(Written by Mr. Soh Tiang Keng)
Early Beginnings – The history of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit dates back in late 1979 when the Lord began to touch a small group of interdenominational Christians. This group of Spirit-filled friends and relatives – Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists – hopped from home to home every week for prayer and praise and Bible study under the pastoral leadership of Canon James Wong, Vicar of the Chapel of the Resurrection (COR).
A year later, when the group snowballed with more people being baptized in the Holy Spirit, God challenged them with a vision for outreach in Whampoa. On December 7, 1980, Whampoa Christian Centre (WCC), occupying the site of a government-owned bungalow at Jalan Tenteram, was launched with a service inaugurated by Dr Augustine Tan, the spirit-filled economics professor from the National University of Singapore. The service was attended by 23 people. The Centre was run as an extension of COR.
Regular activities at WCC – Since its inception, the Lord poured its blessings in abundance to the Whampoa Christian Centre, which saw rapid growth in congregation size and its various ministries. The church held Sunday worship services at 5.15 pm. Before the start of each service, Sunday school and Bible study classes for various age groups – from toddlers to adults -were held.
The Sunday service was supplemented by prayer and praise meetings every Tuesday evening, senior citizen’s club gatherings every Friday morning, an active prayer and intercession ministry and regular cell meetings which started in June 1984. Its evangelistic and outreach thrust included Sunday evangelistic services, dinners open-air Christmas concerts at the basketball court next to Whampoa church.
Also, bi-monthly Christian films and Hollywood blockbusters like “Ten Commandments” and “Ben Hur” were screened at the basketball court. The Whampoa centre also opened its doors and rooms to accommodate overseas missionaries and pastors as well as campers from various churches.
Launch of the Mandarin Ministry – The active Chinese ministry started a separate Mandarin service in May 1984. This service was held in the front hall of the WCC bungalow, near the building’s storehouse annex which served as the sanctuary of the English service. The Mandarin service got off to a successful start. A year later, in June 1985, the Mandarin service was changed to a morning bilingual service, with translation in English.
Kick-off of the building fund – The building fund of the Whampoa Christian Centre was launched on Sowers’ Sunday in April 1984 to challenge the congregation to raise $1.5 million for the new chapel-cum-counseling centre at the new St Andrew’s School at Potong Pasir.
The building fund committee had been active in planning various projects to tap funds for the construction cost. Later, a fund-raising dinner at Mandarin Hotel at Orchard Hotel climaxed efforts to finance the building of the new chapel. Nearly a thousand donors attended the function. During dinner, the Rt. Rev. Moses Tay, the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Singapore, announced the name of the new Potong Pasir church – “The Chapel of the Holy Spirit” (CHS). By end-1984, the Sunday congregation at Whampoa totaled nearly 140 for the English service and 20 for the Chinese service.
Pastoral guidance at WCC – Since its inception, the Whampoa Christian Centre was run under the pastoral leadership of Canon James Wong, Vicar of the Chapel of the Resurrection.at Malan Road. But he was assisted by two resident pastors in the day-to-day running of the centre between 1983 and early 1986. The first resident pastor was Rev. Kingsley Ponniah, the priest-in-charge, who later passed the baton to Rev. Soh Guan Chin, the deacon-in-charge.
From Whampoa to the Promised Land – 1986 is a historic and memorable year for it signified the march of the church congregation from Whampoa to its new promised land at Potong Pasir. The Whampoa Christian Centre was renamed Chapel of the Holy Spirit (CHS) in April, 1986. The congregation had swelled from 30 in late-1980 to more than 300 when it moved to the new building at Potong Pasir. On Sunday, August 17 that year, the Whampoa congregation attended the inaugural service of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Potong Pasir.
Consecration of Chapel of the Holy Spirit – CHS, with a maximum seating capacity of 900, was consecrated on Pentecost Sunday on June 7, 1987, in a ceremony and service officiated by Bishop Moses Tay. Hymns like “Because He Lives’ and “Thine Be the Glory’’ were sung at the service with scripture reading taken from Psalm 84: 1-12 and I Kings 8: 22-30.
The service ended with the benediction given by Rt. Rev. Chiu Ban It. Though the church has moved to Potong Pasir, it still maintained strong links with Whampoa. CHS ran the Whampoa Care Centre, replacing the Whampoa Christian Centre, with the Anglican Welfare Council.
