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The Free Community Church, located since June 2014 at #02-01, One Commonwealth, is a congregation of diverse individuals and families gathering to worship and grow as a Christian community. Its stakeholders' mission is to develop a vibrant heart relationship with God and a thinking-mind relationship with the Bible. They do not believe in easy answers to life’s challenging questions but in the wisdom of a great and loving God, who surpasses human understanding. They aim to nurture Christ-centred communities so that members can develop a faith relevant to the times.

The Free Community Church affirms that all individuals, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, are of sacred worth created in God’s image. The church affirms that same-sex and transgender relationships, when lived out in accord with the love commandments of Jesus, are consistent with the Christian faith. Indeed, it finds discrimination based on negative judgment of others, fear of differences, and homophobia inconsistent with Christian teachings.

Therefore, it welcomes all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or economic status to its worship services and activities.

The kind of church that its stakeholders believe the Free Community and all other churches are called upon to journey to become is one that is free, inclusive, community-oriented, relational, open, ecumenical, living, relevant and missional.

If interested parties have any questions about the church, its ministries or its activities, they are urged to send an email to info@freecomchurch.org.

HistoryEdit

SafehavenEdit

The Free Community Church traces its beginnings to Safehaven[1], a non-denominational group started by 10 gay Christians who had been gathering since 1997 for prayer, Bible study and fellowship. It was LGBT-affirmative and made up of people from different age groups, backgrounds and religious traditions.

Safehaven was formed because several founding members had been made to feel unwelcome or were rejected outright by mainstream churches on account of their homosexuality. As such, many LGBT Singaporeans in mainstream churches chose to remain closeted for fear of being blacklisted and ostracised.

A salient example of discrimination was witnessed when the New Creation Church (NCC) showed little grace in expelling one of its gay male members. With no place to worship, that particular individual later gathered a few gay friends and began meeting weekly in one of their homes located along Zion Road just opposite Great World City. When their number grew to 10 to 15 within two months via word of mouth, they moved their place of congregation to Utterly Art along South Bridge Road which they rented from the gallery's owner.

This was the start of the fledgeling support group in which gay Christians could find solace and which provided devotees an environment to work out any conflicts they may have had about being gay and Christian. Many key members of Safehaven and FCC also came from the Choices ministry of the Church of Our Savior (COOS) (Singapore's main ex-gay church). One of FCC's worship leaders joined the it after he was rejected by City Harvest Church's (CHC) worship team for being gay. In a blog entry entitled, “Homosexuality: a geographical angle” by a pastor from a mainstream church, FCC was denounced as a pro-gay space which had failed to uphold what he called “hetero-normativity” and instead only served to reinforce “deviant sexual identity”. Hence, Safehaven and FCC ironically owe much to NCC, CHC and COOS for their existence[2].

As attendance and confidence swelled, the group decided that it needed a larger place to worship and set up a full fledged church called the Free Community Church (FCC). The name was chosen because the acronym FREE stood for "First Realise Everyone is Equal". FCC was officially registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore (ACRA) as a private limited company in 1999. This was a strategic move which enabled the organisation to operate without any hassles from the Government since the congregation each Sunday was simply regarded as a private gathering.

FCC was also not affiliated with any other church although it strove to be accepted as a regular church. It wanted to avoid being labelled a gay church, preferring to be known as "an all-inclusive church" since it was open towards not only sexuality in its multifarious manifestations, but also to all religions and church denominations. Safehaven subsequently became one of its ministries.

Rev. Yap Kim HaoEdit

On 10 August 2003, Miak Siew, a member of both Safehaven and the pioneering LGBT advocacy group People Like Us and who was later to become a pastor at the Free Community Church himself, and Jerry Siah, a gay Christian who would later organise the huge LGBT-led charity A Nation In Concert events, learned about a certain Rev. Yap Kim Hao preaching at the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church through Eileena Lee who had posted the information on SiGNeL, the Singapore Gay News List.

