Vicar Writes


All 2019 July Vicar Writes

28 Jul 2019

“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 Jul 2019

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 Jul 2019

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 Jul 2019

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: