SINGAPORE – Archbishop Nicholas Chia has made the formation of Small Christian Communities (SCC) a pastoral priority in Singapore and he called on Catholics here “to consider entering fully into the Trinitarian life of God by committing yourself to a neighbourhood SCC”.

“There is great potential in the SCCs to be communities of witness to our world, being signs of Christ’s presence among Singapore’s people in daily life,” Archbishop Chia said in a statement to mark Lay Apostolate Sunday, celebrated on Aug 16.

“I want to promote the understanding that even the mere existence of loving and forgiving communities amidst our materialistic and individualistic culture can be powerful testimonies of Christ’s living presence in the world,” he said.

“In no way is the work of the SCC to be confused with the roles of the parish organisations and ministries,” he said. “Neither is there to be any attempt at imposing uniformity between SCCs and parish organisations.”

He explained that parish organisations are based on function while the SCC “has no other specialised task except to make the Gospel of Christ come alive where the small community is located. Its job is basically the job of every baptised Christian, so membership is conditioned solely on the individual’s desire to live as a good Christian in a loving community. Being inclusive, the SCC can comprise parishioners of all ages, professions, and ethnicities. If you live in the vicinity of an SCC, you are automatically a member of it – even if you do not attend any of its meetings.”

Because they are called to convey the Good News, SCCs exercise the lay apostolate of love among their own members, as well as to those who live around them who may be in need, he said. “You can think about the SCCs as the diplomatic corps of the parish to the surrounding neighbourhood.”

Pastors should help their parishioners distinguish between the work of the SCC and that of the parish organisations, and enable the faithful to realise that these essential components in the apostolate of the laity are not opposed but complementary, the archbishop stressed. “Parish pastoral councils would do well to listen to the SCCs, who are close to the ‘neighbourhood mission field’ and can offer accurate readings of emerging needs that require pastoral attention,” he added.

“In order to sustain this message I have chosen to establish the Saturday prior to Mission Sunday as Archdiocesan Small Christian Communities Day,” Archbishop Chia said.

The full text of Archbishop Nicholas Chia’s statement is published below:

This year the Church celebrates Lay Apostolate Sunday on Aug 16. To mark the day, Archbishop Nicholas Chia has written a statement to Catholics in Singapore to explain why the need for community is written into the heart of every human person, and why he has made the formation of Small Christian Communities (SCC) a pastoral priority in Singapore. In the statement, the archbishop elaborates on how the SCC is different from parish ministries, and he invites Catholics here to commit themselves to a neighbourhood SCC. He has also established the Saturday prior to Mission Sunday as Archdiocesan Small Christian Communities Day. The full text of Archbishop Chia’s statement is reproduced here

My dear priests, religious, and members of the laity,

The need for community is written into the heart of every human person, because we are all created by the divine Maker who is revealed to us as Trinity – God’s self is a perfect community of life-giving love between the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit. Whenever the question “why do Christians need to be in community?” arises, it can be answered by pointing to the very nature of God’s interior relationship as communion. All other reasons for being in community stand upon this mystery, and makes us realise that individualism and Christianity do not mix well. A solitary Christian cannot enter into the fullness of the promise that our Trinitarian God offers: loving God and loving neighbour is inseparable.

That is why the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) declared that “the Church in Asia will have to be a Communion of Communities”. Not only is the Universal Catholic Church a communion of smaller churches, but even the local parish itself is a communion of small communities. The FABC makes us rethink the grassroots of the Church in terms of communal units: families and neighbourhood groups.

Here in Singapore, I have made the formation of Small Christian Communities (SCC) a pastoral priority. How is the SCC a different kind of association compared to parish organisations or ministries?

Members of SCCs from different parishes participate on the SCC Day organised by SPI in October 2007 to listen, share and dialogue about the roles of SCCs.
Photo by Arthur Goh

Most parish organisations are based on function; they are tasked with an activity or service to the parish community that members take responsibility for – making prayer intercessions, promoting fellowship, serving at the altar, singing, reading, teaching, offering welcome to visitors, etc. Such work is important to fostering a vibrant parish life, and these organisations carry out their roles in an official capacity that enable them to be identified by their respective function; choir, lectors, wardens, catechists, and so on. Membership in such groups is determined by the person’s willingness and ability to exercise his or her gift in performing the given function.

The SCC has a broader purpose. It has no other specialised task except to make the Gospel of Christ come alive where the small community is located. Its job is basically the job of every baptised Christian, so membership is conditioned solely on the individual’s desire to live as a good Christian in a loving community. Being inclusive, the SCC can comprise of parishioners of all ages, professions, and ethnicities. If you live in the vicinity of an SCC, you are automatically a member of it – even if you do not attend any of its meetings. It is your community by virtue of your Catholic faith. The activity of the SCC is an integration of four parts: (1) meeting together with the power of the Word of God; (2) bonding together in close relationship as a community of Christian believers; (3) praying together in communion with the Universal Church and (4) making real together the Gospel in their lives.

Because they are called to convey the Good News, SCCs adopt a spirituality centred on God’s Word, drawing strength, inspiration, and direction from praying the scriptures, particularly the Gospels. In consultation with their parish priests, SCCs exercise the lay apostolate of love among their own members, as well as to those who live around them who may be in need. You can think about the SCCs as the diplomatic corps of the parish to the surrounding neighbourhood. Through the mission of the SCCs the parish makes its Christian impact, and the presence of God, felt in the immediate area.

While SCCs operate primarily in their neighbourhood, some can also feel called to respond in solidarity with the global poor and take on overseas mission work in collaboration with the Archdiocesan Commission of Missionary Activity (ACMA).

