“To be a disciple making, praying and family Church”
Mission of the Church :
” To preach the gospel so that people can come to Jesus, be members of His family through Baptism, be nurtured to Christ-like maturity through God’s Word, Worship and the Holy Communion, be equipped for ministry in the Church and the world. “
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
“A new command I give you: Love one another, As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples,if you love one another.”
Matthew 21:13 – “It is written,” he said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer …”
The scriptures and the gifts that the Lord has given to us as a congregation forms the basis of our Vision and Mission. Each year our theme is based on the Vision.
Once again, we welcome you to join us and be a part of God’s family that prays and proclaims the Gospel so that through us, God can make many disciples.
History of the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer (LCOR)
It took many loving and generous hearts, trust and belief, and God’s infinite grace for LCOR to have been built and thus become Singapore’s first Lutheran church. On 6th March 1960, the church was dedicated by Rev. John R Nelson.
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Rev. John Nelson conducted by our church women, Amy Toh and Jennie Smith.
Establishing Singapore’s First Lutheran Church
LCOR was a project of the Lutheran Conference in Malaya. In 1957, three different Lutheran groups got together to organize the Lutheran Conference in Malaya. There were pastors from the Tamil Lutheran Church, lay representatives from the Batak Church (Huria Kristen Batak Protestant Church), and missionaries from the American Lutheran Mission.
One of the objectives of the conference was to establish a church in Singapore. To have a Lutheran church building, in addition to the one at the Naval Base, which was really only a temporary wooden structure which the Tamil Lutheran Church had no title to the land. The Admiralty had let them build a place of worship there but we wanted to build a church together in Singapore.
Challenges in Securing the Land
Our Lutheran mission had applied to the Singapore Improvement Trust for a piece of land in Queenstown but because of the Bukit Ho Swee fire, the building of the new town (Queenstown) was delayed which meant we would only get possession of the land after the mid-60s. So we decided to go ahead and look for other means to build a church in a centrally located area in Singapore.
The Tamil Lutheran Church had a piece of land deeded to them by one of its members, Ms. Amal. She had given the land with the stipulation that a church building be built on that land. As that piece of land was far from the city center in Geylang, it was not considered a good location for a church looking for a central area.
The Tamil Lutheran Church had given permission for our joint church to be built on that land but since we preferred a more central area, the Tamil church applied to High Court in the late 50s and received a court order to sell the land and reinvest the money on another piece of land to build the church, and co-build the church with the other two Lutheran groups.
With the proceeds, we purchased a piece of land on Duke’s Road which has just come onto the market. This was a good and convenient location as at that time, it was known that the Farrer Road/Adam Road/Lornie Road area was going to be the outer ring road of central Singapore. Further, Duke’s Road is just off Bukit Timah Road, the latter which connects the city through to Johore in Malaysia.
Challenges in Securing Construction Financing
Through God’s grace, we raised SGD 45,000 for the building of the church from several sources: the Tamil Church (SGD 5,000), the Batak Church (SGD 5,000), American Lutheran Church (SGD 5,000), United Lutheran Church of America (ULCA) (SGD 15,000), and the Lutheran Women’s Fellowship (of the ULCA) (SGD 15,000).
Because the piece of land on Duke’s Road is low-lying and on marshy land, it is subject to flooding. We used part of the proceeds from the sale of the Geylang property to fill and raise up the level of this land. During the construction, the contractors put in a lot of piling and six feet of fill. However, just before completion, the floor sank and we had to redo the floor. Finally, the church was completed in early 1960 and I dedicated it to God on 6th March 1960.
The Grand Dedication Ceremony
The Dedication was a grand occasion with some 300 people coming from the Tamil and Batak congregations, and the Tamil congregation bringing five Royal Palm trees to be planted during the ceremony to represent the five groups that had joined forces to fund the construction.
We had representatives from the Tamil and Batak churches and our Lutheran Mission. And representing the Lutheran Women’s Fellowship was Martha Reed, a missionary nurse who was with us at that time. To represent ULCA, we had Rusty Wieburg, my classmate who happened to be visiting Singapore at that time as he was a Chaplain on board a ship calling at Singapore.
Soon after the Dedication, pastors for the English and Chinese services were appointed: Dr Clifford Anscar Nelson to start the English service and Pastor Helmut Matzat, a German missionary fluent in Mandarin, to start the Chinese service. We had four services: the Tamil service at 8 am, Batak service at 9 am, Chinese service at 10 am, and the English service at 11 am.
