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18 January 2020 | Vicar Writes

Called to Community

By Terry Wong
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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.