The Vicar Writes
SERVICE PASTORS AND CURATE
My dear SJSM Family,
How quickly the first month of 2019 has passed! I want in this TVW to follow up on a couple of matters that I alluded to in my video announcement at the turn of the year.
Firstly, I want to announce some changes among the Service Pastors. In some parishes, the role of Service Pastor is played by the Clergy, but it has been the practice for many years in SJSM that a member of the pastoral staff has played the role. In SES, the Service Pastor has been Stanley Tay, in E1 it has been Alice Priscilla, and in E2 it has been Ds Laura Chan.
Each of them has over many years brought their own unique style and personality to the role, and I am very thankful for the way they have enriched and blessed SJSM. The Service Pastor does a lot of behind-the-scenes work before each service, drawing up the order of service, and coordinating with the various teams serving, like the worship team, usher team, sound and projection team, sacristy team (that prepares the Holy Communion elements), lay readers etc. During the services, the Service Pastor is most visible during the welcome and announcements.
Although the public aspect of their roles is important, their personal ministry is also significant. Many SJSMers have been blessed by the prayers or prophetic words spoken by the Service Pastors while serving communion. At the end of each service, the Service Pastors are usually up front praying for those with needs, and many of you have been touched by their prayers for you. It is usually through such personal contact that relationships are established, and Service Pastors best express their pastoral care and concern for the congregation.
This year, taking effect from 1 March 2019, there will be some changes to the deployment of Service Pastors, and I’d like to give all of you some advance notice.
SES: Stanley Tay will hand over to Richard Lau
E1: Alice Priscilla will hand over to Ds Laura Chan
E2: Ds Laura Chan will hand over to Simon Devaraj
There is no single reason why I as Vicar am making these changes. Rather, it’s a combination of factors, some at a personal level (like a change of season and ministry emphasis for certain individuals), and some at a congregational level (like raising up new leaders). After giving the matter prayerful consideration and consultation over some months, I have come to the conclusion that it fits into the work of transformation (Metamorphousthe) that God is doing in SJSM during this season. I therefore commend these changes to you for your prayers.
I also ask that you would take the next month to show appreciation and encouragement to your Service Pastors for being a blessing. On the final weekend of February, we will have an opportunity to pray a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing over them. Then on the first weekend of March, we will welcome the “new” Service Pastors at their respective services. I say “new” because they are already familiar to most of you. Nevertheless we will pray God’s anointing and blessing over them for the new season in their ministry when they start in March.
The second matter I want to follow up on is the appointment of Pastor Alvin Toh as Curate in SJSM. This appointment by Bishop Rennis took effect on 1 Feb 2019. Ps Alvin joined SJSM from St Andrew’s Cathedral in July 2017. He was immediately appointed as Division Leader of the Community Services and Dover Division, taking over the role from Richard Lau, and 2nd DL of the Edification Division. In June 2018, he took on the additional responsibility of Chairing the PSW Childcare Committee, taking over from our People’s Warden, Ling Kay Bin.
As Curate, Ps Alvin will become part of the Vicar’s Office (VO) team, which also includes Richard Lau as Executive Pastor, and Lee Chee Sheong as Director of Operations. The VO assists the Vicar in the day to day running of SJSM. The VO is a subset of the Division Leaders (DL) team, which also includes Ps Andrew, Ps Daniel, Ps Solomon, Ps Lewis, Ds Laura, How Kim Chin, Stanley Tay, Michael Wong, and our most recent addition, Allen Lim (replacing Julian Chin). The DLs play an important role in helping the Vicar discern the Lord’s will for the ministry of SJSM, implementing plans, as well as managing their respective Divisional staff. The Curate will assist the Vicar in leading the DL team. Please pray for Ps Alvin as he takes on this additional responsibility.
So we commit the change of Service Pastors and the appointment of Ps Alvin as Curate to the Lord, asking Him to bless each of them, and taking SJSM forward in His plans and purposes.
With much love,
5 & 6 January 2019 - BAPTISM OF JOY
My dear SJSM Family,
Happy New Year! I am writing to you from Durham, North Carolina, and I would like to share my heart with you about the video I trust you’ve already seen on Baptism of Joy. I want to talk about why we are doing this, why now, what I hope this change will achieve, and some further details about what will be done differently this year.
