At the stroke of four, the primates and bishops, led by the Cathedral choir, processed into St Andrew’s Cathedral’s Nave. The 250-strong congregation, comprising Encounter participants, observers and Singaporean church leaders; rose to the processional hymn “Praise my soul, the King of Heaven.
The Fourth Anglican Global South to South Encounter has started.
It’s apt that St Andrew’s Cathedral is chosen as the host venue of this Encounter. A weekly average of 4,000 worshippers meet here over 17 Services and 8 language groups. This Cathedral is indeed a light to the nations.
The Encounter’s theme ““The Gospel of Jesus – a covenant for the people, and a light for the nations” was the rallying call of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola’s sermon at the Opening Service.
Abp Akinola noted how the Covenant and the Light of the World was embodied in our Lord Jesus Christ. This role has now been assigned by Him to His body, the church. What does this entail for the church and the Anglican Communion today? He reminded us that the Encounter was a call to action – not just to craft a statement - but to positively impact the world.
As a Covenant, the church has the responsibility to show others how to live according to God’s dictates. This requires her to be absolute, faithful and adherent. As a light, the church is to expose and overcome darkness. In our current situation, how do we go about being a Covenanted people? Abp Akinola acknowledged there are tough questions facing the Anglican Communion but also expressed his hope and expectation that the Encounter might be able to tackle some of these questions by the grace of God.
After the Opening Service, the evening continued after dinner with various words of welcome and first thematic address at the Cathedral New ‘underground’ Sanctuary.
Ecumenical observers shared words of welcome. Elder Fu Xianwei, Chairman of the National Committee of the Three Self Patriotic Movement of China Christian Church, shared on his Church’s desire to learn from the wider Body of Christ. He also indicated hope that the Church in China can contribute in some way to this mutual learning process. The Church worldwide is facing modern and diverse challenges. Even though his Church is founded on the three-self principles, they will still need to be connected to the wider Church.
His Grace Bishop Anba Suriel, the representative of the Coptic Orthodox Church, reminded us that the Covenant of Christ involves the shedding of blood. For some, it means martyrdom or death as we will normally understand that word. It is a price still being paid by some today, as did some Egyptian Coptic Christians last Christmas. However, to be faithful in our witness is also one form of martyrdom. It is costly to remain faithful to the truth and teaching of Scriptures. He said his Church is praying that this Encounter will be a faithful witness in the midst of challenges in the Communion.
We were reminded of the seeds of the Anglican Church growing in various parts of Asia. Pastor Rinzi Lama and Pastor Shyam from the Anglican Church in Nepal shared on the grace of God in helping the Anglican Church in Nepal, though still in her infancy, to grow to 7,000 worshippers today.
The new Primate of Nigeria, Abp Nicholas Okoh gave the first Thematic Address on “The Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Abp Okoh’s message delved deeply on the problems facing our Communion today, concluding that the vital need for us today is to remain faithful and preach boldly a message of good news centred squarely on our Lord Jesus Christ. Abp Okoh’s message called for the church to remember the key motifs of the Gospel – a pursuit of evangelism, obedience, peace and love, as well as a call to repentance, suffering for the gospel, and ultimately, transformation of our lives and societies. The Encounter is therefore a timely reminder for the church to return to a covenantal relationship with God and to be real light in the world.
Abp John Chew closed the day by sharing on the aims and structure of this Encounter.
With this, the first day of the Encounter ended. Participants retired into the night to rest and be refreshed for the work in the days ahead.
(Featured Photo: Archbishops and bishops outside the Nave before processing in.)