Where will you go this weekend?
With the ongoing restrictions on overseas travel and tourism vouchers available, going round Singapore might well become a highlight of this school holiday. And it’s not a bad one: What better time to explore lesser-known parts of our island—and find out that it’s not as small as it seems? Or to visit places you’ve heard so much about, but never got around to seeing?
The national campaign to “Rediscover Singapore” offers an interesting opportunity to see some parts of the country in a new light.
Apart from the southern islands, “ulu” parts in the northwest, and lesser-visited attractions, I’d like to suggest adding one more category to the list: places that played a significant role in the growth of the Christian faith in Singapore.
Lest you think, “Oh no, why would I go on a boring history excursion?”, let me quickly add: some of these places are pretty little gems that make for a great Instagram post.
If you’re looking for somewhere different to take your children, or looking for something more meaningful than the usual tourist sight, consider some possibilities:
Baby Gate: Where Unwanted Children Were Rescued
Where: CHIJMES, Victoria Street
An orphanage set up next to the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus in 1855 became a refuge for unwanted children when mothers left their babies at a side gate of the orphanage. This gate became known as the “Baby Gate” or “Gate of Hope”. Babies were given free education and taught useful job and domestic skills, thanks to nuns who obeyed God’s call to “defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed” (Psalm 82:3). Look out for the plaque marking the spot.
Chin Lien Bible Seminary: John Sung’s home in Singapore
Where: Green Lane
John Sung, a fiery evangelist from China, was like the Billy Graham of Asia or John Wesley of China. Called by God to bring the gospel to the East, he travelled through Asia sharing the good news with hundreds of thousands of people in the 1920s and 1930s. He visited Singapore several times, basing himself at Chin Lien Bible Seminary, which formed his home and field headquarters here. Take a look at the beautiful Telok Ayer Methodist Church, too, where Sung preached 40 sermons within 2 weeks.
Armenian Church: Singapore’s oldest church
Where: Hill Street
Built in 1935, the Armenian Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator is the oldest church here. Offering a quiet refuge in the middle of the bustling city, the church grounds are also home to the tombstones of notable pioneers like Agnes Joaquim, the woman behind our national flower; Catchick Moses, who found The Straits Times; and members of the Sarkies family, who built the Raffles Hotel. Like the exiled Israelites who were called to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” they lived in (Jeremiah 29:7), these early migrants made significant contributions to Singapore while holding on to their faith.
These historical places are not only interesting and educational sights, but they are also a reminder that our faith today can be said to be built on the foundation of efforts by pioneers to show God’s love in practical, meaningful ways.
Just as knowing our cultural and familial roots helps us to appreciate who we are as Singaporeans, understanding the history of the church and Christian faith here will hopefully also inspire us to build a strong foundation for future generations of followers of Christ.
That is why the many altars built by the Israelites in the Old Testament often had a double purpose: they were not only where God’s people offered their sacrifices, but also reminded them of the times that God delivered them from destruction. They were a constant reminder of God’s sovereignty, justice, love, mercy, protection, and provision.
As we explore Singapore and rediscover its charms, may we also rediscover God’s goodness in our faith journey and say as the psalmist did in Psalm 145:4–7:
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
Prefer to stay home? Here’s another challenge you could try: A biblical version of a 100km walk around Singapore.