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All 2019 June Vicar Writes

30 June 2019 | Vicar Writes

Thankful for a Season in Your Path

By Terry Wong
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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 in
all 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?

By joyce

"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. 

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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. 

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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.

C

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.

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D

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.

E

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.

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A

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.

B

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 jowenna@cathedral.org.sg 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!

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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 hambali@cathedral.org.sg 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.