindness and forgiveness also go together. Here the Bible teaches the idea of kindness as a response when you are personally affronted. You have every right to feel that a corresponding reaction should be exacted. We don’t use this word but it is simply “revenge.” We move beyond being annoyed to saying or doing something to get back at the person. Or we keep holding a deep grudge or bitterness in our heart which eats into us and also affects our relationship with others.
Again and again, when we find ourselves in this situation, we are called to look to the One who has forgiven us. After all, in something as basic as the Lord’s Prayer, we are already told to forgive one another as God has forgiven us. Indeed, “as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
I have been a pastor now for over 30 years. Sometimes people ask me how I manage to cope. “We don’t envy your position”, I am often told. The Singaporean Christian community often reflects the values of her society’s culture: competitive, rule-based and perfectionistic. Truth be told, the strongest resource is found in digging deep into my relationship with Christ. Where I confront my own frail humanity where again and again, He forgives me. His holiness, love, humility and perfection is such that my own wretchedness is exposed. It is when I realise that I have been forgiven that I am able to forgive. It is a terrible religious delusion to think that as Vicar, I am morally superior to those around me. My own sinful condition is largely shielded from those around me.
When they react to the little portions which leak out, the Holy Spirit often reminds me that it would be a lot worse if they knew the whole truth.
In other words, I don’t have any rights except the right to forgive. If I have debts to pay, it is the debt to love. For God in Christ has forgiven me. People who know they are forgiven will know how to forgive. This truth is simple but profound. It can bring healing and wholeness to any Christian community.
Don’t search for a perfect community for there is none. Find one and be kind. You will never know how far it will go. Like Brother Draviam Ponniah, the legacy of a kind soul will live on in the family for generations. And as we can testify, is also seen consistently in his sons: Bishop Rennis, Revd Jeremy and Andrew.
6 January 2019 | Vicar Writes
A Year of Hope
By Terry Wong
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
Next Sunday, across all our Services, we are starting a new Sermon Series entitled "A Hope for All." This series will reflect on the stories of men and women in the Bible whose lives have been transformed by the saving power of God. You will find that each of them is very different and yet the Gospel has a way of reaching them at a point of need. This sermon series can help us to prepare for the Celebration of Hope (COH) events in May this year.
One can say that Singapore is far more heterogeneous as a society today compared to the society that experienced the visit of Dr Billy Graham more than 40 years ago. The diversity of race, culture, the wide educational exposure (including overseas education) and our global nature as an international gateway city mean that we cannot assume we understand the people we are talking to.
Yet Scriptures record human experiences spanning many centuries and across different lands. These stories continue to live on through the Church as she grows and embeds herself into many different languages and cultures.
Even here in the Cathedral, we have come across so many different and interesting stories of conversion and spiritual experiences. We are enriched when we come to understand how the Gospel can work so differently for another person. Being a Christian for over forty years now, I have of course gone way past the initial glow. But when I encounter fresh testimonies, I am reminded again of the power of the Gospel to change lives and bring hope. And I find a new encouragement to share the Gospel even if the person I am trying to reach may find it so remotely irrelevant. It may start that way. Just be faithful to love and share and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
This is the reason why we believe that this gospel hope is for all. We are reminded of the words of St Paul in 1 Timothy 2:3-6:
"This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."
I can think of no greater privilege than to help another person to find faith in Jesus Christ. Singapore today, rich in diversity and a home for over two million non-citizens is an exciting place for the sharing of the Gospel. May the Lord love, speak and heal through each of us.
30 December 2018 | Vicar Writes
By Terry Wong
A photo taken from the Cathedral Bell Tower in 1863. This photo is released in "Singapore Then and Now" by Ray Tyers, Landmark Books, 2018
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm33:12
Reflection, remembrance and thanksgiving come together.
We will be reminded - again and again - to remember in 2019. Being the bi-centennial year, we will of course be remembering what Stamford Raffles and our colonial leaders have done for our city.
However, it is also valid to say that history is strewn with many unrecognised factors, movers and shakers. Old Singapore already existed before the British came to shore. Surrounded and protected by other lands and islands, it meant that she has a steady and growing existence, almost uninterrupted by natural disasters.
Situated on a busy sea route also meant the merchants from the surrounding region and world were calling to port constantly. With the advent of faster and better ships, the English and Europeans came a calling, transforming our maps forever.
Arabic and Indian merchants left their imprint with the increasing importance of the spice trade.
With the internal wars and rise of Communism in China, this meant that many sought a better life in this island. And highly capable and educated missionaries who could not enter China came to Singapore instead.
Our early political leaders had the foresight to seek for education in developed countries, most of which had values imbued from years of Christian civilisation.
It is a long list of many factors that have shaped Singapore today.
I am coming to my point.
When we say we are thankful, is that a passive reaction almost akin to saying “we are so lucky!”? Or are we thankful because we believe that people and nations have a destiny and that God has both created and called us as such?
In other words, whether reflecting over our personal lives or that of the nation, we are thankful to Someone. As the psalmist extols in Psalm 100:4: Give thanks to Him!
This will be the Christian attitude. While we make attributions to factors that have shaped our nation and our lives, we always recognise the Hand that has moved them. Theologically, we sometimes use this big word “sovereignty of God". Pick up the Bible and read and you will find that this truth underpins every book in her.
I should not forget to add that thanksgiving is also sometimes expressed to our fellow human beings. As St Paul will say in 1 Cor 1:4, "I give thanks to my God always for you…”
As the year ends, take some time to think about the Lord. Take some time to thank those around you. And as you step into the Bi-Centennial year, never forget to give thanks to the One who "causes nations to rise and fall (Job 12:23)."
23 December 2018 | Vicar Writes
Preparing For A Different Year
By Terry Wong
2019 will be special in many ways for us in SAC. As you might know, we are preparing for the Celebration of Hope rallies from 17-19th May and this is going to change the shape of our year as a Cathedral community. We know COH is organised to bless our wider Body of Christ and our society. We can also ask, how can COH be a blessing to us here at SAC?
You may have heard of this phrase: "If you change nothing, nothing will change.” So, we are asking each of you to consider these:
That we participate in COH as small groups. This will be largely through our Connect groups but many of you can also band together through other ways. This is the way we are going to sign up to help with the logistics (ushers etc) for the Filipino-English rally on Sunday morning (10.30 am, 19th May). This is also how we will encourage each other to participate in the training on Friday evenings in January, culminating with the regional prayer at end January. We are going to encourage each other - via small groups - to pray, engage and gather (PEG) our friends and family members who do not know about the love of Christ. This means we have to plan differently for the first five months of the year. If you proceed BAU (business as usual) with your Connect Group plans, your group is going to miss out on this unique opportunity.
That we engage deeper in prayer. We will be hosting a monthly regional prayer gathering on the last Friday. Be there yourself and encourage your group to come along. Apart from that, we also have smaller prayer groups which meet each week to seek the Lord. Think of joining one of them. I cannot think of anything that can be as powerful as prayer that will keep us engaged with God's Kingdom work.
That we free up space in order to focus. I am asking that we go lighter on other activities during this period (Jan-May) that are not related to outreach or prayer. We cannot keep adding without subtracting. This is one way we can serve each other while ensuring we are not distracting ourselves or others from the urgency of the harvest. Some of these distractions may not be events but trivial issues or conflicts that can consume an inordinate amount of time and energy which have no useful or lasting purpose. There is this cliche which puts it very simply: “Don't sweat the small stuff."
That we be more intentional as we think about how we may plan our activities. For example, interest group activities are important. Activities like cooking demos, birthday parties, talks on money management and so on can be very relevant to our non-Christian friends. I have personally conducted some cooking demos for Cell groups (not from SAC) where many guests turned up. I will be most happy to serve our Connect Groups here and there are others in our food ministry who can do likewise. I am sure you can think of other activities. My point is, if you are not intentional with connecting with your friends, it will be a tall order to get them interested to go to the Stadium with you.
Remember, if you change nothing, nothing will change. Start now and make 2019 a special year for you, your group and the SAC community. Invest 2019 with eternal value. Live it without regret. Let Him be glorified in our lives.
16 December 2018 | Vicar Writes
The Present Under the Tree
By Terry Wong
Christmas and the year-end is a great season to reach out to our friends and family. We have a variety of events coming up this week where you can invite someone to.
As a boy, coming from a non-Christian home, my early exposure to the Christian faith was through carols. And believe it or not, a Christmas tree! I followed my mum to visit the home of a Christian family. I can still remember the curiosity in my heart when I was asked to pick a present from a pile underneath the tree. We should never underestimate how little things can convey the love and joy of the Christian faith to those who have very little exposure to it.
Our Lessons and Carols Service is a popular annual event, hosted by our very own choir. The Nave will be a beautiful setting as we celebrate this season with great music and readings. We are doing our best to ensure that there is enough room for everyone, including the use of South Transept. Those with children are encouraged to use the transept.
This year’s Christmas@Cathedral (Fri-Sat, 21st-22nd) is not as elaborate as previous years as we take a breather. That said, there is a great lineup of musical performances at both the Cafe and Nave. We also encourage you to support the Capitol Christmas events on Sun 23rd from noon onwards, which is hosted by churches in the vicinity.
All the Services next weekend along with the Christmas Services will provide rich opportunities to invite someone. Take note of the details in our bulletin and posters. We are expecting a very full Christmas Midnight Eucharist service. This year, I believe we will be able to provide the best possible overflow experience at CNS with the latest connection and visual upgrades. It will be facilitated to encourage participation. We want to ensure that those sitting there will feel they are a part of the congregation in the Nave, worshipping the Lord together through the carol-singing and the Ministry of the Word and Sacrament. If you can’t get seats in the Nave, bring your friends to CNS.
Our home is also a good place to celebrate the season and for those who are able, may it be a great way to stay in touch with our family and friends. And as I have shared, you will never know what the presents under the tree will mean for your guests. Little touches of love will go a long way.
9 December 2018 | Vicar Writes
The Vision of the Cathedral
By Terry Wong
The historic and strategic location of the Cathedral - along with her calling as a Church - has always invested her with a sense of vision and mission. Each generation seeks to refresh and continue these. The vision can be laid out in this way:
A Home in the City
The Cathedral is an oasis and home in the midst of a bustling modern city. We seek to be a quiet place where one can find solace in and peace with God. We welcome all to meet, pray, attend services, meet as Bible Study or prayer groups, enjoy a drink etc. Being at the heart of a cosmopolitan city, we will endeavour to provide worship avenues and create social spaces for people of different races, languages and backgrounds.
