St Hilda’s Church Celebrates Her 80th Anniversary

posted 01.11.2014

by Ven Wong Tak Meng

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might… Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap… In the morning sow your seed and in the evening, withhold not your hand…” Ecclesiastes 9:10, 11:4, 11:6

In the early 1930s, an English clergyman surveyed the state of the church in Singapore.  He was not happy that Christians living in the outlying areas could not regularly worship at the Cathedral because they have no cars to drive into the city. Even more unsatisfactory was the fact that the large Asian community, including many children, was not being reached for the Gospel.

Refusing to “watch the wind” or “look at the clouds”, Archdeacon Graham White took over the running of the struggling Bethel English School and used the ground floor for worship in 1934. St Hilda’s Church and School were born, to the delight of many children, Christians and even non-believers living in Katong. In 1936, with his own savings and a loan, he secured the school and adjoining plots of land for the future of the work.

Little did the visionary and hard-working Archdeacon know that merely eight years after that step of faith, Singapore would fall to the Japanese forces. He would be imprisoned. And that he and his wife would be promoted to glory a few months before the liberation in 1945.

But God was faithful to see St Hilda’s Church and School through those years of hardship and uncertainty. His abiding presence inspired the laity to lead and serve, with a can-do spirit and a sense of humour, even when there was a severe shortage of clergy.

Archdeacon Graham White and his fellow missionary clergy left behind not only an endowment of freehold land but more importantly, they gave us a vision for St Hilda’s Church to be a beacon of faith, hope and love, even in the darkest of times.

Fanned and fueled by successive generations of clergy and laity over the years, that fiery beacon is burning brighter than ever as St Hilda’s Church celebrates her 80th Anniversary this year.

The year began with the Consecration Service on 5 January 2014 with the new Vicar, Archdeacon Wong Tak Meng, challenging the Congregation to “put out into the deep.” The next Sunday, the phrase “Run with Endurance, Race with Joy” inspired by Hebrews 12:1-2 became the theme of the year-long Anniversary celebrations.

The Service of Institution and Induction of Archdeacon Wong followed on 15 February. Bishop Rennis Ponniah encouraged the whole parish—English, Mandarin and Hokkien—including our Kindergarten and Community Services, to see ourselves as being inducted together with the Vicar into the glorious purposes of God.

A mature Ceylon Olive tree and a young olive sapling were planted at the entrance of the Church facing Ceylon Road, to signify God’s faithful promise of His Holy Spirit in the old and the young, as St Hilda’s Church grows from generation to generation.

The English and Chinese Congregations gathered in Malacca (8-11 June) for learning and fellowship at the Anniversary Family Camp. Two Anniversary theme songs; Run the Race by Patricia Low and Run by Lily Tow and Ian Poulier, were launched to inspire St Hilda’s to make our lives count for Christ.

While these events were happening, a small but dedicated team of researchers, interviewers, photographers and writers started to gather the stories of St Hilda’s Church and School throughout the 80 years, as well as our aspirations and hopes for our Centenary in 2034. The commemorative book entitled For Generations to Come will be launched at our 80th Anniversary Celebratory Lunch on 15 November.

Alongside the planning of the book, an 80th Anniversary Fund Raising Appeal was made for members to set aside “seed money” for church growth. Three strategic funds – a Theological Scholarship Fund, a Mission Capital Expenses Fund and a Future Church Building Fund – were set up for God’s purposes.

Quietly behind the scene, the website of St Hilda’s Church underwent a radical revamp with inspiring devotions, testimonies and user-friendly navigation to meet the needs of seekers and members alike. The Car Park Marshalls Ministry was started to make coming to church a more welcoming experience. Since then, God has blessed St Hilda’s with many visitors who found us through the website and have decided to stay as regular visitors.

The 80th Anniversary Celebrations also inspired us to reach out in a fresh way. A Neighbourhood Outreach in Katong was conducted on 16 August involving more than 200 St Hildans, including children. We went out to invite the neighbours to a charity fund-raiser JoyFair on 13 September for the benefit of people in Kampong Arang being served by St Hilda’s Community Services Centre. We experienced a new excitement for outreach, a new bonding with one another and a new confidence of what is possible with the Holy Spirit’s help. JoyFair raised close to S$85,000 for charity.

We draw near to the Celebratory Lunch on 15 November and the 80th Anniversary Re-dedication Service on 16 November. Bishop Rennis will re-dedicate all our congregations and ministries for the Lord’s glory. A Time Capsule with items from the Church, the two St Hilda’s Schools, the Kindergarten and the Community Services, will be buried, to be opened on our Centenary in 2034.

Our mature Ceylon Olive tree started to bear large succulent green olives six months after planting. It is a sign of the Lord’s favour, that the Holy Spirit will enable us to bear fruit that will endure.

“He has made everything beautiful in his time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Ven Wong Tak Meng is the Vicar of St Hilda’s Church. He also serves as the Dean of Cambodia and the Archdeacon for Community Services.