First, though, I want to talk about something called Traditioned Innovation. This is a term I recently came across in the course of my readings. It speaks about churches using their traditional resources (like Scripture, liturgy, order etc.) in new, fresh and innovative ways. Many years ago I attended a songwriting seminar led by Marty Nystrom from Hosanna Integrity. Marty was in the committee that selected songs for publishing in the Integrity praise and worship album series. They would receive tapes of literally thousands of original songs submitted by writers from all around the US, and they would have to listen to each one and sift through until they had just 10-12 songs that would go on an album. What was fascinating for me was that one of the powerful criteria they used in determining which songs would be ultimately chosen from among the thousands was this: something familiar, something fresh. The combination of something familiar and recognisable (whether melody or lyric or chord progression) with something new and innovative was often the difference between a song that would “take off” and a song that would “tank”. I never forgot this piece of advice for songwriting, and I have come to believe that “something familiar, something fresh” is essentially what “Traditioned Innovation” is about.
Churches need tradition, predictability and stability. The familiarity of the order of service and the liturgy provide a sense of rootedness, depth and security to us. We must never underestimate how much the routines and patterns that we experience in church form and shape us as disciples of Christ. However, there is a down side to familiarity, namely over-familiarity. Anything, even a good thing, that’s taken too far can become unhelpful. Without the injection of something fresh into the familiar, our routines and traditions can harden into dead ritualism. This can hardly be healthy and good for the church. So we must allow room for change, for innovation, for experimentation, even if that makes us uncomfortable, if we are to retain the benefits and blessings of our liturgical traditions.
Jesus used the analogy of wine and wineskins to draw attention to the reality that God’s fresh agenda sometimes clashes with our human nature. Human nature is like wineskins, and wineskins that have already gone through a stretching phase in the past always struggle to cope with new wine which tends to require flexibility and elasticity in the receptacle. Old wine, aged wine, tends to be regarded as superior in quality to new wine. But Jesus undeniably identified himself, as well as the life in the Spirit that he ushered in, with new wine. He is always on the move, always doing something fresh and surprising, never imprisoned by the past.
With these thoughts in mind, let me share WHY we have embarked on Baptism of Joy, and WHY NOW. One Tuesday afternoon in July 2018, when I was seeking the Lord on my knees about Celebration of Hope in May 2019 and how SJSM can be mobilised and ready for what the Lord is going to do in COH, I sensed the Lord saying that the key is not mobilisation but motivation. If the motivation is not there, no amount of mobilisation will work. And when it comes to motivation, there are basically two types: push factors and pull factors. Push factors involve negative emotions like fear and anger, whereas pull factors involve positive emotions like interest and joy. I felt the Lord counseling me that SJSM must not be motivated towards evangelism by fear or even duty, but by a sense of joy at participating in the harvest. There must be a fire of enthusiasm that is kindled in the heart, not by man but by the Spirit. This is the key to SJSM being engaged and up to speed for COH, and once COH has come and gone, for the years to come as well.
And this is where Traditioned Innovation comes in. In that time of prayerful listening, my thoughts were drawn to the many baptism services I have witnessed and led here in SJSM, which are part of our traditional Anglican liturgical heritage. My heart was drawn to the smiles, to the laughter, to the applause and the general sense of the Spirit’s glow – on the faces of those who were baptised, but most noticeably on the faces of their family, friends and sponsors! But I realised that this joy generated by our baptism service is experienced by so few – and so seldom – in the course of a year, simply because we have only two baptism services in SJSM every year.
This is when the vision of unleashing the baptism service from the confines of the calendar, and even the confines of the Sanctuary, began to form and take shape. It was as if I was watching a video being played in my mind, and it brought tears to my eyes. I felt the stirring in my own heart as I saw person after person come out of the baptism pool beaming and victorious as they sense the new beginning God has just gifted them with. And I felt this stirring begin to spread like wildfire across the various age and language congregations and ministries in SJSM, as baptism of joy goes beyond just being an event or a service but becomes a movement! The sense I had was that the whole of SJSM was being submerged in an ocean of joy! The video was an attempt to allow more people to glimpse the vision I began to see that Tuesday afternoon on my knees. It’s not easy to reproduce exactly, but it comes quite close. And I am grateful to the many SJSMers who volunteered to be involved in this production.
Some of the practical differences we can expect are:
• Frequency: depending on how many people are signing up to be baptised, we could have baptisms happening every month, and even every week.
