Our Church and Brethren history
In 1907, the original piece of Bukit Arang land was in the district known as AMOKIAH (predecessor of today’s Ang Mo Kio). It belonged to a widow named Tan Poh Neo who inherited it from her husband. On 8 July 1907 she sold this piece of land to Yeo Chow Cheng, a planter. Yeo was a Christian worshipping with the brethren in the Chinese Gospel Hall. The Lord opened his heart and in the next year, 1908, he donated this piece of land to the Chinese Gospel Hall.
Thus, the Chinese Gospel Hall in Bukit Arang began and the Chinese work continued through the Japanese occupation years. From this period (1942 to 1945), through to the end of the Second World War in August 1945, and right up to 1953, services were held only on Sundays. It was during the late sixties and the early seventies that the impetus of our present development began to take shape.
The Vision Of Our Pioneers
1975 – 2006
Going back as far as 1968, our parent church, Bethesda Gospel Hall situated in Bras Basah road, desired to bring the gospel to a new region in Singapore. Back then, the Serangoon area was all ‘kampung’. Through the generosity of a member who bequeathed 2 acres of land, we built our present church along a lane called Bukit Arang, completed in 1975. This is also why we called our church – Bethesda Church Bukit Arang.
Our pioneers were active in evangelism and youth work. They gave tuition to the neighbourhood children, organised games and gave out gospel tracts to those living in Serangoon. By 1977, we had a congregation of 80 members who gathered weekly and it was then four responsible brethren were appointed to oversee the work. We had our first Breaking of Bread service in April 1977. Subsequently, three elders were appointed in 1978 and 1979 in preparation for becoming autonomous.
In the 1990s, our congregation continued to grow and we appointed even more elders. Being true to our pioneering spirit, we made more deliberate decisions to advance the gospel in our neighbourhood. In faith, we started a second English service and launched our Community Adoption Programme in Serangoon to reach out to more people. With the extension of our church building – the present N building – we were able to set up a student care centre and kindergarten. Beyond Singapore, our members also pioneered a new mission work in China.
With much more gospel work to be done, we were compelled to appoint full time paid pastors to carry on what our pioneers began. With the forthcoming support from our members, church leaders and elders, William Lee became Bukit Arang’s first Senior Pastor in 2007.
The City On A Hill
2007 – 2020
When William Lee became the Senior Pastor in 2007, the church leaders and elders decided to refresh the Church’s vision and mission to cement all the gospel work that was done. Matthew 5:14-16 became the anchor scripture for how the church leadership wanted to transit Bukit Arang into the next phase back then. The vision was to be “The City On A Hill” and the mission would be to “let our light shine in our neighbourhood, all Serangoon and Singapore and to the ends of the earth.” This vision and mission was our focus for 13 years (2007-2020). Through the years, it has enabled us to be highly intentional in our evangelistic efforts to make Christ known to all.
Under God’s hand, we have witnessed the steady growth in numbers to our congregation. In the last decade, we started many evangelistic initiatives to speak the word to non-believers. Life’s Big Questions, the gospel in four meals, Just Looking to name a few. We have also invested our energies in training and equipping our small group leaders to read the bible for themselves. Through them, they too trained their members to do the same. It has been wonderful to witness the transformation of many lives and to see their growing love for Jesus.
While recognising the positive growth, our elders knew that we could not rest on our laurels. Since 2018, the elders have been praying and thinking about what the next lap of Bukit Arang will look like. We asked ourselves what we needed to do to best serve our members and people in Singapore and overseas.
Over many months, the elders evaluated Bukit Arang’s strengths and weaknesses. We asked ourselves what more is needed to enable our Church to flourish in our knowledge of King Jesus.
Together, we resolved that the same pioneering spirit is needed to enable us to keep our momentum of the past 45 years. We know that we have to invest in our next generation of leaders and members. And we will do so in our next lap vision and mission.
Bukit Arang continues to be united in its purpose to advance the gospel and in speaking the word to one another.
Brethren history in Singapore
Philip Robinson (the owner of Robinson Department Store) arrived in Singapore in 1857 and together with a group of seven believers, all British, they met at 108 Bencoolen Street for service on 3 July 1864 and thus inaugurated the Brethren work in Singapore.
As the early assembly at Bencoolen Street grew, believers moved to new premises at 77 Bras Basah Road in 1866. This became known as Bethesda Bras Basah which later moved to Ang Mo Kio after the government acquired its land.
Currently, there are nearly 20 autonomous Brethren assemblies in different parts of the island, each with their own Elders and many with full-time Pastors. There is an informal Brethren Network Fellowship (BNF) where the leaders meet on a regular basis for fellowship, sharing and prayer.