St John’s Chapel: a missional family church

It was early Sunday morning at St John’s Chapel, and I was warmly welcomed by Revd Tang Wai Lung, the experienced priest who was newly appointed to lead the English congregation. He showed me around the lovely church sanctuary with parquet flooring and three-pointed arches that led your gaze upward to God. He showed me a set of four plaques that was preserved from their old church building in Jurong. He informed me that St John’s Chapel was originally a church plant initiated by Revd William Gomes and Mr Cheok Loi Fatt to reach out to farmers and villagers in Jurong in 1872.  By 1884, a church building was erected and a congregation established. The church was missional right from its birth. Thankfully, true to its DNA, St John’s Chapel has remained a strongly missional church that encourages all members young and old to sign up and embark on mission trips every other year. When the government took over the Jurong building for redevelopment, St John’s Chapel moved to St Margaret’s Secondary School, and has been there since.

Two pleasant surprises

I had two pleasant surprises before the service began. I met an old friend, Boon Sing, whom I knew from the Christian fellowship in Mindef, while doing my National Service. I recalled how we memorized verses and prayed together. The second surprise was that he was in the traditional choir of the church and they sang a lovely “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”. Why did the song at the prelude and this song moved me? The Lord was reminding me of his presence in the meeting.

Preaching the good news

I was asked to preach a gospel message and I had only one thus far and I have preached this five times before. I still had to sit before the Lord in prayer, hovering over the script, and making minor modifications and improvements. It took time for me to warm up to the new faces in front of me, but as I proceeded, the delivery of the message got better and better. I was glad that people responded to the invitation to pray in the front, for all the kneelers in front of the stage were occupied. A period of prayer ensued and I prayed that these precious seekers of God would be rewarded with real answers to their prayers. While I have been praying for souls to be saved through my preaching, there was no response to my invitation to non-Christians present to follow Jesus. Strangely, I was not discouraged about this. I trust God to anoint his word and let it germinate in its time. 

A missional and family church

After the service, I had refreshments at the school canteen with the priest Revd Wai Lung, and Canon Barry Leong, the acting vicar, and my old friend Boon Sing. I found it amazing that Barry had to oversee three churches in the past, and is currently overseeing two churches for the time being. He said the secret to doing this is to have the right people in place and to trust them. After he left to go to attend the service of the other church he was overseeing, I continued to chat with Wai Lung and we talked about the Revival of 1972, different church polities, the culture of St John’s Chapel and other Anglican churches. He told me besides its missions emphasis, St John’s was a family church, a close knit caring community, which gives deliberate intention to include all generations into its activities, whether it be games, church retreats, or ministry. I thought these qualities are wonderful strengths for smaller churches to have. My observation is that the quality of community closeness fades as the congregational size enlarges. So this is the strength that small churches can cultivate and leverage, and be different from big churches.

Well, this was a visit and ministry I enjoyed. Taking on speaking engagements while you are still pastoring, is different from doing them after you have retired. With retirement, you are well rested, you have more time and space for God to move your heart and prepare yourself, and you are able to preach with more energy, restfulness and grace.

If you are interested to know more about this church and its services, you may visit their website HERE. Other churches where I have guest preached in or visited can be read about HERE.

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Chapel of the Resurrection: a church with stretch marks

the worship band

From Malan Rd to St Andrew’s Village

The 600-700 strong church was located at the St Andrews Junior College in Malan Road but have now moved with the school, to St Andrew’s Village at St. Francis Thomas Drive. Although I have heard about this very fruitful church, I have not been to their service before. It was therefore a pleasure for me to accept an invitation to preach at the Chapel of the Resurrection, plausibly the most reproductive church in the Anglican diocese. As I traced in my earlier post, this mother of many has given birth to six other churches that still bear witness to Christ’s resurrection.

Felt like home

Before the service began I met two ministers I knew. One was Rev John Sim, whose brother invited me to attend my home church. Back then John was an active lay leader in the Brethren church at Galistan Avenue. After he experienced the power of the Holy Spirit he moved to the Church of our Savior. After he was ordained, he was posted to a Woodlands extension, and then to the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. He had taken one of our children’s church camp, and I was pleased to briefly catch up with him.

Later in the worship hall, I met Rev Gerrard Jacobs, whose parents I knew from way back, and whose sister is Sister Rubina of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, Australia. He was here for a short while and would head for home in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he is pioneering an Anglican multi-ethnic work. Both of them were called out of fires of charismatic revival in the 1970’s and 80’s.

praise in the sanctuary

Pointing people to a covenant keeping God

It felt like home. The songs they sung, the light touch of tongues in the background, and the relaxed atmosphere. Before I knew it, I was at the pulpit preaching from Genesis 15 on the topic of “Our Covenant-Keeping God”. There were dark storm clouds looming over the world’s largest economy and it would overshadow Singapore, so I pointed them to the covenant keeping God. During the weeks before, I have been asking God to reveal Jesus Christ more clearly through the sermon, so that the hearers will love Him more dearly, and want to follow Him more nearly. That was my desire and remains my desire: that the message would bear fruit in the congregation.

Daniel with Claudia Heng

Spiritual intelligence and yet at ease with a child

After the service, Rev Canon Daniel Tong and I had some time of fellowship. The first time I heard of him was from his well known book, A Biblical Rev Canon Daniel Tong and KennyApproach to Chinese Traditions and Beliefs. This book is probably one of the better selling Christian books in the Armour Publishers’ Christian section. Later our paths were to cross when we met at a familiarisation tour for pastors to the Holy Land a few years back. While having coffee and chatting anDaniel's daughter standing beside interesting thing happened. A little girl, presumably from the Sunday School where he had earlier given out some awards or gifts, had skipped in and given him a hug and talked to him. She seemed like a niece or some relative but she was not. This Claudia Heng was cute and shy and I thought this was like some picture I had seen of Jesus holding a lamb in his arms. “Hey let me take a shot.”  I knew a Kodak moment when I saw one. It was just a snapshot but besides being a pastor with spiritual intelligence, he seemed to exude a care and ease with both kids and adult members of the church.

Church with a great legacy

chapel of resurrection

This church can stand tall as they have a great legacy of reproductive fruitfulness.  They have caught the wind of the charismatic winds in the 80’s and sailed strongly. This church can proudly rejoice and celebrate its wonderfully lasting legacy. They can show off the stretch marks from all the childbearing and sending out of their apostolic laypeople to start extensions. It can be draining as any mother of six would tell us. Hopefully one day in God’s time, they would launch out again in such self-giving love and faith. Until then, here’s an idea for all the daughter churches: plan an event for all the daughter churches to come together and say a heart-felt “Thank you” to mum.

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