The Clergy of the Karnataka Central Diocese has been blessed beyond all measures this past year, for it is our Great and Almighty God who ordered our footsteps and guided us through the past year. We are immensely thankful to our Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Prasanna Kumar Samuel and the Diocesan Officers for their leadership and guidance.
An annual Clergy retreat was conducted at Park Royal Hotel in Singapore from 17th to 21st November 2019. This was an exposure program in line with the CSI Synod theme: “Rethinking Ecclesia – Being and Becoming Christ Communities.” The purpose of the program was to give an opportunity to all clergy to witness how the Church in Singapore, like any other church, which is caught up in between truth and experiment, prescription and description and vision and reality is striving to establish equality, justice, dignity and peace doing everything in love of Christ and ushering in transformation and change.
On 18th November 2019, the Retreat began with Praise and Worship at 10 a.m. Rev. Solomon Thomas, Vice President invoked God’s blessings. This was followed by Bishop’s key note address based on Philippians 3: 12 – 14. Drawing attention to how St. Paul in his epistles talks about various sports and its requirements to highlight the importance of being clear about one’s purpose and goal in life. Bishop pointed out that, St. Paul’s goal in life was to know more of Christ; experience Christ and to emanate Christ like values. Bishop exhorted the Clergy not to be complacent in their Pastoral Ministry in a comfortable and safe mode but rather make attempt to go extra mile and take risky steps to move ahead in the way the Lord wants them to go. Reminding the Clergy about their high calling, Bishop exhorted them the importance of growing through critical evaluation and sincere efforts to move ahead in seeking and doing God’s will.
The Clergy Retreat was enriched by several Church leaders in Singapore. Rev. R. Prabhu, Pastor of Tamil Methodist Church in Singapore helped in organizing visits to various churches in Singapore and also in presenting a paper on “The History of Christianity in Singapore and the Challenges and responses of the Church in Singapore.” He shared how Singapore being a tiny nation has a rich history and how the Church in Singapore has played a major role in nation building by introducing education and sharing fruits of scientific research and by contributing leaders to national politics. He also shared how Christians are involved in national politics and some of them serve in the Parliament and also in the Cabinet. It was motivating to hear from him about how the Church in Singapore is missional and sensitive to the problems and very active in developing mission strategies to alleviate such problems. It was very challenging to note that both at the national level and in the Church there is zero tolerance to corruption and even though the Church in Singapore is not allowed to receive any foreign funds, the Church through generous and spontaneous giving of the congregation members, carries on its mission and ministries.
In the afternoon, a visit to Kampong Kapor Methodist Church was organized. The Pastor of the Church, Rev. Alegesan Moses, invited the clergy and shared the vision and mission of his church and its ministries in the local area. The clergy had a fruitful time interacting with the Pastor and reading the resource materials in the church. In the evening, the clergy enjoyed a City Tour by bus and the Night Safari.
On 19th November 2019, the sessions were organized in the Tamil Methodist Church at Short Street. Rev. Dr. D. Manohar Chandra Prasad, Presbyter and an activist who works for the Dalit human rights, led the sessions from the book of Psalms.
He pointed out that today many countries are facing a political system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism. In India we too are beginning to face religious and cultural fascism. In this context we feel helpless and miserable, the book of Psalms however, helps us to face and overcome our situation and challenges. This is because the expressions of ‘silence’ of God, experience of ‘death’ and ‘suffering’ are the concrete yearning of Psalmists in their helplessness and distress. These yearnings are the result of the situations of war, defeat, persecution, epidemics, mockery, famine, disease, imprisonment, drought, sadness, despair, anguish, frustration, betrayal and so on. Out of these real situations (or even symbolic) the Psalmist expects Yahweh to break silence. The prolonged silence of God results in increased anxiety and this experience leads the Psalmist to the nearness of death. The knowledge of being away from remembrance of God is worse than any painful situation. Life without God finds no meaning for the Psalmist. Acknowledging God helps the Psalmist to develop resistance and resilience to face the reality and overcome the challenges.
Christians have a duty to protect God’s creation and ‘ecology’ is mission of the Church. As Singapore is known for preserving and establishing dynamic and harmonious balance of eco-systems, a visit to Green house conservatory, Jurong Bird Park, Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom was arranged to learn about following green protocol.
On 20th November 2019, Mr. Mahendran, an elder from the Parish of Christ Church on Dorset Road in Singapore organized a special meeting in his Church. Rev. Steven Asirvatham, the Vicar of the Parish welcomed us and felicitated our Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Prasanna Kumar Samuel and Diocesan Officers. Pastors from K. G. F Area led Praise and Worship. After Scripture reading, Rev. G. Wilson led the devotion from the book of Jonah. Based on the life of the Prophet Jonah, Rev. Wilson focused on the theme: “Call of God” He pointed out that in Pastoral Ministry, preparation is very important. Through disciplined life by practicing prayer life, regular quiet time, reflection, pastoral visits, intercession and actively involvement in the mission and pastoral ministry of the church, we can be prepared for any challenges. Many Clergy run away from shouldering their pastoral responsibilities because they are not prepared. It is a matter of great joy that God brings us back and restores us in our ministry when we repent and sincerely attempt to fulfill God’s call.
After Bible study, Mr. Thomas Jayaseelan, the Secretary of the Parish of Christ Church, through Power Point Presentation shared with the Clergy the fascinating history of the Anglican Church in Singapore, its vision and mission. The Clergy were greatly impressed to know how deeply the Church is involved in various ways to uplift the community around it through contributing its time, energy and effort towards social good and positive change.
After the meetings at Parish of Christ Church, the Clergy continuing the ecological concerns visited the flower dome where 30,000 plants of over 150 species in different gardens from 5 continents of the world is maintained in the largest glass green house in the world. The Clergy also explored the highlands amidst orchids, pitcher plants and ferns from the cool moist tropical Montane region and the famous ‘Gardens by the Bay’ that features the best of horticulture, sustainability, and architectural designs.
The three days Clergy Retreat in Singapore was attended by 80 Diocesan Pastors along with the Bishop and four officers. Though the Clergy Retreat was a very short period program, it provided platform for learning, listening and sharing together towards transforming Pastoral Ministries.