We are mindful that many in our city will need help and support. We want to create spaces for healing, restoration and spiritual formation. Matthew 11:18-20
A Monument in the City
The Cathedral’s history is intertwined with our city nation. Ours is a city which was built by many foreigners. Our rich heritage bears testimony to the contributions of many peoples: Scottish, English, Australians, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Arabs and so on. Devout Christians have served as inspiring examples of love and sacrifice and helped to instil good values. These are some of the seeds on which this city is built. Hebrews 13:7
As a monument and heritage centre we seek to be good stewards of our rich heritage and “remember and tell” the story well, to current and future generations. We will preserve and build on our rich music, arts and historical aspects of our monument. As our nation progresses, this story is still unfolding. We need to keep good records of developing stories so that future generations will remember and tell. May we be a monument to His glory. Psalm 105:1-3
A Voice in the City
The city is not just about people and space. It is an intersection where the latest ideas collide with those from antiquity. We seek to offer a Christian voice and make contributions to the ongoing debates. Acts 17:22-34
We seek to help Christians to reflect deeper on their faith and strengthen our prophetic voice. We will work at building a strong Christian Education programme and use various platforms – old or new – to engage with Christians and other citizens. Ephesians 4:14-15
A Mother Church for the Diocese
This is our inherited ecclesial role. We are called to be a diffusing light to those around us, including neighbouring nations. We will seek to set an inspiring example in all that we do, to encourage our Anglican parishes here and in the deaneries. Areas will include worship, prayer, biblical teaching, community-building, outreach to the poor and needy, evangelism, missions, church-planting etc. We pray that other Anglicans or Christians who visit the Cathedral will find her to be an encouraging and inspiring church. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 Note: Earlier iterations of these statements were first released in 2016.
2 December 2018 | Vicar Writes
Welcoming the Season of Advent
By Terry Wong
Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent on 2nd December till the Sunday before Christmas Day, our sermons will be focusing on the season of Advent. Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgment.
The anticipation of Christmas under commercial pressure has also made it harder to sustain the appropriate level of alert watchfulness, but the fundamental Advent prayer remains ‘Maranatha’ – ‘Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16.22).
Purple is the traditional liturgical colour. In the northern hemisphere, the Advent season falls at the darkest time of the year, and the natural symbols of darkness and light are powerfully at work throughout Advent and Christmas. The lighting of candles on an Advent wreath is a common practice and helps families or the church to count down towards Christmas.
The First Sunday of Advent also starts the new liturgical year. The liturgical calendar of the Anglican Church enables us as a worshipping community to remember, appreciate and celebrate the entire life of Jesus Christ each year. The gospel is the central focus of the Christian calendar. It encompasses six major seasons, namely, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Trinity. The period stretching from Advent to Easter follows the life of Christ, with Pentecost concluding the Easter season seven weeks later. Between Pentecost and the next Advent is a long period called “ordinary time.” This is the "time of the church", where the church is reminded of her calling in the world, fulfilling the mission of God until the next season of Advent and Christmas, which “functions as the proclamation of the Parousia.”
Here in our Cathedral and Diocese, as it happens in other places outside the UK, we have adapted or contextualised some of these practices. As always, our liturgical practices will evolve, shaped by our local needs and customs, while trying to maintain some continuity with the past and our wider Communion.
Some comments on the collect for the first Sunday of Advent (front page of bulletin). Thomas Cranmer employs the splendidly effective imagery of darkness and light, coupled with Christ’s glorious return at the end of our time. This collect draws on similar phrases in the epistle from Romans 13, and anticipates also the gospel from Matthew 21 that describes Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem. This prayer encourages us to have a posture of both penitence and anticipation during this season.
Do keep a look out for the various events organised in the Cathedral and in our home groups (Connect Groups). There will be many opportunities to introduce someone to the message of Advent and Christmas.
25 November 2018 | Vicar Writes
Diversity and Space
By Terry Wong
The Cathedral was in the news last Sunday. Obviously, the issue of the bells is of public interest.
This may be a good opportunity for me to explain the policies and principles which guide the way Cathedral manages her heritage responsibilities.
We do feel responsible to maintain them well in honour of previous donors and to preserve our heritage. Sometimes, we have to meet expectations from the government authorities or wider society. In this respect, we share similar responsibilities with other churches with heritage interests such as our sister parish St George's Church, The Armenian Church and some Roman Catholic parishes. There are many who appreciate Church music and the arts, and being a church in the city, we have the opportunity to connect with the wider society.
These heritage responsibilities need not stand over and against our fundamental spiritual responsibilities such as missions and worship. For this reason, when it comes to heritage matters, we often seek to have more targeted fund-raising instead of tapping on our existing general funds, which is contributed from the tithes and free-will offerings. The government also has ways to help in the upkeep of our monuments facilities, and where possible, the church tries to tap on these funds. In other words, while we may fund-raise for the Bells Project, we do not allocate funds for it from our general fund. In this way, we allow those who see its cultural value to contribute. To each his own.
We respect the community in SAC with her diverse interests and gifts. We seek to find a place for everyone to serve, whether it is in flower arrangement, cooking, stole-sewing or bell pulling! Speaking personally, I have more interest in the clashing of the spatula with the wok than that of the clapper to the bells. But I have met Christians here who are deeply interested in the bells and enamoured of the unique sounds they create or the mind-blowing mathematical patterns generated.
We believe that we should create space for every member to serve and use their gifts. Our diverse gifts can be channelled to enrich the Church rather than create conflict through competing interests or voices.
As God's Word reminds us, “whatever you do, do it to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).” The attitudes and motivations of one’s heart matter more than anything else.
We do not let these concerns distract us from the ministry responsibilities of the Church and it is not difficult to see how active the Cathedral is in local and overseas missions (for further information, one may read the latest Missions handbook). Some of these ministries reach some of the poorest sectors of our societies. We are also involved in crisis relief work in Lombok and Palu.
The Cathedral also feels a sense of deep responsibility to help other Anglican parishes or missions. Recently, we contributed $600,000 to the Church of the Epiphany's new building project from our property fund. The leadership shown by SAC also helps to garner support from other parishes. I should add that our property fund is also enriched by legacy giving*. Members have donated properties and other possessions to the Cathedral over the years. The management and sales of some of these properties enable the Cathedral to be generous in responding to building needs here and in our deaneries.
The clergy, deaconesses, pastors and PCC appreciate your continual prayers as we seek to lead and manage this vineyard well. We are grateful as always for the many generous givers out there who give their time and money to serve the Lord. Without you, we would not have been able to fulfil our wide range of responsibilities.
* For legacy giving, please visit anglican.org.sg/page/legacygiving
A full story of the Bells and the costs involved will be released in the January issue of The Courier.
18 November 2018 | Vicar Writes
As We Approach The Season Of Advent…
By Terry Wong
The Diocesan Synod met on the 9th and 10th of November. The Synod is made up of clergy and elected lay representatives from our parishes and deaneries. The Synod assists the Bishop and the Standing Committee in the running of the life and affairs of the Diocese.
Some building projects were approved at the Synod, including the Pavilion. The latest design has been submitted to URA by our architect. As mentioned before, a generous worshipper in one of our Services is contributing to this project. Since a few years back, this person has journeyed with us in our search for a permanent alternative to the white tents adjacent to the Nave. We are also grateful for the help and advice of the authorities (URA and PSM). If all goes well, this project will be completed by the fourth quarter of 2019.
At the Synod, in his presidential address, Bishop shared on the need to keep a dedicated focus on the Lord and the work of sowing and reaping as we inch closer to the Celebration of Hope rallies in May next year. His full address, entitled “Total Dedication for God’s moment” can be read in the latest November issue of Diocesan Digest. He also urged us not to be distracted by matters of lesser importance or matters for “another time.”
One way which I have always found helpful to keep the spiritual focus is communal prayer. Life in our busy city has its usual busyness. Through prayer, we discern the will of the Lord and His Kingdom purposes in the daily routines and concerns of our lives. Every relationship we have, from acquaintances to family members can be infused by the presence and lordship of Christ. It can change the motives of our hearts and texture of our conversations, framing natural opportunities for the gospel to be shared.
In particular, please pray for opportunities to sow in friendships as you work with your Connect Group members to organise a home Christmas party and invite friends. Do also bear in mind the many Christmas events which you can invite your friends to.
Advent will begin very richly with the performance and ministry of Sir Peter Low’s Choir on the Sunday evening of 2nd December. The costs of the tickets ($50/centre, $10/side aisle) - in support of Sulawesi Relief Fund - are well below the costs of tickets which this same choir will charge elsewhere. If you have been to one of their concerts, you will agree that it is of the highest professional standard. And yet, the musical experience is deeply spiritual and moving.
I should not fail to mention that our choir’s Lessons and Carols on the 16th of Dec (Sunday evening) is also a very special event. There will be a short Gospel message. Do invite your friends.
As the year turns, we can look forward to the January issue of our Courier magazine. The team has decided to release two issues per year, in the first and third quarter of the year. The editorial team is spearheaded by Philip Towndrow. While we wait for the printed issues, do note that there is a Courier Onlinewhere many teaching articles and testimonies are posted.
11 November 2018 | Vicar Writes
Of Buildings and Bells
By Terry Wong
Most of you would have heard by now that we are designing and building a Pavilion on the north lawn. Discussion and plans have been underway since a few years back to find a suitable overflow area to replace the current temporary tents adjacent to the Nave.
Earlier ideas were mostly concentrated on the northeast (koi pond/amphitheatre) areas. After further consultations with URA and PSM, we were advised to think of the propect of building a pavilion on the north lawn, directly on top of the CNS Sanctuary. That began another round of design submissions and discussions and the latest concept reflects the guidance given by URA/PSM. The costs will be covered by a generous donor.
Apart from serving as an overflow community area, the tent has also acted as a covered passageway for the busy thoroughfare between the West Porch and North Transept Hall. This means that we will need to obtain permission to provide an alternative. We are all aware of how difficult it can be when it is raining cats and dogs during our back- to-back Services. There is also heavy ponding in the West Porch area, an issue which is being looked at.
The audio-visual facilities at the heavily used New Sanctuary (CNS) are being upgraded. Again, thanks to a generous donor, we are able to install a new visual system which is already garnering very good feedback. The current audio system has served us very well for over ten years now. But with irreparable faults, a new system is needed.
We are also embarking on expansion plans to cope with the need for more office space, ministry rooms (Sunday school, teaching, meetings, counselling) and worship spaces. Termed “Phase 2”, this project will take 3-4 years. Some of the ideas have been presented in previous AGMs but we hope to present an actual design and estimated costs at next year’s AGM. Various groups and committees are currently working on this project.
On the heritage side, you would have also noticed that we have "quietly" launched the Bells of St Andrew’s Cathedral Project. We are praying that those who have a special interest in this project will rally around and support it. It is a heritage responsibility which we are glad to be able to finally get round to fulfil. A well written brochure can be obtained at various points in the cathedral. You can also access it here at https://cathedral.org.sg/bells
We are also planning to start restoration works for the Nave Monument. The last major restoration work was in 1991. Having spent a few years in research and experimenting with plastering works, we are now ready to do some significant restoration works, which are expected to take 2-3 years to complete. In addition, we expect significant maintenance work may be required from time to time, between major restorations. We will be tapping on our reserves but we plan to set up a new Heritage Fund as well. Keeping a Heritage fund on the radar constantly will allow members and friends to contribute on a regular basis.
