Chinese Ministry

The Ministry in the Cathedral (Especially Among the Chinese).

The main congregation of the early church in Kuching were mostly officers attached the Brooke Government. The first Bornean children to be baptized in Kuching on 3 December 1848 were Eurasian children adopted by the Mission.


The influx of Chinese refugees from Kalimantan to Sarawak provided some of the early local converts among the population in Kuching. Chinese children were also enrolled in the Mission school. To instruct the new Chinese converts the Mission engaged a Chinese teacher, Foo Ngyen Khoon. Visits were also made to Bau where a large Chinese population was concentrated, working mostly in the gold mines. However the abortive Chinese uprising of 1857 put a setback to the Mission work among the Chinese.

chinese1Most of the priests arriving in Kuching were destined to the rural outstations and thus their ministries in Kuching were more often not of short duration. In 1864 Ngyen Khoon and Oh Tong were made catechists to serve in Kuching to cater for the increasing Chinese population. The Chinese congregation established lodging house for visitors to the town – the House of Charity. This was to allow easier Christian ministrations to the visitors and to keep them from the evil of opium. In 1874 Bishop Chambers and Abe started bazaar preaching fortnightly to attract more converts from among the Chinese. Bishop Chambers left Kuching in 1878. Ngyen Khoon retired at the end of 1881 and returned to China.

1882 saw the arrival of a new bishop, Hose. Much revival in the Cathedral’s work among the Chinese happened following the arrival of Sharp in 1897 and especially with the appointment of Kong Kuin En as catechist. In the late 1890s numerous Chinese families entered Sarawak and many of them were Hakkas. About a hundred of them were Basel Christians, among them was Kong Kuin En. He was subsequently made a catechist. In July 1899, Kuin En and fifty of his students were confirmed. A Christian school was started by the Chinese Christians about three miles from Kuching. A Foochow, Lau Kong De, was appointed catechist to minister to the Foochow converts.

In 1904, work among the Hokkien population was also started. By this time services in the Cathedral were conducted in English, Foochow, Hakka, Hokkien, Iban and Malay. Sharp also organised an evangelical rally in the town to wake up the Chinese population to the message of the Gospel. The Rajah took exception to this, thinking it was a front to advance pro-Nationalist sentiment among the Chinese. A chapel was built in Bau, dedicated to St. George. 1908 also saw the resignation of Bishop Hose.

Mounsey arrived in Kuching on 1 July 1910. Sharp left in 1911, and the Bishop was assisted by Collis and Beamish. Small arrived in 1912, and was installed as Vicar of Kuching. By this time the Chinese congregation had increased. Mission work expanded to Buso and Siniawan. In 1913, the name of the Chinese medium at the 3rd Mile was changed to Garland School. Mounsey left in 1915, and Small was made Archdeacon. In 1916, Hollis arrived to assist Small. Bishop Danson arrived in 1918. By this time the Foochow congregation was also growing. There were three other Chinese catechists beside Kuin En; Chin Fen That, Wong Shin Foo, and Phoa Hui Teng.

chinese2In 1922, Champion was licensed as Vicar of the Cathedral and was also made Archdeacon. Danson resigned in 1931, and was replaced by Hudson in 1932. 1933 saw the arrival of the Mirfield fathers in Kuching. Hudson left in 1937, and was replaced by Hollis. Kong Kuin En resigned in 1935, and returned to China. That year Chong En Siong was posted back to Kuching, to look after Hakka work. En Siong took weekly at Garland, and visited Siniawan and Bau regularly. Lim Yong Chua was ordained deacon in 1937, and continued to serve in the Cathedral, looking after the Hokkien congregation. En Siong was transferred to Kudat in 1940, and his place was taken over by Chong En Shin.

The Japanese arrived in Kuching on Christmas Eve, 1941. Soon the remaining expatriate leadership of the Church were interned by the Japanese at Batu Lintang. The Japanese commandeered most of the Church buildings; the Cathedral was used as a workshop and store room. Lim Yong Hua quietly continued his ministry in the town and conducted services at his house at Ellis Road. Chong En Shin cycled to Garland School every Sunday from his house at the 18th Mile to take services. Yong Hua celebrated Mass there once a month. Mrs. Ang Thian Sang’s house at 13th Mile became a meeting place for Christians during the Occupation period. The Australian forces freed Kuching on 11 September 1945.

Stonton and Howes chose to come back after their release from the P.O.W. camp. Stonton later became Archdeacon and Vicar-General at Kuching. Chong En Siong moved back to Kuching in 1947. In December 1949, Bishop Nigel Cornwall arrived to take charge of the Diocese. In 1953, Leslie Wilson arrived and became Provost of the Cathedral. The foundation stone of the present Cathedral was laid by the Duchess of Kent on 15 October 1952. It was consecrated on 9 June 1956 by Cornwall. Wilson was succeeded by Anthony Perry in January 1960. Cornwall resigned in 1962, and was succeeded by Nicholas Allenby in 1963.

In 1951, the new St. Faith’s School at Sekama was under construction on a land donated by Ng Siak Ngu. A church was later built there and with the foundation being laid by Bishop Allenby on 19 March 1967. In September 1969, the old church was consecrated, and Kenyalang was made into a parish separate from the cathedral. Michael Lim became its first Vicar. The new St. Faith’s Church was consecrated on 6 October 1979.

The church at Siol Kandis was consecrated on 25 January 1980, and was dedicated to St. Paul. Siol Kandis became a separate parish in 1998 with Bakewell Bagul as its first resident priest.


Kong Kuin En had received his Christian education in China, from the Basel Mission which was active there at the time. Recruited by R. Richards at Li Long in China, Kong arrived in North Borneo in 1898 to serve in Kudat. He was soon transferred to Kuching to minister to the Hakka Community at 4th Mile, where he was confirmed with 54 others on 2.7.1889. He became a catechist, and studied Malay while attending to his pastoral duties among the Hakka community. He visited Siniawan, Buso and Bau, ministering to Chinese of various dialect groups.

Kong was sent to St. Paul’s CMS College in Canton, and returned in 1913 to be ordained. He ministered to the poor, and – an act of extraordinary courage in his day and age! – he regularly visited the Leper Settlement near Semonggok. In 1935 Kong Kuin En decided to return to China. He sold his possessions in Kuching and established a settlement for the poor in Hainan. He died in Hainan in December 1944.