Pastoral Perspectives

A Christmas Story

At the close of the Extra-Congregational Meeting held recently, Pastor Kien Seng announced during AOB that I will be taking a year sabbatical come 2017. After explaining church’s policy regarding sabbatical leave, he invited me to say something regarding the matter and I shared mainly on the reasons why I am not pursuing study, which would have fulfilled policy guidelines. Ever since Pastor Kien Seng came back from his sabbatical leave, some members had been asking when I would be taking mine. My response had been that there was no need for it until the time calls for it. At last, the time has come and so allow me to explain why it is so. About seven years ago, my mom fell and broke her left thigh bone twice over a period of four months. During this period, my dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer and underwent a surgery almost immediately and followed up with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. All these happened after I had moved back from Punggol and so it was timely that I was around to render the care needed. I am thankful that the elders had allowed me the flexibility to work from home. Otherwise I might have to quit or take a long break and I wasn’t eligible for sabbatical then.

The first three years were challenging indeed as my parents had many medical appointments while my brother was still pursuing his TCM studies and had to fly to China frequently. Nevertheless I was able to cope with it while attending to church matters, preparing sermons and lessons and caring for the dog as well. Therefore, apart from being absent in church during office hours, all things else would have seem normal to most church members. Things got better with my parents over the next three years and I could spend more time working in office while still caring for them. By then Kien Seng had returned from his sabbatical and so the question began popping up. As I was still needed at home, there was really no point taking a sabbatical when I could not travel or do other things. And since the church had been gracious to me during these years, I thought it was only right that I should continue serving than to take a sabbatical for the sake of taking one. I have often wondered how I could have managed juggling between ministry in church and at home. Apart from God’s grace, I suppose it was my passion and delight for the ministry of the Word that kept me going and gave me the joy. I was always looking forward to my next few preaching assignments and preparing them way ahead. I would gladly take up the challenge to write common curriculum or to answer difficult questions that people might have. Take this passion and delight away and I seriously wonder if I can cope with the demand of it all.

Then something happened towards the end of last year that somehow caused this passion and delight to slowly ebb away while headache replaced joy and Red Bull became a part of my nourishment to keep me going. I began dreading over my next preaching assignment and would gladly let Eng Keat deal with difficult questions. Once upon a time, I could draw inspiration from Olympics, World Cup or other events and write perspectives on it. This year, Singapore saw her first goal at the Rio Olympics while the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ took on the task of managing the devils and I had no desire to write about it. And so my perspectives were mainly on answering questions that people had from my preaching. What used to be ministry for the glory of the kingdom seems more like work for the sake of my salary. Perhaps the time seemed right for me to take a break and to re-evaluate my ministry over the past decade and seek God’s directions for the next.

Then something happened to my dad about four months ago. He vomited food that was consumed days before and was admitted to hospital. He was transferred to community hospital and then to nursing home while we made home ready for him as he became bed-bound. While we reckoned that a maid would be needed to care for him, we thought it would also be good for one of the brothers to be around at home since mom and dog are also in their senior years. And it was again timely that since I am eligible for sabbatical, I would apply for it and be the one. At last, the time has come indeed! People are now asking me what I am planning to do during my sabbatical and I suppose they are also curious to know what that something was that robbed me of the passion and delight after reading this. Honestly speaking, that something was nothing more than a label on a can. Dealing with what is in or not in the can is more important than fixing the label. So I have no plan other than to take a break, rest and read some books that have been left on my shelf for too long, books that could reignite my passion and delight for the Word.

Rev Ronnie Ang

December 11, 2016