It is important for Christ Methodist Church (CMC) members to know our roots, and the way God has led us through the years. Most would already be familiar with the story of CMC’s origins – this is for those who aren’t.
CMC was born, back in 1930, as the Geylang English Methodist Church.
For almost 30 years, the Geylang Methodist Church building along Aljunied Road was shared by three congregations – the Geylang Chinese Methodist Church, the Geylang Straits Chinese Methodist Church and ours. Sunday School lessons were held in the classrooms of the adjoining Geylang Methodist Girls’ School (MGS).
As God blessed each congregation and numbers grew, it became apparent that the premises could no longer be shared, especially for important occasions such as Watchnight and Easter Sunrise Services, when the privilege of using the church building for that particular service had to be rotated annually between the different congregations.
Matters came to a head in 1957, when there was a disagreement with the then Principal of Geylang MGS over the date of our annual Fun Fair. One of the other congregations was holding theirs three weeks before, and there was fear that ticket sales would be affected. It was decided then that new premises had to be found to house our congregation, even though the funds were not yet available.
In 1958, two sites were first looked at - a piece of land in Koon Seng Road (later bought by the Straits Chinese congregation and the church named, “Pentecost Methodist Church”), and a plot near the junction of Telok Kurau and East Coast Road. Then the Chairman of the Official Board (now known as the Local Church Executive Committee), Mr Yong Ngim Djin, spotted an advertisement for an auction of a 31,000 square-foot piece of land at 597 East Coast Road.
He called for a meeting of the Board to authorise him and Vice-Chairman, Mr L C Loong, to bid for this piece of land up to $50,000. In a great step of faith and trusting in God to provide funds, our final bid was $51,000 and we won the auction!
The old parsonage (a two-storey terrace house in Upper Aljunied Road) was sold at a small loss, and the pastor (Rev Ong Chaik Ghee) and his family moved into the old but liveable bungalow at the new site. The cash needed to pay for the land was miraculously raised and paid within a month (which was the requirement under auction rules).
Work on the church building and parsonage was started in March 1960, and the church was officially opened by Bishop Hobart B Amstutz on 9 December 1960. The church was named, “Christ Methodist Church”, a name suggested by Mrs L C Loong and approved by the Official Board. After the opening ceremony, a grand dinner celebration was held in the church compound, with a tent erected for the occasion.
The Berckman Memorial Hall (named in memory of Rev J H H Berckman, a former Associate Pastor who served from 1958 until his death from cancer in 1963) was added later, followed by its wing and then the library extension. The parsonage was later demolished to make way for a new three-storey building which was dedicated in 1985 and named “Yong Ngim Djin Education Building” in honour of Mr Yong, who served the church for more than 30 years. The church sanctuary underwent a couple of renovations, then was completely rebuilt from the ground up, and rededicated on 29 August 1998.
Members of CMC can be justly proud of our church because it is unique. The idea of building our own church was conceived by our members (numbering about 300 at that time), brought to fruition by the same members, and fully financed by us all.
Milestone - Methodism – How it came about
The son of Rev Samuel Wesley and his wife Susannah, John Wesley (1703-1791) was saved as a boy from the burning parsonage.
On 24th May 1738, at Aldersgate Street, a heart-warming experience filled him with conviction and zeal. With his younger brother, Charles, who wrote the hymns still sung today, he preached the gospel throughout England, and especially to the masses.
From 1769, representatives were sent to America, training thousands of preachers and laying the foundation for the American Methodist Church.
Methodism came to Singapore via India.
In 1883, Charles Phillips, a Christian elder serving in Singapore, wrote to James Thoburn, an acknowledged Methodist leader in India, to inform him of the need for a Methodist mission to Singapore. It was not until 7th Feb 1885 that a steamer sailed into New Harbour (now known as Keppel Harbour). On board were 4 Methodist missionaries. The very next day, services were held in the town hall. The first Methodist Episcopal Church was established in Coleman Street on 22nd Feb 1885. The first pastor, William F Oldham and his wife Marie had looked forward to starting Methodist schools in India. Now they set about doing just that in Singapore.
In the 1900's, Geylang was a collection of kampongs. In 1905, a handful of Christians living in the area established a Gospel House consisting of only eighteen members.