We appreciate your continual support and prayers as we endeavour to be good stewards of all that the Lord has entrusted to us.
This writeup is submitted by Keith Chua, who chairs the Building and Development Committee (BDC).
4 November 2018 | Vicar Writes
A Seed Which Grew
By Terry Wong
What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19
We were in Phnom Penh over the weekend to dedicate the the new seven storey Church of Christ Our Peace (CCOP) and also to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Deanery of Cambodia.
Two other clergy were ordained with me in 1993. Revd Don Cormack served as the first Vicar of CCOP. He was the author of the popular book, The Killing Fields. Revd William Mok was eventually sent by Bishop Moses Tay (1996) to serve for many years there as Vicar of CCOP and later, as Dean of Cambodia. It was novel then for a Singaporean clergy to take this step, as it meant crossing culture and many years of language learning. This, Revd William took in good stride and I have always admired him for his tenacity in serving in such a challenging place.
I heard a lot about the work there but never actually visited it. I heard about the villa which our Diocese bought and invested in to house this fledgling work. I heard about the ministry difficulties there. Even then, we weren’t sure that this piece of property can be secured given the political uncertainties of the land. Property ownership functions differently in an emerging third world country and I can recall difficult discussions in Synods and committees.
As it turns out, the Lord is building His Church in Cambodia. A few more churches were planted in smaller towns and villages. The first Asian clergy who was ordained from one of our deaneries was Revd Tit Hieng in 1999. He grew up under the Khmer Rouge regime and came to Christ through the ministry of our first Anglican missionary, the Revd Don Comack. Today Revd Tit Hieng is the Vicar of the Rural Mission District where the majority of our Cambodian members are located. His vision is to develop these missionary districts into self-supporting Anglican parishes.
Eventually Canon Wong Tak Meng became the dean. A few missionaries from other Provinces (such as the Anglican Church in North America, ACNA) were also sent. In 2013, Revd Gregory Whitaker began his ministry as priest in charge of the English Service. The service grew and it is almost 300 on a good Sunday morning. Revd Jesse Blaine, who is fluent in Khmer, heads the Khmer Service which has grown to about 80 today. Revd Steven Seah was based there from 2017.
At the same time, our Cathedral has been very involved in Project Khmer H.O.P.E. This work has also grown and the details are found in the Mission booklet which will be handed out this month.I
was listening to Mr Andrew Tay’s sermon online. He was speaking on Onesimus from the book of Philemon and his challenge to us is to be more involved in prisons work. This is another opportunity to be involved in sharing the love of Christ.
28 October 2018 | Vicar Writes
Pray Engage Gather
By Terry Wong
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:41,42
This week, the Senior Staff Team is setting aside two days for planning. With the coming Celebration of Hope rallies (COH) in May next year, we are having a different take to the shape of this period. We want to work out the details of the three PEG cycles.
PEG stands for Pray, Engage and Gather.
Pray. We start by praying for those with whom we want to share the Gospel. This person can be a family member, a friend, a colleague, an acquaintance or even a stranger. We pray regularly for him or her. Praying also clarifies our motives. It is not about meeting a “target” or trying to “win” a person for Christ. It is not a numbers game or to convert a person to our side. It is about giving this person an opportunity to meet Jesus (see John 1:41,42). As we pray, may the Spirit fill our hearts with God's love for those around us.
Engage. Our prayerful desire moves into loving action as we seek to engage or connect with others. It can be an invitation to meet up for a chat over a meal, attend a concert, a birthday or Christmas party. Or pausing to listen and show some care. Every friend and acquaintance is a precious gift in life. You are not an insurance agent seeking to sell a product. I cannot think of anything that can be as effective a friendship-killer as harbouring an ulterior motive in wanting to know a person. It chills the air when the person suddenly realises it. If the friendship is genuine and longterm, trust me, there will be many God-given opportunities to share the love of Christ in word and deed. However, not everyone you are engaging with needs to be “your friend.” Don’t freak out your security guard or your subordinate across the office. If your behaviour has been Christian (i.e you have not been rude and dismissive but caring and warm), your invitation will be appreciated even if some were to refuse it politely. I shouldn’t be telling you this! Any person should intuitively know that there are many ways to be authentic and bless the people around us.
Gather. Here is where the Church is assisting you. We are organising Christmas@Home by encouraging Connect Groups to host Christmas parties. It may have been a while since your group has welcomed guests into the home. And nothing will be as natural as a Christmas party. I once talked with an unbeliever who attended a Christmas event in church. He said it was his first time. I asked him why it took him so long. He said, "No one invited.” I think you get the point. Then, there is Alpha Everywhere starting in early 2019. SAC will be levelling up and will add one if not two lunchtime Alpha Courses to our regular Wednesday evening run. SAC will provide a warm and welcoming venue, good food and drinks and screen the Alpha Film Series. It is for you to gather your friends/colleagues and help form a small group comprising hosts and guests. Talk. Eat. Watch. Discuss. Go back to office. Easy enough? And of course, lastly, from March 2019 onwards, we will focus sharply on the COH stadium events. More will be said at the right time.
Pray. Engage. Gather. Peg, peg and peg again. May these three cycles help us to be an Andrew to those around us.
21 October 2018 | Vicar Writes
By Terry Wong
I am doing something unusual today. I want to share with you a few years’ statistics of our services’ weekly attendance which was shown at our recent Chapter Meeting.
Our Chapter, PCC and Staff do monitor the trends of services’ attendance and givings from time to time. We are not enamoured of statistics and neither do we run the church "by figures.” However the trends do tell us something about what has been going on. One can reflect on these trends and come to understand a bit more the various dynamics affecting our church growth and life. I can imagine that our discussions can get very interesting as we imagine what the reasons could be behind the trends.
Whatever the statistics and trends may be, as a church, we need to endeavour to remain caring, personal and relational as a church community. You will recall the article where I reflected on the parables of the lost coin, sheep and son in Luke 15 “Don't Ask Why".
The point must not be missed - it was just one. We may watch the trends and statistics occasionally, but we need to watch the “one” constantly. And even if our friends fail us, we are reminded of God our Father who cares for each of us. As Jesus said in Luke 12:7: "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Seated in the service this morning, take some time to get to know someone who may be a stranger to you. We come closest to His heart when we show attention and love to someone created in His image.
14 October 2018 | Vicar Writes
The Glory of God is at Stake
By Terry Wong
Last Sunday, PraySingapore was held on the weekend of Children's Day to celebrate families as building blocks of our society and to dedicate the next generation. Many married couples renewed their marriage vows. We also repented over our society’s widespread practice and tolerance of abortions.
It wasn’t an evening of finger-pointing. The church searched her own heart as we repented of our indifference, hypocrisy and lack of passion for the glory of God.
Courtesy of Thir.st
The event also focused our hearts on the Celebration of Hope (COH) evangelistic events next May in the same venue. We saw a very inspiring 1978 video of Billy Graham’s Rally at our National Stadium and the way Singaporeans responded during the altar call. Our bishop called on Christians to pray for opportunities to proclaim the good news to their friends and family in order to transform their homeland. Along with other pastors in Singapore, he believes that God is orchestrating a season in which “many people are going to find their way back to God through Jesus Christ”.
“We’re praying that every Christian in every church will arise and share the good news of Jesus, personally, with relatives, friends and acquaintances, so that they may know Him in whom alone is life,” he said. However, believers should not just view the event as merely just another evangelistic rally, but a “vital step in God’s process of revival” in Singapore. “People of God, we need revival. We need revival because the ground is hard, dark and opposing forces are many. And most important of all, the glory of God is at stake,” he said.
“Another reason we need a revival is there is a lack of righteousness in the land,” said the Bishop. Issues such as divorce, abortion, gender confusion, sexual brokenness, gambling and other vices permeate the culture, he said.
“It paints a picture of how much we must cry out for God to come upon the land. Only God can change the conduct and ethical life of the people here and bring them to saving faith in Christ." Christians in Singapore must acknowledge their brokenness and the fractures in the local body of Christ, and to pray for churches and organisations to work together “with one heart and mind for the harvest” and for God to lead them to spiritual victory.
Courtesy of Thir.st
“The single most important factor for revival – God’s revival – is prayer,” said Bishop Ponniah. “Let it be believing prayer, in a mighty God, whose love knows no bounds. Let it be beseeching prayer – we beg God and we don’t let go until it happens And let it be body-of-Christ prayer. Whether it’s in twos or threes, in your churches, or in gatherings such as these. Let us have beseeching prayer, that His glory may be seen in this mighty harvest.”
Bishop closed quoting Psalm 126:5: “Those who sow in tears will surely reap with shouts of joy.” If we are willing to sacrifice, pray passionately and work hard, we will see joyful results.
Our Cathedral will be fully engaged with Celebration of Hope. We will be holding prayer gatherings monthly, where Christians from other churches will be participating as well. We will be having three cycles of opportunities to share the Gospel: Christmas Outreach through our Connect groups in December, the Alpha Courses starting in February and from March onwards, preparations for COH.
The Cathedral community is also asked to support the Sunday 10.30am rally through ushering and this will be another opportunity to serve. In November, we will be sharing more details across our services.
Meanwhile, I ask that each of us pray and focus on the spiritual priorities before us, out of love for the Lord, His Church and our nation. It is through prayer that we keep a firmer grip or “traction” on this vision, ensuring that we are not “distracted" through pre-occupation with the worries and cares of life (or even church ministry or community matters). It is a common vision for His glory which will help to keep the cathedral strong and united, and where we do not allow differences to take centre stage. The words of our Lord in Matthew 6:33, to "seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added onto you” can be applied to Cathedral life. When we put first things first, other issues will find their own solutions and fit.
For the first time since I became the Vicar here, Bishop has posted a clergy to serve with us. We warmly welcome Revd Joshua Raj Sundaraj, his wife Santhi and their children, Joseph, Faith and Joy. There is intention some time next year to start a Tamil-speaking Service in SAC. Revd Joshua is effectively bilingual and I am sure he will be a pastoral blessing to our English-speaking community too.
As I have shared with PCC and my staff, as a “Mother Church”, we should endeavour to raise new clergy, deaconesses and pastors from our community. This is the answer I sometimes give when members ask me why I am not asking Bishop to post more clergy here. The pool of clergy is always limited, especially with missions needs as well in our six deaneries. Our gain here is a loss somewhere else. Likewise, when I served for 14 years in St James’ Church, I have not asked for someone to be sent in either. Instead very prayerfully, we pipelined potential pastors, clergy ordinands and missionaries for future needs, starting them off either in practical ministry as parish workers or going straight into biblical or theological training.
A clergy or pastor is shaped in community. These “proofing" and preparation processes take years. Sometimes people think that whether a person should be ordained is solely Bishop’s choice. In our diocese, the process begins much earlier. The ordinands are often “bubbled up” through the life of the parish or offered by the parish community. The “bubbling up” process is a wonderful one, as a potential clergy discovers his calling through humble serving and being intertwined with a community, who will affirm his calling eventually. The disciples exhorted the early Christian community (Acts 6:3) “Choose from among you." Even as I speak, we already have in training or planning, those who have sensed this ministry calling. Some will eventually serve here or posted to serve elsewhere in other parts of the Anglican family.
