The Vicar Writes
My dear SJSM Family,
Happy New Year! I’m sorry to have missed being with you for the Covenant Services. I was in Duke Divinity School in Duke University (Durham, North Carolina) for my second week of intensive lectures as part of my Doctor of Ministry course (DMin). The course is going well, and I’m benefiting from the fresh input on the theme of leadership. The temperature was sub-zero throughout my time there, and it was hard to be outdoors for more than 5 minutes! So it’s good to be home! And it’s actually quite cute to see us Singaporeans shivering when the temperature is 22 degrees Celsius!
Now December was a very special month for most of us, and I wonder, which part of SJSM struck you as being most beautiful? Was it the Christmas Village with the lights and buzz of activity? Was it the Nativity Scene and “snow”? Was it the Community Hall decorated for the Cell banquets? Or perhaps the Gospel services with the drama and choir?
For me, two parts of SJSM stood out as being most beautiful. Firstly, all of you! The way you contributed your gifts and talents, your time and energy in various parts of the majestic whole was so gorgeous to behold! Every part of the “body of Christ” (1 Cor 12) was bursting with life! The second beautiful thing was the people responding to the altar call invitation to Come Home. I imagined them running to the outstretched arms of God as He ran towards them. This is the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ that Paul refers to in 2 Cor 5:18 – “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…”
I believe that ‘Come Home This Christmas!’ has created many special memories in our hearts, and brought us closer to the Dover Community and the friends we invited. I do see it as God’s gift to us before we enter the challenging phase of PSW construction. The staff and Cell leaders are now working hard to follow up with those who responded, firstly with those who came forward at the altar call, then with those who didn’t come forward but filled out the communication cards and expressed interest in knowing more. Invitors can also facilitate follow up by asking your guests to come to church, or encouraging them to join an Alpha course. I sincerely hope that most of these guests can be integrated into one of our Cell groups.
Speaking of Cell groups, this year we are introducing a new rhythm for our Cells, in tandem with the weekend service rhythm. All our weekend Adult services in English follow this simple alternating pattern:
Weekend 1 Holy Communion Main sermon series
Weekend 2 Morning/Evening Prayer Stand-alone sermon
Weekend 3 Holy Communion Main sermon series
Weekend 4 Morning/Evening Prayer Stand-alone sermon
Weekend 5 (if any) Varies Varies
In the weekdays leading up to a Holy Communion weekend (Weekends 1 & 3), the Cell Word Time will focus on Observing, Interpreting and Applying (OIA) the sermon text. An OIA guide will be made available the weekend before. Our main series for the year will be on the book of James.
In the weekdays leading up to Weekend 2, we are encouraging all members to meet in Mentoring Groups (comprising 3 or 4 persons). These MGs can either meet at the usual Cell venue or somewhere else, and spend time hearing one another share joys and struggles, and support one another through prayer and encouragement. There are a range of discussion materials to choose from that can give focus and direction to the conversations.
In the weekdays leading up to Weekend 4, we ask that Cells once again gather, with a focus on prayer. We will alternate between Centralised Church Prayer Gatherings (CPG) at SJSM, or Decentralised CPG at Cells. It is essential that our desire to Be Transformed (Metamorphousthe!) be undergirded by prayer. The pulpit and bulletin announcements will remind us which sort of CPG we are having each month.
That leads me to talk about The Year of Prayer. Bishop Rennis and the National Council of Churches leadership have designated 2018 the Year of Prayer, in preparation for the Celebration of Hope outreach in the National Stadium from 17-19 May 2019. This is an opportunity for us to strengthen prayer in SJSM, and overcome any shyness or reluctance we may feel. Let us come to see prayer as the lifeline that enables us to stay connected to the Lord, the way an umbilical cord connects a foetus to the mother.
In conclusion, let us move forward into 2018 with confidence that the Lord who has been so faithful to us all these years will continue to be with us, and that come what may, He will see us through. I close with the words of Zephaniah 3:17, which I pray may be God’s promissory encouragement to all of us:
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.
25/26 November 2017
My dear SJSM Family,
Thank you for your prayers for the Nepal trip last weekend. It was a wonderful time of witnessing the Confirmation of hundreds of new members, and the training of many of the pastoral workers from the village churches. Bishop Rennis, Pastor Lewis and I were deeply blessed by the faith and fervour of our Anglican brothers and sisters in Nepal. At last count we have over 10,000 members spread over 82 congregations! I trust that back here, the novel experience of a sermon delivered by video went well too. My thanks go to Han Hwee, my colleague who handles video recording and production.
