Vicar Writes


All 2020 June Vicar Writes

28 Jun 2020

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Psalm 84:1-2

During this Covid19 season, the term “social distancing” (competing with “lockdown” as words of the year) may be a misnomer as we are actually talking about physical distancing. For a long time now, people know that they can socialise and be intimate without physical proximity. We can think of written messages, love letters, phone calls and in contemporary times, social media and so on. While these don’t displace physical gatherings totally, they complement them very well. During the circuit breaker, we can say that these physical gatherings have been totally displaced but yet, those who desire to commune will find that online options do serve us very well. We can hear the timbre of one’s voice and see visual cues very well. Some may actually find these online interactions even more helpful. If you are hard of hearing, you can increase the volume. If you haven’t already noticed, in Zoom meetings, people speak in turn. Conversations are better regulated and normally those who want to speak get a chance. And if we have time to gather our thoughts, we communicate better.   

So, wither the need for physical gathering? Online gatherings can complement but should never replace the occasional physical meet-ups. And we all do miss communal singing and worship, including breaking the Lord’s bread as these are difficult to do online (though not impossible). Online gatherings tend to pre-determine participants but open gatherings (such as a church service) allow for walk-ins or outsiders. Some will argue about the importance of touch but I tend to see that as best reserved for family or very close friends. After Covid19, few will argue about that.   

Then, there is the issue of a place. From time memorial, places and facilities have played a big part in the life of every society. Think of those that are directly derived from nature such as a tree, river, field or hill. They give rise to specific activities and social interactions. Man-made structures also play a similar role such as an arena, a synagogue, market or coliseum. They are culture-creating and tradition-forming over many generations.  You will see this aplenty in the Psalms which sing about places and buildings. Communal life needs to be “facilitated.”

Perhaps what is needed is to find a new balance. This needs to be driven by intention. While we may bump into each other in physical gatherings, we go online because we want to meet. These online moments can form the “IBM” experiences (in between meetings) and enhance our friendship and our working together.

As the Psalmist indicates, desire (our soul longs) comes first before entering the ‘dwelling places.” And I think at the end of the day, this matters most. It is not about physical versus online. It is whether we long to be with His people. Or, not.

Some food for thought for this season.   

13 Jun 2020

We have 300+ who have signed up for our upcoming AGM. There will be a “contest” for the Parochial Church Council (PCC) seats as we have 15 brothers and sisters who have offered to serve for 12 seats. Some are already serving in the current PCC. Do pray about who you would want to vote to serve in the 2020-2021 term. This time around, we are also electing four Synod Representatives. In last week’s bulletin, we have shared in detail the role of the Synod Representatives. When elected, Synod Reps will serve in our PCC for three years. There is no contest for the People Warden’s position but the candidate will still need to obtain a minimum of 30% of those present to be elected.

Let me share a bit about the role of the wardens. They work closely with the Vicar, forming an inner circle that provides for ease of connection, confidential sharing on issues, close consultation and channelling communication between the congregation, Vicar and Bishop. PCC remains the supreme body that the Vicar and wardens will report back to. Wardens are also expected to be accessible by the Bishop and this is important to establish a network of accountability and feedback. Religious authority can sometimes be abused (or perceived as such by members) and feedback will be helpful for the Vicar’s self-awareness, or in cases where there is a serious breakdown of relationships, the Bishop or other diocesan senior officials can help to mediate. The reverse is also true as some members may sometimes put undue pressure on the Vicar or other clergy and the wardens can help to mediate.

We have the Vicar’s Warden, who is appointed by the Vicar, and the People’s Warden who is elected by the congregation. This has evolved into the idea that “the Vicar’s Warden protects the Vicar and the People’s Warden, the people.” This may seem intuitive but traditionally, both wardens actually play the same role in serving with the Vicar and the congregation. The title merely refers to how he was appointed/elected.

No system is perfect and at the end of the day, it is good Christian sense and maturity that govern how a church community functions. From time to time, there will be disagreements, not unlike the incident in Acts 6. The challenge for any church is not to stifle all disagreements but to learn to manage them in a way that is constructive. I do try my best, by His grace, to exemplify how I discharge my Vicar’s role by being open, accessible, and offer a listening ear for constructive criticism and feedback. And I hope that all those entrusted with authority will do likewise so that together, we can create a culture of open accountability and do our best to keep our community healthy and Christ-like. Heart to heart conversations are never overrated, through Zoom or otherwise! Indeed our witness to the world depends very much on how we love one other, as Jesus has foretold and taught (John 13:35). We are reminded in our liturgy constantly to “love God and neighbour.” If we seek to do this well, our influence and witness as a Church will be strong and Christ-glorifying.

I want to thank both the wardens and PCC for serving with me in this challenging season. I also would like to take this opportunity to announce that I am reappointing Keith Chua as the Vicar’s Warden.

We look forward to a Cathedral community that will grow stronger in love during this Covid19 season.

6 Jun 2020
Keith Chua, Vicar's Warden

In preparation for the coming AGM, this is to help explain the role of our Diocesan Synod.

The Synod is a body comprising bishops, clergy and lay representatives from parishes. The Synod meets twice a year and like a “Diocesan AGM”, various diocesan functions are managed by this body. She is the decision authority for issues such as finance, governance, constitutions etc. This covers parishes, mission/deanery work, schools, medical/community services etc. She also works closely with the Bishop and the Standing Committee to support the vision of the Diocese.

Each Synod Session lasts for three years before the lay reps are elected again from the parish AGMs. The current Session ends in July.

In this new Session of Synod, there will be the appointment of Diocesan Office holders and election to Standing Committee and other Boards. Cathedral will elect 4 Lay members for the new Session. As a Synod Rep, the members can stand for election to various diocesan committees and boards.

In between Synod Sessions, the Standing Committee and Diocesan Boards meet to carry out the work.

The Cathedral has many members serving in these Boards. Here is a sample list of our lay members who are serving in the current Synod Session:

Standing Committee Keith Chua, Joseph Thambiah, Tan Kian Woo
Diocesan Registrar Charles Leong
Diocesan Treasurer Tan Kian Woo (Mandarin congregation)
Finance Board Chan Kheng Tek
Development Board Lee Chi Kuan
Missions Board Keith Chua, Joseph Thambiah
SAMH VP and Chairman of Audit Committee Andrew Goh
SACS VP Keith Chua
Provincial Standing Committee and Synod Reps Stanley Lai, Chan Kheng Tek

I trust this article is helpful even as we prayerfully elect our new Synod Reps.

Registration for AGM2020 closes Sunday, 7 June 2020, 12 pm.
More details at