Youth fellowship (known as the Epworth League) meetings were conducted in English in the Geylang Chinese Methodist Church.
A regular English Service started with the Epworth League forming the nucleus, and the older girls from Geylang MGS joining in.
The English Service was approved as a Church by itself, though still using the Geylang premises.
“It was a rainy Sunday afternoon when about 25 members of the Epworth League met together for prayer and supplication in the Geylang Methodist Church. These young people were very keen. They kept meeting each Sunday afternoon and, in the following year, they organised themselves into a Quarterly Conference.”
Rev Ong Chaik Ghee
During the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945, the church was used as an ammunition depot. An explosion in 1943 damaged the roof, the parsonage and the school. By God's grace, services continued uninterrupted throughout these perilous times. This was a migrant phase in which services were conducted first in St Andrew's Cathedral and then Hill Street Armenian Church.
“We returned to Geylang to find the church building damaged and equipment looted or burned. Our congregation was scattered and our primary task was to seek out our disrupted flock. The response was spontaneous...”
Rev E S Lau
Growth continued with the formation of the MYF, the Sunday School, the choir and the WSCS.
In 1958, the present site of 31,000 sq ft at East Coast Road was purchased for $51,000 at an auction attended by Mr Yong Ngim Djin and Mr L C Loong. The pastor and his family moved into the small bungalow already existing on the site. The church was conceived and brought to fruition by its own dedicated members numbering about 300 at that time. Rev Ong Chaik Ghee continued to be the pastor of the new church until 1965, and again from 1973-1975.
“A new church is being built at East Coast Road to cope with the rapid growth of the English Speaking Congregation of the Geylang Methodist Church.”
Singapore Free Press, 26 October 1960
Construction work began for the church building and parsonage.
9 December 1960
Christ Methodist Church at 597, East Coast Road, was opened with a dedication service officiated by Bishop Hobart Amstutz.
“Rev James Hart Hoadly Berckmann and his wife, Ruth, came to Singapore from China in 1952. He served Christ Methodist Church from 1958 until his death in 1963.
He had an undying love for Christ Methodist Church and he laboured sacrificially, served devotedly and lived a life that revealed the mind of Christ. No word is adequate to express what he has meant to us and our church.”
Rev Ong Chaik Ghee, 1963
Work began to construct the Berckman Memorial Hall.
7 March 1965
A dedication service was held to mark the opening of the two-storeyed Education Centre in honour of Rev Berckman.
A neon cross was set atop a tall pillar. It was a WSCS project.
The church focused on spiritual and membership growth.
The Senior Members' Fellowship took off, with members meeting every month.
The renovation of the sanctuary commenced. The walls were replaced with folding doors to increase seating capacity.
Work started on the new education building. The old parsonage was demolished to make way for a three-storey block to house a church office and Sunday School classrooms.
21 April 1985
An open air service marked the dedication of the Yong Ngim Djin Education Building, named to honour a leader who had served the church for more than thirty years.
By the mid eighties, it was the old, familiar story again. We were “bursting at the seams”. The membership was increasing. Praise God! However, many Sunday worshippers sitting in the corridors outside were precariously close to the narrow drains. They also had to contend with the heat and constant flow of traffic, both human and vehicular.
The Berckman Hall and the sanctuary underwent renovation to install air-conditioning.
31 December 1988 The project was completed just in time to welcome in the New Year at the Watchnight Service.
A Prayer and Praise Service took off, initially with a monthly evening worship.
The Thursday evening Hokkien Service was a welcome addition. Members were able to bring their parents and other family members to hear the Word.
Praise God that CMC membership continued to grow, so that by 1995, it was again necessary to increase seating capacity in our sanctuary. This time even more reconstruction work was involved beginning with the Education Building, then the Berckman Auditorium. The small library was converted into a mezzanine floor at the back of the sanctuary. The Chancel was placed at the opposite end to its original position.
Work commenced on the Additions and Alterations project.
Going back to our roots, the Preaching Point in Geylang Methodist Primary and Secondary Schools was started.
10 May 1997
The Preaching Point boldly embarked on providing worship services in Mandarin.
The first residents moved into Christalite Methodist Home at 51 Marsiling Drive.