In October, we hope to help our Cathedral community to be more aware of some of our community services and ministries. The Cathedral herself is directly involved via CITY Community Services which runs student care and befrienders club programmes in neighbourhood schools. We also run the Home for the Aged where we care for “homeless" seniors. We also cross cultures with our Befriending Migrant Workers ministry (BMW) and our Project Khmer H.O.P.E. This weekend, Ds Bessie Lee will be drawing attention to these. As always, we will need manpower and financial resources. If you like to help, please contact Pat Aw (email@example.com, CITY) or Adeline Hee at firstname.lastname@example.org (for BMW, PKH).
On the second weekend, we celebrate our Diocesan flagship medical work through the work of Singapore Anglican Community Services and St Andrew’s Mission Hospital (SACS/SAMH). We also want to draw attention to issues of mental health. Both Revd Gilbert Wong and Archdeacon Wong Tak Meng will be speaking at our Services. They are both familiar with hospital chaplaincy work and able to speak on how Christians can be more involved in these areas of care-giving and healing. A good number from our Cathedral community are already involved in SACS/SAMH as workers or volunteers.
On the third weekend, we will be observing Diocesan Healthcare Sunday. This is an annual event where we remember and honour our healthcare workers. And on the fourth, we are inviting the Director of Prisons Fellowship of Singapore, Andrew Tay to speak at our Nave morning Services. How much can the Cathedral community help ex-offenders who are willing to change? We will see.
Today (Sunday), we will be joining the PraySingapore event at the SportsHub. May it inspire many of us to pray “unceasingly” for His destiny to be fulfilled through this city-nation.
30 September 2018 | Vicar Writes
Don’t Ask Why
By Terry Wong
Imagine. You were holding a bunch of coins. A ten-cent coin dropped to the floor. It rolled under your bed.
Would you crawl under your bed and search for the lost coin? Apparently, you would.
You groped in the dark, sliding your palm and creeping your fingers and dusting your palm across the floor. The cobwebs tickled your nose as it pushed into the bed. You could hardly breathe, choking from the dust and gasping for clean air. You shut your eyes and let your fingers do the seeing. Breathing only when you needed to, your fingers continued to tap, slide and feel.
You thought you felt something metallic. But somehow, your palm sliding and gliding along the dusty floor, gave it another push. It moved further into the darkness of the nether regions of the bed. Sigh.
You sneezed again and then it happened. Your head jerked backwards. Grimacing from the pain, you are reminded of the kind of wood which your bed was made from. Especially if your skull felt the sharp edge of teak wood.
Thinking about the bunch of coins which you had set aside to do this search, any normal human being would have given up, don’t you think? After all, it is just one amongst the many you have.
It would be a nice end to the story if I were to tell you that this lost coin was special. That the bunch of coins you held at the start is a collection of vintage ones. And that the one which dropped and rolled happened to be very rare.
No, as I said, this is a ten-cent coin. It was the day it was minted and has remained so. Common and very normal. It is just change.
But you are anything other than normal. And so, you kept creeping on.
Finally your finger felt something. You quickly slapped your palm onto it. It was not going anywhere anymore. Digging it up with your finger nail and grasping it with your hand, you now slowly reversed yourself out of the bed. Your face was almost touching the floor. Better a dusty face than a swelling head. By now, your white T-shirt had mopped the floor.
You finally stood up. Coin in hand, you proudly shouted and announced to your children that you had found it. They rushed into the room, amazed not by your find but theirs, of a rather crazy, dusty and ridiculously-looking daddy.
This story does not make sense, does it?
You will respond in the same way listening to the three parables which Jesus taught in Luke 15.
Losing one amongst ten silver coins is not worth a troublesome and thorough sweep of the house, let alone announcing the find to her neighbours. She would have been a rather strange woman.
And who would leave ninety-nine sheep alone in the wilderness just to search for one which was missing? We would think the shepherd was negligent. And he has the audacity to throw a party after the successful search. It doesn't make sense.
And what about the unfilial “I wish you had died earlier” son? Squandering all his father's money away and grovelling at the dirt of life the way the man in my story did under the bed, he was a complete shame to his family. Again, he had the audacity to return to ask for forgiveness. The father ran to him, hugged and welcomed him. And like the other two parables, he celebrated his return with a huge feast. Whether we think the father or the son was prodigal (extravagant or rash), the fact is, again, this story does not make sense.
All three don’t, and include my fourth if you like.
The point is, we are only worthy because God deems us to be so. That is how he sees us. Not one amongst many, as if our worth is determined by how many replicates there are. Neither is there any intrinsic value in this lone object or person which deserves such a sacrificial search, extravagant response and celebration. As the song goes, “nothing you can do could make Him love you more and nothing you have done can make Him close the door."
It only makes sense if we realise that our worth is tied simply to how much He values us. That was what Jesus was trying to teach. It is a difficult and slippery grasp, I know.
He loves you. (John 3:16)
He searches for you. (Luke 15)
He died for you. (John 3:16).
He disciplines you. (Hebrews 12:6).
He will marry you. (Revelations 19:7).
You and I mean that much to Him. Don’t ask why. There is no answer to that.
It is just love.
23 September 2018 | Vicar Writes
I think the Dean was right
By Terry Wong
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full." - Jesus Christ (John 10:10)
Have you heard a good talk or read a good book of late on friendship? It seems like it has fallen out of fashion, or relegated to an adiaphorous category, of something that is of little importance or inconsequential.
On the contrary, if you have watched Crazy Rich Asians or similar movies, it seems like romance is essential to life. That love is romance. And of course, sex being integral to that.
I can recall serving in the Cathedral as a young and eager deacon in the early nineties. I was charged with rewriting the marriage preparation material. I wrote up a new lesson on the importance of romance. My dean then was Bishop John Tan. I can still vividly recall how he frowned upon the need for a chapter on romance in a marriage preparation course. I harboured some thoughts in my heart as I quietly reacted: “What an old-fashioned idea! What a funless thought! Romance is essential to a good marriage.”
I can tell you this, as honestly as I possibly can. Twenty eight years later - of which twenty five is spent married to Jennifer - and having seen so many marriages fall apart, I must admit that Bishop John Tan was correct on many counts. Men and women have been bewitched by a misplaced importance on romance. A ten-year-old marriage (or less!) can hardly stand a chance when one party seeks to recreate the feelings of romance and physical intimacy they imagine the marriage should continue to have.
Meanwhile, the idea of friendship continues to fade and human family experience is impoverished. How ironic. The human existence is uniquely housed and structured in a family. It is here that we receive our identities as we are called from anonymity. It is here that we are given a name, a place, and a "mother tongue”. We learn to speak by being spoken to. Further, the language I learn to speak is not “mine" but “ours.” We find our identity within family and community.
Alas, such a family has no chance to grow as one spouse gets bored, distracted and walks out of the home. Children grow in a family-less existence. Meanwhile, glued to American sitcoms, they are told “gleefully” that true love is found in romance. They get married, often after a whirlwind romance. And then sooner or later, the romance fades. As quickly as "one can’t help falling in love”, they couldn’t help falling out of it either. It gets predictable. The vicious cycle continues.
The experience and concept of family disintegrate. And along with that our old friend - friendship herself. The thing is, what truly matters in life are good friendships. Friends whom we can walk together with through life. A community of friends whereby I discover who I truly am, where character is grown in the context of where I learn to be less self-occupied and more centred on the other.
For when our days are almost finished, when we have the luxury to contemplate on our death-bed and recollect life, it will be true friends and family whom we will treasure. Those who have not ravished us for their self gain. Those who have truly loved and given to us, enriching us for here and eternity. Those whom we have truly loved.
I know. It is old-fashioned. As old as the declarations we say every Sunday about the primary importance of loving God and our fellow man - as one would love oneself. Agape sits so strangely in the modern reductionist view of love. However it remains the guiding vision of the Christian life and I should say, “life” without any qualification. It is agape that founds the truly human, moral, and faithful life.
Don’t look for true love. Make your love true. And you will live life truly - and sanely - rich.
16 September 2018 | Vicar Writes
Caring For God’s House
By Terry Wong
"Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses,
while this house lies in ruins?" Haggai 1:4
In my sermon last Sunday, as a point of illustration, I mentioned the state of our Nave’s facade. I should state upfront that this is a matter of concern for us in the leadership. Sharing personally, monument or not, I have always believed that we should be responsible for the state of our church facilities. Drawing from the principle stated in Haggai 1:4 (though it has a different context), we should treat the church better than we do our own properties.
In Singapore, we do not let our own homes become dilapidated due to the lack of repairs and maintenance. In part, this also arises from a social responsibility where each home owner knows that the state of their building also affects their neighbours or precinct.
While keeping our grounds clean is easier, and something which is being done diligently, keeping the facade of our buildings new can be a challenge. Some of you should have noticed that repairs were done last year on our New Sanctuary facade and surrounding walkways. The facade of our Nave is another matter altogether. While it may seem like applying a coat of paint should be a simple job, the issue has been the state of the plaster. We have taken a few years to determine the formula for the plaster which can withstand our weather. Comparing notes with similar buildings in the region has been helpful.
For those of you who share our concern, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We have settled on the right formula and work should begin soon. This kind of works can take up to three years to complete. In preparation for next year’s national Bi-Centennial Celebrations, we hope to at least repair some of the external walls.
Along the same note on “repairing the broken walls,” Cathedral also bears the “Mother Church” responsibility. The Church of Christ our Peace will be dedicating their new building in October. We have contributed $500,000 from our property fund more than a year ago. Likewise, we are looking into contributing a significant sum to the rebuilding project of our Indian congregation, The Church of the Epiphany at Jalan Kayu. On top of these, there are needs in various community service and missions organisations which we have been supporting. Some are local and in our Diocese and others are overseas, including the work in our deaneries. Each need is evaluated carefully and prayerfully.
I mean to say that all these are made possible because of the dedication and generosity of each member (and visitor too!). You are trusting the church leadership to steward these resources wisely. Do continue to give generously. We have not been able to meet every request, though some of the needs are worthy of our support as there are limits to what the church can support. Your faithful giving will enable us to respond to more needs.
Talking about responsible stewardship, this is also one reason why we are reviewing the way we receive gifts for our Harvest Festival next Sunday, which will be celebrated in some of our Nave morning Services. In recent years we had growing difficulties managing the gifts in kind which we have received as very few local organisations want them, or have capacity to sort them. Therefore what we will do this year is to ask our children to bring fruits in during the procession. These will be given to our Home for the Aged. The amount will be regulated so that it is manageable and nothing is wasted. On top of that, members can contribute to our Harvest offering in cash or cheques through the use of some special envelopes. With that, we will coordinate with our 289 Fellowship of the Manger to distribute goods to needy families in Batam. We hope in doing so, the spirit of the Harvest festival is kept while a measure of continuity is retained.
