A New Beginning in Spiritual Direction

Even though I have completed the one year nine months formation program for spiritual directors led by the Life Direction Singapore team of spiritual directors, I wondered about how my burden of journeying with younger pastors would be fulfilled. 

Most evangelical pastors and ministry staff have little idea of the need for spiritual direction. They also tend towards productivity in their work and would be too busy with schedules that look like expanded suitcases. They would rather prefer a mentor who would help them be more productive and fruitful and effective in leadership and ministry. The doors seem shut. I have to look to God to open doors. 

In the last decade, I have detected a glimmer of hope. A new generation of evangelical pastors and ministers have been trained in our institutions that have a knowledge of spiritual formation and the spiritual disciplines. The major evangelical seminaries and colleges have already established courses on the above subjects that would help students deepen their friendship with God, and their awareness of self. They even arrange for students to experience a silent retreat and/or spiritual direction as part of their training.

Such was the case for Trinity Theological College, whose lecturer Dr Jimmy Tan, from the time I knew him as a seminary student, had a passion for such knowledge. His years of study, practice, research, and reflection has resulted in a book he wrote titled, “How Then Shall We Guide?”, which is a comparative study of Ignatius of Loyola and John Calvin as spiritual guides. He has even run courses that included an experiential component so that students get to experience personal encounters with God in the context of a prayer retreat and reflection on the word.

A week ago Dr Jimmy Tan (third from left) led a retreat for Trinity Theological College students attending his course on Pastoral Theology and Praxis. He invited Koh Seng Chor(second from left) and myself to help out in providing spiritual direction to the students during the retreat. A few other regulars were also invited to help out: Sue Kim Lee(fifth from left), an Elder of a Presbyterian church and from the Life Direction Singapore; and Tina Khoo (fourth from left) and Kayyona Lim (extreme right), both ministry staff from Wesley Methodist Church.  Together each of us met with three students each for spiritual direction sessions. It was a joy to serve in this inter-denominational context.

I felt privileged and blessed to experience this “open door” and to provide a safe space for the students to share about their walk with God, and their reflections on what God is doing or how he is leading them in their current life context. It is merely two sessions for a brief retreat. However, it was a good beginning. 

All the time that I have gone on retreats, I have been sitting in the seat of the directee. It was a humbling and meaningful experience to sit on the other chair. Not that it is superior, for both persons are in seats of poverty. It is more a seat of co-discernment and sacred entrustment. I believe that this ministry is very much needed for people in pastoral ministry and I believe the Lord will manage my availability to those who need it.

Share this:

Read More →


The preaching symposium was held on 8,9 March 2018 in celebration of Trinity Theological College’s 70th anniversary. It was one of many other events to be held.

Panel to answer questions n the second day

I saw the publicity information, the titles and speakers at the symposium, and it perked my interest. Topics included: What is Preaching? The Bible and Preaching, Theology of Preaching, Preaching and Liturgy, Preaching as Pastoral Care, Preaching in a Pluralistic Society, and Preaching and Church Growth. The workshops included: Preaching on NT Genre, Preaching on OT Genre, Preaching a word from the Lord, Preaching by Listening to the World, Preaching as Evangelism, and Interest Groups: 1) Preaching to Children 2) Preaching to Youth.

As it turned out more than 400 signed up including the Mandarin version. The English-speaking version was held in the chapel while the Mandarin-speaking version in the multi-purpose hall. I hope the organisers see the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing his servants to this conference. There is a real hunger among pastors to be more effective and faithful in their preaching ministry.

I have always been interested in the craft of preaching and for many decades have read one book a year on average, and even more in some years. So I would consider this symposium as an equivalent to my annual reading.

Anglican Bishop Rennis Ponniah giving his talk

What I liked about it:

The topics were relevant and interesting. They were comprehensive but I came away wishing they had added something about “Preaching and Prayer” and look at the role of silence, solitude and prayer in the formation of the preacher, in sermon preparation, and in gaining insights on Spirit-guided applications. Perhaps another one on, “Preaching to Today’s Audience”.