26 July 1997
Our church members and residents of Christalite Methodist Home celebrated its official opening.
Services resumed in the new sanctuary. The stained-glass window proclaimed His house to all who passed along East Coast Road.
The Preaching Point at Geylang was renamed “Christalite Methodist Chapel”.
Meeting the challenge to provide ever more opportunities to preach the Word, Christ Methodist Church launched a Sunday service in Cantonese.
70th Anniversary was celebrated with a combined service held at the Kallang Theatre followed by lunch in the lobby.
The vibrant Senior Members’ Fellowship was renamed “Glowing Years Ministry” (GYM).
The Sunday morning worship services were rescheduled to have one Traditional and one Contemporary, and a Youth Service was introduced.
A Breakfast Fellowship (hosted in English, Hokkien and Cantonese) was started to reach out to relatives and friends. This was discontinued in 2006 to focus our outreach efforts in other ways.
The “Touch Jesus” Healing Ministry of Brother Francis Khoo was introduced to CMC - a ministry of healing, extending love and providing hope through faith in Jesus Christ. This was discontinued in 2005 when CMC felt it was ready to have its own healing ministry.
Start of a Mandarin Fellowship to minister to China Nationals, that later grew to be a Ministry in 2004, with worship service and ministry to children, youths and parents.
The Family Life Ministry was enhanced by the recruitment of a full-time staff, to grow the ministry and to offer counseling services to members, relatives and friends, and to the community.
2004 - 2005
Intentional Discipleship - In an effort to encourage members to grow in discipleship, the call to Intentional Disciple was introduced and emphasised in March 2004. The “40 Days of Purpose” (40DoP) Campaign followed in July-August 2004, with 940 members responding. This was followed by a study of the MasterLife Series, which started in October 2004 and ended in November 2005. There was increased participation in Care Groups (CGs), and the number of CGs grew. CGs were also organized into clusters, each with a cluster leader, and CG Leader Equipping was held once a month. A Care Group Conference was organized in August 2005 to further equip our congregation.
Purpose-Driven Church – Beyond Intentional Discipleship, a need was felt for a more integrated and holistic approach to how we functioned as a church. We studied Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Church Model, and adopted principles that would work within the structure and culture of CMC.
Spiritual Renewal & Revival – The later part of 2004 saw more lives touched by God as the congregation participated in the 40DoP Campaign, learned from the sermon series on Inner Healing, and participated in the Church Camp in December. By end December, Pastor Edmund and the rest of the Pastoral Team sensed that spiritual revival was coming to CMC. From January 2005, there was systematic and progressive teaching from the pulpit on what Revival is, and various aspects in Revival. A sermon series on Spiritual Gifts was also taught. Revival Services were held once a month on a weekday. There was time for ministry after every worship service. Lives have been touched by God and healings taken place. God has been gracious in sending revival to CMC in a gradual manner, so that leaders can cope with the changes. During this season of revival, the youths joined the second worship service in order to experience the teaching and ministry first-hand.
Prayer – With all that was happening at CMC it was essential to seek God for direction and guidance, and for protection against spiritual attack. The pastors took the lead in motivating and mobilizing the congregation to pray a) through the formation of an intercession group, b) at prayer meetings twice a month, c) by participating in 24/7 prayer during selected months.
Together with the Frankel Neighbourhood Committee, CMC organized a Christmas Carolling event at Greenfield Park (Frankel Estate), the first of many that followed, where we collaborated with Neighbourhood Committees to bring Christmas joy to our neighbours.
Our Preaching Point, Christalite Methodist Chapel, was constituted as a Local Conference.
The Alpha Marriage Course was introduced to CMC.
The Christian Outreach & Social Concerns held its first Bursary Award Ceremony. (Bursary awards were given to needy students in the community.)
Having adopted “Intentional Discipleship” as our immediate task, and having adopted principles from Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Church Model that would work within the structure and culture of CMC, the leadership saw the five Biblical Purposes viz. Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Outreach as five aspects in the practice of Intentional Discipleship. Our congregation has been urged to “worship”, “connect”, “grow”, “serve” and “reachout”.
In the area of Worship, the emphasis was on improving the environment and training personnel. In private worship, there was encouragement over the pulpit to have a closer relationship with God.
