A Chinese church in Oakland is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2006; the year-long celebration is going to be started later this month.
On Feb. 26, a thanksgiving worship service will be held at the Chinese Independent Baptist Church (CIBC) as the kick-off event. A total of 800-900 church members, both old and young, are expected to attend. Both English and Cantonese worship services are available at different time with free lunch fellowship served afterwards.
Senior pastors who have served CIBC in the past were invited to speak on the worship service about their memories with the Church and to count God’s blessings over the last 100 years. Rev Philip Law, who will come for the Chinese worship service, was the first pastor for the Chinese department when the Church moved to its first building at 208th Street in 1966. On the other hand, Rev. Gary Wong, the second chief pastor following Law, will lead the English worship service.
The theme of the year-long centennial celebration is taken from Psalms 100: 4, "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name," according to Rev. David Tong, director of the 7-member centennial celebration preparation committee and Cantonese assistant pastor/Youth pastor of the Church..
"This bible verses remind us that God gives us this Church, so we are thankful and we praise his name. This Church does not belong to us, but it belongs to God," Tong explained the reason for choosing this theme.
The beginning of CIBC Oakland was actually very special. In the late 1800’s, the American-run First Baptist Church of Oakland has launched a mission outreach target on Chinese immigrants. A Sunday school was started to teach them English and Christian doctrine. Around the turn of the century, 32 Chinese men were committed to the Lord.
After the earthquake of 1906, the CIBC San Francisco was destroyed in the huge earthquake, so members traveled to Oakland for gathering and worships. The 32 Chinese members Oakland gave sacrificially of two months earnings to purchase a house at 823 Webster Street for the purpose of worshipping the Lord.
CIBC of San Francisco and the Chinese Baptist Mission in Oakland were then united and served by one pastor, Rev. Lee Tsai Leong. The two churches subsequently incorporated into sister churches as CIBC of San Francisco and Oakland.
In 1958, the CIBC Oakland building at 823 Webster Street was condemned by the Oakland fire marshal as unsafe and limited use of the building. Church members then held Sunday School classes in private automobiles and in restaurant. After a long period of fundraising and searching, for the very first time, CIBC Oakland purchased its own land at 280-8th Street in October 1966. And that becomes the building CIBC has been using until today.
"It is very exciting. It is a time that we count the blessings of God, to give thanks and to think about what we can offer to God and how to serve Him in the future," Tong, who has been with CIBC Oakland for some 30 years, reflected upon the 100 anniversary of the church.
Apart from the thanksgiving service on Feb. 26, Sunday schools and fellowships in the Church are encouraged to launch some so-called "100 plus" campaigns. For instance, fellowships may set a goal to introduce the Church to 100 new friends within this year. Other younger congregation may try to adopt a bible verse recitation program in which each member is required to memorize 100 bible verses within certain period of time.
"The significance of these celebration activities is to help our congregation build a closer relationship with God, to meditate upon God’s grace and to express the willingness of our church to further expand God’s family," Tong said.
CIBC is currently planning to organize an "All Church Picnic" in July so that members of all ages can gather to celebrate the fellowship in Christ. Nov. 18 Thanksgiving Day will be the climax of all celebrations throughout this year. CIBC will be holding an event at Hayward Centennial Hall where many old church members will come to share their gracious memories. Among them, there are pastors, missionaries, elders serving passionately in other churches. A memorial booklet about a brief history of the Church will be published and given out as a souvenir as well.