Vicar Writes


All 2020 February Vicar Writes

23 Feb 2020

“The worst may not be over, but it has not worsened.” The situation seems to be stabilising. This is how I see it even as we gather - or stay away- for another weekend of worship. As I said last week, we will do our best to “over-communicate.” We do appreciate the feedback we have received, and whatever steps we take need to be coherent and consistent across our Services.

Do note that the prevention factors advised by our Ministry of Health remain as the most important ones, such as the need for us to stay away if we have any symptoms of sickness, even if they are mild. We are now broadcasting (or live-streaming) our 8am Service weekly.

The multiple cameras in the Nave allow us to do it quite effectively. As the words read or sung by the congregation are projected on screen, this means that even from your home, you can meaningfully participate in the Service ie. singing along with the hymns and joining in the prayers. You can still watch the video later. My advice is that you don’t just run it in the background or watch it from your bed. Set aside time for intentional worship or do it together with your family for the needed focus and discipline. If you have a cup of coffee by your side, I would think that is acceptable! Giving is also an act of worship, a weekly discipline to be encouraged. Please note the online giving options that are available.

Should our Connect Groups meet? There is no blanket answers to this as each group is different. I have confidence that the leader and core members will find their own rhythm. Please pray for wisdom and love and care for one another in Christ.

While we may postpone our Alpha and Confirmation classes, this is a season where many need to hear the Gospel. We had a lot of training last year on personal evangelism and were reminded not to over-rely on event-based evangelism. This is a good time to pray and learn to “coffee” with your friends and seekers.

It is a different way of being Church and perhaps changes in recent years have positioned us to respond to this crisis. As we have been told in our clergy meeting, it is time our parishes take IT tools seriously. Indeed, we must. Good Christian Education courses can be made available online. We have so many good sermons preached every Sunday and this should be made easily available. Even if a member did attend a Service, to be able to hear what was being said in another is a blessing. Hymns and worships songs, sung in season, are another source of blessing. The SAC community needs to be connected online and our presence there can also be a form of our witness to the world. We do know how the latest tools can help seniors to be connected. Please do your bit to help some who may not know how to. With the use of apps, it has been reduced to the touching of an icon. It isn’t more complicated than that.

And as the Church goes “on screen”, we also realise that a huge majority of our city folks, especially those in the youth and young adults category are already spending a lot of time on screens. Our young people in SAC can participate and show the way and help SAC to level up.

About 12 years ago, I wrote an article on the importance of IT in the Trinity Theological College Journal and how it is changing the way we do Church. It was by no means an academic article with a list of footnotes and I am sure it was not highly regarded in some quarters. I know I will always have to struggle with sceptics for the rest of my ministry (God give me strength). I am seeing “what the Father is doing” and in prayer and reflecting deeply, I have always sought to serve His Church prophetically and by His grace, and to lead that we may go from point A to B. “What we should do, where we should be going” is a needed leadership responsibility. It can frustrate those who cannot see or who do not like changes or movements. I don’t always have the authority to get everyone headed in the right way. And so I keep talking, explaining, cajoling, writing etc. I am most comforted that this is His Body with many members, where each is to do their part and we let Him orchestrate.

This season will sift, reveal and test the authenticity, robustness and resilience of our faith and relationship with God. As Revd Hambali has shared, “this crisis can disciple us.”

Let it.

15 Feb 2020

"But we prayed to our God
and posted a guard day and night
to meet this threat.”
Nehemiah 4:9

As the new year started, none of us anticipated another global virus crisis and locally, that we would be in this “DORSCON Orange” position. It is a time of testing for all.

As you will be able to see, we are stepping up our measures, guided by MOH and our Diocesan advisories. We also have an inter-congregational think-tank group that is working hard at implementing, improving and updating our measures. If you have any feedback, please drop us an email.

Your patient cooperation is appreciated. We will be releasing our Advisories digitally and through our weekend bulletin.

This verse from the book of Nehemiah is helpful as we consider the interplay of prayer with strategic planning, faith accompanied by works. The interplay of human responsibility and divine sovereignty has always characterised the response of the Church to issues of faith and life. I don’t think we can ever separate the two spheres as they come together integrally.

We have a deep trust in God and our prayerful attitude reflects our dependence on divine help. At the same time, to the best of our ability and knowledge, we act responsibly as we also believe that God uses our skills, wisdom and willingness to work hard. He certainly does not reward laziness, neglect and irresponsibility. We can also see this truth reflected in the tension a sick Christian may face in trusting for divine healing and yet seeking for medical help at the same time. Or whether a believer should buy insurance or have savings in the bank for a rainy day.  

The amazing thing about our struggle with the unseen world of microbes and viruses is that given what we know today, human beings are just as vulnerable. Issues of personal hygiene (such as careful washing) are still very relevant and somewhat similar to ancient times. This is an ironic truth that I drew attention to as I preached last Tuesday at the clergy Communion from the lectionary Gospel reading, Mark 7:1-13.

We may gain some measure of mastery over viruses like smallpox with the discovery of vaccinations, penicillin and antibiotics and so on. Yet, we seem to be going back to square one again when faced with a new threat.  

We recall the cherished Benedictine principle - Ora et labora - pray and work. And how may we pray during this season? Some have a tendency to speculate and imagine that this pestilence is yet another act of judgment on persons or nations.