With Christmas approaching fast, I urge all of us to intensify our prayers for our list of friends and family, and to invite them as soon as possible. The ticketing system for the Gospel services is scheduled to be open from next weekend. There will be guidance given on how to use the online system, and a helpdesk will be open during weekends.
Now I’d like to share with you about the Child Protection Policy that our Diocese has recently implemented and is cascading down to all the parishes. The Diocese of Singapore is blessed to be entrusted with the care of many children in our churches, schools and community services, and thus it is of paramount importance that our children be loved and protected from any form of abuse that will affect their healthy growth and development.
Towards this end, the Diocese has implemented a Diocesan Child Protection Policy, which prescribes guidelines on how to safeguard our children (anyone up to the age of 18) from physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse or neglect, as well as procedures for screening people who work with children, child-safe practices, vigilance in child protection, incident management, and recovery and rehabilitation. Every parish is required to adapt the Diocesan Child Protection Policy to the nature and conditions of their children’s ministries, and then to implement their own child protection policy.
On our part, the Policies and Procedures Committee of our Parochial Church Council has approved our SJSM Child Protection Policy, and it will be implemented with effect from 1st December 2017. This Policy can be viewed on our SJSM website. Pursuant to the Policy, I have appointed my pastoral colleague in the Next Gen team, Ms How Kim Chin, to be our SJSM Child Protection Representative.
Everyone (staff or volunteer) who serves in any ministry that involves children (Nursery, Junior Church, Youth (Teen Encounter and Heartbeat), our ethnic congregations and fellowships (Chinese, Tamil, Filipino and Indonesian), BASC, Special Needs Support Group, etc) will be required to sign the Child Protection Policy Form, thereby agreeing to abide by the Policy, and declaring their suitability to care for and work with children. The Form also needs to be supported by the appropriate character references. For those who have already been serving with our children’s ministries before 1st December 2017, the reference will be done by an SJSM pastoral staff member. For anyone who wants to start serving in our children’s ministries after 1st December 2017, two confidential character references are required, preferably by members of SJSM.
From next week onwards, we will be reaching out to all our current volunteers in our children’s ministries, to brief them on our Child Protection Policy and to help them submit the Form. If you have any queries on the Policy, please approach Kim Chin or any of our Next Gen staff team, and they will be happy to help you. Although such a policy should ideally have already been in place, it is better late than never. So please be assured that the implementation at this point in time is not a reaction to any incident that has happened in SJSM, and I seek the cooperation of all who are affected by this policy to do the necessary administrative work to enable a smooth implementation.
Finally, my family and I will be away from 27 Nov to 9 Dec for a family holiday. I do value your prayers for journey mercies, and a good time of refreshment in the Lord. In my absence the other Clergy and Division Leaders will deputise for me.
With much love and appreciation for all of you,
My dear SJSM Family,
We are into the last quarter of the year and I have a larger-than-usual number of matters to bring to your attention in this edition of TVW.
1. Preparation for ‘Come Home This Christmas!’
We are just 8 weeks away from our Christmas Village (16/17 & 23/24 Dec) and 9 weeks away from our Gospel services (23/24 Dec)! Here are some key areas of preparation I urge us to make:
PRAY – SJSM has been and must always be a church that prioritises prayer. Prayer is an expression of our confidence that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain”. (Ps 127:1) There are prayer cards provided with this weekend’s bulletin, to aid us in our personal and family prayers. Next Friday 27 Oct, I urge ALL cell group members to attend our Church Prayer Gathering, even and especially if you’ve never done so before. Sit together as cells and join together in heartfelt prayer. Fervent corporate prayer lights a flame in the church like nothing else can! (See Acts 4:31)
INVITE & SHARE – It’s time to start asking our friends and family to save the dates for Christmas. So please use the flyers available to joyfully invite them. More detailed invitations will follow nearer the date. The intercessors have recently shared with me their sense that God will bless this outreach to impact and touch many lives. So let’s not be passive spectators, but active witnesses as we use 2 Ways To Live and our testimonies to prepare the hearts of those we are called to reach. Many lives have already been touched through the Alpha courses now reaching their conclusion. Many more can be deeply impacted as we pray, invite and share.
SERVE – In the previous TVW I shared the various ways we can all get involved this Christmas. Many hands make light work, and we need all of you, my dear SJSM family! Some groups, like the choir and the drama team, have already started work. But we are lacking sufficient roving ambassadors (hosts who make our guests feel welcome), traffic marshalls and shuttle bus helpers. I am also asking if 30 families could loan SJSM your Christmas tree for the Village. We want many decorated and lighted trees dotting our entire compound, making it look even more like home.
