Vicar Writes


All 2020 January Vicar Writes

25 Jan 2020

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 Jan 2020

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 Jan 2020

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 Jan 2020

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.