By: Peter M. Kedit, Aeries S. Jingan, Darrell Tsen, Thomas Chung, Heidi Munan, Yohannan John. With Preface and Epilogue By : The Right Reverend Made Katib , Bishop of Kuching
The first Anglican missionary, the Revd. Francis Thomas McDougall, priest and doctor (who later became the first Bishop of the Diocese) came to Sarawak on 29th June 1848 ( St. Peter’s Day). The present Church compound, which was an area of jungle covered hill behind the old town was given to the Church by the Rajah and on 25th August 1849 this site Dr. McDougall began the erection of a fine wooden church capable of holding 250 persons. On 22nd August 1851 Bishop Wilson of Calcutta (within whose jurisdiction Kuching then lay) consecrated this Church to the glory of God and in honour of St. Thomas, the Apostle. The foundation stone for the present Cathedral was laid on 15th October 1953 by H.R.H. the Duchess of Kent and the building was completed by May the following year. The Consecration of the Cathedral took place on 9th June 1956 at the hand of Bishop Nigel Cornwall. They were led by thirty-year-old surgeon and priest, Francis Thomas McDougall, with his wife Harriette, and another clergyman, William Bodham Wright. The group was sent at the invitation of Rajah James Brooke, by an organisation called The Borneo Church Mission Institution, and later fully supported by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), and subsequently with some assistance from the Church Missionary Society. McDougall and his team began their missionary work at a house near the waterfront, where the present Court House is situated. They then moved inland to the east of Kuching town, which McDougall called: “Church Hill”, and “College Hill”. They served the small community of James Brooke’s Officers and town people, by starting a clinic and school. From thence, the Church expanded With the expansion of the Brooke’s regime to other parts of Sarawak. From the work of the two priests, and others who followed, after them, the Anglican Church and the teachings of Christianity have developed to what it is now: 24 Parishes, over 100 Chapels, 75 priests, and about 120,000 worshipers. The McDougalls and Wrights have planted the “original seeds” (or what traditional Iban farmers would called “padi pun”) in 1848. Now those seeds have yielded bountiful harvests. ‘150 Years later…our foundation and heritage’ In 1998, 150 years after the first landing of the Anglican missionaries, the Diocese of Kuching has organised a comprehensive programme of celebrations to commemorate the historic occasion. This book is part of the celebrations. It is considered timely to place on records the Church’s past achievements as a reflection of our foundation and heritage. This is important. As we strive to develop our Church we should not forget our roots, as they are sources of our identity, tradition, and strength. The book is therefore, a book of records, a book of explanation; and a book in which members of the Anglican Church can identify themselves as part of this historic movement, and be justifiably proud of it. But most of all, the book should be understood as a testimony of the active work of God in our midst.
THE EARLY GROWTH OF THE CHURCH IN THE DIOCESE OF KUCHING Introduction
It was 150 years ago that Francis Thomas McDougall landed in Kuching and since then Christianity has spread to practically all parts of Sarawak and Brunei. McDougall indeed planted the seeds and others helped dispersed them, nurtured them and thereby ensured that they grew to maturity. The story of how Christianity spread from Kuching to the various places in our Diocese is a testimony of the power of Divine grace working through mortal men; men who were obedient to His calling and faithful to His service. This write up is to acquaint us with the general directions of the early spread of the Gospel from Kuching, and some of the personalities used mightily by God in the process. Not all names will be mentioned, and even those mentioned will not be given adequate coverage. Often in relating our history we tend to give undue emphasis to the work of bishops and priests, most of whom were expatriates. No doubt they played pivotal roles in providing the leadership and direction of mission works, but without the assistance of ‘faithful old catechists’ and the lay Christians, it is doubtful that the ‘tuans’ could communicate the Gospel so effectively. The porters carrying the baggages of the ‘tuans’ in their traveling helped disseminate the new found faith to their fellow men. Others excited by the new status after having embraced the religion of the ‘tuan’, eagerly shared it with their folks in their kampongs or longhouses. Like in the Acts of the Apostles, Christianity in Sarawak spread as much through formal church outreach, as it was through ordinary laymen fired by the excitement of the new found faith.