Chinese Congregational Church History
By Mrs. E.M. Findlay
It was on the 22nd day of August, 1897, that we received our appointment to superintend the Congregational Mission School for Chinese in Los Angeles. The American Missionary Association (with headquarters in New York City) was in charge of homework for foreigners and maintained an office in San Francisco with a General Secretary for Pacific Coast, Dr. William
C. Pond, to whom we were responsible, Dr. Pond made annual visits to cities where such work was carried on and served for fifty years.
Between thirty and forty men gathered each evening to study the English language. The school room at 109 1/2 Commercial Street was made attractive by the pictures and maps which adorned the walls, the gifts of friends. A group of volunteer teachers assisted in the instruction given, not only in the language study but in the singing of Gospel Songs and Bible drill which was regular feature of the night school.
This work had been conducted for some years and was considered a success as to numbers, but the teachers were anxious to do a more definite service, so a Sunday School was organized which met each Sunday afternoon in the First Congregational Church Building located at Sixth and Hill Streets.
A method of individual instruction resulted in each student having a teacher. A short lesson in English was supplemented by one in Bible instruction, also Catechism in both English and Chinese. The Superintendent was Miss Mary Posbyshell who had served in this capacity for several years. When she retired, the Honourable Mr. Curtis D. Wilbur took office and served for a year or so. He was a great inspiration to the Chinese men. Upon his resignation, owing to the pressure of legal duties, we were appointed to fill the place which was occupied for twenty-five years of continuous service.
Being responsible for both night school and Sunday School services, it became necessary to leave the Mother church and conduct the Sunday School in the Mission School. At this time all the students were men and the aim was to have a real up-to-date American Sunday School. we had a good interpreter and faithful painstaking teachers, but the material was limited, for the number of Chinese families was very few. One of our members had his wife and our children here and they comprised the entire primary department.
As we became better acquainted in the homes of the people, we were able to induce or persuade their children to come and they, in turn, invited others and brought their mothers and fathers. For years it was necessary to go after the little folks and then return them to their homes, thus gaining the confidence of their parents.
Some of the mothers were now coming out on Sunday afternoon, so a Mother's class was organized and met in the parlor of the mission house and reached an average attendance of approximately fifteen.
Shortly after the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Mr. Lee S. Kong and family moved to Los Angeles. A Year later he was ordained a Congregational minister, becoming the first pastor of the newly organized Chinese Church. he assumed the leadership of the Mother's class who members did not speak much English.
The Sunday School grew rapidly and attained an average attendance of one hundred and twenty-five for the year. Ten separate classes were formed in four divisions-Cradle Roll, Beginners and Primary, Intermediates, and Seniors. As soon as possible, Chinese teachers were pressed into service and four classes were taught by them. There were many new arrivals from China who had no knowledge of English and this made it difficult to grade the school.
We outgrew our quarters on Commercial Street and moved to larger and more commodious rooms at 312 North Los Angeles
Street. The interest continued unabated for several years until we were force to vacate these rooms which had been furnished at heavy expense. After considerable delay in looking for suitable quarters but without success, Dr. Carl S. Patton, Pastor of the First Congregational Church which the Chinese lovingly call Mother Church, offered the use of the Social Hall of his church, now located at Ninth and Hope Streets. The distance from the homes of our members to the First Congregational Church was so great that it seemed an almost
insurmountable obstacle. However, after much thought and prayer, it was decided to accept Dr. Patton's kind and generous offer. During the three years' stay there, the Mother Church furnished all incidentals and was generous in every time of need.
The older folk and young folk found the change acceptable, but the situation was complicated in the case of the children who were too small to make the trip alone. This difficulty was largely overcome by the kindness of Mr Jue B. Haw, one of the deacons, who transported in his truck many of the children and a few women, carrying as many as eighteen in a single trip. This he continued to do for several years.
In the year 1920 we began to talk about a church building of our own and in 1924 a beautiful, substantial edifice was dedicated, a monument to the tireless efforts of the American Committee, Mother Church, the Congregational Church Building Society, and Chinese members and friends. This church is located at 734 East Ninth
Place. We now have a Sunday School room fitted to our needs.
One of the interesting features of the Sunday School was the roll call each Sunday. The different classes, as their names were called, rose together, recited a verse of scripture pertaining to the lesson of the hour, thus memorizing helpful Bible truths.
Each class selected a name for itself and had it inscribed on a pennant which were placed over the entrance to its classroom. These names were interesting-Senior Brotherhood, True Brotherhood, Loyalty Class, Willing Workers, King's Daughters, Sunshine Band, Cherry Circle and others.
Another prominent feature in the school was the placing of responsibility upon the classes and teachers for the opening or closing exercises which developed the talent in singing or speaking of the one having a share in it. A very delightful part of these programs was the music provided by an orchestra whose members were all from one family. Misses Ida and Edna Lem and Messrs. Arthur and Walter Lem. They were very young but performed together most acceptably and furnished lovely music for years. There were others who, from time to time, contributed flute, violin and other instrumental solos. We had reason to be proud of our members. Almost every Sunday afternoon we had visitors who came expressly to hear the orchestral music.