Before Rev. Yap assumed his position at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, Lee, who was not yet a member of the church, had heard that there was another LGBT-friendly pastor before Yap who was conducting services there and this was what enticed her to attend his sermons. This individual was, in fact, none other than Singapore's first all-embracing and inclusive Christian pastor, Rev. Kang Ho Soon. After joining the welcoming church, Lee helped out there in her spare time. This was how she first met Rev. Yap Kim Hao as the latter was invited by his predecessor, Rev. Kang, to preach there.

Miak Siew and Jerry Siah went to the church to meet Rev. Yap in person. Clarence Singam, who had recently taken charge of Safehaven, also read Yap's letter to the Straits Times and, on behalf of the group, invited Yap via e-mail to dinner at Imperial Herbal along Seah Street. A total of nine gay men attended the dinner including Miak Siew, Peter Goh, Cyrus Ho and Clarence Singam.

During the meal, Yap learned that Safehaven was thrilled he was willing and dared to come out openly to support them. It was a great source of encouragement to them. Coincidentally, Singam had received infant baptism at Wesley Methodist Church, Kuala Lumpur when Yap was a pastor there. Safehaven wondered about the cost of Yap's action but he assured them that it was a conviction on his part and that he regarded it as a calling from God to minister to the gay community. For those who were critical and negative of his action, it was not his problem but theirs. There had been no loss anyway. On the contrary, he had gained respect especially from the gay community who had been neglected for too long by the Church.

After the dinner, which they thought resembled an inquisition, they invited Yap to preach at Safehaven's first service at Utterly Art along South Bridge Road on 14 September 2003. Yap delivered his sermon "Doing a New Thing" and today, the founders of Safehaven marvel at the unfolding of events that led them to the status quo.

The AtticEdit

The Free Community Church moved into its first, relatively more permanent, venue in April 2004 at The Attic, a pub located on level 4, just above Mox Bar and Cafe at 21 Tanjong Pagar Road. The owners of The Attic and Mox Bar were also gay and were known by FCC's stakeholders who rented it from them. The newly located church conducted services every Sunday starting at 10:30am, lasting about 90 minutes. A resident band, which included a straight guitarist, provided musical accompaniment. The Attic was a hip location which contained 2 rotating silver balls, typically seen in discos, hanging from the ceiling and a bar to one side. For Sunday services, two nude gold mannequin torsos and several furry pink and purple couches were pushed aside to make way for rows of foldable black chairs.

Rev. Yap's daughter, Susan Tang, then a 47-year old, heterosexual mother of three who had been happily married for 19 years, volunteered to serve as one of the two vice-chairpersons on FCC's ten-member council as part of her desire to help minority groups. By then, the church was attracting a congregation of about 50 worshippers, of whom 75 to 80% were gay. That year, it also opened up to the public and began organising its Christmas Celebration service which has since become an annual tradition, welcoming non-Christians as well to partake of the event.

On 14 July 2004, The New Paper published an article, written by reporters Tay Shi'an and Tan Mae Lynn, about the church[3]. The tabloid's investigative team were tipped off about its existence after receiving an e-mail from a mainstream Christian who was uncomfortable with the church. The e-mail contained a link to the church's website, which stated its meeting venue and time of service. At first, the team only had the address of the venue, so they were shocked to discover that it was actually a pub.

There was no sign on the exterior indicating there was a church service being held inside. However, once they were seated, several friendly church members approached the reporters of their own accord to make them feel welcome. Once they got over the unusual surroundings, it seemed to them like any other church - there was Christian music playing, and several people in prayer.

The article which eventually appeared in The New Paper mentioned that the church did not regard homosexuality as a sin, making it probably the only one in Singapore to accept homosexuality. Although mainstream churches accepted gay worshippers, their stand on homosexuality was that it was wrong and their usual refrain was "accept the sinner, reject the sin". The churches also expected gay Christians to change and become straight, or at least remain celibate.

Interviewees who were willing to be named in the article were Peter Goh, then 31, an R&D programme manager, and Susan Tang, both FCC council members.

A founding member who opted to use a pseudonym said that the 'gay factor' had drawn criticism for both the FCC and outside speakers who were invited to give talks to the congregation. Some of their speakers were high-profile in the religious world, so after word got out, they came under a lot of pressure from other Christian organisations not to be associated with FCC. He added that they only wanted to worship God in peace.

Shortly after The New Paper's "expose" was published, information about the venue of the church was removed from its website.

