2003 BGST this week issue 23


Continuing our series in which students speak about their home church, Edwin Tay spoke about Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church (TA for short). TA is 114 years old, the oldest Chinese-speaking Methodist church in Singapore. The church has seen a large part of the life of the early Chinese immigrants, has survived the Japanese Occupation, and has witnessed Singaporean Independence.

TA began with three Methodist missionaries: William F. Oldham, James Miller Thoburn, and Benjamin F. West. Oldham and Thoburn were ordained ministers with the Methodist Episcopal Church in South India, while Benjamin West was a doctor who came to Singapore as a missionary. In 1885 both Oldham and Thoburn were sent as pioneer missionaries to Singapore. After they arrived here, they conducted a series of evangelistic meetings in the Town Hall (now the Victoria Theatre). Thoburn preached, and at the end of those meetings, 17 responded to the Gospel and were gathered to form the first Methodist church in Singapore, Wesley Methodist Church. 

Oldham was not content with this early success. He was aware of the large number of Chinese immigrants who lived in the Telok Ayer district and wanted to reach them with the Gospel. So he started English lessons with a group of Chinese who were very keen to learn the English language. The size of the class grew and eventually a mission school was formed, known as the Oldham Mission School, later to be renamed the Anglo-Chinese School.

Benjamin West came to Singapore with his wife in 1887, and was for two years a teacher in this school. It was never his intention to teach English. His burden was to work as a doctor among the Chinese. After 2 years he spoke with Oldham, and with Oldham’s blessing started a dispensary in Upper Nanking Street. This was in 1889. Within a year, a dozen Chinese were converted and baptized. So West gathered them on Sundays and conducted worship services for them. He preached in Malay, and his sermons were interpreted into Hokkien. And this was how Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church began. The present church building dates from 1925.  

A significant event in TA’s history was the ministry of Dr John Sung. John Sung has been hailed as China’s greatest evangelist. He came to Singapore at the end of August 1935 and conducted a series of evangelistic and revival meetings that was to have a lasting impact not only on the life of the church, but also on the life of the Chinese churches in this region. There were a total of 40 meetings in two weeks. His impact on TA can be seen in three areas.

  1.  He instilled in the church an evangelistic zeal. Naturally church membership increased tremendously after he left, but the significant thing was this evangelistic zeal. John Sung was not content to merely conduct evangelistic meetings. He organized his converts into groups of about two or three. These groups would be out evangelizing on the streets and homes in between his meetings. After he left, the groups from TA continued to evangelize regularly. Their work became known as the “Gospel bus” ministry.

  2. Secondly, through John Sung’s ministry, the church was prepared for the intense trial that they went through during the Japanese Occupation. The Japanese used the church building as a watch tower because of its location beside the harbour. Worship services were not allowed in the church. So secret services were held and whenever possible, the sacraments would be administered.

  3. The Methodist Church in Singapore was somewhat influenced by liberal theology in the late 1950s and 1960s. But that influence was seen mainly in the English-speaking churches. The Chinese-speaking churches were unaffected, and this has a lot to do with John Sung’s ministry. He had warned the church against liberalism in 1935 because he himself was once a victim and had lost his faith because of that. The leaders of TA took note of his warnings.

Since her founding, TA has had the privilege of helping to found new churches in Singapore. Grace Methodist Church, Queenstown Methodist Church, Fairfield Methodist Church, and Telok Blangah Methodist Church, have all had their beginnings in TA. Presently, the church is engaged in a church-building project at the site of Telok Blangah Methodist Church. The new church building and congregation will be known as TA2. It will be a Hokkien-speaking church which will minister to the large Hokkien-speaking population at Telok Blangah.

TA has been richly blessed by God throughout her 114 years of existence. Luke 12:48 comes to mind: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. While we thank God for her rich history, we also know that she has responsibilities to fulfill. Please pray that Telok Ayer Methodist Church will continue to be faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel and will fulfill the responsibilities that God has entrusted her.

(Please also pray for Edwin, his wife Angela, and their baby daughter as they prepare to move to London in September. Edwin has been accepted for an MA in Systematic Theology at King’s College, London. Pray for him in his studies and for God to provide for the needs of the whole family.)

Chapel speaker next week (11 June) will be Pastor Song Young Hak.


  1. "The Christian Faith” 1st tutorial starts next Monday, 9 June, 7.30-9.00pm.

  2. Rev Ng Seng Chuan will be preaching at The Church of the Good Shepherd on June 8, 4.30pm, on ‘Psalm 23’.

  3. Fundraising. Mrs Esther Quek & team is organising a garage sale for BGST from 9-11 June.  The stall will be situated along Bishan St. 11, between Blk 153 and 156. It will be open from  3pm to 11pm daily. Come & support us!

  4. We recommend “Audio Bible Online”, an excellent, FREE website (http://www.audio-bible.com) where you can hear (and read) the Bible in the King James Version read by Alexander Scourby. This is not only useful for the visually impaired, but also for those who would like to enjoy what CS Lewis called, “The Literary Impact of the KJV”. He was referring to the beautiful rhythm and cadences of the KJV. Highly recommended for those who want a demonstration of how the KJV ought to be read.

  5. Old Testament Foundations II (OT 102).

  6. Students who have completed OT Foundations I (OT 101) in the last few years and who are intending to take OT Foundations II (OT 102) are advised to take OT 102 live in Semester 2, beginning 14th July. From 2004 onwards the teaching of both OT 101 and OT 102 will be revised, and the ‘old-style’ and ‘new-style’ OT Foundations courses will not be entirely compatible: a different text-book will be used, and the distribution of the biblical books between OT 101 and 102 will be different. Students who have not taken OT 101 are advised not  to take OT 102 in this coming semester. They should wait for OT 101 to be given live in 2004 and OT 102 to be given live in 2005. If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact the lecturer, Dr. P.E. Satterthwaite.

A Blessed Birthday to ...

Ms Judy Ong  2/6

Assoc Prof Benny Tabalujan  2/6

Ms Rachel Goh  2/6

Mr Prasetyo Davin  5/6

flower pot

Rev Martin Yee  5/6

Rev Francis Khoo  7/6

Mr Lionel Chan  8/6

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This page is updated on 5 Jun 2003 by Leong Kok Weng 
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