• Location: at the raised platform just outside Christ Sanctuary
• Timing: immediately after any of the 3 adult services (SES, E1 or E2)
• Baptiser: Clergy together with the Sponsor, as co-baptisers
• Freedom: Informal atmosphere and freedom to celebrate with poppers, confetti etc
• Liturgy: Shortened liturgy displayed on the digital screens
• Photography: Photo booth / backdrop for friends and cell group members to take photos at
• Bathrobe or Towel emblazoned with the words “Baptised in SJSM” as a gift to all those being baptised.
The process of application begins by notifying the Baptism Coordinating Centre (BCC) through email (email@example.com), either by the person wishing to be baptised, or by a friend or sponsor from the cell group. The BCC will then offer guidance on the follow up steps in the process. In order to shorten the gap between the person’s decision to follow Christ and their baptism, we have decided to make New Life In Christ 1A course (or New Life Kit) a post-requisite for baptism, instead of a pre-requisite, meaning the baptism can take place before NLC1A is completed, but it must be completed.
As for WHO can be baptised in this new format, it will basically be everyone from young preschoolers upward. As for infants, we will still have their baptisms done in the usual way within Christ Sanctuary, and incorporated within a Family Service in September.
Finally, the plan is for Baptism of Joy to last for the year 2019, and to revert to our former practice from 2020 onwards. However this decision will be reviewed during the Staff Planning process for 2020. In fact we will continue to review the process continually throughout the year, so we welcome your feedback on how various aspects can be improved, and how all this is impacting you.
I hope this has helped you get a better sense of why we are introducing this change this year. I ask for not just your prayers, but also your active participation as enthusiastic and joyous witnesses for our Lord Jesus. We want this year especially to be a year when the people of SJSM “come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves”!
With much love,
My dear SJSM Family,
This weekend we revert back to our sermon series on the book of James until the start of Advent. I want to give you some background on why we have taken a break from James for a few months before returning to it, as some of us may have been puzzled by this unusual arrangement.
When we as a leadership team were doing our calendar and sermon planning for 2018 back in late 2017, we intended to have a concerted focus on PSW during the 3rd quarter of the year (July to September), instead of dispersing our attention by scheduling PSW-related events throughout the year. So apart from our Ground-breaking in March this year, we bunched together our thematic sermon series on Mercy Ministries, the Project Reach Out fundraising card drive, the Church Prayer Gathering and the PSW Engagement Weekend all within Q3. For a number of reasons, moving this whole bunch of events earlier to Q2 or later to Q4 would not have been feasible.
As for our sermon series, we decided on James as our primary expository series for the year. The plan was initially to complete James within the first half of the year. We found that to achieve that, we would either have to cover very long chunks of text within a single week, or we would have to leave out certain portions of text from the series altogether. Neither of these scenarios seemed satisfactory to us. So at the expense of some untidiness in the calendar, we decided that we would cover the full text of James, in reasonably sized chunks, and we would extend the number of weeks available by continuing the series after Q3.
So that is why we are now picking up the series at James 4:11-17. The series will conclude on Nov 17-18. I realise that this requires us to revisit what was taught and discussed earlier so that we see the big picture and the flow of the book’s argument. I hope this exercise does not seem to arduous, especially when set against the backdrop of the various trade-offs we were trying to juggle.
And as a heads-up for Advent, our theme will be “The True Hope” and our messages, commencing 1-2 Dec, will encompass a portion of the Nicene Creed as well as cast our eyes forward to the Celebration of Hope!
And for Christmas, here are our services:
I pray that we may truly allow the Word of God to speak to our hearts and form us into the image of Christ more and more.
With much love,
My dear SJSM Family,
It has been a while since I last wrote to all of you. The last few months have been quite eventful for me. I want in this note to share with you some developments in my own life, for your awareness and prayers. And as you see the grace of God in my life, may you be encouraged.
In January this year, I was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2. I have a family history of diabetes, and over the years, my blood sugar levels have been inching toward the diabetic zone. A major factor has been my weight gain over the years. The doctors began prescribing diabetic medication in January this year. This came as an emotional blow to me. However the Lord encouraged me through various channels, and renewed my hope that the future need not be bleak.
After much prayerful discernment, and discussing with doctors about the best options for managing my diabetes, and taking into account the fact that I had tried many different forms of dieting in the past with no long-term success, and also taking into account my work, sleep and travel patterns, I decided to go for a more invasive solution to the weight problem, namely bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery involves limiting the capacity and volume of the stomach, creating feelings of fullness with even a small intake of food. There are a few variations of bariatric surgery, and the one I felt most at peace about was Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy, where a section of the stomach is detached and removed by means of keyhole surgery.