9 September 2018 | Vicar Writes
A Breadth that takes your Breath away
By Terry Wong
I had a very full and eventful week. Preparing to teach the book of Revelation was challenging. I should add that the teacher is often blessed as he spends hours studying and digging into the Word. Unusually, I forgot to save my intense work of many hours and I had to restart. So, I was doubly blessed!
I also preached at the weekly chapel at Trinity Theological College on Wednesday. In such an academic setting, everything has to be scripted and submitted for the translator into Mandarin. It was stretching.
There were also side meetings to resolve various ministry challenges. On Friday evening, it was our Connect Group leaders meeting where we were all briefed on how we may organise our CG Christmas outreach and how it fits into our preparations for next year’s Celebration of Hope. Then on Saturday, it was my privilege to show appreciation to our Children Ministry teachers through one thing which I do reasonably well: cooking.
Children Ministry Teachers' Day Celebration
The usual weekend preaching and leading Services ensued. I managed to sit in for Jeremy Gwee’s preaching at the eleven:30 Service. Being his first, I thought I should be there. Being a recent retiree after many years in banking and finance, he could connect with the congregation in a unique way, and issues of faith in the marketplace came alive. Jeremy is working at helping SAC to start an active marketplace ministry where we can draw alongside Cathedral members who are a part of society’s workforce, which of course includes many of us. We will let you know soon on what is being planned.
In the evening, I attended the 12th Anniversary dinner of New Charis Mission, where we celebrated this important work to youths at risk, the elderly, destitute etc. It was definitely a switch of gear but encouraging nevertheless to see the reach of the Gospel.
This pace was different, coming after a relaxing but moving visit to witness SAC’s PKH work in Cambodia in the previous week.
Meanwhile, the administration work hums along. The “swing the bell" project is making progress. We have heard back from the authorities but we realise we have a lot more work to do. We always say that the Cathedral is a “living monument.” We don’t just preserve past memories and tell them to present and future generations. We are also creating new stories for future generations. Our heritage is not just our colonial past. We are living a “future heritage”, which generations later will "remember and tell.” There will be new role models, added to the likes of Elizabeth Choy and Graham White. We don’t freeze in time and stop enriching the present. Our national monuments should not be just relics of the past and devoid of life and stories in the present. How we think will affect what we do, and it is my prayer that those entrusted with national responsibilities will help create a vibrant, creative and mutually owned environment.
My sharing this week simply points to the fact that the church and her witness is very diverse. There is beauty in this breadth that sometimes takes our breath away. It is not exhaustion, but one being overwhelmed by what the Lord is doing in every facet of life. One sees the beauty and breadth of His work and exclaims, “Let's praise the Lord”, which in Hebrew also means, Hallelujah!
2 September 2018 | Vicar Writes
Our Journey to Trang
By Terry Wong
Last week 39 Cathedral members and friends of Project Khmer H.O.P.E. (PKH) travelled by vans to the PKH Centre in Trang, nestled among several villages in the western part of Kampong Speu Province in Cambodia. For a part of our journey, we travelled through a scenic plantation area.
However, our vans stopped short of our destination when we were about 10 minutes away from the village. As it was the rainy season, our vans could not be driven on the dirt tracks without sinking into the soft mud. We had to cross that stretch on our feet and then rely on 2 four-wheel drive trucks to take us into the village. It was an adventurous journey. Perhaps, a parable of the journey PKH has taken in this frontier missions work.
When you walk into one of the poorest villages in a Third World country, what will you do? Assuming you have the language, you may go around and try to share the Gospel. If not, the translator can help you. The people may nod and smile. Some may even nod in agreement when you ask them if they want to say the “sinner’s prayer.” Whether it was a case of lost in translation, with that, you would think, “job done.”
Thankfully, that wasn’t the approach of PKH. They first visited the area in 2008. There, what they thought was “poverty”, was redefined. The national statistics of Cambodia indicate that in rural places like this commune, 90 percent of the people are illiterate; they have not had the chance for education. Many of these villagers are exposed to shame, poverty and exploitation. PKH was committed to rooting their help on a permanent basis. Short-term visits won’t do.
The new Mission House in PKH Trang. The flags of Cambodia, Singapore and PKH fly high in this outpost.
After much prayer, reflection and interaction with the locals, PKH started the PKH (Anglican) Centre in Trang on 23 October 2014 to serve the tribal peoples of Suoy origin. This centre provides English tuition and before/after school care daily for over 300 children. Bible lessons and values are taught. The children are also fed and for most, this is their only meal for the day. Most of these children attend a nearby government school. PKH also helped to bridge the involvement of students from polytechnic schools in Singapore. They helped to complete various projects including the building of a new community hall.
When housing facilities were needed for our permanent staff and visiting mission teams, PKH embarked on a project to build a Mission House on the premises of the Centre. With the help of Andrew Tan (Mandarin Congregation) and his team, the construction of the Mission House was completed earlier this year, and it was our privilege to dedicate it to the glory of God, during the trip.
We also distributed food packs to 200 villagers. Some had travelled overnight across rivers and hilly terrain. With a coupon in hand, they collected a pack of a 15kg sack of rice, cans of sardine and soap. Balancing the packs of rice on their heads, they headed back to their homes. Members of our team also visited the homes of the students.
Over the years, some have gone beyond paying the occasional visit to PKH. Lim Wei Inn, on the staff of the Cathedral, is known for her ministry at our Welcome Centre and Cafe. In February, this year, she joined the PKH work at another Centre in Chbarmon which is currently helmed by Susan Goh and team. Wei Inn is very happy and fulfilled serving there.
Wei Inn (3rd from right) with the trainees at the Chbarmon Centre.
We also witnessed the baptism of over 50 PKH staff and trainees. The annual Alumni dinner was also inspiring as we heard about the progress which some students have made. Officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation were all there, signalling the encouraging support by the authorities.
It is hard to understand the PKH work unless you pay a visit to Cambodia. Reading this is like reading Lonely Planet; unless you experience that place personally, you can only imagine.
My prayer is that more Cathedral members will get to visit this flagship work.
26 August 2018 | Vicar Writes
A People of Unclean Lips
By Terry Wong
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:5
For three evenings of 5th to 7th of August, Cathedral members gathered in worship and prayer. Joined by Christians from other churches, these "solemn assemblies” were a part of the 40-day prayer organised by Love Singapore and supported by many churches.
In one of the evenings, Bishop Rennis led the gathering through a time of repentance on behalf of the Church. We prayed prayers of repentance over these:
Loss of First Love
Despising spiritual gifts
Irreverence towards God
Compromised/Distorted God’s truth
Casual Sex & Consumeristic Christianity
No true worship of God
We recalled that "it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God." (1 Peter 4:17)
Human frailty is a long human experience, even in the Church. The Bible itself does not conceal these realities, and the blemishes of saints are found in her pages. Our Church history is chequered with these failures, some more severe than others. In our generation, traditional values and social norms are under siege. It is harder than ever for even Christians to keep away from destructive addictive behaviours.
What we should be concerned with most is the loss of Christian conscience. It is quite possible - and perhaps already happening - for churches to alter their teachings to accommodate these new realities. And with that, we have also lost the need for and the experience of repentance. For we no longer weep over our sins or that of others. If what was reported in the Church in Pennsylvania really happened, then we should weep. If we do not care or just shrug it off, then we need to ask God to once again restore our conscience.
It may be the case that a few rotten apples do not tarnish the whole crate. However, if the rest of the crate does not deem it serious enough to take action or to preach/teach against it, our silence can be a form of complicity.
Perhaps we need to recapture a fresh vision of our Holy Lord. If we keep looking at our neighbours and culture, it is all too easy to succumb to the spirit of the age. Like the prophet of old, it is the vision of a holy God which helps us to see others and ourselves for who we really are. His light exposes the darkness of our hearts and the tragic consequences of our behaviour.
It should be our prayer that what happened during the season of Solemn Assemblies will be a continual experience in the life of the Church. "Pray that you may not enter into temptation," Jesus told Peter. He is saying the same to us today.
19 August 2018 | Vicar Writes
Being inspired by Saint Stephen
By Terry Wong
Painting: The Stoning of Saint Stephen is the first signed painting by Dutch artist Rembrandt, painted in 1625 at the age of 19. Note that Saint Paul shares the same face as Saint Stephen, perhaps alluding to the fact that Paul will be sharing a similar fate. Rembrandt also painted his own face in it (just above Stephen’s), where he looked confused and uncertain.
I had the opportunity to reflect on the death of St Stephen at the morning services in the Nave last Sunday. I will do so again at the 5 pm Service today at the Servers' Festival where we will be dedicating the servers (deacons!).
However, St Stephen is primarily celebrated as the first martyr of the Church on record. St Stephen’s Day falls on the 26th of December in the church calendar. Overshadowed by Christmas, this is one reason why this day is seldom observed.
It is interesting that the word “witness” and “martyr” both share the same root word in Greek, μαρτυρία (marturia). This is captured in a focused way through the death of Stephen. He paid the price for witnessing to the Gospel (See Acts 6:8-10 for the reason which sparked his arrest and trial).
His life (and death) continue to speak to us. I am personally challenged, as like many Christians here, I find myself veering towards being politically correct in modern Singapore. I am barely willing to pay any price for Gospel witnessing. If the conversation gets too uncomfortable, change the topic! As we know, when we remain this way for too long, something dies within us. We are not testifying to the Gospel verbally and directly. Our faith is locked up in our hearts and within the four walls of the church. It has become private.
Even our public voice as a church can become muted. We may hang Alpha banners on our fences but even these one-liners have to be comfortable to the public.
Explore the meaning of life.
You can ask why.
Got questions about life?
We are not doing anything that will remotely make us “stonable.” To be clear, I am not saying that we should ask for it. Peter has already said that if we get punished for doing what is wrong, we are just being foolish (1 Peter 2:20). But there will be moments, if we are witnessing for Christ, that what we are doing becomes unacceptable by others. Here is where courage and conviction is needed.
What will be the right thing to do? The right thing to say? The circumstances are too varied for me to provide the answers. However, the Celebration of Hope next year (May 2019) will help us to pray through this and level up on personal evangelism.
If your voice has been muted, it is time to pray and ask for the Lord’s help. That we may not be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) or of Christ and His words, which will be a basis for judgment on that Day (Mark 8:38).
I want to invite you on a journey of learning to live out your faith as a witness. In this season leading up to Celebration of Hope, together, we need to ask for the Lord’s help, that we may testify for Him. Training courses will be offered church-wide and in our Connect Groups. Canon J John has himself written a book on “Natural Evangelism” which you can purchase at the Welcome Centre.
Unless something radically changes in Singapore, we can be grateful that we need not shed a drop of blood in the process of being witnesses. But losing some sweat over it, I think, is in order.
