“Faith Methodist Church (FMC) was built on faith.” These were the words of the Rev T. C. Nga, the pioneer pastor of FMC and now 87, when I interviewed him in his home this year.
The idea to establish a chapel for members moving to the new developing suburb of Queenstown was first mooted in 1955 by two churches: Wesley Methodist Church and Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church. It was not till nine years later – in 1964 – that a piece of land at 400 Commonwealth Drive was leased, and an ad-hoc committee was formed led by the Rev Charles Grose.
The committee wanted to build a sanctuary, a parsonage-cum-hall, and other facilities not exceeding $150,000. However, they failed to raise the necessary funds and the Rev Grose resigned in frustration.
The Rev Nga was then appointed as pioneer pastor to replace the Rev Grose, and he continued to pastor the church for 12 years, from 1964 to 1976. Prior to this appointment, he had served as pastor in Foochow Methodist Church, Fairfield Methodist Church and Wesley Methodist Church in Sitiawan, Malaysia. He did not receive a salary, but supported himself by teaching in the Anglo Chinese Continuation School.
On the land that had been leased to build the church, the Rev Nga recollected: “The land had been used for rearing pigs, and growing vegetables and rambutans. It was swampy land covered with weeds. I waded into a muddy pool with half my body buried in mud and I lost one of my shoes.” At that moment, he prayed to God for help.
Initial building plans were amended to include a religious education-cum-manse block at a total estimated cost of $250,000. After four months, $70,000 was raised in cash with $30,000 in pledges. God was at work answering the Rev Nga’s prayer for help, as Dr and Mrs Goh Kok Kee from WMC donated $100,000, enabling work on the church building to begin.
The pioneer pastor’s mission was quoted in the Eastern Sun (an independent newspaper in Singapore during the 1960s): “Mr Nga said the aim of the church was to secure the people regardless of race or nationality. The focus will be on young people who shall be guided with a useful programme to occupy their spare time. Our concentration is not just on religion, but to promote human relationship.”
The first two services were held on Easter Sunday, 1965: a morning service in Hokkien and Foochow, and an evening service in English and Mandarin. The services were held in the open until a temporary shed was built. There was no public address system and loud-hailers were used. The Rev Nga recalled that at one Sunday service it rained heavily but the area around the shed was dry. “It was a miracle!” he said.
A year later, the church building was completed. The English-speaking congregation was constituted into a Local Church Conference on July 17, 1966 (followed by the Hokkien-speaking congregation becoming Queenstown Chinese Methodist Church in 1976). It was later named “Faith Methodist Church” for two reasons: Firstly, the pioneer work had been carried out in faith despite the obstacles it faced. Faith characterised the whole project, and God honoured such a spirit.
Secondly, the church was also named to honour the memory of Faith Goh, the only daughter of main donors Dr and Mrs Goh Kok Kee; Faith died in New York on February 28, 1966.
The pioneer members of FMC certainly embodied the spirit of Hebrews 10:36 – “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” and 2 Corinthians 5:7 – “For we live by faith, not by sight.”
To quote the Rev Dr Isaac Lim, later a Pastor-in-Charge of FMC: “The story of Faith Methodist Church is a story of a people of faith and the story of an ever-faithful God.” n
References (with thanks to the Archives and History Library, The Methodist Church in Singapore):
1. One Faith, One Mission, One Hope – 30th Anniversary publication of Faith Methodist Church, 1996, edited by Adrian K. L. Lim
2. Growing Faith – 38th Anniversary publication of Faith Methodist Church, edited by Adrian K. L. Lim, Grace Yeo and Lim Peck Hoon.
3. Oral Interview with the Rev T. C. Nga on July 31, 2013.
4. Phone conversations with founding members Jeannette Nga and Gerald Liew.
Dr Tong Hoo Ing is a volunteer with Methodist Message and worships at Wesley Methodist Church. A retired neurologist, he also volunteers with Bethany Methodist Nursing Home.