A Word from the Registrar

‘He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while’ (Mark 6:31).

I can remember the occasion when those words of Jesus first made an impact upon me, nearly twenty years ago. I had been a Christian for perhaps 14 years. More to the point, I had been struggling to complete my Ph.D for 6 years and was more or less burnt out, full of doubts and questions, wondering (frankly) if there was any point continuing as a Christian, let alone a Christian scholar. Spiritually speaking, I had hit rock bottom. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more hopeless-seeming situation.

And then a preacher drew attention to this verse, and said, ‘Perhaps there are some here who need to hear this word, some to whom Jesus is saying, “Come… and rest a while.”’ I felt myself so directly addressed by his words that I almost called out in the middle of the service, ‘Yes! That’s me!’ Then, of course, my British reserve kicked in: I did no more than bite my tongue and listen intently to the rest of the sermon. But I went away from church that morning with a sense of hope (the Lord knows the position I’m in, and has spoken to me) and also with a plan (I’m going to go and have a holiday).

And so I did: I went on holiday, God ministered to me, and in due course (it took quite a while) things got better.

Now, of course, ‘come… and rest’ is not the only thing Jesus ever says to his disciples in the Gospels. Earlier in Mark 6 he has sent them out to minister in his name (vv. 7ff), and his words at v. 31 must be seen in that context: Jesus calls his disciples to spend time alone with him after a period of demanding service, to enjoy a time of refreshment after which he will again send them out to serve him. And so it is with us: we cannot be resting all the time, but we must rest now and them, simply so that we will remain fit to serve the Lord.

And now, through the kindness of Council and Faculty, I stand at the beginning of my second sabbatical in my time at BGST. And again I seem to hear the Lord calling me to ‘come… and rest’ in his presence; or rather, calling me and my wife Eileen (for marriage has been one the blessings of the past twenty years).

In many ways my situation is different now. I’m quite a lot older and somewhat more experienced. As regards my career it could be said that I’ve ‘made it’ (I’ve got my Ph.D, I’ve got some publications under my belt and more on the way, I’ve got a teaching job which I enjoy); and in other ways too my life seems richer and more secure than it did then. (I just wish I hadn’t put on so much weight.)

In some ways I’m reluctant to go on sabbatical now. These are exciting times at BGST. There’s much work to be done, many interesting developments taking place and about to take place. (If you’ve not seen the ‘new-look’ Library on the 1st and 4th floors then you should: I think it looks really ‘cutting edge’.) BGST is about to move on to a new stage, and I’d like to be around here in the next few months and fully involved in the work.

And yet, I do need a rest; or at least a change. I’ve been doing a lot of talking and teaching in the four years, at BGST, at other theological colleges in Singapore, and in various churches in Singapore, and some of what I’ve been saying has come to seem boringly familiar to me. (I hope my hearers haven’t felt the same.) I need some new ideas. Above all, I’m fed up with telling other Christians to do things I’ve not come close to putting into practice myself.

So I (I and my wife) need to spend time reading and meditating upon Scripture, and in prayer. I want to read some of the books that have been gathering dust on my shelves. It’s high time I saw my family members and friends in England again. It would be good to get some exercise. In short I need to refresh myself mentally, physically and spiritually for further service for the Lord.

I will be spending my sabbatical partly in Singapore and partly in England. From October to December I will be at Tyndale House, Cambridge, where I worked before coming here, enjoying the great resources of that wonderful research library. I will be doing quite a lot of writing. But my main desire is to come back here having spent time with the Lord in his word and thus refreshed and once more equipped for ministry here.

Is it possible that Jesus’ words in Mark 6:31 are what you need to hear? Obviously you need discernment, for the call to discipleship is not a call to a life-long holiday. Maybe Mark 6:31 is not for you at this moment. But if the Lord does seem to be calling you to ‘come away… and rest a while’, if (to put the matter in less overtly spiritual language) you’re feeling stale and could do with a break, then maybe you should think about taking one or at least planning for one – for the good of your soul; as a necessary spiritual discipline; as means of preparing yourself for further service.

I feel that resting in this way is an act of faith: we put aside our regular tasks and leave them in God’s hands, thereby acknowledging that the work of the gospel can (for the moment at least) go on without us; we rest and come into God’s presence to hear his word and in so doing we admit our dependence upon him.

