rennis2

Rev Rennis Ponniah (right) hands over the Diocesan Pastoral Staff to the Vicar-General. All photos courtesy of St Andrews Cathedral.

“Being a Bishop is a humanly impossible task,” said Rt Rev Rennis Ponniah.

“As I reach the finishing line, I want my dear friends to know that it is a God-enabled task. It is a task completed by God’s grace and for God’s glory.”

“The Word of God says that His people, in all circumstances, are more than conquerors through Christ who loves them,” reminded the Rt Rev Ponniah, as he acknowledged the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Rt Rev Ponniah was giving an address at the Thanksgiving Service yesterday (August 30) in St Andrews Cathedral to mark his completion of term as Bishop of Singapore.

The two-hour service was opened by the Vicar, Rev Canon Terry Wong. Rev Canon Rinji Kwashi led the confession.

After a reading of the Bible (Isaiah 52:1-10 and Acts 11:19-26), the Most Rev Benjamin Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos Province in the Church of Nigeria, delivered the sermon on “Global Antioch”.

“The Church must enter the pain … to serve the needs of others and bring hope in the midst of the bleakness.”

He described the common vision that he and the Rt Rev Ponniah shared on the “Global Antioch”, and how the Singapore Diocese preached the Gospel to seven nations. He urged the Diocese not to slow down, but to press on until they saw the fulfilment of the Global Antioch.

“The Church Antioch is an outreaching church, centring on evangelism and missions,” the Most Rev Kwashi said. “It is a community church, whose presence in the community is light and salt of that community.

“Despite the growing number of churches and Christians, we sometimes become easily disheartened and even pulled away from the Gospel by non-biblical standards of living,” the Most Rev Kwashi said, citing examples such as natural disasters and the recent pandemic.

“But these things are not new. Throughout the centuries, God’s people have been constantly tested by such conditions. We are not an exception.”

A new day

In an address, the Rt Rev Ponniah reflected on his eight years of service as Bishop.

“To be a Diocesan Bishop is a high calling. It is more than a public office; it is a divine office. A priest is someone for whom God is the central reality. A priest’s task is to help people connect with a living God in a living relationship.

“God, my friends, is resetting the world to be in line with his good and divine intentions.”

“A priest’s care for the people of God forms them spiritually to serve the society and leads them out to share the good news of God’s saving love in Christ Jesus. The Bishop is the chief under-shepherd of Christ.”

The Rt Rev Ponniah gave thanks to the Lord for helping him fulfil his vocation, stressing that he could not have completed his term of service without the Lord’s strength and people He placed in support.

He also described the “little joys” of his office, of being loved as a father in Christ not only in Singapore, but the six deanery countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and Indonesia.

The Rt Rev Ponniah spoke highly of his successor, Bishop-designate Rev Titus Chung.

“Titus has a warm pastoral heart, a well-formed theological mind, a steady pair of hands, and a desire for the truth of the Gospel to be practised and be made known. I therefore commend him and his wife Connie to you, for your full support and fervent prayers.”

The Rt Rev Ponniah spoke highly of his successor, the Bishop-designate Rev Titus Chung, whom he said has “a warm pastoral heart, a well-formed theological mind, a steady pair of hands, and a desire for the truth of the Gospel to be practised and be made known.”

Acknowledging the devastation brought about by the global pandemic, the Rt Rev Ponniah said: “The Church, like our Lord, must show solidarity in pain. Much of the world is suffering, anxious and in disarray because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Church must enter the pain, find strength not to just survive but to serve the needs of others and bring hope in the midst of the bleakness.

“God, my friends, is resetting the world to be in line with his good and divine intentions. The Word of God says that His people, in all circumstances, are more than conquerors through Christ who loved them.

“Jesus is girding his Church in a new way for a new day.”

The Bishop’s address was followed by the handing over of the Diocesan Pastoral Staff to the Vicar-General.

“The Staff of the Pastoral Office is a symbol of the call of Christ Jesus to bring in the wandering, sustain the weak, rouse the careless, and shepherd the flock entrusted to the Diocesan Bishop,” the Rt Rev Ponniah said to the Vicar-General.

“As you receive this Staff in trust for the next Bishop of Singapore, may the Diocese in every generation discharge Christ’s calling by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the praise and glory of God Almighty.”

At historic live-streamed National Day Thanksgiving Service, hard questions on the Church’s future

“Do the right things and deal with others in love”: Bishop Chong to Methodists in Aldersgate service

About the author

Alex Wenxuan

Salt&Light intern, Alex, is a Year 4 undergraduate at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. He hopes to use new media to advance meaningful causes and has served in different non-profits during his time at university.