Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Rennis & Amir; Fred & Angie at the pre-installation Banquet at Raffles Convention Center.10.19.12

Some of guests include Bishop David Lai of Taiwan; Prime Bishop Edward Malecdan of Philippines; Bishop Kwon Yi Yeon of Taejun, Korea.

A lovely photo of the family shown at the Dinner.

Current Archbishop of the Province of South East Asia, Datuk Lapok, former Archbishops Moses Tay and John Chew with other guests archbishops and bishops.

 Canon Fred David of West Malaysia; former Archbishop Moses Tay; Bishop Ponniah and me.
Some of the former Golden Harvest leaders include a lady missionary to Thailand (Wai Keng); legal counsels Lawrence and Wee Teen Boo; banker Alfred Chan and wife Jean Wong; and lawyer Soek Bee Tan, hidden.
The facade of St. Andrew's Anglican Cathedral. Not shown at the background is Raffles City Hotel & Convention Center, the tallest building in Singapore so far.


(Singapore, October 20, 2012: Brief historical note: From 1980-1986, I was privileged to serve as missionary-priest in the Anglican Church of Singapore, in-charge of the  new church plants of St. Andrew’s Cathedral. In one of these missions called "Golden Harvest" (the other is Bedok) I worked with an incredible talented Lay Leader who served as my Senior Warden, Rennis Ponniah.

Rennis had just graduated from the National University of Singapore as a sociologist and was working with the Housing Development Board. A gifted Bible teacher, diligent Lay Eucharistic Minister and exemplary Christ's disciple, he eventually answered the call to priesthood and lo and behold, he is now the new Bishop of Singapore. In a solemn and grandiose Anglican liturgy of Investiture and installation, the Most Rev. Datuk Bolly Anak Lapok, Archbishop of the Anglican Province of South East Asia, led some 3,000 clergy and lay representatives from the Diocese of Singapore's 27 parishes, Southeast Asia deaneries and well-wishers from the worldwide Anglican Communion (including Episcopal Church's Bishop David Lai of Taiwan and Prime Bishop Edward Malecdan of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines) in laying hands and praying for Bishop Ponniah. 

I like to thank my Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori; our Chief Operating Officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls and my Missions Director, Sam McDonald; and my colleague, Partnership Officer for Asia & the Pacific, Canon Peter Ng, for encouraging me to attend this wonderful occasion.

Prior to his election as the 9th Bishop of Singapore, Rennis, 57, has been vicar of St. John’s-St. Margaret’s Church; Canon of St. Andrew’s Cathedral; Archdeacon and assistant bishop. In addition to his many roles, he also served as Dean of Laos; Coordinator of Diocesan Parish Life; and Examining Chaplain for Ordinands. Raised by deeply-religious Anglican parents (who originally came from Madras, India), Rennis married Amir Caldwell who also is daughter of an Anglican priest. They are gifted with four children (Renita, Amaria, Abraham and Johanan). I officiated their marriage and baptized their first child before I left for the United States in 1986.

My visit to Singapore today, in response to his personal invitation not only renewed our friendship as family friend and co-workers (my wife, Angela and I and Rennis and Amir are like brothers and sisters) but also gave us a wonderful time to meet the current leaders of South East Asia and reconnect with my former church leaders, some of them have become priests and others active diocesan leaders and missionaries. As to the Cathedral extensions, he GH has now become the English congregation of All Saints Bi-Lingual Parish while Bedok Extension is now the Parish of Christ Redeemer.  The following is Bishop Rennis’ Testimony, which I edited slightly to fit my Facebook context. - Fred Vergara.)

MY TESTIMONY – By Rennis Ponniah

Like every servant of the Lord, mine too is a story of His amazing grace upon my life.

I see the Lord’s grace in giving me my family of origin. I was born into a God-fearing Christian family with parents who love the Lord and His Church. Daily family devotions, my Dad’s robust faith, and my Mom’s disciplined effort to get me to memorize the Psalms from an early age were the foundational rocks of my spiritual formation.

From my teens when I was a ‘server’ at the Communion table, I grew in my love for the ministry of the local Anglican Church. The call to ‘full-time ministry’ was probably sown in my heart in the late 1970’s before I was even twenty years old but the Lord had His way of ripening the seed and of preparing the instrument until I was ready to answer His call to be an Anglican priest in 1990.

Then, I also cherish God’s providential grace in the woman I married and the four children He has given us. Amir, my wife, is herself the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, Revd. Abraham Caldwell. I thank God that she is a tremendous support to my ministry. She is a fervent intercessor, a worker in the background, a close and trusted companion, and the one who manages our home and nurtures the children with warmth, joy and sacrifice. By the sheer grace of God, our four children have a living and personal relationship with the Lord. It’s a very special joy for my wife and me to catch a glimpse every now and then of them doing their "Quiet Time" and serving in our church.

As I look over the years, I am conscious too of how God has formed me through precious friends and ministry allies. I thank the Lord for the privilege of studying under godly and gifted teachers at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Chicago), Regent College (Vancouver) and Trinity Theological College (Singapore). Added to that are the special friends who have walked with me in life and ministry, several have served side-by-side with me in the work of the Gospel, especially in the churches I have been part of (Christ Church, Golden Harvest Extension Centre, All Saints Church, St. George’s Church, Our Savior’s Church and St. John’s-St. Margaret’s Church).

There have been several episodes in my life where I have known God’s power in my weakness and have experienced His mighty saving acts. Therefore, as I consider the journey thus far traveled, I see God’s goodness beyond measure and am led with the help of His Spirit to offer my life as a daily offering of thanksgiving to God, Psalm 116:12-14 says, “What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people."

The Lord has called me in these days to be the shepherd-leader of this Diocese of Singapore, having given me an anchor text  from Zechariah 3:6-7: The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my commandments, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.” The meaning of those verses given me many years ago, has now reached another level of fulfillment. I know that being a Diocesan Bishop is not a prize to be won but a cup to be drunk. Matthew 20:22 says: Jesus answered (the disciples) by saying to them, ‘You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?’”  

May the Lord give me and my wife the grace and strength to drink His appointed cup of sacrificial love and service for the love of Him; and may He make it a cup of resurrection power and joy! I put my trust in Him to enable me to lead His Church to know Him more and to make known among the nations the wonders of His salvation in Christ Jesus.

I value the co-leaders He is giving me and I thank God for every member of the flock He is entrusting to me. My family and I cherish your love and prayers. All honor and glory be to the Lord Almighty, our great Shepherd-King, who leads His people on!

Your pastor and shepherd-leader,
Bishop Rennis

Post-notes: Seated in his Cathedra after his installatuion, the new bishop addressed the congregation:: “My brothers and sisters, in Holy Scripture we heard how Jesus came among us as one who serves. I ask you now to pray with me and for me, that I may follow the pattern of leadership given to us by the Lord Jesus; that I may know God’s grace in the task that lies before me; and do it all in His strength.”

Then he knelt and after a short silence, prayed: “O God, take my mind and think through it; take my lips and speak through them; take my heart and set it on fire with love for you and for your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” AMEN!

(The service began with sunshine; it was a hot and humid Singaporean weather; but it ended with heavy downpour with thunder and lightning as thunderous applause by some 3,000 people was heard when Bishop Rennis and his family were presented. The event continued with "International Food" in the cool-shaded grounds of the historic St. Andrew's Cathedral. - Fred Vergara 10.20.2012)

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