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We can only Imagine

A recent photo taken at our lunch with Joseph and Kim.

In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? - John 14:2

News of Joseph Chean’s departure reached us just as we were starting our staff day planning retreat, casting a solemn shadow over our gathering. He is a familiar face at MPCC and ministered in our Camp of 2022.

In the wake of this sudden loss, the outpouring of heart-felt tributes on social media attest to the indelible mark he has left on countless lives. Let me add some personal thoughts here to this collective remembrance.

Joseph has enriched my ministry from my days at St James' Church (SJC). While publicly, he was seen as a consistent champion of missions to the poor and those overseas, has also had a passion for spiritual qualities of leadership and church life. As a leader, Joseph possessed an astute ability to discern nuances that others might overlook. He values humility in leadership and admires those who graciously share their position and authority. He values community life and friendships and relates well to people from all walks of life. Being an avid (and skilful) home cook allowed him to contribute to these.

His emphasis on prayerful, worshipful and listening dependence on the Lord left an enduring impression on me. These have become an integral part of my parish leadership. His insights into church life uniquely positioned him to journey with pastors, providing valuable accountability rooted in spiritual values. Many, myself included, trusted him with our innermost thoughts and challenges.

He and his wife, Kim, also became personal friends and we have gone on a couple of holidays together. There would have been more if our schedules allowed. Being a clergy who has served and moved away from a few parishes, Jen will sometimes ask if I still have personal friends. Joseph, without a doubt, held a prominent place on that short list. It was a friendship where we could be ourselves, rested from our public ministry personas. We could share freely about our disappointments and failed expectations. Joseph is indeed tireless and worked extremely hard. Sometimes he would share his inner thoughts when some measure of occasional weariness gets to him. We will try to have home-cooked meals every once in a while and we will take turns to cook.

His sudden departure leaves an undeniable void. I can only imagine the depth of the friendship that could have unfolded over the next 20 years. The absent presence at our daughters’ weddings, the shared joy of becoming grandparents and other ministry celebrations — these have become moments which we can only capture in our imagination.

Such is the complex tapestry of life, and such is the cost of selflessly laying down our lives for others. Yet, in our grief, we hold firm to the hope that Joseph now resides in a better place with Christ. We can only imagine what it will be like. He is also a skilled dancer and the lyrics of a poignant song resonates:

'Surrounded by Your glory,

What will my heart feel?

Will I dance for You, Jesus,

Or in awe of You be still?'

Until we meet again, dear Joe you will be dearly missed, but your influence lives on in the countless lives you have touched.


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