Pastor’s installation offers nod to ABHMS history, growth
The roots of American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) trace to the 1800s, while those of New York City’s Mariners’ Temple Baptist Church extend to the 1700s. Like those of centuries-old oaks, the roots of both ministries remain firmly implanted in the rich, edifying soil of God’s word, thirstily soaking up the deep, life-giving water of Jesus Christ. Yet both ABHMS and Mariners’ Temple evolve with the changing needs of the times, like branches that stretch unceasingly toward heaven, and leaves that fall and regrow, renewed with the passing of seasons.
The juxtaposition of ministry tradition and eagerness to truly meet the Lord’s people where and as they live today was evident on a recent Saturday in January, when the Rev. Florence Li, ABHMS national coordinator, Intercultural Ministries, and Asian Churches strategist, delivered the “Charge to the Pastor” during the installation of the Rev. Dr. Lai Fan Wong as pastor of Chinese Ministry for New York Chinese Baptist Church (NYCBC), New York City, a role Wong has held since September 2014. The service was held at Mariners’ Temple, where NYCBC was founded in 1954.
Currently standing on the oldest site for continuous Baptist worship in Manhattan, Mariners’ Temple is known as the “Mother of Churches” because it established and launched a variety of ethnic churches in the 19th and 20th centuries.
ABHMS is historically linked to Mariners’ Temple. In 1832, the Sixth Triennial Convention of the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions convention recessed from Mariners’ Temple (then known as Oliver Street Baptist Church) to the nearby Mulberry Street Baptist Church to found The American Baptist Home Mission Society. The society held Mariners’ Temple’s deed in trust and appointed missionaries to serve there. In 2010, ABHMS, which had been doing ministry at National Ministries, reclaimed its historic name at a service at Mariners’ Temple.
NYCBC, which grew out of Mariners’ Temple to meet immigrants’ needs, is, according to NYCBC’s own website, “motivated by the great Commandment, obeying the great Commission, empowered by the great Communion, and refreshed by the great Community.”
Most NYCBC parishioners are immigrants from Hong Kong and mainland China or descendants of those immigrants. The church holds both Cantonese and English services, and it incorporates ethnic traditions into its activities.
“For example, we joyfully celebrated the Chinese Moon Festival in a Christian context, with Gospel songs in Cantonese opera tunes and lantern puzzles with Bible themes,” says Wong, who was ordained by American Baptist Churches USA in 2005 and is an endorsed American Baptist chaplain and pastoral counselor.
The church also offers classes in English as a Second Language, computers and citizenship. Parishioners spontaneously donated clothing and daily necessities to the families of 12 Chinese children who had traveled to New York City to receive cancer treatment and were living in Ronald McDonald House.
“We invited them to our church for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations,” Wong says. “Through the grace of God, two of them have decided to accept Christ.”
In addition, NYCBC and other churches cooperatively organized a Gospel carnival in Roosevelt Park to serve Chinese families. Other joint efforts will include a Chinese New Year parade in February and a Father’s Day block party in June.
“In recent Chinatown pastors’ meetings, we felt the Holy Spirit’s moving us to jointly spread the Gospel,” Wong says.
Wong’s installation service featured Isaiah 43:15-21 and hymns “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “The Church’s One Foundation.” Greetings included those brought by New York Chinese Christian Workers Inc. A gift was presented by NYCBC’s pastor of English Ministry, the Rev. Ben Ing.