Expansion of activities and new ministries at Potong Pasir – Operating from its new home base at Potong Pasir, the Whampoa church, under its new Parish name of Chapel of the Holy Spirit, continued to step up its existing ministries like evangelism and outreach, Sunday school and Christian Education, prayer and intercession, cell ministries and mission trips to this region and other parts of Asia.
A new ministry – Medical Sunday, aimed at driving home the message of physical and spiritual health, – was launched in 1989. CHS also started a tuition ministry at Potong Pasir, as a follow-up to its tuition outreach at Whampoa.
Integration of English services – On Feb. 12, 1995, a single English morning service, starting at 10.30 am, was instituted to integrate the two former CHS morning services – at 11.15 am and 9.45 am – conducted in the English language. Three years later, in July 1998, another integration took place when the evening English service, attended by a small congregation, was absorbed into the English morning service.
The service time of the Chinese congregation, held concurrently with the English morning service at 10.30 am, remained unchanged. The English congregation worship in the sanctuary on the first floor while the Chinese congregation worship in the counseling centre on the ground floor.
Changes in Vicars and pastoral leadership at CHS – Over the years, the pastoral leadership of CHS has changed hands a few times with the appointment of different Vicars and acting Vicars. In June 1988, Rev. Tan Piah took over as Vicar from Canon James Wong after CHS became a full-fledged parish at Potong Pasir. Rev. Tan shepherded the CHS flock for more than seven years until Sept. 1. 1995 when Rev. Tony Tan became the new Vicar.
A year later, in Oct 1996, Canon Samuel Sia took over the helm of CHS as acting Vicar from Rev. Tony Tan. Another change of the guard took place in July 1997 when Canon Sia passed the torch to Rev. Dr Soh Guan Chin, the new Vicar.
For Rev. Soh, it was a happy homecoming to CHS after an absence of nearly 10 years. For he had served as resident pastor and deacon for more than two years, first at Whampoa Christian Centre and later at CHS. Rev. Soh had pastored CHS for six years before passing the Vicar’s baton to Rev. Titus Chung on July 1, 2003.
Rev. Chung was no stranger to the church for he had been priest in charge of the Chinese congregation since joining CHS in 1997. Three years later, in September 2005, Rev. Titus Chung left CHS to pursue his doctorate studies in Scotland. CHS was left without a permanent Vicar since Rev Chung’s departure.
But order and stability were maintained during his interim period with two seasoned Anglican leaders – Rt. Rev. John Tan, the acting Vicar and Rev. Hwa Chih, the Assistant to the Vicar – at the helm of pastoral leadership at CHS. In June 2006, a deacon Rev. Michael Teh was posted to CHS by the Bishop. In November 2006, Rev. Teh was priested and Bishop John Tan relinquished his duties as acting Vicar.
On Jan. 1, 2007, Rev. Michael Teh assumed the post of acting Vicar of CHS.
Rev. Hwa Chih continued to serve CHS as honorary priest for the CHS Chinese ministry until the arrival of Rev. James Tan on August 1, 2007, to serve as priest for the Chinese congregation. However, on 1st March 2008 Rev James Tan was posted out of CHS to be the Vicar of Church of the Good Shepherd.
In his place, Rev Titus Lum joined CHS on 1st March 2008.
Launch of the Tamil ministry – The Tamil ministry got off to a smooth start on Sept 1, 2006, with a Sunday afternoon service at 4 pm. Supplementing this Tamil service on Sundays are the children’s ministry at 4.30 pm and the youth ministry at 6.30 pm. The average size of the congregation for the afternoon service is about 20. The Tamil ministry is under the leadership and guidance of Pastor Salmon Periyanayakam.
Return to the Promised Land – CHS members were rendered homeless for 40 months when their permanent church at Potong Pasir, Avenue 1 was being upgraded as part of the St. Andrew’s Village project. In June 2003, they moved to their temporary sanctuary at St Peter’s Church at 1 Tavistock Avenue in Serangoon Gardens, where they worshipped for nearly 20 months. After that, they moved to their second temporary home at St Andrew’s Secondary School where they worshipped in the school’s auditorium for 20 months.
Finally, in Sept. 24, 2006, they returned to their upgraded CHS building at Potong Pasir Avenue 1. A week before, members joined the Sunday procession march – making joyful noise with tambourine and bells – from their temporary home at St Andrew’s Secondary School at Francis Thomas Drive to the new-look CHS buildings. The march finished off with prayers and cleansing and dedication for the building to pave the way for the long-awaited homecoming of the congregation to their Promised Land.