Susan Tang was also interviewed by Agence France-Presse AFP regarding her work at FCC and the syndicated article was published in TODAY newspaper on 19 June 2005[4].

Yangtze BuildingEdit

YangtzeBuilding001 YangtzeBuilding002

Although FCC operated for almost half a year at The Attic, the latter's decor, image and location were thought not to be ideal for the church, so in January 2005, it moved to a larger, more suitable premises at unit #04-02/04, Yangtze Building, 100A Eu Tong Sen Street. The new venue was a sizeable hall which could comfortably seat 200 people located between Yangtze Cinemas 2 and 3. Yangtze Building was a 23-storey commercial and residential block slated in 2013 for demolition so that the Thomson-East Coast MRT line could be built below it. The uninitiated sometimes had difficulty locating the place because the adjoining Pearls Centre, which formed part of the same L-shaped (from a bird's eye view) complex and was intimately linked with Yangtze Building, also contained a unit with exactly the same number but which sold Buddhist artifacts instead!

Some were additionally surprised when they found out that the church was located in the same building as Yangtze Cinema, Singapore's notorious and only R-rated movie theatre which showed exclusively soft porn sex films. Moreover, the toilet on the second level of the building, the third-level toilet of neighbouring Pearls Centre and the stairwells and car park of both were well known cruising venues especially patronised by the geriatric segment of the gay community.

On 8 May 2005, The New Paper published a follow-up report to their initial article the previous year[5]. This time, it was written by Andre Yeo and was less sensationalistic and more sympathetic.

By this time, the church's congregation had blossomed to about 200 worshippers. It included heterosexuals who constituted around 20%, adherents of other religions like Buddhism, and Christian foreigners who were working in Singapore.

Affect 05Edit

Safehaven, a ministry of FCC, had been in the news in mid-2005 for trying to organise a fundraising charity concert called "Affect05 – Saving Lives, Transforming Mindsets" featuring American gay couple and pop duo, Jason and deMarco[6]. However, the Media Development Authority had turned down its application to stage the event. Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts later rejected Safehaven's appeal against the ban.

Gary Chan, then 30, a gay product manager in a local telco and one of the three vice-chairpersons on FCC's council, had come up with the idea for the concert featuring the gay couple. Safehaven wanted to raise funds for Action For Aids, reach out to the gay community and tell them there could be a better way to live their lives.

IndigNation eventsEdit

Forum on Christianity and homosexualityEdit

A forum entitled "Christian perspectives on homosexuality and pastoral care" was organised by Safehaven and held at 7:30pm on 10 May 2007 at the Amara Hotel. It aimed to engage the mainstream churches in a groundbreaking dialogue on the issue of homosexuality. For the first time in Singapore's history, theological heavyweights and experts in counselling and psychology came together to share their Christian perspectives on homosexuality and pastoral care. In the past, the mainstream churches would organise forums to debate the issue, but they usually turned out to be heavily one-sided affairs, ending up with homosexuality being cast as deviant, immoral, or worse. This time, Safehaven put together a fairly moderated dialogue, with equal representation from both the "for" and "against" camps, and facilitated by professional newscaster Augustine Anthuvan, Assistant Programme Manager, MediaCorp Radio.

In this video segment, Dr. Tan Kim Huat, who is the Chen Su Lan Professor of New Testament and Dean of Studies at Trinity Theological College, shares his views[7].

Christian perspectives on homosexuality & pastoral care - Dr

Christian perspectives on homosexuality & pastoral care - Dr. Tan Kim Huat


Other panellists who spoke at the forum were Rev. Yap Kim Hao and Anthony Yeo, Clinical Director of Counselling and Care Centre.

Century Technology BuildingEdit

In the late 2000s, FCC moved to a less central location where rent was cheaper, at 56 Geylang Lorong 23, Level 3, Century Technology Building, directly opposite Aljunied MRT station. One had to take a huge cargo lift to get to the unit.

Visitors were sometimes astonished that the church was located smack in the middle of Singapore's infamous red light district!

In 2011, Miak Siew who had recently graduated in divinity from the Graduate Theological Union and the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, returned home to assume the mantle of pastoral advisor to FCC, succeeding Rev. Ngiam Su-lin and achieving the distinction of being Singapore's first openly gay Christian pastor.