In Fellowship, efforts have resulted in a warmer, friendlier and more caring church. There is a greater awareness of the importance of belonging, and we saw long-time worshippers and even those serving in ministry, finally making the commitment to transfer their membership from previous churches. Fellowship teas were introduced so that new members and worshippers could get to know the pastors and other leaders of the church.
In Discipleship, the main thrust was through the CGs. The number of CGs increased, as well as the total number of persons in CGs. CGs and their leaders, were encouraged to connect more with other CGs.
In Ministry, members were encouraged to attend a course to help them discover their gifts. There were also plans to mobilize more people for ministry.
The area of Outreach involved eight ministries viz. Missions, Christian Outreach & Social Concerns, Witness & Evangelism, Christalite Methodist Home, CMC Kindergarten, and the Chinese Ministries (Hokkien, Cantonese and Mandarin). Some events organized were: a) in December 2005, a Carolling programme for the residents at Frankel Estate; b) in celebration of our Church Anniversary at the end of August, a church-wide conference was held, with emphasis on equipping our members for Outreach; c) a Mid-Autumn Festival Outreach on 30 September for our members to bring their pre-believing family members and friends. Events aside, CMC focused its missions projects in three places: at Krang Svey in Cambodia; Xishuangbana and Shenzhen in China. Locally, we also reached out to the community through projects like the Alpha Course, financial assistance to needy families, and bursary awards to needy students.
The first Prayer Retreat in the history of CMC was held.
CMC participated in the “Global Day of Prayer” held at the National Stadium, with 110 representatives.
In keeping with the current direction of the church, and also with the times, we re-stated our church’s mission in the form of a vision, mission and goal. A new logo was also adopted.
To equip and help our congregation grow in various aspects of discipleship, INDI Conferences were held every quarter, with monthly Grow Meetings held in the months between. Revival Services continue to be held monthly to encourage our congregation. We continued to grow in the areas of Connecting, Worship and Ministry.
There was greater emphasis this year on Outreach, as it was found that our congregation was the least active in this area. Classes were conducted to equip members to reach out to others. Local events, like Family Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival Outreach, were organized to give our members opportunities to invite pre-believing friends and relatives. There were more opportunities to work with the Neighbourhood Committees in organizing events to reach out to our neighbours. There were more mission trips, and it was encouraging to note, more participation from the youths. An exploratory mission trip to India was also made.
Even as we have experienced God’s manifest presence and healing power in our individual lives and as a corporate body, we continued to bless others through our monthly Healing Services. We thank God for opening doors for Pastor Edmund to share our experiences for the encouragement of others, through speaking at worship services, church camps and conferences. We have also been able to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit in our mission fields and to train ministry teams in these countries and beyond.
As we acknowledge Prayer as the starting point for all that we do, we continued to have monthly Prayer Meetings, pre-service prayer, prayer bulletins and prayer retreats. CMC committed itself to one week of 24-hour prayer, as part of a year-long island-wide prayer chain. Our congregation was also mobilised to participate in the ‘Global Day of Prayer’ and ‘Day of His Power’ events. Prayer cells and prayer partnerships were also formed.
The emphases on Outreach and Grow were continued.
In the area of Outreach, a nine-week Full Flame Campaign was held, using the Full Flame Film Series featuring teaching by Reinhard Bonnke, to inspire and equip believers for the task of soul-winning. This was followed up with further equipping through workshops, and opportunities to reach out through mission trips and local outreach events.
Regular mission trips had been organized to Cambodia and Shenzhen, our current mission fields, and the response had been good. Local outreach events included monthly Gospel Nights (Chinese Ministries), Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas @ Telok Kurau Park (in collaboration with the Frankel and Telok Kurau Neighbourhood Committees), followed by a Christmas Outreach Dinner on our church premises. A Sports Ministry had been started to connect church members and reach out to pre-believers.
We were also privileged to have the opportunity to minister to a group of about 80 construction workers from China who happened to be housed next to our church. Meetings were held on Sunday evenings, and we praise God that about 50% of them accepted Christ.
To equip our congregation to live and minister effectively in the kingdom of God, monthly InDi Conferences were organized, covering topics within two tracks being emphasized: Victorious Living and Spirit-filled Ministry. Our church camp theme was ‘The Spirit-filled Church’ even as we aspire to be such a church.