The panel discussion that answered the questions from the floor were helpful and enlightening. One person asked about the way the preachers in the panel have seen themselves changed in the way they preached today compared to when they first started out. Another great question was about what sea change in the audience that the preachers have observed over their decades of preaching? One answer stood out: today’s church member is consumer-oriented unlike the members from the older generation, who were loyal to their traditions and churches.

The sessions were back to back from morning to late evening, with “no rest for the wicked”. I had to skip a few sessions as I felt over-saturated with information. I also found the session after lunch particularly difficult to pay attention to.

I met my friend Rev Vincent Hoon, an Anglican priest from The Church of True Light

On the whole I was glad with what I gleaned. I would have preferred a wider and comprehensive treatment of the topics. A few of the lecturers picked a key passage as a basis for the support of their talk. This narrowed the number and breadth of the truths they can draw from the limited text. If they had a topical approach, more insights and balance could have been shared about the subject as “all scripture” can be utilised to shed light upon the subject instead of one key passage. For instance the talk on “Preaching as Pastoral Care” used the text in Isaiah 40 where comfort was emphasised and what was communicated was a truncated form of pastoral care: comfort, consolation, support and tenderness. However, real pastoral care included reproof and rebuke, and even church discipline. What is the role of preaching in communicating and implementing discipline? That would have been a helpful facet to learn about!  This was missed out because an expository approach was employed and it was based largely on one passage. Good thing this could be clarified and explained during the panel question and answer. It was the same for the lecture on “Preaching in a Pluralistic Society’ which was based mainly on an exposition of Acts 17:16-24. Perhaps the organisers wanted such an approach as a form of demonstration of how good exposition should support whatever case you make about those subjects, so I do not wish to dwell too much on this issue.

I was impressed that they invited Rev Dr Naomi Dowdy, a well known Pentecostal preacher, former senior pastor of megachurch Trinity Christian Centre, and Chancellor of a theological college, to sit in the panel and share her wisdom. Another woman who made an impression on me was Rev Dr Maggie Low. Her lecture on “The Bible and Preaching” was basic understanding for preachers but her delivery led me to conclude she is one of the best women preachers in the city! She was articulate, passionate and connected well with the audience.

On the whole, I enjoyed it and wished they would organise more of these, more frequently. I applaud the organising committee and say a big thank you to Trinity Theological College for organising this.


Share this:

Read More →

Trinity Theological College: unsung heroes

I heard the voices, then I saw this multitude....
I heard voices like many thunders, then I saw a multitude….(pardon me, I have been preaching Revelation)

...from every tribe and tongue ....eating lunch
…from every tribe and tongue ….eating lunch


I was in the Trinity Theological College (TTC) library, when I heard the loudhailer blaring something outside. It must be some kind of celebration or a college event, I thought. Some time later, on my way to a lunch appointment, I caught sight of what was happening. It was a glorious sight. I could not believe my eyes. I had to take pictures to document this for my good friends and classmates Rev Benedict Muthusamy of Open Doors, Malaysia; Dr Tan Yak Hwee lecturing in Westminster College, Cambridge; and Raphael Samuel the Anglican Bishop of Bolivia. They would be delighted. I saw a sea of red: with students and faculty members and construction workers. Most were seated on the floor, some were standing, and others were busy helping around. They were having lunch, the seminary folks and the construction workers who had been working for the past few years to build the MRT station a stone’s throw from the college entrance: the Hillview MRT station.

These are sweet "unsung heroes" too
These are sweet “unsung heroes” too

Serving point
Serving delicious nasi briyani

I asked Veronica from TTC office, What is happening? Oh, the college decided to serve lunch to the “unsung heroes”: foreign workers from Lanka, India, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Korea that had been working on MRT station works just outside the college. I was pleasantly surprised at TTC’s gracious act of hospitality, even if it was a symbolic once off event. You know, after all seminary do not do such things.

