Categories
Pastoral ministry Singapore churches

Covid 19 impact on church and pastor

The covid 19 virus has had a significant impact on the churches in Singapore. Every church had to make adjustments to its programmes. The Roman Catholic Church suspended its masses shortly after the government activated the DORSCON orange alert. So did charismatic megachurches like FCBC and City Harvest Church, as well as a large Presbyterian church. This is besides the two other churches that the Ministry of Health intervened in, and suspended its services, because of the infection cluster among its members.

However, for most other denominations and independent churches, the essential worship service continued, and other peripheral services, events, and programs were cancelled or postponed.

Various precautionary steps were initiated in most churches: temperature readings, attendance taking, handwave instead of handshakes, more hygienic ways of delivering Holy Communion, shorter services, dismissal and dispersion of members after service, and live streaming of services for members who opt to stay home.

This meant more stress on the pastors as the dilemma of decision making in the midst of DORSCON orange was a tug of war: to continue with services might be misconstrued as a lack of prudence and sensitivity; and to suspend the services may be perceived as a lack of faith in God.

Thankfully I have a pastoral team to work with and to discern the best decision to go with at each point in time. In addition, I have good pastor friends from other churches, and we share notes about the decisions we were making. Finally, the church I serve is a part of two larger network of churches: the Love Singapore movement, and the National Council of Churches of Singapore. We take to heart their advice. These support systems helped to take the stress off me, and in the end our group discernment led to a decision to go ahead with the services, doing live streaming of the services, and encouraging our parents with young children, and the Pioneer generation to stay home, if they wished to.

The staff also had to plan for continuity in case the covid 19 hit the church. So we formed two teams, worked from home, and we tried using Zoom, a software for group meetings via internet video conferencing. The first time we used it, it took us 45 minutes just to get all seven of us on the screen. It was an interesting experience. One thing noticeably different was that I had to consciously concentrate and listen. We also interupted each other less and listened better. The Bible injunction to “Be slow to speak and quick to listen” became a reality!

I worked more from home and this gave me more time for prayer, reflection and reading. A prophetic word from Tan Gee Paw, the man who spearheaded the cleanup of Singapore River, stated that God had pressed the PAUSE button for China and for the church too. PAUSE to halt mindless pursuit of wealth and pleasure, to pray and listen to God. I believe God is squeezing good out of evil, and my prayer is that more of God’s people will spend more time seeking the Lord in prayer than they had before.

There are many reasons to be thankful in the midst of walking in the valley of the shadow of death. There may be fear, anxiety and even panic, but these should reveal something about disordered values in our life, and an invitation from God to take an inward journey that will hopefully free us to be all God wants us to be.

I felt inspired when I saw members still attending worship services with increased earnestness in their singing and praying.

I feel thankful that we have a government that is organized and efficient.

I feel God’s hand is on this nation in the midst of the covid 19. May it bring a greater clarity to all Singaporeans that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions, power, honour, or achievements. Life can be unpredictably short and we need Jesus Christ to be Lord of our life more than anything else.

What Zoom looked like on laptop.

Categories
Writing and blogging

Website hacked and restored

I am unsure what happened but my blog, which had been down for three months, is now restored. This is not the first time my blog had been hijacked and used to re-direct traffic elsewhere. I am thankful that Vee my friend managed to get it up and running again. Thank you Lord.

Praying that it will be stable and safe. I will use a complicated password. Hope this helps.

My heart is full and lots have happened in my soul. I have a lot to write but this is still a test post. The enforced silence has increased my desire to write. Looking forward.

Categories
Contemplative prayer Hiking

November goals

One of my goals in November is to work on physical fitness.

It is no surprise then that I have gone hiking more this month than the whole year (not counting the camino walks) put together. It has been a challenge initially but once you build a momentum you simply carry on in the motivation generated by previous exercises.

Hiking with Kenneth my brother in law

With hiking group after AWOL for many months

This is rainy season so more than once the weather played me out. It said rain; I stayed home, but there was no rain. I have since removed the weather forecast link from the home screen. I will depend on what I see in the sky.

Paid $40 for good Quechua hiking shoes clearance price

When it rained, I either took to the gym or the pool or to cycling the Jurong Lakes.

I am encouraged that pants that were tight before my sabbatical were now fitting. Well, we are now near the end of November and to some extent I am on track to getting healthier.

I refer to this only after first meditating on the passages

I am also enjoying my meditations on the Song of Songs, taking my time to savour, imagine, the love songs-poems. Not rushing but relishing. Not analyzing but allowing the words, phrases and lyrics to be woven into the fabric of my soul. May my love for God deepen as I dwell on His love. Amen.

Categories
Personal and family

64th birthday prayer

 

Jurong Lake Gardens have a few spots for reflection

As is my custom, on my birthday I take off to a solitary place to spend some time with the Lord, reflecting on my journey thus far.