And what is the alternative? ‘Beware the spiritual barrenness of a full diary,’ one noted Christian leader is reported to have said. Christians in ‘pragmatic’ Singapore are terribly results- and activity-orientated: if we’re not doing something, if we can’t point to achievements and statistics that show we’ve been busy, we feel guilty and unproductive. But must we always be active? Yes, we must ‘redeem the time’, but that means making the best possible use of the time available to us, which is not at all the same thing as being busy all the time. If there are no periods of rest and reflection in our lives the danger is that our activity, even our ministry done in the Lord’s name, will be the cause of spiritual emptiness and unfruitfulness, for ourselves and for others.

So: I look forward to my sabbatical. I hope and pray it will be a spiritually productive period of rest. And what about you? When are you next going to take a break? Will you heed Jesus’ words?

(Philip Satterthwaite)


  1.  A very warm welcome to Ms Thankip Vel Zahau  (BGST alumnus, 1996) who visited us on June 9.

  2. Change of Commencement Dates
    Biblical Hermeneutics & Interpretation (HE101, 3 credits) by Dr Augustine Pagolu has been rescheduled to Mondays. It will commence on June 26 at 31 Tanjong Pagar Rd. Time: 7.30-9.30pm.
    New Testament Greek II (BG112, 3 credits) by Dr Quek Swee Hwa  will commence on June 24, 2 - 3.30pm, at 4 Bishan St 13, 3rd floor Room 308.
    Greek Exegesis II (BG212, 3 credits) by Dr Quek Swee Hwa will commence on July 15, 4 - 5.30pm, 4 Bishan St 13, 3rd floor Room 308.

  3. Intensive Course by Guest Lecturer, Dr Fritz Deininger, on the topic of “The Life and Theology of Paul: Paul as Missionary, Pastor & Teacher” (ME160/NT313, 1.5 credits). This course will be conducted on the following dates - July 21 & 28 (7.00-10.00pm), July 22 & 29 (9.00am-12.00noon) at 31 Tanjong Pagar Rd. The full course description is available on our website.
    Synopsis. The course will attempt to provide an overview of the life, theology and ministry of Paul. Paul’s life history and background play an important part in his spiritual formation and preparation for his ministry and theological insights. The biography of Paul cannot be separated from his ministry as missionary, pastor, and teacher. Paul certainly has shaped Christianity and set an example that challenges pastors and leaders today. We need to study and to apply Paul’s convictions and principles and apply them to our ministry today. Therefore, as the title of the course indicates the study will be divided into four parts (1) The making of a missionary, pastor and teacher, (2) Paul as a model for missionaries, (3) The pastor’s heart of Paul, and (4) Paul’s concern for sound teaching. 

  4.  Chapel speaker on June 28 will be Mr Andrew Lee (BGST alumnus).

    Listen to the Voice of the Word

    This is a seminar on a method of Bible reading known as Lectio Divina. The focus is on hearing the voice of God through reflective Bible study. This is the first time I am collaborating with Mr John Chong Ser Choon, Director of Trinity Life Centre. John has, of course, conducted many seminars on Lectio Divina. This seminar moves in a new direction now with focussing on one larger text of Scripture. My contribution is towards more effectively “voicing” or verbalizing Scripture so to lead to a greater appreciation of the text, power and colour of God’s awe-inspiring Word.

    The seminar is scheduled to run on the 1st of July, 2006, at the Lutheran Church of our Redeemer, from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Those interested should contact John at 96641243, or at his email address: john@trinitylife.com.sg;  or check out his website: www.trinitylife.com.sg.

    From Seng Chuan.

A Blessed Birthday to ... 

Mr Choo Kok Weng  22/6
Ms Mak Moo Theng  22/6
Ms Sherlene Wan  22/6
Mr Lawrence Ng  22/6
Dr John Lim  23/6
Mr Charlie Yeo  23/6
Mdm Tricia Yeo  23/6
Ms Lim Wee Kuan  23/6
Mr David Yap  24/62
Mr Patrick Ang  26/6
Mrs Loh Yiau Leng  28/6
Dr Ng Peh Cheng  29/6
Mr Goh Mui Pong  29/6
Mr Ong Kong Beng  30/6
Ms June Choo  1/7
Mr Walter Edman  2/7
Mr Yam Ah Mee  2/7

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