About Christ Methodist Church
From her inception in 1930 until today, Christ Methodist Church has been valiant in reaching out and serving the needs of the community. It is the hope and prayer that all who come into contact with the church will individually experience the saving grace of Christ and accept Him as their personal Saviour.
Spreading to Singapore
Methodism in Singapore began when missionaries, Bishop James Thoburn and William F Oldham, together with Dr. Anne Thoburn and Julia Battie, arrived in Singapore on 7 February 1885 on board a steamer that sailed into New Harbour (now known as Keppel Harbour). The very next day, the first service was conducted at short notice and daily prayer services commenced at the Town Hall (which later became the Victoria Theatre) till 22 February 1885, thus establishing Methodism in Singapore. The ensuing years saw further growth as more and more people arrived here looking for trade and employment.
In the early 1900s, Geylang was a collection of kampongs. In particular, in 1905, a handful of Christians who were living in the area established a Gospel House consisting of only eighteen members. Over the decades, the size of the worshippers grew and by the 1930s, they gathered in a church building along Aljunied Road. The first pastor was Rev E S Lau and he continued to serve the congregation until 1951.
Rev Lau was originally appointed to Geylang Chinese Methodist Church in January 1930; there was no English-speaking congregation then. However, there were Sunday School classes conducted in the morning and Methodist Youth Fellowship meetings conducted in English in the afternoon. It was from these two groups that the genesis for an English service was seeded in early 1931. The service soon drew in girls from the adjoining Geylang Methodist Girls’ School as well as other young adults gradually. A year later, in view of the progress, a Local Church Conference was instituted by the Methodist Annual Conference and the English-speaking congregation was organized and duly recognized as distinct from the Chinese church. Thus, Geylang English Methodist Church was born.
Rev Lau was appointed pastor of this new church and continued to serve throughout the war years from 1942 to 1945. During the Japanese Occupation, the church was used as an ammunition depot and an explosion in 1943 damaged the roof, the parsonage and the school. Still services continued uninterrupted, but they had to be held in St Andrew’s Cathedral and later on in the Hill Street Armenian Church until Singapore was liberated in August 1945.
When the congregation returned to Geylang after the war, the church building was badly damaged and many equipment was already looted or burned. A rebuilding of the church was necessary and taken up spontaneously by the members; in time to come, congregational life was resumed. This carried on until 1951, when Rev Ong Chaik Ghee took over as pastor.
Change of Identity
As the church continued to grow – as reflected in the increase in numbers of the congregation – it soon became apparent that the premises could no longer be shared, especially when it came to important occasions. It was then decided that new premises had to be found to house the English congregation.
In 1958, two sites were considered – a piece of land in Koon Seng Road and a plot near the junction of Telok Kurau and East Coast Road. The latter site of about 31,000 sq. ft. was purchased in 1958 at an auction attended by Mr. Yong Ngim Djin and Mr. L C Loong with the authorization of the Official Board (now known as the Local Church Executive Committee) for $51,000. Work on the church building and parsonage started in March 1960 and the building – erected at a cost of $100,000 – was officially opened by Bishop Hobart B Amstutz on 9 December 1960. More significantly, at a suggestion by Mrs L C Loong, it was renamed Christ Methodist Church.
Age of Growth
Christ Methodist Church entered into phase two of its expansion and work soon began again for the construction of a two-storied education centre and memorial hall in 1964. This was completed a year later and the building was named the Berckman Memorial, in memory of Rev Hoadley Berckman, an American missionary that was attached to the church from 1958 until his death in 1963. A dedication service was also held to mark the opening of the centre in honour of Rev Berckman.
The construction of the sanctuary, parsonage, education building and finally the social hall was conceived and brought to fruition in a short space of time. This was only made possible through the sacrificial giving of its 300 members at that time and also contributions from well-wishers.
Even from the very early days of the church’s establishment, the focus was clear: the physical amenities, building and services were all done with the specific intent to reach out and cater to the residents and masses who lived around the area. Outreach was to be the main driving force.
It was a dynamic era and as the church focused on spiritual and membership growth from the late 1960s till 1970s, many came to be drawn through her doors and the various services and groups took off.
The situation of a limitation in physical space reared its head again in the eighties, as Christ Methodist Church started renovating the premises as well as proceeding to build a new education building. The old parsonage was demolished to make way for a new three-storey block to house the church office and Sunday School classrooms. The new building was completed in 1985 and an open air service was held to mark the dedication of the Yong Ngim Djin Building to honor his service for more than thirty years.
The Berckman Hall and the sanctuary were next as air conditioning was installed as part of the renovation of the church.
Coincidentally, the project was completed just in time for the congregation to ring in the New Year at the Watchnight Service on 31 December 1988.
The growth of church continued unabated and by the nineties, in less than a decade, it was again necessary to increase the seating capacity of the sanctuary. The physical expansion of the church coincided with the offering of new services that were added over the years, including a Prayer and Praise service, an evening Hokkien Service (1993), and even a Cantonese Service (1998).
