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Publish Date: 01 January 2021

Interview of Archbishop-elect Andrew Chan

Just as I am - without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

‎The Rt Revd Andrew Chan, Bishop of Western‎ ‎Kowloon‎, ‎‎‎‎will be installed as the third Archbishop and Primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui at ‎St. John's Cathedral on 3 January 2021. Prior to the service, he gave an interview to The ECHO to share his experience of ministry. 

I come - ‎I am undeserving

‎‎ ‎"Perhaps‎ ‎every‎ Anglican priest has wondered at some point what it is like to be elected bishop ‎‎or archbishop one day. This‎ ‎idea may seem far-fetched when it arises,‎ but when it actually ‎happens to you, it's a completely different story.” Bishop Chan believes that this is the work of the Holy Spirit, "The more you feel utilised by the Holy Spirit, the more you perceive your own ineptness. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses,‎ Christian ministers also possess good-natured characteristics and are susceptible to ‎evil-natured temptations, this is a very real juxtaposition. So the moment when I was elected, I had an overwhelming feeling of unworthiness.”

‎Bishop Chan was elected the third archbishop at a special session of the Electoral College of the 8th General Synod of the Province held on ‎‎October 18,‎‎ ‎‎2020,‎‎ in his address of gratitude he‎‎ ‎‎shared the lyrics of a hymn, I‎ know who holds tomorrow,‎‎ in which the refrain read

" Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand,

But I know who holds tomorrow,

And I know who holds my hand."

These lyrics most succinctly captured how he felt at the time. 

On the day of this interview, Bishop Chan ‎shared another ‎‎hymn, Just as I am, without one plea. The lyrics narrated that the Lord can chose anyone to serve him despite personal inadequacies. This reminded Bishop Chan that God’s choices are not based on human standards, furthermore, he does not feel that being elected is an indication of him exceling at his given task. He said, "I don't think theological training and ordination necessarily imply competence, till this very day I am still learning how to be a priest. So upon my election as archbishop, I can only emulate the Prophet Isaiah's response to the Lord's call: 'Here I am, send me’. I shall strive to equip myself further to become more adequate for the duties that God has entrusted to me. “ 

My heart - My service

Bishop Chan attaches a ‎great deal of importance to‎ a minister’s sensibility and empathy. He pointed out that ministers need to dedicate their lives to the Lord in order to adequately undertake their ministry, and this is also true for bishops and archbishops. He feels that he should adjust his inner nature to accept further cultivation in order to become a finer instrument, so that he can serve the Lord through tending to his flock.

‎When Bishop Chan assumed his duty as Bishop of Western Kowloon eight years ago, he described himself as a leader among servants. He feels that since ministers are known as the servants of the Lord, bishops and archbishops should servants of servants. Positions of leadership propel the incumbents to be humble servants, which is a vital lesson taught by Christ himself. Church leaders not only have to embody the concept of being a servant leader, they have to demonstrate to the world that in being a good leader, they have to be first and foremost a good servant. If only political and business leaders and policy-makers all over the world can adopt the same philosophy of being servant leaders they will naturally care for the populace, and if citizens can in turn take up their civic duties in the society, then the world would become a very different place.

Just as I am - though toss'd about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

In the eyes of many, much of an archbishop's work involves administrative decision-making, and pastoral ministry seem to have reduced to a lower priority. However Bishop Chan believes that pastoral ministry informs all administrative duties, and must be carried out with sensitivity and conviction. He pointed out that if an archbishop’s duties are purely administrative, the tasks could easily be assigned to others, but in order for Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui to manifest the characteristics of the heavenly kingdom, church leaders and clergy must share a common pastoral emphasis in all their endeavours.

My Spirit – My humility

"The Church will become bureaucratic if her leaders consider themselves as mere bosses. If the Church is adequately equipped and all her colleagues are willing to fortify her with the shared ethos of servant leadership, and if bishops, ministers, colleagues and parishioners are willing to support each other, then the entire Church ‎‎will be energised and charged with vibrancy." Bishop Chan ardently believes that with the guidance of the Lord and the concerted effort of clergy and brothers and sisters in Christ, the church/school/social service model will achieve balanced accomplishments in all areas of ministry.

In his view, the attitude of being a servant leader will encourage fairness and earnestness in serving those who are in need. This approach will cause all scheming efforts to dissipate, and compliments will neither spoil our humility nor will criticisms excite animosity.

Bishop Chan has always wanted to further develop the life of liturgical practice and spiritual meditation for church members. He frankly admits there is a lot of room for improvement in the Church. Taking up liturgical practice doesn’t mean following rituals in the prayer book unquestioningly, one has to adopt an attitude of openness so that they can learn to listen and practice humble acceptance through spiritual meditation.

Bishop Chan said, “In living a liturgical life, we allow reflection, joy, peace, humility and hope into our everyday lives. The Anglican Church has a rich tradition of liturgy, but we must avoid vacuous observance, we are not seeking to formalise and proceduralise our life within a rigid framework. On the contrary, the beauty of liturgy is to be found within the space we allow liturgy to motivate our daily routine, when we inject the sensibility and empathy towards the Lord into our worship, liturgical rubrics will no longer be a procedural motion, but a natural emotional expression and fusion of words and deeds.”

‎Bishop Chan hopes that he may be able to strengthen the Church's rich spiritual meditation traditions in the future, and that bible reading, spiritual reflection and prayer will no longer remain a superficial form, but a firm believe that this is God's words to the people; that they may find communion with God in the silence and comprehend the God-given love in their lives. Bishop Chan said that spiritual meditation is like "sharing love" with the Heavenly Father. When people feel the immediacy of his presence and concern, they will not be able to neglect maintaining a constant channel of communion.

‎When asked about how church members may live as model Anglicans, Bishop Chan feels that all Anglicans should be good Christians, "God commanded us to lead our flock, but we do not really think we can be like Jesus who leads his flock from the front. As pastors we realise which direction we should take so we journey with our flock, guide them with our staff and move towards our goal in their midst." He believes that the most‎ important thing for archbishops, bishops and priests is to maintain unity. He pointed out that all clergy in the Province are gifted in their unique talents, he believes that with mutual cooperation and shared purpose, they will continue to improve upon the Church’s pastoral ministry among the people in Hong Kong‎‎ and Macao‎

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

‎Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many important events and services of the Province have either been postponed or greatly altered in the past six months, Bishop Chan regrets that the Installation Service will have to take place without public participation, but what seems to be a burdensome restriction may not a bad thing. Internet access can accommodate many more participants than any specific venue. No matter where people are, as long as they are united in the Lord, then their prayers, hymns, thanksgiving, worship and witness will be cherished in their hearts and will find favour with God. The long-term toil and harvest of a church leader always overrides the importance of installation ceremonies.

Bishop Chan feels that the pandemic is a warning to humanity. "In the past, humankind has been reckless and has abused the earth's resources, we have not treated plant and animal life appropriately, so we are now encountering different outbreaks and natural disasters. This outbreak is a stark warning to us, reminding us that we have to be God’s good stewards on earth. In seeing what havoc the virus crisis is wreaking, we are shocked at our inability to control the spread of the pandemic, we face emotional breakdown, economic recession, business suspension, unemployment, rising death toll and so on. We can fully appreciate the fragility of human existence. I hope we can take this opportunity to reflect deeply, to turn this crisis into a lesson to put aside our differences, and work together for the welfare of the world that we all live in. For the future of the generations that come after us, we must take it upon ourselves to finds ways to sustain our environment and cherish God's creation.”

Just as I am - of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

(© 教聲/ ECHO)



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