In AD590, the bubonic plague was raging in Rome. As a corporate expression of repentance before God, Pope Gregory directed the populace to march in procession chanting the Kyrie Eleison, a prayer which we also say in our Communion liturgy: "Lord have mercy on us.” I believe this is the best response. We don't point fingers and find legitimacy in our suffering by attributing the cause of it to others. Instead, through “standing in the gap” intercession, we repent before our Holy Lord and declare again how much we need His mercy.

It is in a season where we gather less and cut down on meetings. This will be a season of “retreat.” Alone or with close friends and family, let's be more prayerful and let God search our hearts. The Lord wants to speak to your situation.

8 Feb 2020

Last weekend, Pastor Grace Tan spoke on the importance of knowing God’s Word: reading, digesting, applying and living it. Bishop Rennis spoke on the importance of small groups or Connect Groups, as we will call them here. Even as the Season of Epiphany concluded, we have a good number of carefully prepared and prayed-through sermons where the "Word in season" is heard. As we are in different Services, I encourage you to dig around and listen to them online whenever you can. You will be blessed.  These sermons are also in line with our focus on personal discipleship for this year.


I am away this weekend for the Installation Service of the Rt Revd J Melter Tais of the Diocese of Sabah, as the new Archbishop of the Province of South East Asia at All Saints Cathedral, Kota Kinabalu. He takes over from Archbishop Ng Moon Hing, who is also the Bishop of West Malaysia. The Province of South East Asia contains four dioceses: West Malaysia, Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore.

Bishop Melter became the 6th Bishop of Sabah in 2015 and was the first native of Sabah to be installed. A father of four children, Melter Jiki Tais was ordained into the Anglican priesthood in 1993 and had served in various capacities in many parts of Sabah, including Priest-in-Charge of St Margaret's Church in Keningau and St Peter's Church in Tenom, Rector of St. Mark's Church in Lahad Datu and St Luke's Mission District in Telupid. He is also a member of the Lambeth Design Group, planning the programme for Lambeth 2020.

Please pray for our new Archbishop as he leads the Province and her missionary work. There are difficult challenges in our Communion and as our Primate, he will also be making vital contributions in this area.  

Revd Yessua, the Sub-Dean of All Saints Cathedral in Cairo (Egypt) will be spending two weeks at our Cathedral as an observer from the 1st to 14th of this month. Please welcome him warmly.

The Coronavirus Crisis has pretty much been the topic of many conversations throughout the Chinese New Year season. As a Cathedral, while we wait for updates and circulars from the Diocese, each of us can take some obvious responsibilities such as refraining from being at Services if we are ill and practising good hygiene. There are hand cleansers placed at strategic locations which we can make use of.

Meanwhile, we remember these words in Psalm 91:1, 5-6, which we can use to pray for ourselves and others:
    "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...
    You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
    nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday."

2 Feb 2020

We have written a meaningful article on Worship and Music in the Bicentennial Issue of our Courier Magazine which was released last month. It can be read here. Worship and music involves all of us.

I believe that the Cathedral, whether in the Nave or New Sanctuary, should always be using and even developing some of the best music. Music connects us with God: and there is much that can be said about the theology of Worship and the Creative Arts. Music and Creative Arts will always have a voice and place in the world that God has created.

It is not just about the "sacred and secular”, as if God is only found in the Church and absent in the world. We approach creative arts with our worldview that our Creator God has created a creative world. Some evangelicals seem not to delve in the culture and art of music unless it has evangelistic purposes. But art needs to be appreciated and developed for its own sake and in so doing, its voice and beauty will turn hearts to our Creator.

Sometimes the faith is sung first before it is believed. Good music has that power to connect the world with the messenger (church) and ultimately to God, from Whom all blessings flow. Last month’s Bicentennial Christmas Carol Service is one good example of the wide reach of good Church music. This is true whether in traditional or contemporary services. The heavenly sounds of change ringing bells, beautiful harmony of voices, passionate prayerful pleas of a contemporary Christian song, to the booming bass of a timpani or electric bass guitar, all these are part of good music which helps us to worship or proclaim evangelistically the truth of God.

Each of us do have our favourite genre which appeals more to us and may find another standing in the way of worship. And here is why the Church uses a rich diversity as we seek to reach all and not just some.

As per the title of this message, it is about the Nave. Yes, the Nave is a natural sound chamber and we can understand why choirs and even orchestras would like to sing or play in her. However, as a Cathedral, what we do possess is a very rich heritage of Church music, from age-old Near-east and Middle East culture (including Jewish), from 5th century continental monastic Benedictine to 17th century Bach, from medieval Celtic to post-Reformation English music, it is an inexhaustible repository which we can use.

 And when we couple it with the Scripture and the Church’s seasons, we can draw from a rich musical and theological heritage. Doubtless, any Church which is new or missional, such as ours will need time, maturity and training to tap skilfully on the Church heritage. My sensing is that our rather grown-up Cathedral is poised to grow and develop in these areas.

 We currently have some of our musicians and singers in training in Theological or music colleges. On 15th February, we are also commemorating the evensong which was held here in the Cathedral on the same date in 1942, just after the British surrendered. This one hour service will be deeply meaningful for those who have loved ones who suffered or died during the war years. We are inviting the small Anglican Ensemble Choir (an inter-church choir) to facilitate this evensong. I am working with Chin Kai and his team on enriching the liturgy and music for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and where possible, draw from our Anglican heritage. We can expect some rich (even if sombre) use of liturgy and music, and our own choir, handbell choir and organists and other musicians will be serving. And we can expect a joyous ringing of bells on Easter Sunday.