Is that cold drinks or ice cream?
There were cups, ice and I saw ice cream

The foreign workers would have seen the big seminary sign at the main road, and may have known that this is the place where Christian workers and pastors were trained. For them to receive hospitality and thanks in this fashion is something they will remember for a long while. Just as significant the seminarians have begun to learn by actual doing the sacred art of showing hospitality to the “stranger” or “alien”. This is a true curriculum which educates the heart, a curriculum as important, if not more important, than learning in comfortable lecture rooms and library. This is theology of the heart. Theology 101, Jesus way.

Share this:

Read More →

Raphael Samuel: Singapore missionary becomes the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Bolivia

Bishop Samuel, Michelle and Elijah
Bishop Samuel, Michelle and Elijah

Good friend

The Bishop of the Anglican Church in Bolivia is a good friend of mine! We did theology together in Trinity Theological College. As a student he was a sharp and creative thinker, good at thinking provocative abstract ideas that stretch your theological world to the edge. Together with Rev Benedict Muthusamy, we were pals who had long teh tarik sessions about theology, society, politics and …..our lecturers. The charismatic movement was very strong in some of the Anglican churches and for field education he served in Church of our Savior.

I was his bestman when he married Michelle at a wedding at Church of our Savior. Rev Derek Hong was one of his heroes and the officiating minister, and I distinctly remembered how the reverend wore hip jeans and moccasins under the Anglican whites and how the wedding was saturated with worship and prophecies. The venue was the old chapel at Prince Charles Crescent.

Missionary call

After our graduation we met regularly to encourage each other and share about our respective ministry and struggles. When our seminary classmates were in town I made arrangements for class meetings. I remembered it was a big decision when Raphael and his wife Michelle decided to answer the call to Bolivia. The prayers, the deliberations, the anxieties about adaptation and their son, Elijah. I thought they displayed courage that could only come from receiving God’s call and promises. You can read the whole story of the process of answering the call in “Going to Bolivia” in his blog.

When he came back for furlough we always meet for fellowship and it was an opportunity to bring back as many of the classmates as we can together.

Consecration of Bishop Samuel
Consecration of Bishop Samuel

Proud of him

I feel so proud, so pleased for him that he has become the bishop. It is not the prestige or status that it confers on him. Nor is it the often unnoticed fact that the Diocese of Singapore has produced two minority race Indian bishops in a Chinese dominated clergy – a credit to the diocese. I feel that with his knowledge and experience and intelligent reflection from years of parish work both in Bolivia and Singapore, he will certainly do a good job of it. He has a clear idea of what needs to be done and he has the passion and contextualization skills and competencies to succeed. The Bolivian diocese and the wider church there will only benefit from his being in this leadership position at this juncture. Glory to God!

TTC alumni news update

Here is an extract from the Trinity Theological College alumni news update:

Our congratulations to Rev Raphael Samuel (BTh 1985) and his wife, Michelle Lee Hock Sim (BD 1984) on Raphael’s election as the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Bolivia, South America. The consecration will be held on 12 May 2013 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

The Bishop Elect of the diocese of Bolivia, Ven. Raphael Samuel, is a Singapore clergyman sent by the Diocese of Singapore to serve in Bolivia. He and his wife, Michelle are the longest-serving missionaries in the Bolivian Anglican Church.

Raphael, a Singaporean Tamil, was born in January 16th 1957. He was raised in a traditional Anglican parish and received Christ when he was a teenager. He hails from several generations of Anglicans and was educated in a Methodist school. After formal studies, he joined the Singapore Navy in 1974, after which he responded to the Lord’s call to serve in the Anglican Church in 1980. At this juncture, a life-changing experience of the Holy Spirit, left a deep and lasting impression on his life. As part of his preparation for full-time ministry, he studied theology for 4 years at Trinity Theological College, where he and Michelle met. The communal setting at St Peter’s Hall, an Anglican institute for ministerial training in the campus at Trinity, served as an integral part of his formation as a priest in the Anglican Church.

The Straits Times reported his consecration HERE.

Share this:

Read More →