George Young (Young Bow), one of the younger teachers, left us to enter an eastern college from which he graduated with high honors. He returned to Los Angeles with renewed interest and consecration to the work of the church and Sunday School and became Assistant Superintendent. A year or two later when we were forced to retire because of ill health, Mr. George Young accepted the office of Superintendent, selecting for his assistant, Mr. Howard Dong. These young men, with the other officers in the Sunday School, are doing valiant service for the flag.
This brief story of the Chinese Congregational Sunday School, about which a book might be written, would not be complete without a word of tribute to the many faithful teachers who have given unreservedly of their time and strength to the up-building of character. No amount of thanks could compensate Miss Rose Dawson, Mrs. M.H. Dwight, Miss Luella Rankin and others who have served-nor the Chinese teachers and pastors who through many years have performed a labor of love for the up-bringing of Christ's Kingdom on Earth.
Through the beautiful memory of Mrs. Emma M. Findlay, our Church Mother, the very early years of our Church history have been joyfully and vividly recorded for posterity. The following selection will be a brief account covering a period from 1928 to 1958 so that the course of events will be brought more or less up to date. This will be summed up under the following headings:
I. Succession of Ministers
|| Rev. C.C. Cheung
Rev. K. N. Leong who resigned to return to China.
Rev. Kwai Ngan Leong
Rev. Frank Fung only stayed half a year. He left for the post of the Sacramento Baptist
Rev. Tso Tom Laam
Rev. T.T. Laam who was invited to become a lecturer in the Canton Theological College.
|| Mr. Luen Leong who stayed only one year.
Mr. Kwai Ngam Leong
|| Rev. K.N. Leong returned from China He stayed till he became seriously ill.
||Rev. Ivan Y. Wong who had a serious automobile accident and had to resign.
|| Rev. Lu Pin Wan who resigned in July.
|| Rev. Ted Wen, a student Pastor from Fuller seminary on a part time service.
|| Rev. William Y. Fung who was called from Hong Kong.
|| Rev. Hoover Wong called to Hawaii ministry
||Rev. Silas Hong called to Hong Kong ministry
||Rev. Clayton Hwang
||Rev. Scheng Kam, called to San Gabriel Baptist
||Rev. Richard Wilbur, Pastor for English Service|
||Rev. John Choi, Pastor for Cantonese Service
|| Rev. Howard Yim, Pastor for English Service
||Guest speakers, pastors and our board of
||Interim Speaker - Rev. Andy Papp for English Service
||Rev. Ray Notkke II, Pastor for English Service
||Interim Speaker - Rev. Andy Papp for English Service
||Rev. Galen Jee, Pastor for English Service
||Rev. Erik Chou, Pastor for English Service
II. Financial Note
For years back our church received a sizable grant from the Conference to help balance the budget. In recent years when the
missionary budget of our Conference was reduced, our grant was also lowered. In the
meantime, our Church has increased its yearly budget to at least five thousand dollars, but
it was happy to note that the membership had increased and that they were willing to shoulder the weight joyfully. In January 1947, the Church adopted the weekly envelope offering system. This method created a regular flow of finance from members both young and old, and thereby improved the financial situation a great deal. By 1950 the
status of self-support was finally achieved. Furthermore, since 1949, our Church has been able to
contribute to our Conference the amount of $200.00 for Benevolence fund.
III. Fund Raising Activities
- The Chinese Library
In the year of 1932, Rev. K.N. Leong led the people of our own community to establish a Chinese library in our Church. A play was
written and presented. With the help of the Church members and
friends the necessary funds were received. There were also many books donated by friends to the library. The library is noted for
its three outstanding collections. First, the collection of the
Zeh Pu Chung Kan ( ). consists of more than 15,000 volumes in history, philosophy and other writings of permanent values.
This collection was donated to the library by Mr. Tom J. Chong, a
member of the Church. The second is the Wen Yau men Fu ( ) in some 5,200 volumes. This is the Encyclopedia in the
Chinese published by the
Shanghai commercial Press. The third contains some 150 volumes written by noted Western and
Chinese authors. More than half of those volumes are translations from English to Chinese published by the former
Shanghai Christian Literature Society. It is indeed an asset for our Church to possess such a library
when such references are becoming more and more scarce.
- Debt Clearance
When our present Church edifice was erected back in 1924, a debt of eight thousand dollars was
incurred. The Depression which followed was felt in our Church. However, through the capable leadership of Rev.
K.N. Leong, four plays were presented (Spring, 1928, Summer 1933, Summer 1940, late Spring 1942) with the aim of raising funds. The building debt was finally cleared. On November 17,1942, a joyous celebration was held and the mortgage was burned in a ceremony of thanksgiving.
- The Remodeling of the Chancel
The upshot of this project was a suggestion by the young people of the Church who desired
to see a more worshipful chancel and a center aisle leading up to it in our sanctuary. This
was concurred by the Board of Trustees and on March 23,24, 1947, a Chinese moving
picture was presented and the sum of $4,600.00 was raised for the purpose. Rev. and Mrs. Ivan Wong led the planning and with the cooperation of all the members, the sanctuary was
remodeled and redecorated. On May 11 of the same year the sanctuary was rededicated to the Glory of God.
