Inspired By Those We Sing Of
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
This Bicentennial has been a very special year for many of us. We have looked back. We have researched. We have dug up hidden “artefacts.” I echo the feelings of those who have worked hard in the past: we have been richly blessed by the lives of those who have come before us.
It wasn’t difficult at all; if not a huge privilege; for us to write, tell and sing of them. Our mission and motivation at working hard at the Bicentennial Christmas Carol Services; including the publication of a special edition of the Courier; were simple: we needed to tell their stories well, that our Father may be glorified. And after that, we recede into the background. For the real heroes and heroines are not on our stages, pulpits or pews today. They are long gone. To bask in their glory would have diminished the very stories we are attempting to tell.
In the process, what lessons can be drawn from these historical observations?
Think of the Christian faith of some of our English forebears which formed their values and shaped the way they seeded our society. While there are some truths about how the imposition of a Western world view has its own ills (i.e Edward Said in his magisterial book Orientalism), a belief in a God of Creation should underline our conviction that every culture at every season needs to be challenged by His revelation through Word and Creation (Psalm 19); even if at times, this had to come through another culture.
The English Reformation in the 16th century and the flowering of education (through breakthroughs in printing) led to a Christianisation of a nation where almost every child needed to study Greek and Latin in schools through catechisms where Biblical truths were carefully taught. The same education finally led to the abolishment of slavery: we should be familiar with the heroic efforts of William Wilberforce. Stamford Raffles was a very close friend of William, and they lived as neighbours. Raffles shared some of these values and permitted Christian missionaries to serve in the earlier years of our city.
Another lesson to be drawn is the authentic unity that was forged “in the trenches” of the war years. Both Changi Prison and the Cathedral served as hubs for Christians of every stream. Today the Church has undoubtedly benefited from the wealth of the city and has gained significant social standing. Unlike our counterparts in the war years — who were literally disrobed and stripped to their bare bones — today, church leaders meet under very different circumstances, often adorned in glorious array.
My last word shall be this: that we need to drop the celebrity culture and consider what being Christ-like means. We would certainly honour our forebears if we love everyone equally, as Christ has commanded us. These include people of other faiths and closer home, Christians from different streams need to respect one another.
We have sung about them. By His grace, let’s also live like them.