As I researched about the impact of this surgery, I was encouraged by the fact that many diabetics lost substantial weight through this procedure, and their diabetes went into remission, meaning they did not need to be on medication any more.
I would like to share with you that the surgery was successfully done on the morning of Monday 2 July in the Singapore General Hospital, and the surgeon (who happens to be a Christian) is happy that it went smoothly. I suffered minimal pain and almost no nausea post-surgery. By the following morning I was able to walk slowly, and sip some fluids. I was hospitalised for two nights in SGH, and was discharged on Wed 4 July. I am now resting at home.
As preparation for the surgery, I was required to undergo a two-week liquid-only diet. My initial surgery date was set for 26 June, but when I realised that the liquid diet would need to commence during our Church Camp in Avani, I appealed for postponement by a week, and was relieved that I got it. I assure you, the meals I had with all of you in camp held a special poignance for me!
I am now on another two weeks of liquid diet, as my stomach adjusts and settles. During this period, I have already begun to lose weight, but unlike previous attempts at dieting, it hasn’t been an agony. All these are little mercies for which I am so thankful to the Lord!
This being my very first surgery, the experience was new and eye-opening to me. It has helped me understand that there is always some degree of fear and anxiety when faced with surgery under general anaesthesia. At the same time, it has helped me gain a new appreciation for all those in the medical profession, and for our healthcare system here in Singapore. We are truly blessed!
I chose not to share this info to too big a group in advance of the surgery so as to prevent widespread anxiety. A small number of people were told about it and were keeping me in prayer. Apart from my family, I had a few visits from those who prayed for me while I was hospitalised.
I’ve realised afresh how good it is to receive a visit when one is confined to a bed. I hope that in SJSM we can strengthen our commitment to visiting all who are bed-bound, whether in hospital or at home, and bring them a little ray of sunshine and encouragement. And one never tires of being prayed for in such situations.
In closing, may I just say how thankful I am for the great team that I work with. My confidence in their ability to keep things moving in my absence was a major factor in my decision to proceed with this surgery.
I will be on home leave for 10 days or so, and, God willing, will be back with you next weekend (14/15 July) to share God’s word as we launch our new sermon series, Let Your Light Shine!
I value your prayers for a smooth recovery, good control of the diabetes, and overall improvement in health. May my own journey of Metamorphousthe be to the glory of the Lord, and an encouragement to you. We are weak, but He is strong!
3/4 March 2018
My dear SJSM Family,
Firstly, I want to alert you about a one-off change in next weekend’s Adult services, ie 10 & 11 March.
I will be preaching on Revelation 4 & 5, the glorious vision of God on the throne in heaven, and the worship around the throne. As I was thinking and praying about the message, I had a sense that we should all hear the sermon before we enter into a time of singing our praises, so that our praise may be informed and inspired by the worship of heaven that is described in this text.
So for next weekend only, SES, E1 and E2 services will have the sermon at the beginning of the service, after a single opening song.
I feel this deserves special mention in advance because next weekend just so happens to be the first weekend that we are without our open air car park. The need for more of us to park at the neighbouring HDB car parks or the Singapore Polytechnic car park will kick in. If we don’t cater extra time for the journey to church, significant numbers of us might end up being late, and miss a big chunk of the sermon.
So this heads-up is to allow you to intentionally and deliberately factor in extra travel time if you’re driving to church, so that you can be in Christ Sanctuary at the start of the service. Please schedule your own reminders about this matter.
If possible, please come into the Sanctuary a little before the start of the service, and quieten your heart in preparation for the Lord to speak to you and touch you. I’m believing God for a very special and memorable gathering in the Lord’s presence. Please keep me in prayer as I prepare the sermon.
Secondly, I would like to share with you excerpts of an email I received from Ps Martin Jungnickel, who was unable to join us for the Ground Breaking Service, but shared his reflections on PSW with me:
What I witnessed (about SJSM’s PSW journey) has blessed and enriched me tremendously:
- The leadership never treated PSW like a building project that would absorb huge resources at the expense of the ministry of SJSM. Instead, PSW became an integral part of the ministry. The budget for the other ministries remained. It was never about the buildings only, but about the ministry that would one day happen to the elderly and to children.