The monthly Revival Services were discontinued as it was felt that the revival aspirations should be emphasized at the Sunday Services. Ministry after every service is a regular feature. Our monthly Miracle Services provide an extended opportunity for encouragement from our pastors and for receiving ministry, as well as being an opportunity for outreach to pre-believers. God continued to open doors for Pastor Edmund to share his experiences for the encouragement of others, through speaking at worship services, church camps and conferences.
With greater emphasis on Prayer, the care groups were encouraged to pray for church concerns, and some prayer cells were also formed. We continued to have monthly Prayer Meetings, pre-service prayer and prayer bulletins. CMC also committed itself, once again, to one week of 24/7 prayer, as part of a year-long island-wide prayer chain. Our congregation was also mobilized to participate in the ‘Global Day of Prayer’ and ‘Day of His Power’ events.
A student care centre, in collaboration with the management of Ping Yi Secondary School, was started this year to minister to ‘kids at risk’ and ‘latch key’ kids. We hope to provide a conducive environment for them to grow and develop into responsible citizens.
With the economic downturn, CMC responded with the setting up of an Economic Downturn Task Force to see how we could help our members who are affected, as well as others outside the church who might be in need. An infrastructure was set up comprising counseling (various aspects), financial assistance, support group and networking. CMC was also one of the partner churches for one of the 3 HOPE Fairs initiated by TRAC (Trinity Annual Conference).
Regular mission trips were organized to Cambodia, Shenzhen and India, with the emphases on empowering and equipping church leaders and care group leaders, interaction with, and teaching of English to children and youths, medical missions, feeding the poor and needy, evangelistic meetings and ministry with signs and wonders. Responses to participation in these mission trips were encouraging, and the working of God in the mission field was awesome.
We continued with our local outreach events like the monthly Gospel Nights (Chinese Ministries), Christmas @ Telok Kurau Park (in collaboration with the Frankel and Telok Kurau Neighbourhood Committees), and a sports ministry that connects church members and reaches out to pre-believers.
Our monthly Miracle Services provide an opportunity for encouragement from our pastors and for receiving ministry, as well as being an opportunity for outreach to pre-believers. The Healing Place, which is held every Saturday morning, was started this year to provide further opportunities for members to seek healing, and as an outreach opportunity.
Our Care Group ministry continued to grow by God’s grace. In addition to the regular care group meetings, the GroupLife series was introduced, each series comprising a number of sessions on a selected topic or book study. The response had been very encouraging, with existing care groups joining the teaching sessions, and new discussion groups being formed that we hoped will evolve into care groups. The hunger to know the Word better, resulted in overwhelming response to the starting of DISCIPLE Level 1 (from DISCIPLE Agency), so much so that two classes had to be run concurrently.
In July 2009, our LCEC formed the Church Redevelopment Committee (CRC) to oversee and make recommendations for a rebuilding project that was to take place over the next few years. The decision was based on the 2008 recommendation of the Ad Hoc Building Committee that demolition and rebuilding (rather than renovation) was the best option for maximizing usable areas and creating smoother traffic flow. This was followed by a further feasibility study which proved that the need for rebuilding was considerable and immediate. In August the project proposal received approval and the CRC conducted a design competition to appoint the architect and a team of professional consultants. The firm ‘K2LD Architects’ won the bid and was hired in September 2009. The projected completion date was late 2012.
Continuing with our emphasis on equipping the congregation for outreach and evangelism, we ran a 4-week church-wide campaign at the beginning of the year called “Just Walk Across the Room”, (developed by Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in the USA) which resulted in several new care groups being formed and many new friends visiting CMC thereafter.
In early 2010, soil investigation results showed the full extent of the marine clay layer in the ground at our site. This new information required provisions for the foundational structure of the new church building to be strengthened (with deeper piling, etc.), increasing the overall projected cost of the project. The option of a second basement was considered but not included because of cost and utilization issues. Instead, the CRC recommended additional foundational work to give the flexibility of adding another (fourth) floor, in the event that the existing 1:0 plot ratio was liberalized by the authorities in future.
