History of the True Jesus Church in the United Kingdom
The church in the UK was originally made up of immigrants. She continues to grow due to an increasing number of members migrating to the UK over the years and the emergence of a new generation born here. When we look back on church development, it can be divided into a few stages. The period between the 1960s and the early 1980s was a time when many members began to settle in the UK. From 1972 to 1975, the brethren started to gather together to worship and observe the Sabbath. They came to the stage of church development between 1976 and 1992. During that period, a number of churches were established one after another. The period from 1989 onwards, when the The General Assembly was set up, to the present day, can be considered as a stage of growth – through the strengthening of the church organisational structure, provision of training and participation in the ministry of world evangelism.
True Jesus Church members first migrated to the UK from Malaysia for either study or work in 1950. During the 1960s, these brethren began to contact each other and started to hold Sabbath services. They held services in various places in London: November 1966 in Plaistow (29 Richmond Street); October 1970 in Chiswick; July 1972 in Bounds Green; November 1975 in Holloway; and April 1976 on the first floor of Tin Tin Restaurant (owned by a member in Wardour Street) in London’s China Town.
Cambridge House of Prayer In 1970, Bro John Liew and his wife moved to Cambridge. Nevertheless, they continued to attend Sabbath services in London. Due to the increase in the number of members in Cambridge, Cambridge House of Prayer was established on 15 April 1972.
From January 1960 onwards, members originally residing in the New Territories and Ap Chau in Hong Kong began to come to work in the UK. Initially, the majority of these brethren were single brothers, living under the roofs of other people and working hard for a living. Since they were scattered in different places, they did not gather together to worship God. As it is written in the Scriptures, “So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them” (Ezek 34:5-6).
In 1972, the International Assembly (IA) invited Bro Shih-Hsiung Hsiao (Dn Rong-Kuang Hsiao), who was about to return to Taiwan after studying in Germany, to join Bro Keith Hon (an Englishman baptised in Taiwan) in visiting the members in the UK. On Sunday 6 August of the same year, they arrived at May Hong Restaurant in Newcastle at noon. A discussion session was then held with Dn Paul Tang and over a dozen brethren, highlighting important issues such as observing the Sabbath, venues for worship and electing board members. Thank God, Bro Liew and his family, together with Bro Hon and Bro Michael Yau, made a visit to Sunderland and Newcastle in mid-September. A service was then held for the first time in Ap Chau Restaurant. Dn Paul Tang led the service, which was attended by over 50 members. The whole congregation, praying and singing praises to God, was deeply moved by His grace and guidance.
Sunderland House of Prayer was established on 12 November 1972. Dn Paul Tang, Bro Kei-Tang Ho (Dn Philip Ho) and Bro Tao-Kei Chan (Dn Simon Chan) were then elected as board members. There were over 40 members at the time, and part of Green Terrace School was rented for worship. Newcastle House of Prayer was established on 11 February 1973 with over 200 members, renting Central Methodist Church for church services. In August 1975, Dn Cephas Yau, who pastored the brethren in Kowloon and the New Territories in Hong Kong, came to visit the members in the UK. At that time, a large proportion of the UK members were originally from Ap Chau, where they led a very difficult life. After Dns Mary Yau and Dn Cephas Yau preached the gospel to them, many came to believe after experiencing God’s abundant grace and witnessing many signs and miracles. Since then, God has blessed them both physically and spiritually. When Dn Yau visited them in the UK in 1975, he encouraged them to observe the Sabbath and worship God fervently. He also helped with the pastoral work in Newcastle, Sunderland and Edinburgh. In response to the church’s need for workers, 13 brothers and sisters were ordained as deacons and deaconesses in Newcastle House of Prayer on 30 November 1975. Thank God, the members remained steadfast in faith and attended services zealously. Despite as many as 700 members living in the UK at the time, they still did not have their own church buildings. Dn Yau therefore continuously reminded them to keep looking for suitable church premises, and spent time considering such possibilities with older brethren.
Newcastle Church Thanks to the guidance of God, a secondary hall belonging to a Christian denomination was soon purchased for the sum of £11,500. The first True Jesus Church in the UK was then established and dedicated in Newcastle on 12 July 1976, bringing glory to the name of the Lord Jesus. Over 400 brethren attended the Spiritual Convocation, not only from the UK, but also from Hong Kong and Sabah. In addition, the number of the newly baptised on this occasion was more than 70. In 1990, as the number of members was increasing, they purchased an old property and demolished it. They then built a new chapel on the same site, which was then dedicated in 1992.