- The Lord provided an incredible pool of talents. Larry Choi was appointed as overall leader. He has been fulfilling this role in addition to his busy work schedule with exemplary conscientiousness and gentleness. The Lord provided for each committee many members with great expertise, even passion, and the willingness to serve. Michael Wong stepped forward, twice retired, because the Lord had put the project on his heart long before the work started.
- The fundraising was never about the money only, but about ownership within the whole SJSM community. This was supremely expressed at the Count-Me-In Service where all members of our church community were asked to sign the large banners. It was one of the most memorable services during my time at SJSM. We raised $8 M in that year without any ‘ra-ra’ from the pulpit and without sending our people on a guilt trip in case they didn’t give generously. Not once have the subsequent lower givings caused anxiety at PCC meetings. Those who were anxious (probably most of us) have brought our anxiety to the Lord.
- Instead of looking at PSW as a project that challenges SJSM in all aspects of our resources and abilities, we know that it’s the Lord’s project. He will bring it to completion because He is faithful. God showed His faithfulness to SJSM for 40 years before PSW; 40 years to learn to trust Him.
- It is hard to create a vision for ministry if that ministry will only begin many years later and if the immediate mountain in front of SJSM is a very big and complex building project. However, the conceptualization of ministry has been ongoing for three years already and I have often heard members dreaming about the time when they – as individuals or cells – will bring the love of God to those who the Lord will bring to the SJSM village.
Ps Martin’s reflection reinforces my conviction that it is a privilege to be involved in and to witness what God is doing through PSW. We are blessed with “front row seats” to watch God in action!
Finally, on the matter of car park labels for Sunday parking in the covered car park, please note that we are likely to issue more labels than there are available lots. So having a label is not a guarantee of a parking space, I’m afraid. It’s still first-come-first-served, but as there are fewer cars eligible to park there on Sundays, the chances of finding a space will increase. I therefore hope that all those who drive will henceforth cater extra time for your journey to SJSM, in case you are required to park further away. It would be a great testimony to the Lord’s transforming work if during this construction phase, instead of our general punctuality for services worsening, it actually improves!
With much love and prayers,
24/25 Feb 2018
My dear SJSM Family,
Xin nian meng en! Happy Chinese New Year and may you be blessed with God’s bountiful grace! This is a joyful and exciting season, and I have much to share.
Firstly, I was delighted that at our last Church Prayer Gathering (CPG) in January, our participation was significantly higher than before, and we had a very engaging time praying together. The theme, “give US this day...” was unpacked along 3 lines: prayer needs to be Unashamed (give), United (us) and Urgent (this day). This will continue to be the overarching theme for the rest of the CPGs in this national year of prayer (see my last TVW). The accent was placed on “US” to indicate the importance of praying together, not that we are more important than other people.
Here is the full-year forecast for our Centralised and Decentralised CPGs:
Next Saturday 3 March, we will have the Groundbreaking for PSW and SJSM Village. I’m very encouraged that so many have indicated your intention to attend. This speaks to me of the sense of ownership of PSW that is so strong in SJSM. Two days later on 5 March, the open car park will be closed (sounds so paradoxical!) and this will have significant implications for us.
One of the implications is that for the entire construction phase, it will not be possible to hold any wake or funeral services in the Chapel or Glory Sanctuary. This is because it will not be possible for a hearse to access these venues.
The other major implication is that many more of us will have to seek parking spaces in the Singapore Poly or HDB car parks nearby. The covered car park will be drop off zone, and when it is not raining, the Chapel gate along Dover Avenue may also be a drop off zone. We should expect greater congestion along Dover Crescent and Dover Avenue, and I ask that every time you drive to church on a weekend, you would pray for the grace to stay calm in the face of delays and added difficulties.
We will be issuing car labels to limit the cars that can park in the covered car park on weekends. Priority will be given to Guest Preachers, cars with handicapped labels, and drivers above age 65. More details will be given soon. All my staff and I (perhaps with few very few exceptions) will be parking our cars off-site to make space on Sundays.
We will commence a shuttle bus service between Singapore Poly car park and our Chapel Gate from the weekend of 10 & 11 March, for people attending SES and Sunday services. The frequency and capacity of buses will be monitored and adjusted according to usage.
Finally, I would like to urge that in this period of Lent, we will spend extra time in reflection and soul searching, so that our responses to various situations of challenge can be examined in light of God’s truth, and we can seek the power of the Spirit to progress on our journey of Metamorphousthe!
With much love,
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,