Yesterday, I decided to make time to enjoy a prayerful time at the cathedral and to admire some of the colonial architecture on the Singapore River, and visit the National Gallery.
St Andrew’s Cathedral was closed, but I admired it from the outside:
I saw a lady pause and ponder this wonderful saying of Jesus on the cathedral café window for quite some time👇🏼(“Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”). What if we vowed to make this the first thing we in the church greeted people with, always? Rather than condemnation or judgment of any sort (surely we believe it’s for God to judge anyway, after all)?
And what if we also vowed to daily ask God to place a guard over our lips, so that we spoke only love to one another and to others every day?👆🏼 How incredibly transformative that could be.
The displays outside the cathedral about the part various clergy played during the Second World War was a bit self aggrandising, though it didn’t take too much reading between the lines to realise that there was a lot of grey area. Jamie had shared his understanding with me that the colonial era was neither as good nor as bad as it is often painted to be, but of course the truth lies somewhere in between. Truly selfless and heroic and good things were done, alongside many things motivated by selfishness or a rather paternalistic attitude towards any culture other than British culture.
For example, Canon John Hayter sounds like a real trooper, imprisoned during the Japanese occupation in terrible conditions for three and a half years:
Bishop John Leonard Wilson also sounds like something of a hero, enduring torture from the Japanese regime:
Then you read about Lieutenant Andrew Tokuji Ogawa, who had a high level role during the Japanese occupation. He used his position to protect the cathedral, where he worshipped throughout the war…while all the clergy including the Bishop were being imprisoned and tortured. You’ve got to wonder what was going through the Bishop’s mind when they met afterwards.
Also, I would not be uncritical of the choice of Bible verse to introduce this display (“in all things God works for the good of those who love him” Romans 8.28). In 1942 the Allied forces led by the British surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army, leaving Singapore defenceless. I’m not sure that using that Bible verse really cuts it. To say nothing of the context of the verse, which is quoted for a pastime out of context.
In Romans 8 Paul is talking about the reality of suffering while we are on earth, but the hope of glory in heaven that will surpass all earthly suffering, which all creation is groaning and longing for. So when he’s talking about God working for the good of those who love him, he’s talking in eternal terms, not at all about the events that are currently happening, for which we as human beings surely have to take responsibility. Theological rant over.
Anyway, disappointed that I couldn’t get in the cathedral to pray, I found my way to the Armenian Church of St Gregory the Illuminator, which I actually found a more prayerful space anyway, with some beautiful modern sculptures showing stages in Christ’s journey to be crucified outside (stations of the cross) along with a couple of intriguing angels and some beautiful trees and plants that looked to me like they were silently praising God. Here I sang (there was a great acoustic in the tiny circular church space), and did some body prayer outside among the trees and sculptures. And I read of the genocide of the Armenian people in 1915 by the Ottoman forces.
On my way from here to the National Gallery, I stumbled across a real find; Hawker Chan’s! Later in the day I came back here to have the cheapest Michelin starred meal in the world. It was delicious! (And cost me £6.71, drink included.)
In the National Gallery, I saw more political art than I’d ever seen before. Including one arresting picture of a young North Vietnamese woman going to war with a rifle slung over her shoulder. And many woodcuts and paintings of workers struggling to scratch a living, or banding together in groups to organise resistance to whatever force was occupying their country at the time (the art was from countries throughout Southeast Asia).
I also saw the positive influence of western art techniques and styles through the colonial era and beyond, alongside the strong ability of local artists to delve into their ancient artistic traditions, using old techniques and materials really effectively alongside the new.
Looking at art is a meditative process for me that makes my brain feel cleaned somehow, and opens my mind to new thoughts and ideas. It’s such a gentle and quiet thing to do. I love it!
After lunch I explored more of the political statues by the river, and then went up to the Marina Bay Sands observation deck for the obligatory high up view over Singapore.
Here’s Stamford Raffles, on the site where he first landed in Singapore to “found” it in 1819:
But here’s one of the many previous arrivals, a Palembang Prince called Sang Nika Utama, said to have arrived in 1299, founding the flourishing port city of Singapura (“the lion city”), named after a vision he had of a creature here:
Here’s Den Xiaoping:
And some other more everyday statues near the river:
Marina Bay Sands (What is it? A posh hotel? A mall? A corridor? A boat ride? A posh dinner? An MRT station? A casino? A garden? A collection of water features? A spa? A “sky park”?):
Water ran down this huge wall, moving the metal bars back and forth:That tiny white steeple in the distance just behind the two durian shaped dome things is the cathedral!:
From this point I somehow got stuck in a shopping mall. I still can’t remember why I went in there in the first place. Ah yes- looking for this👇🏼(Singaporean coffee made with condensed milk, that I’d not tasted up until this point. I asked for it to be less sweet, and it was surprisingly refreshing). And a sit down with air conditioning. Then I couldn’t find my way out to the MRT. (A common experience the malls are all so huge.) Eventually I extricated myself.