In the Beginning…
Early Christian migrants from Foochow, China were mostly poor and many earned a living by pulling rickshaws. But, while they were poor economically they were not lacking in Christian zeal. They longed for a pastor who could speak and preach to them in Foochow and God answered their prayers. Foochow Methodist Church (FMC) started in mid-December 1897 with Rev. Ling Chin Mee being appointed as its first pastor, and she became the second oldest church in the Chinese Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Singapore.
The first congregation of about a dozen worshippers first worshipped at a little church building known as the Middle Road Church located at the junction of Middle Road and Waterloo Street (the location is known today as “Sculpture Square”) and like the Israelites, this congregation moved around for the next forty years, meeting in various borrowed premises like the ACS building at Coleman Street and the Tamil Methodist Church at Short Street. This period was filled with hardships and it was only through faith, patience and obedience to the Lord that the Church held firm and the number of worshippers grew to more than 100 in number.
A Church Home for the Next Century
The present home of the church at 90 Race Course Road was purchased in 1936 under the leadership of the 15th * resident pastor, Rev Andrew Chen K. T. A residential property, it was purchased and converted to give the Church its permanent place of worship.
* For a listing and biographies of all the past resident senior pastors of FMC, please contact the church office.
During this period in the mid-1930s, the Church started to grow and expand and written records indicate that the first Sunday school probably started around this period.
Unfortunately, World War II flared out in February 1942 and our church building was badly damaged by bombs and shells. During this very difficult war, Rev. Chen courageously stayed on and continued faithfully to conduct Sunday worship services and other church activities.
After the war ended in August 1945, extensive restoration and renovation of the church building began in 1947. The front portion of the building was completely rebuilt and a sanctuary was built on the second level with a church hall on the ground level.
In later years, the church building underwent several further renovations but the façade of the church front has remained the same even till today.
- In 1987, the Church purchased the three-storey apartment block next door and converted it for use as a Christian Education Center.
- In December 1993, the main church building was expanded and its renovation included a three-storey link building to connect the main building with the Christian Education Center. This was completed in early 1995.
- Demolition and reconstruction of the Christian Education Center, which was damaged by MRT excavation work near the Church, were undertaken in 2001. The spanking new four-storey Center was completed in November 2002.
- Minor renovations were made in Aug 2009, and part of this included the addition of a beautiful library at the social hall and dance studio/creche on the 3rd level of the main church building.
The church building is today earmarked by the Singapore Tourism Board as a significant historical building, a result of God’s faithful deliverance from the wandering years to a church home for the next century……….
Opening the Doors to Spread The Gospel and Church Growth
In 1948, for the first time, the doors of the Church were opened to non-Foochow speaking persons so that the Gospel could be spread wider, and worship services were conducted in Foochow with Mandarin interpretation. As membership grew to about 250, 5th March 1961 saw the commencement of a separate Mandarin service. Following this, an English speaking congregation was formed in the early 1960s and its first service was held at 5.45pm but was subsequently changed to 7.45am in 1965. These extensions into Mandarin and English services proved to be important milestones for the Church as it strived to reach out to a younger and better-educated generation.
Sunday school in FMC probably started in mid-1930s. One of the first Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Mary Hoover wrote that after she came to Singapore from Sibu, she taught Sunday school to church members’ children and street children. Two decades later on 23 Oct 1960, FMC led the efforts to start the Kim Keat Sunday school, as an outreach of Sunday School children’s program to the housing estates in Singapore. Sennet Estate and Queenstown Estate were later added to this outreach program.
The FMC Kindergarten started in 1964 with 2 classes of 37 children. The Kindergarten continues its good work today at this very premise in establishing a good academic program together with sound Christian education for the very young.
FMC witnessed the birth of the English evening worship service on 12 August 1984. This service catered to those who could not attend the 7.45 am worship service.
FMC enjoyed its first worship in a cool environment on Christmas Sunday in 1985, when its sanctuary became fully air-conditioned.
To accommodate the growing English congregation, an additional 9:45am service was started in 1995.
In 1995, the Church also pioneered a Tamil fellowship to reach out to the scores of Indian foreign workers congregating at our doorstep every Sunday, fulfilling Jesus’ commission to reach out to our neighbours. This Tamil service continues today on every Sunday evening.
Of Church Planting And Outreach
The Church seized every opportunity at church-planting, notably :
An opportunity arose in 1971 to build a new Methodist church in the then new Toa Payoh township. FMC took the lead in the outreach project and for the next few years, FMC church leaders worked hard together with other supporting churches to raise the funds and construct the church at Lorong 2 Toa Payoh, which was eventually handed over to the people of Toa Payoh for their use. The Toa Payoh Methodist Church stands at XXX strong today with both English and Mandarin services.
Another opportunity availed in the mid-nineties and FMC volunteered her resources to help start a Mandarin service at the Methodist Church of the Incarnation at Teck Whye.
The late seventies saw the commissioning of the Church’s first full-time missionaries to serve with Campus Crusade for Christ. This marked the beginning of many more partnerships with mission agencies and the sending of missionaries as an act of obedience to the Great Commission. Since 2000, FMC actively multiplied its new mission fields by sending many into the foreign lands through long term assignments and short term evangelistic and medical trips. FMC presently supports missionaries and makes annual evangelistic and medical trips to India, China, East Asia, Central Asia etc.
In the rich tradition of Methodism, the Church takes its social responsibilities seriously. In 1979 the Church helped to start the House of Peace, a drug rehabilitation ministry. She has also been a firm supporter of Breakthrough Mission, a drug rehabilitation center.
In 1989, as part of FMC’s outreach efforts to her neighbours, the Church started a free Neighbour Tuition Program every Saturday afternoon at the Church premise to provide free tuition services to the school students living in the neighbourhood. This tuition program continues till today as the church reaches out to hundreds of families through this offering.
The Pentecost Fellowship was started on 16th August 1998 as an outreach to the elderly and dialect-speaking friends and relatives of FMC worshippers. Regular programs which include worship, devotion and testimonies as well as practical services such as medical assistance and therapy, are held every alternate Tuesday. This later transformed into an outreach to lonely senior citizens in the Redhill area.
As a form of further outreach, a group of doctors who worship at FMC banded together to open the Caring Community Clinic at the church premises in June 2003 to serve the older people in the Pentecost Fellowship, the community around the church as well as the Tamil and Bangladeshi foreign workers who live around the area. The clinic is opened every Sunday from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm.
In recent years, FMC also organized and hosted various Purpose Driven Life and Alpha programs to encourage members to bring their friends and relatives to church under a systematic and organized program to enable them to find out more about God and Christians in a friendly church environment.
FMC continues to be involved in many outreach activities even today, actively working hand-in-hand with the Tekka Resident Committee to organize various carnivals and fun-fair activities regularly in the Tekka area. FMC also participates regularly in the “Celebrate Christmas in Singapore”, activities as it continues to reach out to the community.
Small groups form an integral part of Church life. Members and worshippers in the Mandarin and Foochow congregations are organized into parishes whereas their counterparts in the English congregations are encouraged to join home cell groups.
Special interest groups were also systematically set up at each stage of the Church’s development. For instance:
- Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS), established in 1947, has been a pillar of strength in the Church’s Foochow and Mandarin congregations.
- Senior Citizens’ Fellowship (SCF) was formed on 15th October 1983, the first in a Chinese Annual Conference church, to serve the needs of our aged members through holistic programs that encompass the health of body, mind and soul.
Today the Church offers a wide range of ministries in Foochow, Mandarin, English and Tamil including six worship services, Sunday School in English and Mandarin, youth, ladies and senior citizen programs among others.