Diffusing the Light
This is a first part of a series of articles on the work of Missions through our Cathedral.
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”2 Corinthians 4:6
The Cathedral is often called a “Mother Church.” This very term is actually found in our own Diocesan constitution (Article 16.9). The simplest way to understand this term is to state the obvious: a mother gives birth to children and nurtures them. Over the years, many congregations were planted across the island. Some later became parishes, which form a significant part of the 28 parishes we have today, with multiple language congregations.
It will be right to say that it is in the DNA of the Church to share the Gospel and offer the love of Christ to those who do not know Him. When you think of the Anglican Communion, you see a Church in missions.
One of the great figures in Anglican missions was Thomas Bray (1656-1730). Bray was a humble, diligent, practical, and extraordinarily loving parish priest. He was an indefatigable parish catechist, a promoter of lay and clerical learning. In 1699 he founded the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the SPCK, which by the end of the next century had established hundreds of parish libraries in America and England, set up charity schools, and finally translated prayerbooks and other bibles. In 1701, he founded the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the SPG, which became the first formal Anglican missionary organization, responsible for the support of priests among British subjects abroad and for the conversion of native peoples.
Bray describes what mission is about in a famous sermon he gave called “Apostolic Charity”, and the focus is important to grasp: “turning many to righteousness” (Daniel 12:3). Bray goes on to say that, for the English Church it is a special calling, since the particular “light” of the British Nation and of her Church is so real and particular as to “diffuse” itself into the world almost naturally, if it is indeed allowed to. To them, he says, is entrusted by God the “stewardship” of her special gift – that of a “pure religion” and “liberty” together in one people. How is this done? Through “preaching, catechizing, and instructing” via the missionary endeavor of her clergy and lay leaders. One can only lament how far our British friends may have departed from this idea with Brexit. When nation is reduced to a secular and economic notion, this will be the result.
The same idea was also conveyed through the words of one of her sons, Resident Chaplain William Humphrey in his sermon on Pentecost Sunday, 1856. He was addressing the congregation of St Andrew’s Church on the subject of Missions. “The Malay part of the population was cared for by the zeal and piety of Mr Keasberry; but for the Chinese and Tamil and general native population of the Island, it was high time that the Church of England should begin to make some spiritual provision. “I am thankful to observe,” he said, “that through the blessing of God on the operation of the Chinese Female Mission, we continue to have many enquirers, whom we have every reason to believe to be sincere in desiring to enter the fold of Christ. Thus we cannot stop if we would. We cannot withhold our attention from those, who so pleasingly require it; so that the congregation of St Andrew’s must, in spite of itself, become a Missionary congregation – a centre of diffusing to others the light, and comfort, and peace of the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified.
Monies were raised for the new Mission. Soon after, Chinese and Indian church workers were employed to reach their own. One can say that these early efforts seeded the outreach that will reach later generations of Singaporeans. Though of course, it had to be more than a hundred years later of further social disruptions and war occupation before Singapore emerged as a society of her own with a national identity.
In that Service, Humphrey was trying to ask members to give a dollar for the work of this new Mission. This month, we will be asking you to consider “Giving a Hundred,” to raise funds for the work of “diffusing the light” to our six deaneries: Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and Vietnam. May many “catechists” continue the work of preaching the good news to the many millions around us who do not know of the love of Christ.