2. Partnership with Dover Grassroots Leaders
We are delighted to be able to partner with the Dover Grassroots Leaders for this event, in lieu of the annual Dover Celebrates Christmas. We are inviting Minister Lim Hng Kiang for the first day of the Village. There could possibly be a fireworks display that evening as well! We are confident that many Dover residents will join us for the Village. Some of them may be willing to join our Gospel services as well. BASC is also planning to attend en masse. I believe this joint effort will strengthen our partnership for the years ahead, and prepare the way for PSW!
3. Project Spring-Winter mailer and press release
We have prepared mailers in four languages that will go out to the Dover residents nearest us in the coming weeks, to prepare them for the construction phase of PSW, and to invite them to our Christmas Village as the last opportunity to celebrate in the open car park. This will be followed by a press release about PSW. Please uphold this process in prayer.
4. Special Needs Awareness Weekend
Next weekend (28/29 Oct) we will have Family Services for SES, E1 and E2 as we observe Special Needs Awareness Weekend. Pastor Alvin will preach on the subject ‘Everybody is a Somebody’. Because we value inclusiveness in SJSM, and aim to be a family for all ages and abilities, let’s give a warm welcome to the children, especially those with special needs, in our midst. It is an expression of our humility and compassion in Christ when we embrace those who are going through many unique challenges, and encourage them in their faith. A true marker of a maturing congregation is our ability to do ‘role reversal’ – putting ourselves in the shoes of those who are unlike us, and imagining how we would feel in their circumstances. It is an antidote to the objectifying and dehumanising attitudes we tend to have. It helps us esteem the other as a person of equal value, made in the image of God.
5. Rev Lewis Lew being posted back to SJSM
Many of us who have been in SJSM for a while know Rev Lewis Lew and his family. He was ordained while in SJSM, and was posted to All Saints’ Church (English) as Priest in charge. He later took on the additional challenging role of Dean of Nepal. As the church of Nepal has grown tremendously, Bishop Rennis has recognized the need for dedicated leadership. So Bishop has decided to appoint Pastor Lewis as full time Dean, and post him back to SJSM as Honorary Priest (with lighter parish duties) from 1 Nov 2017. I trust we will give Pastor Lewis and his wife Leng Leng a warm welcome back!
6. Funds update in bulletin
Finally, I would like to give us a gentle reminder that our bulletin now reflects a monthly tracking of our giving, both for our General Fund as well as PSW Fundraising. I encourage us to bring to remembrance what was shared earlier in the year about ‘His tithes and our offerings’, and to revisit the booklet written by Bp Kuan Kim Seng. Let’s reduce the shortfall by raising our givings as we move towards the close of the year.
Whew! That’s a lot of information to digest at one go! These are exciting days and the Lord is on the move. So may our SJSM family be responsive to Him. And as Deborah sang in Judges 5:2, “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD!”
With much love,
My dear SJSM Family,
I write to share with you firstly about a new development in my own journey of ministry, and to ask for your prayers. I came into full-time ministry in Feb 1998, more than 19 years ago. The bulk of this time has been spent serving in SJSM (11 years, since June 2006). God willing, I may have an equal length of time ahead of me (if I retire at 67). This means I’m possibly at the halfway point of my journey in full-time ministry.
I am grateful for the input and training I received along the way, through Diocesan Lay Training modules, the Masters of Divinity course at Trinity Theological College (TTC), and on-the-job training and mentoring alongside my previous Vicars, Canon James Wong, Canon John Benson and Bp Rennis. However the challenges I have encountered as Vicar have often gone beyond what I felt equipped to handle. Although I have at times fumbled in leadership, the Lord has been gracious to strengthen and uphold me through all your prayers, and keep SJSM moving forward in His purposes.
In hopes of growing my capacity and understanding as a leader, I began exploring the possibility of further equipping over the last couple of years. I have been consulting Bp Rennis in this process, seeking advice from Dr Tan Kim Huat from TTC, and doing my own research online. I am happy to share with you that I have been accepted into the Doctor of Ministry (D Min) course at Duke Divinity School (part of Duke University in North Carolina, USA). With the Diocese’s blessings and PCC’s endorsement, I have accepted the offer of a place on this course. The bulk of the cost is being borne by the Diocese, and PCC has approved coverage of my air travel, both of which I am grateful for.
The course is structured as a distance learning degree, interspersed with week-long stretches of intensive lectures at Duke every few months. My first intensive is from 11-18 August, i.e. starting next week. The last of 5 intensives is in January 2019, following which there is about a year and a half for thesis-writing. I may be on sabbatical for a few months in 2019 to speed up my thesis-writing. I will therefore be on study leave from 10-22 August this month for my first intensive in North Carolina, building in 2 days of rest to get over jet lag after I return to Singapore.