The First Five Years of Singapore’s First Lutheran Church
It was a rough beginning.
Formation of Chinese and English congregations
Pastor Matzat worked very hard in forming the Chinese congregation. As he was fluent in Mandarin, he could reach out to the people living in the Chinese kampong (kampong: a local term for a village) near the church. He visited them, talked to them about the Bible to get their interest, found a few Christians and invited them to church.
The Chinese congregation began to form quite well until early 1961, when Pastor Matzat and his family had to leave Singapore to return to Germany. His wife had succumbed to malaria and her doctors advised her not to live in the tropics.
Shortly after Pastor Matzat left, Dr Clifford Anscar Nelson arrived. He was very well-known in the Lutheran Church of America as he was a co-author of the new hymnal which had just been published in 1960. He was a talented musician and could play the organ.
Tasked to form the English congregation, Dr Nelson’s plan was to reach out to the Scandinavian and German Lutherans living in Singapore at that time as there were very few English-speaking Singaporeans in the neighbourhood. There was also a Tamil kampong nearby and he got to know the Abisheganaden family, and their eldest daughter became our first church organist. He also persuaded the family to put up musical performances to attract people to church.
Dr Nelson tried very hard and although he formed a small English-speaking congregation, he became discouraged and felt that there was little scope for work among the English-speaking. In the summer of 1961, DrNelson resigned and returned to the United States.
Rev John R Nelson Re-assigned to Singapore
It was the summer of 1961 and LCOR had crossed the first anniversary of her establishment. My wife and I had been on furlough in the United States and were on our way to Kuala Lumpur to establish a new church when we made a stopover in India to visit my wife’s mother who was a missionary there. It was there that I received a cable informing me that I had been re-assigned to the LCOR in Singapore.
We flew into Singapore in July 1961 and started our ministry at Redeemer church a week before Dr Nelson returned home. Pastor Matzat had already left for Germany. We continued with the work among the English-speaking in the neighbourhood. We found a Wang family who lived up the road and whose son could speak English. They started to come to the English service.
Soon we found another Lutheran family – the Martin family – and they joined the church. I remember Mr Martin ran a hair treatment clinic and his wife helped the church office a lot and typed our weekly bulletins. I also remember their son, Roderick, as his confirmation first began with Pastor Matzat and when the pastor left, my wife and I continued and completed Roderick’s catechesis.
There were also the Leong brothers who came from Malaysia to study in Singapore. And Choong Chee Pang who later became the Principal of Trinity College.
Growth in Church Membership
The congregation grew steadily when we persisted in visiting and inviting people to come to Redeemer Church, and running Bible Studies and Sunday School classes for their children. What also helped was the growth of Queenstown when more flats were built by 1961 that drew in more people. Pastor Yang Tao Tung, an experienced evangelist, was assigned to work with me on the Chinese Ministry. He was a very good evangelist pastor and gathered interest quite quickly. We knocked on the doors of the flats at Tanglin Halt in Queenstown, as well as the people living in the nearby Tamil kampong that was between Bukit Timah and Dunearn Roads as there were many young people there. We met many people who were not interested at all but some were. Nonetheless, we would return to visit them again and again, and invite them to church.
During that time, the neighbourhood also got to know the church because we distributed food supplies on Saturdays. We obtained the relief supplies of items such as powdered milk, bulgar wheat, and tins of cheese through World Church Service. Families would come from both the Tamil and Chinese kampongs. This was how we became acquainted with many young people and children in the area and invited them to Sunday School.
Growth in Various Language Services
Batak language service. Many of our Batak members returned to Indonesia when Confrontation hit us. The number of people in the Batak congregation dropped way down and because they became considerably smaller, they felt it would be easier to return to the Short Street Methodist Church.
However, for the Batak members who had been in Singapore for a long time and had become Singapore citizens, they joined our English service. They include the Tobing and Hutagalung families. And I rejoice that Rosanna Hutagalung later became a pastor and our Lutheran missionary to Thailand.
Tamil language service. After the Tamil Lutheran Church in Malaysia stopped their work in Singapore, their members became part of Redeemer church and joined the English service since they are English-speaking.
Chinese language service. David Wang was the first member from the Chinese congregation whom I baptized. His family was one of the three founding families of Bedok Lutheran Church. His daughter is now an organist and his son, Samual Wang, the pastor there.