Edinburgh Church From 1973 onwards, the brethren in Edinburgh initially held services at the home of Sis Yee-Mui Shek (Dns Phoebe Shek). By God’s guidance and grace, many lost sheep returned to His bosom, and the number of members attending services increased from 20 to 200. Because of this, a secondary hall belonging to a Christian denomination was later rented for services. A house of prayer was formally set up on 1 January 1976. Not long after, an escalation of Religious Education (RE) students and newly baptised members prompted a feeling of urgency among the brethren to search for a church building of their own. God moved their hearts and gave them an opportunity to purchase an old church building for the sum of £30,007 in 1978. After renovation, it was dedicated on 7 May 1979, in the presence of over 400 members. Many years later, as the number of members grew, they acquired a chapel belonging to the Church of Scotland at auction for £70,000 in 1983 with the approval of members at a general meeting. After countless upheavals, they eventually refurbished the chapel and the Church Dedication was held on 19 June 1990.
Sunderland Church In 1977, members of Sunderland House of Prayer acquired a four-storey building for the sum of £6,000. It was dedicated on 16 July 1979 following refurbishment. Sunderland Church was thereby established, and the RE system there was improved. They purchased a larger chapel in 1982 and held a second Church Dedication. More than a decade later, they demolished the original chapel and built a two-storey one on the same site with the approval of members at a general meeting. The third Church Dedication was held on 22 August 1994.
In July 1977, the IA sent Dn Simon Hsu (Elder Simon Hsu) to the UK for six months’ internship. The members were greatly encouraged as a result, and became zealous in attending services and participating in church work. At the same time, youths who were previously involved in RE in Kowloon Church in Hong Kong also assisted in the divine work. By God’s guidance, local members made divine work plans. A National Ministers and Church Board Members Conference was held in Newcastle that year. A resolution was reached at the Conference, requesting the IA to send a preacher to assist the divine work in the UK. Thank God, the IA once again sent Dn Simon Hsu to the UK to pastor the members for one year.
In November 1983, in light of the need for a resident preacher at the churches in Newcastle and Sunderland, Pr Aun-Quek Chin, recommended by Dn Apollos Lee of Malaysia, arrived in the UK to help in the pastoral work. In 1984, Dn Joseph Shek, the Religious Affairs Officer of Edinburgh Church, was motivated by the love of God to assist in the missionary work in Africa. God moved him to realise that while the work was plenty, the workers were few. Thus, he resolved to dedicate his life to serving the Lord.
London Church After London House of Prayer was set up in 1977, a need for a larger place of worship arose from the steady increase in membership. A proposal to purchase a church building from the Salvation Army was approved by the members at a meeting held in 1982. Services began at the new premises in November of the same year. Subsequent to the completion of renovation work, the Church Dedication and Spiritual Convocation was held on 17 July 1983, marking the establishment of London Church. Various divine works such as worker training, RE, and personal evangelism also flourished as a result. Later on, the church board members grasped the opportunity of economic downturn to purchase a five-storey commercial building at Old Street, and applied with the local council for the change of use of premises. After refurbishment, they dedicated the new chapel on 23 June 1997.
Leicester Church In 1975, following a visit and encouragement from Dn Silas Chan, the members in Leicester began to hold services in Wai Kee Takeaway. God blessed the brethren and their faith and love gradually grew. RE was then set up in 1977 and membership increased to over 60. An old chapel which once belonged to a Christian denomination was acquired in 1983. The Church Dedication and Spiritual Convocation was held on 16 April 1984, and thus Leicester Church was established. After more than two decades, the chapel became old and dilapidated, and so the members decided to find another church premises. After searching for a long period of time, the Lord gave them an opportunity to purchase a four-storey building situated at a quiet, convenient location with a park opposite. They then applied for the change of use of premises with the local council. Subsequent to renovation work, the new church building was dedicated to the Lord in October 2013.
