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The Presbyterian Church in Singapore and SG50
By Rev Tan Cheng Huat – General Secretary
Mar 2015

This year marks the 50th year of nation building. To commemorate and celebrate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee, Singaporeans from all walks of life are called to initiate projects in celebrating this major milestone of nation building. Looking in retrospect, the Presbyterian Church in Singapore existed long before our independence as a nation. The Bible shows us that God will take ultimate responsibility for our world. This means every trouble in this world, be it political, military, religious fanaticism, oppression or viral outbreak etc., happened under the watchful eye of God and His sovereign control. The Church can therefore approach these challenges with confidence and hope as she serves the community of which she is a part. As Christian citizens, we should exercise our responsibility to help our government live up to its divinely given mandate (Romans 13:1 – 7; 1 Peter 2:13 – 17). We have inherited a rich Presbyterian heritage where our forefathers in colonial Singapore had proactively engaged in programmes and policies that supported the common good of our Society. As Presbyterians, we have long been involved with works of social transformation.

Looking back into the last 50 years of nation building, God’s people spread out in ordinary situations had been a great force of influence. The Presbyterians had not shy away from taking up public office to be in positions to help shape laws, introduce and support programmes and policies that protect the weak, empower the poor, broaden access to both education and employment opportunities, health care etc. When Sir Stamford Raffles established a trading settlement here in February 1819, there were already Christians on this little red dot. The Presbyterian Church in Singapore was very much involved, living out their faith as members of a local church as well as responsible citizens of the land.

In 1843, Benjamin Keasberry started a Malay chapel, which later became Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church. The Scots erected Orchard Road Presbyterian Church in 1856 and the Chinese Presbyterians built a church in Bukit Timah in 1862, now known as Glory Presbyterian Church. The London Missionary Society was the pioneer in introducing education in Singapore. The church has always been concerned for the welfare and upbringing of children and young people. In 1930 a Scottish architect, JM Fraser joined the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) to improve housing in urban Singapore but Fraser saw the needs of the community of his time where many boys lost their fathers after the Japanese Occupation and started the first Singapore Boys’ Brigade Company at the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church which influenced the lives of hundreds and thousands of boys. Many of the young people have risen through its ranks and become prominent public figures in the history of Singapore’s development.

In 1885 Rev Archibald Lamont who was devoted to education started the Eastern School in River Valley Road. The Presbyterian Church’s contribution to education in Singapore was as early as 1889 when Glory Presbyterian Church started the Road End Free School which today is known as Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School. The establishing of the Presbyterian Boys' School (1924) and Kuo Chuan Girls' School (1938) today is the Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary and Primary Schools in Bishan. Closer to the heart of Rev Alan Moore Anderson was the Li Sun High school established in 1965 which today is the Presbyterian High School. The Sin Chew Chinese Kindergarten was the first kindergarten in Singapore and is now the Chinese Kindergarten of Jubilee Presbyterian Church.

For many decades our Presbyterian Community Services have championed and pioneered our country's social services in running agencies for counselling, families and the elderly, including child care and student care. To impact our community further we have the Presbyterian Care Singapore network and a handbook of information and contacts of all our community services made available to all. The church is also seen as a ‘voice of moral conscience’ to the nation. The church has consistently voiced out our stance on public issues regardless whether the state agrees with its positions e.g. amendment to the women's charter on divorce, employment policy, the casino issues etc. Christians will from time to time disagree with others over the best proposals and policies to adopt in dealing with the challenges of our society but it is imperative that we be civil in our relations with people of other faiths.

The Church and her members are called to be an agent of reconciliation and transformation, to be the 'salt of the earth' and the 'light of the world'. (Matthew 5:13 – 14) Christians should not dichotomize our worldview between the sacred and the secular and our Christian walk need not necessarily take place only in the so-called sacred arenas. The Presbyterian Church in Singapore will turn 135 years old in 2016 and in order that our involvement in the community be on the cutting edge, the Synod Development Steering Committee is working doubly hard in helping our dream realized through the HUB development in transforming our current 100,000 sq. feet Telok Kurau land to house the Headquarter and be a BEACON of light for the Lord:

    B – Bible school & Boarding House
    E – Equipping Centre
    A – Administrative Office
    C – Community Outreach
    O – Overseas missions
    N – Next generation training ground

This is a timely call for us as Presbyterians to unite our hearts to fulfil God's vision and purpose for our present. The Presbyterian Church in Singapore will continue to support initiatives aimed at enhancing and enriching the lives of people in our nation beyond SG50. Looking forward to the next 50 years, what would become of us and the nation would depend very much on our continued missions and vision for growth both spiritually and numerically. The question is, by 2065 what would our children, grand-children or even great grand-children say of the Presbyterian Church in Singapore.


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