A Model of Reciprocity in Anglicanism: The Consecration and Enthronement of the Rev'd Dr. John Chew Hiang Chea, April 25, 2000 at St. Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore

By Thompson, Laurie | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2001 | Go to article overview

A Model of Reciprocity in Anglicanism: The Consecration and Enthronement of the Rev'd Dr. John Chew Hiang Chea, April 25, 2000 at St. Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore


Thompson, Laurie, Anglican and Episcopal History


The marine blue backdrop of the eastern apse of St. Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore stand as both contrast and complement to the tall and stately whitewashed walls that surround it. The building of St. Andrew's Cathedral reflects both the struggle and the ongoing commitment of the church in Singapore to minister amidst a multi-cultural society. The ancient building is actually the third place of worship on the site. The original Church of St. Andrew was designed in Palladian Style by George Dromgold Coleman, superintendent of Public Works from 1828 to 1841 and the architect responsible for shaping much of colonial Singapore. The second building, which included the current spire, was twice hit by lightning. Locals took the lightning as a sign from heaven that the site was bedeviled. A suggestion was made at the time that thirty heads be offered to appease the gods before a new house of worship was built. This second building was destroyed in 1855. Thankfully the suggestion was not taken.

The third and present cathedral was consecrated in 1862. It rises above the green mantle of trees and the Padang, the historic long green esplanade that has been the site of much painful history, including the Japanese ingathering of prisoners sent to Changi prison in 1942. Indian convicts were brought in to construct a new Gothic style building which resembled Netley Abbey in England. The British overlords were so impressed by the achievement that they granted freedom to the Indian convict who made the working drawings. The Cathedral stands in stately fashion amidst the fast growing and changing modern magnificence of Singapore, and both the painful and glorious moments of history and culture have been blended into the identity and character of the Church of Singapore today. The pulpit was made in Sri Lanka in 1889, while the cross, hanging above the pulpit, is composed of nails which come from the ruins of Coventry cathedral.

This magnificent building provided the setting for the consecration and enthronement of the Reverend Canon Dr. John Chew Hiang Chea as the eighth Bishop of Singapore. The service began with a traditional Victorian flavor as the long majestic line of ecclesiastical dignitaries processed to "The God of Abraham Praise" and "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name." But no sooner had the rich swells of the organ dissipated than the liturgy took on a different cultural hue. The Old Testament, the story of Joshua's investiture of authority by Moses was read in the Tamil tongue. The culture shifted yet again when 2 Corinthians 4 was read in Chinese. The packed cathedral stood and sang the gradual hymn ("Make Me a Captive, Lord": I sink in life's alarms When by myself I stand; Imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand) with remarkable vigor and then listened with keen attentiveness as the vicar-general read the Gospel with its challenge of Jesus to Peter: "Do you love me? Feed my sheep." The preacher, the Bishop of Sabah, and newly sitting Archbishop of South East Asia, expounded a challenge from 2 Corinthians 4, speaking of conversion, calling and commission. The archbishop's words were enthusiastic, clear and pastoral.

The presentation of the bishop was unique to Singapore. The liturgy might be described as more expanded than what is typical in the United Kingdom, the United States or other parts of the Anglican Communion. The Preface to the declaration of intent included the following words:

The Anglican Church in the province of South East Asia is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. …

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