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All 2019 March Vicar Writes

31 March 2019 | Vicar Writes

Households

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)

ACT NOW!
Write to equipping@celebrationofhope.sg with the following info:
Name of Church:
Number of Persons Attending:

Do note that entry to the rallies is by ticket only. You can book the tickets using the COH App at onelink.to/coh2019.

If you would like to find out more about Celebration of Hope or have any enquiries, details are listed below.

web www.celebrationofhope.sg
email info@celebrationofhope.sg
hotline 8710 6727

3 March 2019 | Vicar Writes

Observing Lent

By Terry Wong

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
time decreed
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.


Recent Vicar Writes

24 Mar |

Of Strangers and Sojourners

17 Mar |

Giving and Thanksgiving

10 Mar |

Being An Andrew

03 Mar |

Observing Lent