- Rehabilitation and Expansion
Under the leadership of Rev I.P. Wan, on September 24th, 1955, a Chinese film was presented and tickets were sold with the purpose of raising enough funds for the general rehabilitation of our Church. At the same time, members of the Church were divided into twenty-one groups each soliciting funds from their own circle of
friends. A sum of $3,700.00 was raised. As a result, the walls of our Church were painted afresh; the leaking roof fixed; the social hall made convertible into Sunday School rooms; some heavy draperies purchased for our front chapel.
Members of our Church were quite aware of the fact that since our Church was built in 1924, no major structural expansion had ever been attempted. There was need for more adequate parsonage quarters and more space for the growing Sunday School and other activities. Thus when the 70th Anniversary came last year, it was generally felt that some kind of expansion program should be proposed. In Hong Kong, a skillful goldsmith was engaged to produce a 14K. gold pin which was designed by a Board member of the Church. The gold pin or badge has a shape of a peach symbolizing the traditional idea in China of long life. Since the Church has reached the 70th mar, it was decided that a donation of $70.00 or more to the Expansion fund would get one 14K gold pin. The goal of the Expansion campaign was set at $15,000.00 When this booklet was
in preparation, the campaign was still in progress and the total amount pledged or received so far was at $7,468.00.
IV. Departments of the Church
- The Church School
During the early years of our Church history, Chinese immigrants in this country were largely men who came to work and therefore, the support of the Church was largely on their shoulders. But thirty years ago many more of our people brought their families over to this country and thereby changed the whole picture of our Church. More women were added to the congregation and more children came to the Church school. With an initial enrolment of 60 in the early years, it has now increased to 135, and the number is still growing. As the Sunday School grew bigger, more teachers were needed. At one time the whole Church staff was filled by our own members. More often the Bible Institute of Los Angeles and of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena often supplied capable students for our school. The most outstanding of who were Rev. and Mrs. Norman Allensworth who from 1937 to 1942 to pick the superintendency and remained until they were called to the South China Boat Mission in Canton. Likewise, those who came from Fuller Seminary, such as Mr. and Mrs. Jim Ziervolgel and others, had been great friends of the School. At present, our Sunday School is divided into several groups: the beginners and nursery, Primary, Junior, Intermediate and Seniors. The Superintendent and teacher is Mrs. Pauline ).
Leong, who has been at the post since 1956.
- The Youth Fellowships
For many years the Conference has supplied aid to this particular department. Besides a minister in the Church, there was added a minister to the youth. Those who held this position were Mr.
K.S. Lau, Mr. George Chann, Miss K.L. Jung, Mr. William Wong, Rev. James Reed and Mr. Albert
Fenn. When Rev. Wong came in 1946, he helped organize the young people into three graded Fellowships: the Young Adult, the Pilgrim and the Teen-Age. Once a month all three Fellowships met together and the attendance came at one time close to a hundred mark. At present, only two of the three, namely, the Pilgrim Fellowship, and the Teen-Age, now called "Triple C" are active. The average attendance for these two groups is given at 50.
- The Language School
Our Church was conceived as an educational institution-teaching English to Chinese immigrants in the after work hours and Sundays.
This was carried on for scores of years until the city provided facilities for teaching immigrants in the public schools. After we closed our English language school, we faced with a new
problem teaching Chinese language to the native born Chinese children. Since there were more and more Chinese families moving into the vicinity of our Church in the earlier dates, the need of Chinese knowledge of their children was brought to the attention of the Board of Trustees of the Church.
In 1925 a Chinese Language School was established, occupying our present social hall. In the course of the years we had many teachers all of whom were well suited in both character and educational qualifications. The years between 1936-45 were the best years of the School, with Miss
Y.S. Loo and Mr. George Chann as its faculty and a student body of over ninety. It was at a time when the World War II was concluding, there was no way of obtaining teachers. Until January, 1947, after the arrival of Rev. Ivan Wong, the School was reopened with Mrs. Peter Chong and Rev. Ivan Wong as faculty. But the time had changed. The majority had migrated to the residential districts, thus leaving only the neighborhood families. Under the leadership of Rev. I. P. Wan, who had years of experience in teaching the School was continued and revived for a while, but later on the attendance of students continued to drop until it was considered that the cost was not justified. The School was again discontinued. In September, 1958, the so-called Weekend Chinese Classes were started by Mrs. William Y.
Fung, who served as superintendent and teacher. Twenty-two children enrolled the classes, and later it increased to thirty. This seemed to be a temporary measure to meet the need of our children, only to await for a better development.
- A Major Church By-Laws to Reflect a more Biblical Church Leadership Government of Elder Rule was approved by both English and Chinese congregations, and implemented in 2010 under the teaching of Pastor Galen Jee. The English Congregation was also taught the 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Dr. Mark Dever and was adapted for CCC in 2008 as a measure of our church healthiness.