Reconstruction work was also undertaken beginning with the Education Building and then the Berckman Auditorium. A beautiful stained-glass window was installed facing outwards, proclaiming a sense of welcome to all who passed along East Coast Road.
While the ever increasing number of church goers provided a sense of validation to the work of the church, there was always a desire to connect and do more for the community and the residents around the area. In the area of outreach, and as a symbolic act of returning to her roots, Christ Methodist Church started The Preaching Point in Geylang Methodist Primary and Secondary Schools in 1996; they even started providing worship services in Mandarin less than a year later. The Preaching Point was subsequently renamed Christalite Methodist Chapel in 1998.
Separately, in a partnership with the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), Christalite Methodist Home was opened at 51 Marsiling Drive in July 1997, to cater to the elderly and to provide a place of refuge for the residents.
The New Millennium
The vibrancy surrounding Christ Methodist Church was evident as she stepped into the new Millennium; the Sunday morning services were rescheduled to have one Traditional and one Contemporary Service to cater to different needs. A Mandarin Fellowship (that later grew into a Ministry) was also formed to reach out to the China Nationals in the area. Full-time staff were also engaged to help grow different aspects of the church’s services to the community.
This took the shape of events and activities during festive seasons that reached out to the community and also via more structured forms such as the Alpha Course and the awarding of Bursaries to needy students.
In an effort to rally and equip the congregation for the tasks ahead, and to grow in discipleship, the call to Intentional Discipleship was introduced in 2004. This whole-of-church effort percolated not just through the services, care groups and conferences, it was also adopted as part of the culture of Christ Methodist Church.
This culminated in a significant change in 2007 when Christ Methodist Church re-stated the church’s mission, vision and goal –
“We are committed to be intentional disciples; to love Christ, share His love and to make disciples of all the nations by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Every member was to be Passionate for God and to Love the Community. A new logo was also adopted.
A New Building
The most momentous change took place in 2009 when a Church Redevelopment Committee (CRC) was formed to oversee the rebuilding project – this was based on a recommendation that arose from a study in 2008 that demolishing and rebuilding was the best way to meet the needs and demands of a changing congregation and community.
The rebuilding project was officially announced and fundraising efforts began across all ministries. For the duration of the construction, the church office and services/activities were relocated to Saint Patrick’s School, which was just across the road.
Christ Methodist Church moved to Saint Patrick’s School in November and the first worship service was held there on 5 December 2010.
In this interim period, there were a lot of challenges but there were also a lot of opportunities. The larger venue at Saint Patrick’s meant more room for activities and initiatives and ministries across the board began to experience exponential growth. A Young Adult Ministry was also formed within the burgeoning Care Groups Ministry as young working professionals started drawing in their friends and loved ones for fellowship and learning opportunities.
It was also during this period that a miracle happened; the original intention of a second basement for the new church building had to be dropped due to costs but a timely change in the regulations in the plot-ratio stipulation meant that a fourth level could be allowed thus accommodating a greater capacity.
After three and a half years, the new building was finally completed and an Open House was held on 30 August 2014. The celebration was punctuated with lots of fun, food, games and activities, attracting more than 1,500 visitors, comprising family, friends, neighbours and visitors from the community.
The new building communicated the church’s mission to the external community very clearly, with its façade of a slatted screen unveiling the shape of a cross. When illuminated at night, small crosses appear across the surface, further establishing the church as an icon within the community. It even won a design award from the Singapore Institute of Architects for 2014.
With the foundation of a new church building and a new corporate identity, Christ Methodist Church has slowly increased her sphere of engagement with not just local but also overseas communities. In the past, Christ Methodist Church focused its missions projects primarily in Cambodia, East Asia, India and Indonesia.
In 2017, a concerted effort was undertaken to engage the whole congregation to participate in mission trips under the campaign banner “Go Nations”. Trips were made to other places in East Asia, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Nepal. There were also efforts to reach out to foreign nationals who were working locally via events, and activities, fostering an environment that showed care and concern.
Along with the increased capacity of the new church building, the size of the congregation continued to grow healthily. This resulted in the need to increase the number of services and in January of 2018, Christ Methodist Church started having a Saturday evening service to cater to the new demand.
As Christ Methodist Church enters the 2020s, just as He sent us into the nations around us, He also desires that we go deeper into our own nation and our own community. This will begin with the Church in Christian Action (CICA) initiative to reach out to the marginalized and bring them God’s love. This is an initiative to deepen a ‘voluntary’ mobilization of our Church to social action, acts of mercy, and good works through intentional discipleship and programming.
From her inception in 1930 until today. Christ Methodist Church has been valiant in reaching out and serving the needs of the community. Social action and good works are not optional side projects for the Church; it is core to its heart and mission. It is the hope and prayer that all who come into contact with the church will individually experience the saving grace of Christ and accept Him as their personal Saviour.