The Vicar Writes
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,