I do value your prayers for wisdom and strength, as I need to redistribute some of my work and empower my team to take decisions. Please pray for the Lord to be in control of all that happens in SJSM during this season for His glory.
My second reason for writing to you is to share some encouragement in relation to our fundraising for PSW. We recently had a Gala Dinner, which was primarily to allow those outside SJSM an opportunity to contribute towards PSW. Many individuals and organisations from outside SJSM donated very generously, as well as many from within SJSM. We set a modest target of $500k to be raised. I am glad to announce that we raised over $700k! Of particular encouragement is the range of churches that have contributed towards SJSM, from within our Diocese and beyond, with amounts up to $50,000:
St Andrew's Cathedral, St James’ Church, Christ Church, Chapel of the Holy Spirit,
St Andrew's City Church, SAC Mandarin Congregation, My Saviour's Church, Chapel of Christ the King, New Creation Church and Grace Assembly of God. Every one of these churches could have retained their funds for their own ministry use, but have seen fit to bless us. We should all be grateful for their partnership, and pray for them to be abundantly provided for by the Lord.
We have another fundraising event coming up soon, a charity golf event, for which we are still looking for more “flights” to be taken up. Please recommend this event to your golfing friends. More details are available through the usual PSW information channels.
These events help in meeting the annual fundraising goal, and I pray we will be encouraged by them, and also do our part as individual SJSMers to give faithfully and sacrificially. I draw your attention to the financial update table that will soon become a regular feature of our bulletin, allowing all of us to track how our collective income is faring against budget, both for the General Fund as well as for PSW. I assure you that the staff and PCC are also carefully tracking expenditures against budget, so that we end the year with a surplus, God willing.
Finally, I will keep you in my prayers as I’m away over the next two weekends. Please keep me in yours.
With much love,
5/6 Aug 2017 - Further Studies & Fundraising
8/9 July 2017 - Special Book Gift
My dear SJSM Family,
Near the end of the recent series on Nehemiah, I preached from Nehemiah 9 and 10 and touched on the difference between ‘tithing’ and ‘giving’. I mentioned in that sermon that I was helped by a particular chapter from the book, Our Duty and Our Joy, which was authored in 2008 by our current Assistant Bishop (then Dean) Kuan Kim Seng.
I am happy to announce that with Bp Kuan’s permission, the publisher has done a special print run of that chapter alone, just for SJSM! In fact, the opening pages of the booklet contain this paragraph:
Copyright © Kuan Kim Seng 2008
The content of this booklet is reproduced from Chapter 7 of Our Duty and Our Joy (published by Genesis Books) with permission from the author, Kuan Kim Seng, solely for St John’s – St Margaret’s Church to distribute to her members.
We are indeed indebted to Bp Kuan for so freely granting permission for this special print run for SJSM, even before his own parish has had the opportunity! We will make this booklet available next weekend (15 & 16 July) free of charge. As there are limited copies, please collect just one copy per household. Some of us may wish to purchase a copy of the complete book (Our Duty and Our Joy) by Bp Kuan, and these will be available for sale next weekend as well.
The reason for making this printing arrangement is straightforward: We are in a season of Transformation and one area the Lord wants to transform is our stewardship of money. The fundraising for PSW is a key instrument in the Lord’s hand for effecting this transformation, but it needs to be coupled with clear biblical teaching, hence the provision of this booklet.
I pray that as we reflect on the biblical principles taught in the booklet, our hearts will be greatly helped.
With much love,
1/2 July 2017 - Welcoming Pastor Alvin Toh & Family
My dear SJSM Family,
Welcome to the second half of 2017! I believe the rest of this year will be exciting and action‐packed, and I know that God is with us to see us through any challenges we may face!
This weekend we welcome Revd Alvin Toh and family to SJSM. Pastor Alvin (as we will address him) has been posted to SJSM from the Cathedral with effect from 1 July 2017. He is joined by his wife, Felicia, and children, Dylan (17), Dawn (14) and Dionne (10).
Pastor Alvin was formerly a member of Calvary Baptist Church and served as a lay leader and eventually a staff member there. He did his theological studies in Singapore Bible College and was led to serve as a parish worker in St Andrew’s Cathedral from 2013. He was ordained a Deacon in our Diocese in 2016, and ordained a Priest in May 2017.
He joins us at a time when there is a reshuffle of roles taking place among the staff. I will write separately about the changes of roles in a subsequent note. Pastor Alvin’s first preaching assignment will be for the Family Services on the final weekend of July. For now let us warmly welcome him and his family into the SJSM Family and get to know them.
With much love,