12 August 2018 | Vicar Writes
On The Wings Of Each Generation
By Terry Wong
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep… Acts 13:36
It has been an amazing run of Solemn Assemblies, held in over 30 churches across our island over 40 days. Some were very simply led while others were more elaborate and well attended. It doesn’t matter. More importantly, we are gathering to pray as the Body of Christ.
Those who attended the three evenings in the Cathedral will be encouraged and inspired by the faith, passion and sense of His presence. Both in the assemblies in SAC and elsewhere, I notice that there is a “Singaporean culture” of corporate praying. It is spontaneous, audibly loud at times, especially when there is a “wave” of audible praying as people gather in small groups. When I was in Korea visiting a variety of churches, I notice they have a similar culture of corporate praying as well, which differs from us in Singapore in some ways. This "common prayer” (notice my oblique reference to the common prayer tradition amongst Anglicans) language helps the Body of Christ to function when she gathers.
One should no longer label it as “Pentecostal” or "Charismatic.” It is just a way of praying that has come to dominate prayer gatherings. In our own assemblies, we were able to incorporate liturgy, dances and choir items. But apart from that, any non-Anglicans who have been participating in other assemblies will be at home. Prayer unites. And may the Body of Christ continue to arise in passionate prayer out of love for our Lord, his Church and our nation.
One feature which marked some assemblies is the participation and leadership of young people. I can see that young leaders are emerging and heard across many churches, including our own. The assembly led by our young people was in particular, very inspiring.
It has been my prayer that many young “vision bearers” and "peer leaders" will be found in SAC. I use the word “vision-bearer” as often the young are directed by those who are older in many local churches. The vision is given to them and the young merely do as told. A vision bearer however is one who has a passion for their generation or peers and leads them.
Some have thanked me for giving place to the young to lead. I am merely leading from my own experience. By the age of 15, I was made to lead my youth group and it has been this way of “peer leadership” since then at every phase of my life. There were always older advisors in the background, providing the needed wisdom. But make no mistake about it, we were leading and bearing the vision for our generation. We made many mistakes of course, but through them I grew. I learnt to discern His purpose for my own generation, pray, seek His will, make decisions and more importantly, and for better or worse, be a “peer model” on how to live for Christ. Peer influence is huge. As we share the same cultural milieu, naturally, we are inspired by peers who live differently. And as I lead, I strengthen my muscles to lead in the next phase.
This is one reason why we need to give a lot of space for the younger amongst us to lead and grow. We always say that they are the “future church.” I will say they are the church now! Take away this space and I will say that the local church will have a lot to lose in her mission, witness, community life and ministry. As an aside, those who attended the opening of the mini-exhibition of “The Cathedral in the War Years" will notice many younger people serving in the Heritage Committee. This is a first “mini-step” with more to come as this group is indeed passionate about heritage.
I was away on a vacation in the midst of this 40-day prayer season, something planned from last year. We celebrated our 25th anniversary and our wider family joined in later. I have to confess that I too felt the wear and tear of being here on earth for over 55 years. My joints and back were aching from the cycling, trekking, rafting (this did it) and lots of walking. I dare not complain for my young nephews and nieces took it all in good stride!
The thing about being an “elder” is that we are completed by the presence of the young. We are not truly elders if the young are missing. Or if they are present, miserable and still in need of the umbilical cord (one can almost spell it “unbiblical”!). When the young arise, the old would know they have been doing their job.
We won’t take any credit though. We serve God in our generation, they serve Him in theirs. May the church be built on the wings of each successive generation.
5 August 2018 | Vicar Writes
O What A Week!
By Terry Wong
We had three very engaging events in the week that has passed.
Canon J. John was in town to encourage and inspire church pastors and leaders to prepare for next year’s Celebration of Hope (17-19 May). Those who attended the event on Tuesday were undoubtedly moved and reminded again of the importance of sharing the Gospel. A beautiful sponsored tent was set up to host the pastors’ luncheon.
The same tent was used for the Alpha Intro Dinner the next evening. 160 guests were present and it was a meaningful and highly enjoyable event. Please continue to pray that these guests will continue to attend the course and that new ones will join in as well. The small groups are being formed. As always, the small group experience is unique for first-time guests. The sharing, openness and meaningful discussions are indeed the highlights of the Course.
This is a little known fact: it is the guest’s experience of the church community which makes every course unique and effective. Or otherwise. The video talks do play a part in communicating the Gospel but it is the small groups that bear witness to the love and truth of Christ.
The third event was the fund-raising dinner for the Jurong Church Building project on 27 July. 50 tables were bought. The Mandarin and English congregations were well represented. Please continue to pray that land and facilities will become available soon.
Most theological and bible schools begin their academic year in July. Barnabas Sim and Christopher Ng (Acts Centre) have started their MDIv studies in Trinity Theological College (TTC), Yuri Seki as a full-time student and Moses Israeli (Myanmar Worship Service) already at mid-point of his TTC studies. Do keep them in your prayers.
Sometimes people ask: why spend three to four years learning from just one book (Bible)? There isn’t space here to explain in detail why church pastors and leaders - from ages past till now - have taken education seriously. Suffice for me to say here: “You will now know what you don’t know.” And it is not just about head knowledge, but good education should always lead to spiritual formation. The perplexities of life (which I just preached on from the Book of Ecclesiastes) mean that Christian education need to go deeper and more foundational.
I should add that SAC is working hard at making theological and biblical education more accessible for lay Christians. It is a long term project and we praise the Lord that we are having a good start with the DCBS programme.
Another source of education is reading. For those interested in knowing more about the history and theological aspects of the Anglican Church, I will recommend “The SCM Study Guide on Anglicanism” by Stephen Spencer. This book introduces the various facets of the Anglican Church as she evolves from the English Reformation in the 16th century. At our resource section in the Welcome Centre (Cafe), we also have carefully chosen books to help Christians to grow in their faith. Check it out.
Lastly, see you this week at our Solemn Assemblies, which begins on Sunday night at the Cathedral New Sanctuary. Let’s gather in the name of the Lord and join the wider
Body in praying for the nation.
29 July 2018 | Vicar Writes
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.
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 nextAlpha 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.
A few months ago, we made an appeal at a Town Hall meeting for volunteers to serve in our English teaching class for Myanmar folks on Sunday. A few responded and as a result, the classes today have multiplied. A new befriender ministry has also started with walkabouts to chat and reach out to the foreigners on our grounds. One of our staff proposed to the Myanmar Worship Service (MWS) leaders to move the post-service refreshments to the tented area near the Nave. This brought them closer to the grounds. All in all, the response has been good and on recent weekends, the MWS is almost reaching 200 in attendance. We have also received various feedback and suggestions and we can say that on a whole, we are getting closer to a good balance of outreach and boundaries.
I met up with Revd Dickson Chiu this week, who serves as our chaplain for Cathedral Home for the Aged. This is, literally, a ministry for the “homeless.” For various reasons, they are not able to have their own roof over their heads. Such are 'need' gaps which the church needs to continue to fill. There are many volunteers who are serving and visiting. That is really appreciated. But more help can be given to reach them spiritually and socially. Perhaps some of you can consider helping?
We have an active Heritage Committee. Cathedral is blessed with many points of interest, physical and historical. It is our way of blessing our wider society by being good custodians of our heritage. Along with that, precious opportunities to share the Christian message. In fact, a mini exhibition of the Cathedral in the War Years will be held in August. Much work needs to be done: research, archiving, writing etc. Can you help?
Some of us may be unaware that Cathedral is also running a Childcare Centre in Jurong. The pre-school landscape has gone through massive changes. It is currently below capacity in spite of the low fees. In a new season, how may we strengthen this work? Can you help?
Acts Centre is our church plant, led by Revd Michael Lim. They have been facing some challenges as well. But the opportunities are there, as they are worshipping in the midst of a growing neighbourhood. Being a small congregation, their resources are limited. They need help in various areas including worship etc. In this new season, we are stepping up our efforts to help them grow into an independent congregation or parish one day. I cannot imagine how SAC can start a new church plant if our current ones are struggling. Can you help?
The list goes on, on the various ways you can make a difference. I leave the rest to another Vicar Writes. A little here, a little there, but together, the accretion swell of energy and time (=love!) will make a lasting difference. That said, one of the most significant differences we can make as Christians is to pray.
When we pray, we become alive to God’s purposes. We become more aware of His will that needs to be "done on earth as it is in heaven.” Every night from 1 July to 8 August, there is a "solemn assembly” - a worship and prayer gathering - in various churches across the city. No skill is needed. Just a lot of heart and love.
Have you wondered why we try to serve some kind of drinks and/or food after every service?
About more than a year ago, the 4.30pm Service started serving refreshments after the service every week. A regular member commented that “this was the best thing that has happened to this service.”
We go back in history to recall that most of the early Christian gatherings happened in small groups. And people sat facing each other. We get glimpses into how they worship through the writings of Paul (as one example) and many of his injunctions in 1st Corinthians make sense in a small gathering where there is communication amongst Christians as they worship. Read Paul’s concerns over the use of spiritual gifts. Or the behaviour of some when the Lord’s Supper meal was served. Oh yes, the communion then was a lot more than a piece of wafer and wine dip. Or take Hebrews 10:24,25 as another example, where Christians were told to encourage one another as they gather to worship.
Worship in the Jewish synagogues was also done this way. In fact some of the early words used for church, such as "ekklesia”, means assembly.
My point is this: interpersonal interactions between Christians should always be an important part of worship. This is quite lost in our large theatre-style worship, common in modern cities. In the Cathedral, because of back-to-back services, worshippers have to "clear the pews” quickly. This means that post-service chatter (“Hi, Tony. Let me introduce a friend...”) or ministry to each other is not possible.
If there is post-service refreshments, the service continued as the congregation moves to another location to "eat, meet and greet". We are introduced to guests.
We find out that a member is going through some health difficulties. We chat about the sermon and learn further from it. Where people meet, ministry will happen. And over time, the congregation becomes a community.
This is the same thinking behind the setting up of the cafe. It extends further the blessing of community, permitting people to gather on all days of the week.
I could go on and on about the blessings of community. When it comes to worship, there is a time to be alone. Just as we are before God. But there is also a time to commune. For the other can often reveal so much about me. I need the other.
I leave you with some memorable words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone... Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”
― in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community
16 June 2018 | Vicar Writes
Camps & Gatherings
By Terry Wong
By the end of this week, both Jennifer and myself would have attended all five Service Camps in SAC!
We count it a real privilege to experience the life, ministry and ethos in each congregation and the different ministry which each speaker brings. These points are good to note:
In total, we have more than 600 campers participating in these Camps.
Each Service Camp undoubtedly enriches the life, vision and ministry of each congregation.
In each of them, there were good small group discussions based on what the speaker has taught. This reminds us again of the importance of our connecting our sermons with Connect Group discussions.
Adequate time was given to personal ministry, where people were individually prayed for. Space and time need to be created for this, which can be a challenge in our Nave Services.
There was good staff-lay partnership in the organising and leading of each Camp.
Will there be a Combined Camp in 2019? It will be unlikely as we need to focus on the Celebration of Hope Rallies in 17-19 May. It is likely that in 2020, Service Camps will be organised again.