Lord,

Today I’m 64

Thank you for being with me

For saving me

For guiding me

For using me

For keeping me

For blessing me

For calling me

For giving me peace, meaning and

A hope that is living and lasting.

I want to see You more clearly,

Love You more dearly and

Follow You more closely

For the rest of my life

Till I meet You in glory

Face to face.

Amen.

Categories
Meditations

Invited to Song of Songs

Song of Songs. That prompting is so slight, so silk, I could have ignored it. But I did not and am thankful for following it. I figured that perhaps it may be the means through which my main prayer for my sabbatical, a deeper love for Jesus,  may get answered. I personally find this  Old Testament book forbidding. I am very much left-brained, and appreciating the Song of Songs is a right-brained activity. It’s like appreciating the poetic lyrics of a popular love song. This is outside my comfort zone. Which is good because at the later part of life we should be moving towards wholeness and wellness, and taking on new frontiers in learning.

I began listening to YouTube videos on appreciating poems and writing and interpreting poems. I listened to David Pawson give an overview of the book. I saved Mike Bickle’s talks on the book. I listened to audio readings of the book. I bought a book titled Love of Loves by Philip Riken, and this week I started to savour the text and talk to the Lord from it. I am excited because the Lord is making the song come alive. I hope it is awakening my love for the Lord. It is making me aware of God’s loving action towards me, His many kisses of love through the many gifts He showered on me. Yes Lord kiss me again and again, till passionate love is awakened in me again, and joy overflows from receiving Your love.

Categories
Personal and family

Colonoscopy peace

I had a colonoscopy done. I entered the hospital with peace of mind. I had occasional reminders to not take things for granted even though both my parents were cancer-free. After all, cancer can happen to anyone. So the “what if they find tumours?” question surfaced a few times. And routine medical procedures can get messy through a surgeon’s mistakes. Each time such anxious thoughts surface, I had to commit the matter into the Lord’s loving care.

Life is unpredictable but we who trust in the Lord can walk around with a serene and smiling face because we are secure in God’s love.

I did not like the idea of colonscopy. Why allow intrusion into your body when all is fine? As they say, Do not trouble trouble lest trouble troubles you! My wife had done the colonscopy and kept encouraging me to do so.  Since I am almost 64, it is a good time to do a check up.

Ng Teng Fong General Hospital is 5 minutes from home so I had the examination done there. Everything went smoothly and painlessly. I remembered feeling a slight embarassment as female nurses in businesslike voices and brisk movements prompted me into a fetal (not fatal, thank God) posture. This is very awkward, being introduced to strangers from the backside. “Your name and i.c. number?” I answered the question, and soon I lost consiousness (and embarassment) in the examination theatre.

The next thing I knew was gently regaining consciousness in the preparation room, feeling that I want to sleep there forever because I felt so drowsy and it felt so comfortable.

The results were later given to me in an envelope with photographs of a clean colon. Praise the Lord.

Categories
Contemplative prayer Pastoral ministry

Sabbatical reflection

It has been a month since my sabbatical began. I feel better rested physically and psychologically. Longer hours of sleep, exercise, and disengagement from pastoral duties does wonders. Being overseas helped too because you became unavailable physically.

I also feel thankful for the many blessings of God. Never thought of touring Spain, never was interested. But in pursuing the kingdom, in seeking rest and restoration, I ended up in Spain, beginning in San Sebastian and ending in Barcelona, staying at many towns and cities along the way, in Basque and Catalonia regions, often walking in the streets and countryside. I love silent retreats, silence and solitude. I love hiking. And I was blessed by Ignatius Spiritual Exercises and spirituality. All these three elements that nourishes me were present in this sabbatical program. What a blessed trinity!

This was followed by a vacation and catch up time with Mike and Amy in Bolton. They were very gracious and availed themselves to us for five days. We had significant time catching up usually over meals – restaurant, home-cooked and takeaways. It was around 7 to 18 degree centigrade with gloomy clouds and rain on quite a few days. This restricted our plans but it meant more rest, early to bed and late to rise. It was a contrast to the Camino Ignaciano– late to bed, early to rise.

Now I am glad to be back home. I feel relieved. Spanish and English food and weather are good – for a while, usually tolerable for two weeks or so, in my experience. I like Singapore. I like the smells, tastes, sights of home.

I don’t like the haze though. This morning, I saw the haze and told my wife, “Thank God that in the last three weeks, we were away overseas breathing fresh mountain and countryside air”.

I had an inspired thought this morning as I reflected on how to use the rest of my sabbatical wisely: treat each day as you would a sabbath day with an eye on REMEMBRANCE (spiritual nourishment), REST (physical and emotional self-care), RELISH (life-giving engagement and activities).

“Lord, help me do this and experience more of your love.”