Early Methodist work in Java

Aug 2003    
Christian women and children of Kebajoeran in Batavia District. -- Methodist Church Archives picture.

From its beginnings in 1905 as a continuing mission to Chinese boys and girls who had been at Oldham Hall and Nind Home, until it was closed in 1928 because of financial and operational problems, the Java mission catered to a growing Methodist community. Part of the work is described by the Superintendent, the Rev A. V. Klaus.

‘WHEN the first Methodist missionary, Dr Denyes, came to Java in 1905, Buitenzorg (now Bogor) seemed to present the best opportunity, and he settled there. Before the end of that year he was able to start a small church, which in a few years became a strong congregation … Buitenzorg is also the centre for the Training School for Women.

With the multiplication of institutions the direct evangelistic work in Buitenzorg failed to receive its due share of attention. The services were well attended and there were additions each year, but practically all of these came from the schools …

The first evangelistic work in the vicinity of Batavia (now Jakarta) was begun in the village of Karet, a few miles from Batavia, where a Javanese preacher had gathered together a small group of Christians which he turned over to us in November 1905. A short time later, persecutions scattered these people but some of them formed the nucleus for the congregation at Tanah Abang. Soon after a service was started in the lower part of the city, first Kroekoet and later at Mangga Besar.

The church at Pasar Senen was started in 1906, and five years later a building was erected at Kramat, which is our only bona fide church building in the city. We now have three good congregations at Mangga Besar, Kramat and Tanah Abang and about four hundred Christians … All of our congregations in Batavia are made up of Java-born Chinese, while at Kramat we have a congregation made up of Chinese and natives. If we were able to retain all we have won during the past twenty years, our churches would not hold the congregations …

Our Book Depot is also located in Batavia. At first the function of this Book Depot was to supply our English schools with text-books. Later it became a depository for Bibles and religious books. We still sell enough books to enable us pay all expenses …

… next to Batavia, the largest city in the island of Java [is Soerabaja]. It has a population of nearly two hundred thousand. Since it is the centre of the sugar trade, Soerabaja is the commercial metropolis of Java. Because of its wickedness it is frequently called the “Paris” of Java.

The work of our Mission was begun in 1909 when a Chinese pastor was sent to organise some Hokkiens and Foochows into a church. The following year our first missionary was sent to Soerabaja. Until the latter part of 1918 various missionaries provided their own support by teaching English in a large Chinese school … For five years from 1920 to 1925 Soerabaja enjoyed the full-time services of a missionary. Since that time it has again been without missionary oversight, except such as has been extended from Batavia.

Soerabaja is the only place in Java where we have church work in the Chinese language, and here it is wholly in Chinese. We have at present three congregations each using a different dialect of Chinese. The oldest congregation of Hokkiens is composed largely of businessmen. The Cantonese congregation is made up of artisans, chiefly carpenters. In the Foochow congregation we have various classes represented.

The Christians in our church there at present number two hundred and forty. The China-born folks travel much more than the people born here, and we find our Christian community here constantly changing. Considerable effort has been made to follow those who have settled in another part of Java. — MM, May 1926, p.9-10.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.


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