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All 2019 September Vicar Writes

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'-

This Conference:

  • 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:
https://www.anglicancommunion.org/resources/document-library/lambeth-conference/1998/section-i-called-to-full-humanity/section-i10-human-sexuality

For the Kuala Lumpur Statement:
http://www.globalsouthanglican.org/blog/comments/the_kuala_lumpur_statement_on_human_sexuality_2nd_encounter_in_the_south_10


Conference on Sexuality, organised by the Christian Education Department of the Cathedral
This will be held 9am to 12.30pm, 14 September, to help us navigate the confusion pertaining to matters of human sexuality. All are welcome.

1 September 2019 | Vicar Writes

Reflecting and Thanksgiving at Our Bicentennial

By Terry Wong

"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.