One CommonwealthEdit

Since its inception, FCC had accumulated sufficient funds via donations from its congregation that by 2014, it could afford to buy a space to operate in. In June 2014, church moved to its current premises at #02-01, One Commonwealth.

MissionEdit

The VISION of the FREE COMMUNITY CHURCH is to be an inclusive community that celebrates diversity in living out God’s love and promise of abundant life for all. Our MISSION is to create sacred space and give voice to the lives and experiences of minority communities, recognising their potential to transform lives and the wider church for the common good and glory of God.

The character of the church that we see the FREE COMMUNITY CHURCH and all churches journeying to become which guides our priorities and actions are -

A Church that is FREE

FREE in Free Community Church is a proclamation of freedom that we have in Jesus Christ. It is also an acronym for “First Realize Everyone is Equal” – the good news that we are all equally created in the image of God, equally accepted, embraced and loved exactly as we are by God.

A Church that is INCLUSIVE

We see the church as a place where everyone is welcome – regardless of theological background, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic status, education level, etc. We see the church as a home that especially welcomes those who identify themselves as LGBTQ - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer.

A Church that is COMMUNITY

We see the role of Community as who we are to become as a Church. Not just with those like us, but becoming a true community that recognizes that those least like us have been given to us by grace and have the most amount to teach us.

A Church that is RELATIONAL

We see a church where people come together intentionally on a journey to “do life” together. We see a church where people can be authentic; where people are prioritized over programmes and performance; where people grow, learn, share, cry and laugh together. We see that as the church grows larger, it also grows smaller and intimate at the same time through smaller cell groups that meet regularly.

A Church that is OPEN

We see a church that is open. A church that practices the inclusion of all people around an open table – that the grace and love of God has been poured out for all and that no one should be intentionally left out in participating in celebrating the Eucharist – the Holy Communion meal.

A Church that is ECUMENICAL

We see a church that is an inter-denominational embrace of the Christian faith. We endeavour to embrace and create space for the expression of the richness and diversity of different Christian traditions represented in the members who have made this church their faith community in our Sunday worship services.

A Church that is LIVING

We see a church that is living out the living Word of God. A church that sees every person called to ministry as ambassadors of Jesus Christ and witnesses of the gospel. A church that is living together, loving together, leading together.

A Church that is RELEVANT

We see a church that is relevant with our times – that engages and expresses our faith into the culture of today. A church that speaks and acts justly, loves mercy, and walks humbly before God.

A Church that is MISSIONAL

We see a church that is without walls. Where there are no demarcations between that which is sacred, and that which is secular. Where the focus and life of the church is poured out as a blessing to the world attending both personally and socially to the needs of the afflicted in compassion, justice and love.

To understand more about how we understand the church and the role that FCC plays in the body of Christ and in the mission of God, please choose from one of the three links below.

These three sessions are also mandatory to be reviewed by anyone who wishes to be a formal member of FCC or involved in the leadership of the church.

The Free Community Church holds weekly worship services on Sunday 10.30am at 56 Geylang Lor 23, Level 3, Century Technology Building, right opposite to the Aljunied MRT Station.

The service comprise of a time of worship, communion, prayer and the sermon. Our speakers include in-house speakers as well as other leaders from the wider Christian community. Weekly sermon notes/ transcripts, where available, will be posted on our website.

Everyone is welcome to our Sunday Services.

See alsoEdit

References and external linksEdit

  • The Free Community Church's website:[8] and Facebook page:[9].
  • Videos of the Free Community Church's sermons on Vimeo:[10].
  • Tay Shi'an, "Prayers held in a pub", The New Paper, 13 July 2004[11].
  • AFP syndicated article, "No parties or sex, but Singapore's gay Christians can gather to pray", TODAY, 19 June 2005[12].
  • Alex Au, "Theology professor supports repeal of anti-gay law in Singapore", Fridae, 11 May 2007[13].
  • Affect05, 23 March 2005[14].
  • "FCC - A Place I am proud to call home", [15].

AcknowledgementsEdit

This article was written by Roy Tan.