The rebuilding project was officially announced to the church congregations in May and fundraising efforts began across all ministries. God demonstrated his beautiful grace and unfailing providence by providing St Patrick’s School, just across the road, as a viable option for the relocation of our church office and services/activities for the duration of our rebuilding.
In line with this exciting new season of enlarging our vision and catering for future growth, guest speaker Paul Geerling from Metro Church in Brisbane blessed us with messages on “Living the Dream” at our church camp from 7 to 10 June 2010 in Klana Resort, Seremban Malaysia.
CMC relocated to our temporary home, St Patrick’s School, in November and had our first worship service there on 5 Dec 2010.
After many years of dedicated leadership at CMC, our Pastor-In-Charge, Rev Edmund de Souza, took his sabbatical year in 2011, and CMC warmly welcomed Rev Dr Gordon Wong in January 2011, appointed our PIC for the second time in our church history (the first was in the year 2000).
Demolition of our existing church building started on schedule early in the year, and just before extensive digging began to make way for our new basement, CMCers got together for a prayer walk and groundbreaking ceremony on the cleared, flat construction site in May.
In the first half of the year a ‘Young Adults Cluster’ was formed within the already burgeoning Care Groups ministry and began growing exponentially as young working professionals began drawing their friends and ‘other halves’ to our church fellowship and learning opportunities (like The Alpha Course).
Because St Patrick’s School afforded us more space for fellowship gatherings and weekly activities within its grounds, other ministries began to experience growth in numbers too, particularly the children’s ministry, which also took on a part time lay executive staff.
The school also had an existing after school student care center called “Shamrock Cove”, located right next to our temporary church office. Shamrock Cove was being managed by students until discussions took place between CMC and St Patrick’s School, resulting in us hiring a full time staff in November to manage the center operations and care for the students who visited on weekday afternoons throughout the school year.
Other ministry growth opportunities that God ushered in for us in our new, larger environment included carpark marshalling and an expanded ‘welcome team’, the formalization of our ministry to foreign domestic helpers (called Grace Fellowship), and new fundraising initiatives like our memorable flea markets. Special interest groups like badminton, cycling, and handicrafts groups began casually sprouting across the church as more CMC folk began taking initiative to create new opportunities for fellowship and outreach.
Alongside the annual focus on Connecting, 2011 also saw a further push to invite growth through joining care groups, in a church-wide locally-produced campaign called “Because We’re Stronger Together”.
We bid a teary farewell to Rev Gordon Wong and welcomed home Rev Edmund de Souza, energized from his 2011 sabbatical and happily re-appointed back to CMC to continue shepherding this flock into its new premises, and beyond.
Our second year of residency at our temporary home, St Patrick’s School, brought a shift in focus from connecting to Serving one another. By this year CMC was totally abuzz with fundraising efforts (such as flea markets and walkathons) that were enjoyable and unifying across ministries and ages, as well as attractive to our friends outside of church.
Our children’s ministry, now at full capacity even for the St Patrick’s School grounds, underwent a major structural overhaul and rebranded themselves as “Christkidz” to pave the way for future growth. Our youth ministry did the same in April, becoming “Ignite youth ministry” and launching a new emphasis on seeker friendly services.
CMC also consolidated its various marriage enrichment, parenting support and family bonding activities into a formalized “Family Life Ministry”.
Weather conditions in 2011 and early 2012 had delayed construction of our new church by some weeks, so the new date of completion was projected as Easter 2013, but little did we know that as we were going about our regular Sunday services and ministry activities in the first half of the year, God was planning a truly special surprise for all of us.
As we were seeking God together in worship and learning with Pastor Neil Smith (from Planetshakers church Melbourne) at our biennial church camp in June in Kuantan Malaysia, we received news that the authorities had just made new allowances for the possibility of increasing the plot ratio of religious buildings in certain areas. To us it was nothing short of a miracle, and so we took the heavy hint from God and made an appeal to the URA for a fourth floor to be added to our new church building. The necessary discussion and approval process that ensued took several months but we were eventually granted the plot ratio increase (from 1.0 to 1.4) and the approval to add another floor. (Prior to all this, we had in faith already catered for the additional capacity in our original plans.) How good our God is! This development allows for the addition of one more worship hall, a large church office and more multipurpose rooms. The revised projected date of completion is March 2014, and we are very, very excited.