Sometimes people ask me if having different distinction in our Services will lead to disunity. We believe that we should give priority to the pastoring of every individual and work at a rich community life. The unity between Service Pastors and their leadership teams are also strong and we do care for the wider SAC vision even as we build up each Service. Diversity in the way Anglicans worship should be embraced even as we each lean towards a particular worship culture.
It is also encouraging to see so many lay leaders serving, including traditional clergy responsibilities like preaching, teaching and visiting the sick. Our Service pastors appreciate and need every help, and as long as all our hearts are marked by Christ-like virtues like humility, mutual submission, prayerfulness and so on, each Service will thrive as everyone rises to serve.
Switching gears, we are encouraged by the good response and effectiveness of our Befrienders ministry to Myanmar visitors on our grounds. The team of volunteers headed by Lee Yew Seng have done work for 2 Sundays now. 8 visitors so far have responded to their interactions/invitations and turned up at the Myanmar Service. The English classes have also grown. This outreach will also make it easier for SAC to administer a needed measure for security and order in a personal and friendly way. We still need more volunteers. Do read the bulletin for more info.
The Solemn Assemblies are around the corner. It is unprecedented to see the Body of Christ here praying this way. Every evening from 1st July to 8th August, there is a prayer gathering in at least 4 churches or locations. The focus is for our beloved nation and God's destiny for her. We will give more practical information on how to get to these gatherings closer to the dates of the events.
10 June 2018 | Vicar Writes
By Terry Wong
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11
We spent much of last Monday (28 May) sitting at the feet of Revd Dr Gordon Wong's teaching on Isaiah 40 at the 9am Service Camp. The eleventh verse of this passage caught my attention.
The shepherd gathers, guides, and carries. When the journey gets too difficult, he will carry the young ones (lambs) and hold them close to his chest. He has them in a close embrace. He cares, not from a distance, but at close proximity.
As I reflect on this verse, the fact is none of us can be truly independent. There are many moments in our lives when we need to be gathered, guided, and even ’carried’. In some seasons this need for help from another becomes more obvious. In 1 Timothy 5, St Paul laid out practical instructions on how we should care for those who are more vulnerable in the church, such as widows. But the need for shepherding extends to all. Isaiah 53:6a says, “All we are like sheep who have gone astray.” Like someone who is lost, we need help to find our way back. This may surprise some of you, but there are also many moments in my life where I feel lost and in need of being guided by someone else.
So much can be said about shepherding and how central this is to the life of the church. Spiritual and even political leaders need to grasp this concept of leadership. Even in using the term "leadership", I run the risk of undermining this deeply ancient and biblical idea.
Primarily, I am not called to “lead” the church. One can say that in modern times, leadership can be overrated. It is when a leader learns to be a shepherd that true leadership is exercised. For we serve our Lamb of God who is a Shepherd Himself who had laid down His life for His sheep. Whether you are a pastor, Connect Group leader or a cabinet minister, if one learns to shepherd the people, his leadership influence will be a lasting one. And like this image in Isaiah 40:11, this includes being able to embrace those who need it.
I am tempted to do the usual and use the word “weak” to describe those who are in need. In my previous church, there was a cleaner who loves the Lord and is always joyful. She had to work hard to take care of her handicapped son. From time to time, she will stuff a ten dollar note in my hand. My first reaction is to refuse it until I realise that she did not want to come across as someone to be pitied. I realise I am serving her by accepting her little gift. It was her joy and pride to give.
It is a lifelong lesson for me. Just look around you when you are in the Cathedral. Pause and give some time to those who are seeking a listening ear. Just consider this, everyone, to some degree or another, needs a shepherd. To care for someone, will involve giving some of your time and energy. I know another clergy who defines love as energy and time. This is it. Love is not an emotion. It is action that involves giving of energy and time.
If the Cathedral community can be a caring and “proximating" community, she will be moving in the right direction as far as being a church is concerned. Outreach to our wider surrounding community and overseas missions will naturally follow when we bear the marks of our Great Shepherd.
I am aware that the Vicar and the team of clergy and pastors set the pace. Pray that we will never miss the mark of what church leadership is all about.
3 June 2018 | Vicar Writes
Artist Impressions of the Pavilion
By Terry Wong
Those at AGM would have heard about the proposal for a Pavilion to be built at the North Lawn, which faces Peninsula Plaza and Capitol. This has been advised by the Preservation of Monuments Board (PMB) and URA. When the pavilion is built, we will have to remove the unsightly temporary tents next to the Nave. This pavilion will allow for many types of community gatherings, large or small. We have some artist impressions here which are early drawings to help give us some visuals. Details are still being worked out by the Building Development Committee co-chaired by Keith Chua and Lee Chi Kuan.
27 May 2018 | Vicar Writes
In Our Church Lord, Be Glorified
By Terry Wong
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed
you would see the glory of God?”John 11:40
I was at the Leadership Conference hosted by Holy Trinity Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur during the first part of the week. It is unique in capturing the contemporary cultural milieu of global cities and very much in touch with how the Christian faith is lived out in the world.
We heard stories from advocates of justice for the poor and helpless, a journalist serving in war zones, the pioneer-owner of Grab, governmental advisors and so on. They share about how their faith motivates and affects the way they work.
It is also a reminder that we need to continue to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as we will never know who will be open to it and how it will impact their lives and work. As a pastor, I am also reminded of the role of the church to “equip the saints” for ministry. The real action is not within the four walls of the church. It is out there. The church needs to continue to be a rich community of faith, love and support. I saw a good number of Anglican clergy in this Conference and I am sure our hearts and minds have been stretched.
It is not about copying methods but capturing values. We have a range of services and ministries here in SAC. We have chosen the path of accommodating a spectrum of worship styles. The challenge for us is to have these rooted in deep Scriptural values and to have a quest for excellence in everything we do. We pray that every Service, ministry and connect group will seek to glorify God and pursue His heart in everything we do.
SAC is a unique Cathedral and parish. In each generation, we seek to fulfil our calling and destiny. This is something which each of you can contribute to.
Vision 2020 will set the direction for us in these three years. I have written about this in the Courier. Do read and sense what the Lord is saying. These three years will also be a season of building expansion. We need to be good stewards of the space, land and facilities entrusted to us, and translate these into ministry and worship use. We are not only meeting current needs but building for future generations. We are thinking of a Cathedral which our children can be inspired to love and serve in.
But building is not just about brick and mortar. Building a Christ-centred and God-glorifying community takes time. And this is where I want to urge each of us to pray and constantly seek first His Kingdom in the way we relate to each other or in the way we make decisions which will affect the destiny of our lives, ministries or that of the Church. Each decision made and value experienced which is Christlike moves the Cathedral forward in the right direction.
Brick by brick, step by step, prayer by prayer, hymn by hymn. We patiently and faithfully serve as co-workers with the Lord to build His Church. May each generation experience and see His glory.
As we have sung in the old hymn, “In our Church Lord, be glorified.”
18 May 2018 | Vicar Writes
Pentecost Existed Before Pentecost
By Terry Wong
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all gathered in one place. Acts 2:1
The Jews had always been celebrating the Feast of Pentecost. Traditionally it was a mid-summer feast, marking the end of the barley harvest. In the time of Jesus, the feast celebrated the giving of the law and the covenant at Mt Sinai. It commemorated the events in Exodus 19-20. According to the Scriptures, the law was given fifty days after the Passover. As a text from the Hebrew liturgy of Shauoth says, “This day ofthe Feast of Weeks is the time of the gift of Torah.”
Pentecost is associated with the history of salvation (God’s work in our history in providing salvation). Just as at Mt Sinai, the people became a kingdom of priests through the law, in the new Pentecost, the people became a people of God, a Church, through the giving of the Spirit. The OT promises came to pass e.g. “I will write it in their hearts...” (Jer 31:33), “A new heart I will give you...,” “a new spirit I will put within you...” (Ezek 36:26-27). Paul said the same, “The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)
If this is understood, then properly speaking, Pentecost is Salvation Day! Peter stood up and gave an evangelistic message. It is not just a day to celebrate the gifts or revealed/experienced power of the Spirit, butthe birth and work of the Church.
Having understood this, we also need to be reminded of how mission became the first and immediate fruit of the birth of the church. And indeed, how central the work and power of the Spirit is to all this! It is when the Spirit is working in our hearts and lives, that there is a ‘life’ to share. The Apostles were instructed by Jesus Himself and witnessed His death, resurrection and ascension. However, it was only after the Spirit came on them that they were able to do what the church is called to do.
What should our posture be? Just as the disciples were praying, we need to do likewise. Praying may seem such an ‘inactive activity,’ and yet it is always a prelude to some significant work of God in our lives. Just as the disciples were patiently waiting, likewise we should learn to wait for the promises of God to unfold. Just as the disciples were boldly proclaiming (in
tongues, in words), likewise we should not be afraid to step out and exercise our faith. As some have noted, the gifts of the Spirit
were never meant to be domesticated, but to be used for witness.
This will be needed in this season of prayer and evangelism (leading up to Celebration of Hope in 2019). This is the posture we will need to have as we enter into the season of “Solemn Assemblies” from 1 July to 8 August, 2018.
We welcome Bishop Kuan Kim Seng to our Confirmation Service at 9am. He is officially retiring in June but as long as the Lord gives him good health, we know that he will continue to serve the Lord. We also welcome Revd Chua Wee Hian and Archbishop Ben Kwashi (Jos Diocese, Nigeria) to our Services.
We rejoice at Revd Hambali Leonardi’s ordination to the diaconate last Sunday. He will join the 8 am clergy team and will continue to serve as Service Pastor of the eleven:30 Service.
13 May 2018 | Vicar Writes
“The Cathedral Is Not Important…”
By Terry Wong
There is something about evangelism - sharing the gospel with another - which touches the core of our faith. I thought Pastor Daniel Ho did that when he spoke at three of our Services last Sunday. Somehow, we were brought back to something that is basic, primal and “home.”
As I look back at my own life, those moments when I led a person to Christ felt like I have touched heaven.
On many occasions, Jesus Himself asks us to share the gospel. It was the first thing the early Christians did when the Holy Spirit filled them: they worshipped and witnessed. Worship is witness. Worship is often done in public because when we worship, we are witnessing about His goodness to others. Jesus has said that if we do not worship-witness, the very stones will cry out! If we can only worship within the confines of the church but not in the world, then we need to re-examine our faith.
We cannot share something we do not have or be a witness to something we have not experienced. The authenticity of our faith comes to the fore when we are sharing the gospel. The reverse is also true: we may not be sharing our faith if we are not walking in it.
If as a church, we are not concerned about the Gospel, we will miss the very heart of why the Church exists. We may do missions activities or feed the poor. But if the gospel is never preached, and the salvation of others not longed for, we will have missed the mark.