In no way is the work of the SCC to be confused with the roles of the parish organisations and ministries. Neither is there to be any attempt at imposing uniformity between SCCs and parish organisations. Communion is not understood as uniformity. The apostle Paul himself defends the diversity of gifts that God has graced the Church with; it is because we are differently gifted that we can be complementary to one another, and so our oneness has richer meaning. We cannot all be “eyes” or all “hands” in the body of Christ.

Pastors should help their parishioners distinguish between the work of the SCC and that of the parish organisations, and enable the faithful to realise that these essential components in the apostolate of the laity are not opposed but complementary. Parish pastoral councils would do well to listen to the SCCs, who are close to the “neighbourhood mission field” and can offer accurate readings of emerging needs that require pastoral attention.

There is great potential in the SCCs to be communities of witness to our world, being signs of Christ’s presence among Singapore’s people in daily life. I want to promote the understanding that even the mere existence of loving and forgiving communities amidst our materialistic and individualistic culture can be powerful testimonies of Christ’s living presence in the world.

In order to sustain this message I have chosen to establish the Saturday prior to Mission Sunday as Archdiocesan Small Christian Communities Day. The Singapore Pastoral Institute has been tasked to organise this annual gathering of SCCs as a celebration of communion and a reminder to all the faithful of our Christian mission that we have received at our baptism. On this occasion of Lay Apostolate Sunday, I invite you to consider entering fully into the Trinitarian life of God by committing yourself to a neighbourhood SCC.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia



YOUR SAY

I feel very strongly about the SCC and that all parishes should actively promote it. It is the Catholic neighbourhood group that helped me to grow in faith. The support of the community is very important for spiritual growth – the bonding that I’ve built throughout the years in the group is akin to the bonding with Christ as we’re all parts of one Body. And even though there might be gossiping and misunderstandings, which is inevitable in any human community, we should rise above them through the help of the Holy Spirit; I’ve witnessed many sad incidents where members leave because of misunderstandings but at the same time, I’ve seen far more cases where members build lasting relationships which nurture one another and help one another to experience the love of Christ.

David Woon,
Ghim Moh Zone SCC,
Blessed Sacrament Church


Many years ago, whilst His Grace was still Father Nicholas Chia, I did say in Holy Cross, that neighbourhood groups should be more than just groups that gather to pray and fellowship.

I saw them fully as Little Church (something promoted in the last century), where each neighbourhood group – or SCC as we are calling them today – is a mini-church.

Within each SCC, there should be people who are in hospitality (welcoming new neighbours), a home SVDP (concerning themselves with neighbours who may be in need), an evangelical person (e.g. Legion of Mary, etc.), and a compassionate arm (caring for kids or old people when family is away or sick) and so on. Then the prayer of the group (which would have real intercessory prayers for the community) will be dynamic and perhaps be more in line with full gospel values. I don’t think this is a tall order. It is just a formula that, as far as I know, has yet to be outlined.

This may mean the “death” of some parish groups. But actually, parish groups would be made up of people who are concretely and personally involved in being community.

Diana Koh
Church of St. Ignatius


[Although we have come a long way since Vatican II,] what we are asking people to do is to have a fundamental change in thinking, a paradigm shift that will not happen overnight.

In order for this new wine of “being” Catholic to permeate, we need to slowly and patiently prepare the new wine skins that will receive it.

Otherwise, we might end up doing more damage to both the new wine and the old wine skins (which is our current way of thinking and doing things).

What is needed is “conversion” of individuals and the community. It needs a conversion of mindsets. So, the agent of this conversion is not any human authority but the Holy Spirit.

The question is, “How would your average Catholic understand that to be Catholic today is to belong to a small unit of community other than your Sunday parish community?”

How can we instil into the Catholic consciousness that belonging to a Small Christian Community is what being a Catholic is today?

How do we invite Catholics to be more than just a faceless Sunday congregation?

I don’t see the situation now as helpless or indeed bad at all. What we have in Singapore is a very vibrant Catholic life. This needs to be affirmed and congratulated. But, I think, the riches of Vatican II invites us to move from the good to the better.

I see this model as a tool of real and sustained renewal of every parish. It has the potential of allowing every single Catholic to fully realise what it means to be truly Catholic in the new millennium.

Father John-Paul Tan, OFM
parish priest, Church of
St. Mary of the Angels


We very much welcome the initiative of His Grace which is in line with how the early Christians were living too. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

We ourselves, prior to joining Serra Club of Singapore, belonged to a SCC, and still do. We call ourselves the “JOY Family” (JOY also stands for putting Jesus first and Others before Yourself). The group started with a few working professionals, more than 10 years ago, who met up every first Tuesday of the month for sharing the word of God, Rosary prayers and fellowship over dinner. We each take turns to host the prayer in our house every month.

Today there are about 20 of us who still meet up. Besides the monthly meeting, we also reach out to the poor, the orphans, the old folks and lepers overseas (India and Africa) by sending monthly contributions to support them. Every year we would send Christmas goodie boxes to share the joy of Christmas with them.

Remi and I, as well as the other members, have benefited much by belonging to this spiritual family, in terms of prayer support, love, friendship, and learnt to be more generous, less self-centred and exercise fraternal correction among ourselves. Whenever we get together to celebrate any occasion with a meal, it is always followed by an hour of thanksgiving prayers to thank the Lord for all His blessings.

Caroline and
Remigus D’Souza
“Joy” SCC,
Church of the Holy Cross




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