Dear Beloved in Christ,
“In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways… In these last days, He has spoken to us through the Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
My family joins me in extending to you, through this my first Christmas letter as your Bishop, our warmest greetings for a holy Christmas and blessed New Year 2018.
Christmas offers a unique opportunity for us to re-focus as we celebrate the awe-inspiring, world-changing, life-altering git that is Jesus Christ, who is the Saviour of the world. Jesus’ birth represents the victory of light over darkness, joy over sadness, hope over despair, love over hatred, peace over conflict, gratitude over misery, obedience over disobedience, and order over chaos. Above all, His birth is to give us our second birth! And so we sing….
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings:
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth
This is the true meaning and joy of Christmas!
And so even though we might face many struggles and challenges in life – in our relationships, families, works, Church communities and nations – yet we know that the love of God the Father is made manifest to us in the wonderful gift of His Son, Jesus. With the angels, we sing: “Glory to God the highest….! (Luke 2:14)
A little Update
We give thanks to God for the leadership and ministry of our former Bishop, the Rt. Rev Datuk Bolly Lapok, and wish him a very happy retirement. Soon, our Dean, the Very Rev Michael Buma will also retire (1 Jan 2018) , followed by Archdeacon Canon Gregory Chambers (June 2018) and Bishop Solomon Cheong (August 2018). We thank God that in His faithfulness, He continues to provide and call men and women to position of leadership in His Church. In April this year, we witnessed the ordination of two new priests, the Rev Andrew Bonnie Duang and the Rev Timon Lugi and two Deacons, the Rev Wilson Trin and Rev Moses Likong.
And on 26 November, we ordained the Rev Stephen Chin to the Diaconate, to serve at St. Andrew’s Bandar Sri Begawan. On 10 December, we ordained to the Diaconate, the Rev Augustine Saidi, the Rev Roland Rayang and the Rev Pilu Gumba. Two ordinands, Josh Sim and Villy Velin completed their studies and were awarded with B.Th Degree from Sabah Theological Seminary. We will be sending another three young men to STM in January 2018, in addition to our current batch of seminarians.
The Rev Harold Hold Ahit has been made the Vicar of St. Mark’s, Limbang (10 December 2017). The Rev Albert Ajong moved to St. Basil’s, Batu Kawa and the Rev Moses Jakir to St. Francis’s Kota Samarahan. The Rev Timon Lugi will take charge at St. Boniface’s, Mamut from January 2018. The Rev Jecksion Tay will move to St. Barnabas’s Tmn Tunku, Miri. Also in January, the Rev Kelvin Jawa will be transferred to Tabuan Jaya Anglican Church and the Rev Rodriguez Unak to St. Faith’s, Kenyalang.
Since my election, consecration and enthronement as Bishop, I have reflected a great deal on who we are as a Diocese and who we might become in the years ahead. Let us be honest: there is a lot that we need to do! So huge is the task that we cannot do it sved by the grace of God! Hence, we have decided to dedicate the year 2018 as YEAR OF GRACE!
We will begin the year with the Induction and Installation of our new Dean in the person of the Rev Kho Thong Meng on Sunday 7 January 2018 at St. Thomas’s Cathedral, Kuching. This will be followed by our Diocesan Clergy School on 8-9 January 2018.
At the last Synod (September 2017), I mentioned our intention to reopen our Theological College, the House of the Epiphany, Kuching. Canon James Juhari will be appointed as Rector, with Canon Michael Wood remaining as Warden. Our plan is to demolish the present building and build in its place a new complex, which will comprise a Chapel, lecture hall, seminar rooms, offices, kitchen, dining hall, hostels, and living quarters. We need all the support that you can offer for this project! (More details will come later.)
I am filled with gratitude for the support, generosity, kindness, care, encouragement and assurance of prayers that you have given me during the short time that I have been blessed to serve as your Bishop. THANK YOU SO MUCH! It is my intention to visit all the parishes within the first year of my episcopacy. As your shepherd, I would love to meet and get to know all of you! I am here to serve you, and with you, to serve God and others. St. Augustine, in the fourth century, offered this reflection upon being called to serve the Diocese of Hippo: “What I am for you terrifies me; what I am with you consoles me. For you I am a bishop; but with you I am a Christian.”
So far, I have visited 15 parishes,. In every conversation that I have had with many of you, a common theme has emerged: the need for a vision of who we are as God’s people. Common concerns have been raised regarding the need for more priests, ministry to our young members, the future of our Mission Schools, and the financial difficulties being faced by some of our parishes. Common hopes have also been shared, in which many of you expressed a desire to grow in faith and to be supported as you seek a deeper personal relationship with God and one another.
My prayer- filled hope is that this Diocese move into the future, embracing opportunities to evolve, to grow and to flourish. While I understand that many look to me to articulate a vision for our future, such a vision will best emerge not from me alone but from the entire People of God – from all of us – who are open to the Spirit and willing to collaborate for the sake of God’s mission. Thus, it is my sincere hope that our vision for the years ahead will emerge through continued conversation with the clergy and lay faithful. However, I do wish to offer elements of a vision for your reflection and response.
I envision a Diocese where…
- Every member works together to become a beacon of hope as we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- All members will truly love and fear the Lord, and serve and worship Him, and be strongly grounded in the Word of God.
- Worship is with joyful hearts, faithful to our rich Anglican tradition and practice.
- We respond passionately and compassionately in service to those in need and are hurt and struggling in our community.
- We continue to support our clergy and laity in their ministries
- We pray for and welcome new vocations to the ordained and lay ministry.
- Our parishes focus more on profound spiritual and community renewal
- We take more seriously than ever our co responsibility for the mission of the Church, including being faithful stewards of God’s gifts of human, financial and temporal resources, through the sharing of our time, talent and treasure and through our concern for the sustainability of our world.
We are called to be a sign of hope to our world and to construct bridges to the larger community, including other faith communities and all people of good will, by our living Gospel values, building a more just society and truly creating a better world.
Finally, may you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ Child. God bless you this Christmas and forever. Amen.
Yours in Christ’s Service,