I had an unforgettable meeting with Canon J. John on a hot afternoon in 2016, soon after I became Vicar of the Cathedral. It sounded like a chance meeting but I believe it was a divine appointment. He said, “Terry, the Cathedral is not important. Forget about her. Instead, focus on the Gospel. Give top priority to it.” It came from someone who is twice a canon and an adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury on evangelism.
I got what he was trying to say. The glory of the church is about her Lord. And it is Him whom we are constantly worshipping and testifying to. The gothic building, the location, our rich history and heritage may be important and have their place. However, it is the good news we carry which is far more important. We should not confuse the content with the packaging. St Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay…"
I believe that the Celebration of Hope (COH - 17-19th May 2019), like previous national initiatives, has the potential to call the church back to her first love. I find it providential and amazing that it is the same J. John who will be the main rally speaker at these COH events. When he said those words two years ago, he had no idea that one day, the Lord will task him to lead a Mission which will involve the Cathedral.
The Cathedral has one monthly meeting which meets at an unusual time: 7.14 pm. It serves to remind us of 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If My people, who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
Pause and read this carefully. Hear the message afresh. This promise is rich in meaning and I will unpack it on another occasion. But last Sunday, the organ played a prelude during the communion of a music popular in the Church in the mid-70’s which was written for this verse. I actually woke up this morning with this tune in my head.
“If My people…” This is what our Father is saying.
6 May 2018 | Vicar Writes
Thanksgiving and Prayer
By Terry Wong
We had another wonderful time at the monthly Prayer and Praise last Friday. Let's continue to encourage each other to seek the Lord and be prayerful. Many are serving in various areas of ministries. It is a good sign that those who are serving are praying together. Prayer binds hearts together as we recognise His Lordship in our midst. As a Vicar, I am keenly aware that my ministry is sustained and guided in daily prayer.
The turnout at the AGM last Sunday was very encouraging. There are some indicators of growth and I present some statistics that were shown at the meeting.
Thank you for being present. Thank you for your faithful support, service and giving which have enabled the Cathedral to fulfil her calling.
A new PCC has also been elected. I want to take this opportunity to thank our outgoing members — Low Chung Guan, Samantha Lee, Sarah Liew and Esther Yee — for serving with us. Much was shared at the AGM.
There is a destiny that the Lord has for the Cathedral when the idea of a church in this part of the city was first thought of by Sir Stamford Raffles. That destiny is being lived out and is still unfolding constantly as we “pursue the Heart of the Father” in alignment with what is in His heart. It is not about doing the right activities, but having the right focus. As I mentioned during the Leaders' Conference in 2016, it is about returning to our first love. When the Church in Ephesus was warned in Revelation 2:4 about losing one's first love, in Greek it meant a “shift in focus.” It is terribly easy to turn our eyes from the Lord even as we continue serving. It is our personal prayer in our life and walk with Him which will help us to re-centre. Needless to say, if we are living in sin, that will stand in the way and will continue to cloud our vision and heart attitudes.
Our hearts need to be continually broken before Him. Revival in our church and city will need to start with personal revival.
We are looking forward to the 40 day season of prayer (1st July to 8th August) along with the rest of our Diocese and the wider Body of Christ. I am looking forward to a focused season of prayer and fasting for the destiny of our nation. Do prepare to join in. Passion often grows from discipline and commitment. May each of us discover or rediscover a new love for the Lord and a life centred on “seeking first His Kingdom."
The 7am and 5pm Services concluded a wonderful Camp recently. We have four more Service Camps to go! Each represents a pocket of community where the Cathedral is small enough for unhurried personal interaction and I am glad for the opportunity to do so with some participants. The organising teams have tried to keep the costs low. We will seek to do our best to help those who really want to participate but lack the financial means. I believe each Camp will be a “divine appointment” and there will be both small and great blessings from each.
We welcome Pastor Daniel Ho to our 8am, 9am and 11.15am Services today. He is the founding pastor of Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Petaling Jaya. He has since retired and is currently giving priority to training church leaders and doing ministry in the marketplace. He has a passion for evangelism and a heart to see revival in the Church. Do welcome him and open our hearts to his ministry.
29 April 2018 | Vicar Writes
A Time For Every Matter
By Terry Wong
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
(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
Why should anyone believe in a crucified Messiah?
And so, an innocent man was made to suffer and murdered.
One may feel a deep sense of pity.
Maybe even shed a tear or two.
We could draw some moral courage.
We may be inspired to live a better life.
We may be led to deeper piety.
But is this all there is to it? If the life of Christ ends with death, then his life is just a reflection of life on earth - albeit a very good one - but nothing more.
In Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot, the story is told of a Prince and his companion walking through a picture gallery. The Prince paused to stare at a painting of the crucifixion. His companion said, “Don’t you know that people have lost their faith in God looking at this picture?” The Prince replied, “Sadly, that is happening to me too.”
If the life of Jesus ends with the crucifixion, then we cannot say that good can triumph over hate. We will not be able to say that Christianity is anything other than a cemetery of ideals. Our lives will be enslaved in despair in this world. We walk into the night during Tenebrae and this night lasts forever. Grit your teeth. All the suffering will do is to test how strong you are as you grope your way through the dark of night.
At the end of everything, “from dust you were made and to dust you will return.” Good, evil in this life and everything in between is all finally "dustified."
But Jesus rose from the dead. He overcame death. He established a new order of reality: his new resurrected body is a sign of more to come (1 Corinthians 15:20-21, John 14:19), offering a hope "beyond the dust". It is a validation of the teachings and claims of Christ (Mark 8:31). His life was justified. And the list goes on.
Good Friday can only be called “good" because of Easter Sunday. That is why St Augustine said: “The face of Christianity is the resurrection of Christ.” Almost everyone believes that Jesus died. They believe in Good Friday but not everyone believes in Easter. Easter draws a line for those who believe and those who don’t. Easter makes all the difference.
A novelist, some years back, put it very well when he described what it was like to arrive in the empty hallway of a monastery for the first time; 'There is an impression of intense activity elsewhere'.
That was the feeling at the empty tomb on Easter Morning. It is done. It is finished. The women went to the tomb but they were told “He is not here. He is risen.” No more work is needed. Jesus did it.
Now, it is for you and me to trust - and rest - in what Jesus has done for us.
25 March 2018 | Vicar Writes
Helping the “hidden needy”
By Terry Wong
In this Year of Prayer, the Cathedral has a theme that resonates with many of us and it is this - ‘Pursuing the Heart of God’. And what, we may well ask, is upon the heart of God?
We have many thoughts and suggestions in this direction, amongst which are: to seek God more intimately in closet prayer, secret devotion, corporate prayer, the study of His Word etc. These are foundational disciplines and we need to encourage each other to return to the heart of God in this way.
But may I suggest that there is another aspect to pursuing the heart of God: it is to pursue His passion for the lost, the poor and needy, the helpless and the hopeless in our land. As we sing in the song Hosanna, “break my heart for what break Yours.”
In the Old Testament, we see God’s heart for the poor, the needy, the orphans, the widows and the foreigners of the land (see Exod 22:26-27;
Lev 19:9-10; Deut 14:28-29; Deut 24:10-22). Besides the call to hear and obey God’s commandments and to walk in the fear of the LORD, here is a clear call to care for and love people.
Repeatedly, the prophets denounced the callousness of the Israelites in their treatment of the poor and the destitute. And judgment came upon them in their refusal to heed God’s call to repent and to do what is right and just.
Micah 6:8 sums it well: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Having shared this, we do know that helping the poor is sometimes not as straightforward as it may seem. Who are the poor? At the lawn, last Sunday, a man accosted a clergyman for money. He was able-bodied and spoke well in English. Should the clergy give him any money? Some of you who have been long in this Cathedral, would have experienced such a situation. Should we give money to anyone who asks us for it? Our pastors are often in this quandary.
Who are the poor in Singapore and how can we help them? In the orderly and pristine city of Singapore, the needy are often hidden in nicely-painted HDB blocks. We need to seek out the “hidden needy.”
In Singapore, the Cathedral does a good work to uplift the less-privileged and to help the needy. CITY Community Services befriends and cares for disadvantaged children in schools, the Mobile Medical Service to the Community reaches out to vulnerable groups such as foreign workers and the elderly, and the Cathedral Home for the Aged is a home for elderly women without families or whose families are not able to care for them. These are excellent ministries and I would urge more of you to step up to help in person or to support the work financially.
We will still need to attend to the needy in our midst, worshipping with us as well as to those who walk into our premises to ask for help. An able and dedicated team of members is needed for this work which entails keeping the principles of compassion and the perimeters of the ministry. This work will be time-consuming and it will overlap with our counselling ministry, but this is a much-needed step up for our church. I believe that some of you have the experience, heart and time to serve in this area. If you can help with this or the other ministries mentioned above, please email Adeline Hee at email@example.com or phone 63376104 ext 133.
18 March 2018 | Vicar Writes
A House of Prayer for All Nations
By Terry Wong
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:15-17
An interesting question was asked at the last AGM. Why do we allow buying and selling in the church when Jesus did not allow for that in the temple? This is a case in point where Scripture needs to be read and understood carefully so that it can guide us in a correct way.
We start with the context. Pilgrims from afar, both Jews and proselytes (Gentile believers), will come to the temple in Jerusalem to worship on major feasts days. Pigeons and other animals used for sacrifices will be sold and this also explains the need for money-changers. On the surface, this seemed reasonable as a service was being provided.
Jesus angrily overturned the tables and drove out the animals with a whip. The reasons can be inferred from his quotation of Scripture: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” This is taken from Isaiah 56:1-7, and I quote a part: And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ... these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
The “den of robbers” may suggest that foreigners were taken advantage of through overpriced merchandise and unfair exchange rates. Even more importantly, the outer courts were areas where Gentiles were allowed to gather to worship. Those areas had become crowded out and its sense of sacred space was lost by both the presence of these activities and the way they were conducted. Instead of being a house of prayer for all nations, foreigners were being taken advantage of and their rights compromised.
In the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), this incident was the final reason for the religious authorities to kill Jesus.His consistent teaching and ministry to the religious outcasts of his day and his rebuke of the religious authorities finally led Him to the cross.
We can see from here the message that these passages carry for the Church. For we too can easily forget that the Church exists for all. Foreign worshippers have full rights to worship at His house. And they should never be taken advantage of. This is one reason why it grieved our hearts when we heard that a Korean tourist lost her bag with her passport and all when she left them behind momentarily and went up for communion. This can happen to anyone of course, and we remind all to be careful and watchful.
Beyond just the way space is used are the wider principles of how we see the Christian faith. Passages such as this and other teachings of Jesus elsewhere (e.g. the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20) have driven the Church into cross-cultural Missions and stopped her from being confined to a single or local culture.
The Church has not read this as a prohibition of selling and buying on church grounds. Many churches, here and all over the world have book stores, restaurants and cafes catering to the need for Christian resources and refreshments. In SAC, we have kept the worship spaces sacred but have opened our grounds for varied uses, including allowing for the gathering of foreigners. This issue will be discussed at the next Town Hall Meeting and we appreciate your feedback and thoughts.