Cycling with friends in Punggol Waterway Park

I am blessed to have God-given friends. I met Lance Ng, a spiritual director working with Kingsmead Center, on the recommendation of Jacintha Teo (see blogroll links). A modest man who gave up a promising career to serve God in giving spiritual direction. I met him regularly for about a year in Kingsmead, and during that period went with him to a retreat in Chau Son, and a camino in Spain. He is graced by God to listen and give sharp insights that help me grow in self-understanding, knowing God and what he is doing in my soul. Recently, he guided me through a retreat for my transition and I was blessed. You can read about this retreat HERE.

Another lovely friend, my wife and I got acquainted with is Kae, a social worker with a social service agency. We got to know her during the Chau Son retreat and the camino and connected with her easily.

They have both picked up cycling during the Covid-19 and find in it a great joy and re-creation. There is a theology of play as you know and we are not to devalue play, as it is a way to pre-dispose ourselves to God. We can even find the God who dances in play. Thankfully, it took confinement and covid-19 to prod them into cycling. So when they invited me to a riding jaunt in the north east – the Punggol Waterway, I was happy to do so, as it would be my first time cycling with them. So after a camino meeting where we planned retreats (see image below) that Lance would be leading in the first and second quarter, we had two Bromptons in the car boot and headed to a free car park near Punggol Seafood restaurant and started our bike ride from there.

The last time I rode here was with Pastor Richard Wong in March 2016. The Punggol Waterway Park was new then. I wrote, “I agree with him that this is a beautiful park. Give it another five years for the young trees to grow bigger and shadier and it will be perfect”. To read the full story click HERE.

The weather was cloudy and cool on this afternoon ride on Friday, 22 January 2021. It was a lovely ride and I enjoyed the shady experience provided by trees that have grown lush with branches and leaves that lends its evergreen tint upon the whole scene. We rode around and was on the iconic Halus Bridge. Mid-afternoon showers arrived, and we reached our coffee destination in time to avoid the rain, and had coffee and cake at an area by the river, which had many cafes and restaurants which did not exist five years ago. Quite happening. I imagine this must place must be packed during weekends.

It was a satisfying relaxed afternoon of riding with friends who I realised were much younger and fitter than me, as I often found myself 50 metres behind them straining to catch up. I felt gratified, grateful and glad. Life with God is never boring even after retirement.

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A Retyrement Retreat

The misspelling was deliberate: retyrement instead of retirement. With my retirement from being senior pastor of WRPF, I felt a retreat would be necessary to give me the spiritual space and pace to reflect on the past 40 years of pastoral ministry. The way to go forward is to first go backward and process the past. I had already begun reflecting on this for some months but when you are occupied with the stresses of pastoral ministry especially during the Covid 19, your mind is preoccupied and your emotions hide underground and are hardly perceptible. This retreat will help me slow down and free up sufficiently and allow the Lord, His Spirit to surface matters for reflection.

Covid 19 meant my colleagues had to cancel their retreats which they booked at the Seven Fountains, Chiangmai. I had not done any bookings for the year so I did not have the hassle of cancellation. Travel is not possible or viable in the foreseeable future so a retreat overseas is not an option. Even the retreat houses in Singapore were closed. However, I recently heard from friends that they have opened. So I picked a period when I was not doing any preaching or weekly zoom teaching, and applied for some dates. I was glad that the reply was swift and I was able to take five days over a weekend to have time to wait on God in silence.

I am also thankful that my spiritual director, Lance Ng, who has accompanied me on my journey for a few years now, was also available and had a few directees in Lifesprings Spirituality Centre during that period. I was happy to use Zoom for spiritual direction, but since he was available, I was happier it was a live session. We communicate with our whole bodies so its better this way, and he can “read” me more sharply and fully.

I requested a room with an attached bathroom and I must say the room that was assigned to me is spacious and conducive with beautiful views of green foliage. It overlooks Bukit Batok Nature Park. My first apartment was a ten minutes walk from the park and I was very familiar with the whole neighbourhood. While the grounds here are adequate, just a slow walk of ten minutes will bring you to a large park conducive for reflection and prayer, with its many benches and gazebos.

The Centre is a ministry of the Canossian sisters. They have been doing fantastic work in Singapore for close to 90 years. They ran orphanages, schools and all kinds of works that helped the needy. They also ran this retreat house and have spiritual directors among them too. May the Lord continue to bless the work of their hands.

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The Camino Ignaciano cast

I originally wanted to get a taste of training as a spiritual director but it was not to be since the church leadership felt the last quarter of the year would serve succession better. I was thankful for this in the end, for my spiritual director Lance Ng, of Kingsmead Centre, invited me and my wife to a pilgrimage called Camino Ignaciano with a retreat content. He had gone in 2018 and wanted to see if the pilgrimage could be modified to embed the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises(SE) in the camino. My wife and were the last two to be added to the list of about 16 pilgrims. Lance led the retreat “component” and worked in tandem with Fr Jose who gave historical info and spiritual insights into Ignatius, the man. Great teamwork.

I liked the way Lance explained to us the dynamics of the SE day by day in 30 minutes sessions; the way he reminded us to be fully present to God and to ourselves, and to have a contemplative posture at all times.

I dread cold weather, but Lance Ng loves

Fr Jose Lluis Iriberri S.J.,  the Jesuit priest leading us with his knowledge and patience

Lance Ng, and Kae, who provides administrative support for this pilgrimage

Audrey handles all the financials involved

The  beautiful pilgrims from Singapore

The other spiritual director is Fr Jose Luis Iriberri S.J., who was assigned the task of establishing this spiritual pilgrimage, quite unlike the better known but now secular camino de Santiago.

Fr Jose has information at his fingertips and showed he had done extensive research and countless caminos before this one. We were privileged and blessed to have him. His homilies were short, sharp and satisfying and his sense of humour pleasantly surprised us as our rapport with him grew.

I will always remember his pleading voice, “Come on pilgrims, you can do it! ….let’s go…etc.”

With these two leaders as our guides the sixteen of us pilgrims have been touched and blessed, informed and inspired, and connected with the Lord and one another, in reflection and prayer, and in faith-sharing and individual direction.

The administrative tasks were divided between Kae and Audrey and all the pilgrims were thankful for their humble hard work. Lots of changes had to be made as pilgrims withdrew, or had to leave midway, or could only join us midway, due to unforseen circumstances. Thank God for these helpers that lighten the load of the spiritual directors.

I am deeply grateful for these guys who made this camino such a meaningful one. May God enrich their lives as they have enriched ours, to the greater glory of God.

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