The Diocese of Singapore has its beginnings since the 1800s and was established as an independent diocese in 1909.
The history of the Anglican establishment began with the arrival of the settlers of the East India Company (EIC) in the early 1800s. Through their missionary outreach, the Anglican Church was established in 1826.
Painting of an early view of St Andrew’s Church from the seafront with Government Hill, present-day Fort Canning in the background (National Archives of Singapore)
St Andrew’s Cathedral at its current site at City Hall today
The first Anglican church building was erected in 1837, on a site designated by Sir Stamford Raffles. The church held its first service on 18 June 1837 and was consecrated a year later by the Right Revd Daniel Wilson, the Bishop of Calcutta who had jurisdiction over Singapore. Unfortunately, this building was struck by lightning twice in 1845 and 1849.
St Andrew’s Church was rebuilt on the new (and present) site and became consecrated as St Andrew’s Cathedral in 1870. St Andrew’s Cathedral remains as a place of great historical significance.
Although early Anglican ministers helped build the first St Andrew’s Church by 1837, they had limited their focus to ministering only to the English colonial community. This was so until a notable Whitsunday sermon by EIC Residency Chaplain Reverend William Topley Humphrey, who believed that the church could no longer ignore the salvation of the native population. He powerfully challenged the congregation of St Andrew’s to become a missionary congregation. The St Andrew’s Church Mission was formed in 1856.
The ripples of this movement still reverberate within the diocese even today. The work of St Andrew’s Church Mission has evolved and now encompasses many bodies under the umbrella of the Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS).
Unfortunately, the Japanese Occupation from 1942 – 1945 disrupted the church work in Singapore. Western clergy were interned and there was a need for Asian priests to continue with the church work. Hence, in 1948, Trinity Theological College was formed to provide training for the local clergy. Under the process of indigenisation, the Right Reverend Chiu Ban It was consecrated as the first Asian Bishop of Singapore.
The governance of the Anglican church in Singapore evolved from its beginnings as a ministry of visiting chaplains under the Diocese of Calcutta (1814-1869), to its inclusion to the Diocese of Labuan and Sarawak (1869-1881). It was later part of a united Diocese of Singapore, Labuan and Sarawak (1881-1909) before it finally become the Diocese of Singapore in 1909.