Amazing Sarawak – Part 7

REVEREND Dr. Thomas Francis arrived in Kuching in 1848 and established the first Anglican mission, school and medical clinic in no time.
THE Siew San Teng Tua Pek Kong at the foot of Bukit Mata Kuching, Kuching was already in existence before 1856.

Most decorative  Tua Pek Kong Temple

The Eng Ann Teng Tua Pek Kong at JalanTemple, Sibu, faces the Rajang River signifying that Tua Pek Kong is guarding the wealth of Sibu town. The temple began as a small wooden hut in 1871 and was re-built in 1897.

During the big Sibu fire in 1928, the temple was spared. In 1945 when the alliance army counter attacked and bombed the Japanese troops in Sibu, the town was destroyed and the Tua Pek Kong temple in ruins, but the statue of Tua Pek Kong was intact. The devotees believe that for the Tua Pek Kong statue to survive the two disasters is clear proof of its celestial power.

A new temple was built and completed on 7 September 1957 and expanded by 3 May 1980. In 1982 the management committee decided to re-build the rear part of the temple and construct a 7-storey pagoda with a rock garden and fountain. The project was finally completed in 1989.

The management committee is formed with representatives of the main Chinese associations. The temple gives alms to poor people and offers education loans to students of various races to study for degree courses. The fund comes from the voluntary donations of devotees.

THE Eng Ann Teng Tua Pek Kong at Jalan Temple, Sibu along the Rajang River started as a small wooden hut in 1871.

Oldest Tua Pek Kong Temple

The Siew San Teng Tua Pek Kong is situated at the foot of Bukit Mata Kuching. It was originally built at the meeting point of three main roads, JalanTuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Padungan and Main Bazaar, facing the source of the Sarawak river in Kuching. According to Chinese feng shui, the temple is sited in a position to guard the wealth of Kuching from flowing away.

The early Chinese Immigrants brought their local deities for protection during their sea voyages. Those coming to Kuching were mostly from Fukien province, China and their local deity is the Earth God in charge of safety and wealth of living persons. In the Hockien language, it is called Too Te Kong. With interaction between the Hokkien and Hakka, the salutation of Too Tee Kong was changed to Tua Pek Kong which means respectful ancestors. To the Chinese, their ancestors are protectors of living persons. The name of Tua Pek Kong is only known in Malaysia and Singapore. In Taiwan and Fukien province, Too Te Kong is the proper salutation for the Earth God.

The temple was already in existence before 1856 as that year was inscribed in the main beam of the temple to record the year the repair works was carried out. As a result, the Siew San Teng Tua Pek Kong in Kuching is regarded as the oldest temple in Sarawak. It is managed by the Kuching Chinese Community Charitable Trust Board and its members are appointed by the Sarawak government.

First Christian Missionary

Johan Michael Carl Hupe, a German Lutheran, was the first Christian missionary to serve in Sarawak. Born on 30 May 1818 in Halle, he was ordained in 1842. In response to an appeal for help, the Halle Mission sent him to work with the Rhinish Mission in Borneo two years after his ordination.

He sailed from Amsterdam on 25 June 1842 and reached Java six month laters. Hupe went to Borneo in March 1844 visiting Bandjermasin, Pontianak, Kajagan and Sambas before arriving in Sarawak on 4 December the same year. He spent his time in Dutch Borneo, Singapore and Sarawak until ill health forced him to leave the tropics. He returned to Europe in early 1847, and worked at the secretariat of the Halle Mission.

First Anglican Church

Outside Kuching

The first outstation Anglican Church was erected in Banting, Sri Aman, after a visit by Rajah James Brooke and the Rev. Dr. Thomas McDougall in 1859. Made from belian, the Banting Church was consecrated on 17 July that same year. The old church, which has been renovated, is still used by the Iban Christians in the Banting vicinity.

RAJAH James Brooke laid the ‘belian’ foundation for the first Anglican Church in 1849. It’s the present St. Thomas’s Church, Kuching.

First Anglican Church

Reverend Dr. Thomas Francis McDougall founded the first Anglican Church in Sarawak comprising a mission school, medical clinic and accommodation for him and his wife on 28 August 1849.

The belian (ironwood) foundation for St. Thomas’s Church was laid by Rajah James Brooke. The church and cemetery were consecrated on 22 January 1851. The belian structure was eventually replaced by the splendid building we see today that was consecrated by Bishop Cornwall on 9 June 1956.

First Anglican Bishop

REVEREND Dr. Thomas Francis arrived in Kuching in 1848 and established the first Anglican mission, school and medical clinic in no time.

Reverend Dr. Thomas Francis McDougall arrived on St. Peter’s Day, 28 June 1848, with his wife Harriette, and quickly established the first Anglican mission, school and medical clinic in Kuching.

He was the first bishop consecrated outside England, breaking an ancient tradition at a ceremony in Calcutta Cathedral, India, on 18 October 1855. He was the first surgeon to become an Anglican Bishop and appointed Bishop of Labuan in Calcutta. By invitation from Rajah James Brooke, simultaneously he became bishop of Sarawak in 1856.

After his retirement in 1869, he was succeeded by eight other bishops of British origin, namely Walter Chambers (1869-1881), George Frederick Hose (1882-1908), William Robert Mounsey (1909-1916), Ernest Deny Logie Danson (1917-1931), Noel Baring Hudson (1932-1937), Francis Septimus Hollis (1938-1948), Nigel Cornwall (1949-1962) and Nicholas Allenby (1963-1968).

Each bishop played an important role in the continuing development of the Anglican Mission in Sarawak until a suitable local was sufficiently prepared to lead it. Basil Temenggong, an Iban from near Betong, became the first Sarawakian to head the Anglican Church in Sarawak.

House of the Epiphany

After many attempts to establish a theological teaching centre in the 1950’s with mixed success, Bishop Cornwall set up a specialised college to train local men into priesthood. To prepare them to run the diocese independent of external help, he commissioned the House of the Epiphany to be built in the grounds of St. Thomas’s Cathedral in Kuching. Father Peter Howes was recalled from Taee, Serian to establish the centre.

Ten ordinands were enrolled into the college in 1952 with all activities temporarily taking place in the Bishop’s house. The buildings were completed and dedicated for use on the Feast of Epiphany, 6 January 1953. In 1971, the college was affiliated to the Australian College of Theology (ACT), offering courses in Diploma in Ministry and Diploma in Missiology.

The House of the Epiphany later broke away from the establishment and created its own ordination course titled the Bishop’s Certificate of Ministry in 1992 under the leadership of David A. Edwards before he was replaced by the first local warden of the College, Aeries Sumping Jingan, in March 1992, ending 144 years of direct external support for the diocese.

THESE passages are taken from the book “Sarawak Book of Amazing Facts and Records” which was published in 2001 by SANYAN Group of Companies. 

(To be continued)

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