OAKLAND- A 100-year-old Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco Bay Area worships and recounts blessings as it holds the first thanksgiving service to kick off the year-long celebration.
Over 800 people, both old and young members of the church, have gathered on Sunday at the Chinese Independent Baptist Church (CIBC) in Oakland Chinatown. Under the theme "Enter His gates with Thanksgiving, and His courts with Praise" taken from Psalm 100, the Centennial Celebration Worship Service began with worship and praise.
CIBC Oakland was founded during a turbulent period of history of San Francisco Bay Area. Rev. Philip Loh, who was the pastor of CIBC when the Church moved to the current building at 208 Eighth Street in 1966, shared the story with the congregation following scripture readings on Judges 2: 7, 10, 16-17.
Loh recalled the big disaster- the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake - that shocked the world but at the same time gave birth to CIBC Oakland. The firestorm triggered by the earthquake had killed over 1,000 people, and dead bodies were piled up on the street. As survivors in San Francisco were trying to flee from the chaos, train stations and piers were packed with people. At the time, the bridge between San Francisco and Oakland was not constructed yet; a group of members from CIBC San Francisco led by Rev. Lee Tsai Leong successfully took a ferry to Oakland.
The Chinese Baptist congregation in Oakland was formed by at least 32 members, who were brought to Christ by the mission outreach of First Baptist Church of Oakland. The group was known as the Oakland Baptist Mission and was guided under the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS). The arrival of Lee has allowed the Chinese Baptists in Oakland and San Francisco to unite together. Under the leadership of Lee, Oakland Baptist Mission was incorporated as a sister church of CIBC San Francisco and adopted the name CIBC Oakland.
Oakland Baptist Mission had its own space for worshipping at the very beginning since the first 32 members used their two months earning to purchase a house at 823 Webster Street, the first address of CIBC Oakland.
"Even though the Church building at Webster Street was really old and shabby in appearance, it gave me a lot of spiritual insight. I can see how passionate the church members love the Lord," Loh said. "From my experience, a church usually takes 8-10 years to afford to buy its own building, but CIBC Oakland owns its place of worship from the very beginning, obviously this is not the work of man, but God has worked through the big disaster."
Referring to the scripture reading about the second generation of Joshua, Loh pointed out the importance of recording God’s history and passing it on to the next generations. As Joshua’s descendant failed to understand how God has blessed the Israelites, they turned away from God and worshipped idols. Loh warned of the mistake of the first generation of failing to pass on the history.
"We must record the history of CIBC well so that the next generation can know about it. Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of our church, it allows both the old and young generation to review what God has done for us," said Loh.
"Man changes, the sun changes, the moon changes, but God never changes. In the midst of changes, we have to understand the will of God, so that we can serve Him and please Him," Loh continued as he recounted some of the changes of the Church over the past 100 years.
Loh added that to understand today’s CIBC, we must know the history of CIBC. Looking at the achievement of CIBC today, Loh exhorted the church members to remember the origin and root of CIBC.
"God is the one who emphasizes history. When you look at the Bible, there are the books of Joshua, Kings I and II, Chronicles I and II, Judges … these are all historical books. In the New Testament, the Book of Acts is also a historical book," reflected Loh. "Today do we leave behind anything for our descendants to learn from? I hope that our church members can take up this burden."
Loh encouraged CIBC members to cherish the history of God as a Christian while he explained, "Christianity is not about a set of doctrines, but it’s about God proving His existence and work on this world."
"As our Church emphasizes on history, we prove the existence of God and His work through this history. Not only He saves His people in the past and today, but He will also save even more people in the future," he concluded.