Elgin Church Having attended the dedication of Newcastle Church in 1976, the brothers and sisters in Elgin were impelled to zealously attend services. Through frequent visits by members from Edinburgh and their love and concern, many lost sheep returned back to God. They truly repented and resolved to love Him. At the time, services were temporarily held in the basement of Oriental Takeaway. They were greatly strengthened by God and were moved by His Spirit. As a result, membership rose from 40 to over 90, and RE classes were also set up. With the approval of members at a meeting, a piece of land worth £10,000 was acquired on 3 February 1982 for the construction of a church building. By the grace of God, the construction work was completed smoothly. The church was dedicated on 14 May 1985 with over 300 brethren attending, and more than 70 Scottish truth-seekers attended the evangelical service. May all glory be given unto the name of the Lord Jesus.
Portsmouth Church In July 1977, Dn Silas Chan visited members in Portsmouth and encouraged them to gather together to hold services. Thank God, they began observing the Sabbath in Lantern House Restaurant in Bognor Regis. Later on, Dn Simon Hsu was sent there for a pastoral visit. With his encouragement and guidance, Portsmouth House of Prayer was established on 7 September 1978, and RE was also set up. There were 31 members there at the time. The Canton Takeaway, belonging to Dn Mark Liu in Portsmouth, was subsequently used as a place of worship. As the brethren became zealous in attending services and membership gradually increased, they decided to search for a suitable church premises. Thanks to the Lord’s guidance, the present building was eventually purchased in 1985. Due to their financial situation and complications in the application procedure, the restructuring of the building into two storeys was delayed until late April 1988. The Church Dedication and Spiritual Convocation was held on 19 September 1989 and Portsmouth Church was thereby established.
The General Assembly of the United Kingdom
On 24 October 1989, a national Church Delegates Conference was held at Newcastle Church to discuss the establishment of a General Assembly. During the meeting, the church delegates passed a resolution to set up the General Assembly of the United Kingdom (UKGA) and elected 13 members to serve on the UKGA Board. In addition, a committee responsible for drafting the by-laws, rules and regulations was immediately set up. Following lengthy discussions, the first UKGA Board adopted a formal set of by-laws, rules and regulations, for all local churches to follow. The Youth Theological Training Course (YTTC) was also introduced by the UKGA in July 1991 to provide training in order to prepare potential workers for future church development. Moreover, the Thanksgiving Service for the 25th Anniversary of Missionary Work in the UK was held at Newcastle Church in 2001 to reflect upon the Lord’s grace and remind the brethren of their mission to work together for the sake of the gospel. A commemorative publication was also produced, counting the blessings of God. On that day, there were around 1,000 brethren attending from all over the UK.
Gifford Park Church The first church in the Edinburgh area was established at Gifford Park in May 1979, close to the city centre. Later on, a chapel in Comely Bank formerly belonging to the Church of Scotland was acquired by Edinburgh Church, and so Sabbath and Sunday services were held there instead. However, after 4 years, the new church building was too small to accommodate the increasing number of members. When the board members proposed to branch out into two churches, the church members also agreed to this. Some brethren therefore began holding services at the original church building at Gifford Park again. Gifford Park Church was then set up on 4 September 1994, named after the street where it is located. At the time, there were already 180 members. From 1995 onwards, they have been holding spiritual convocations and evangelical services annually.
Forest Hill Church The board members of London Church placed heavy emphasis on the work of evangelism and started planning to establish a church in South London. In December 2004, the church building team used a classroom at a community sports centre for a rent of £80 per day as a place of worship. Two church board members who resided in South London and their families became the first group of members to hold Sabbath services there. By the guidance of God, more truth-seeking friends were baptised and more families moved to the area. This added momentum to the establishment of a church in South London, and allowed the divine work there to be developed. Thank God, they acquired a chapel opposite the Underground on 23 March 2001. On 30 June 2012, a Church Dedication and Spiritual Convocation with the theme of “The Holy City – the New Jerusalem” was held. Through the concerted efforts of brothers and sisters, the chapel was dedicated to God on 1 July 2012.
Cardiff House of Prayer The place of worship in the capital of Wales started in 2007 with an English sister and a handful of brethren from Malaysia and Taiwan who either worked or studied there. They gathered at a member’s home for Sabbath services. This small congregation gradually grew with the addition of several Chinese families who had businesses in Merthyr Tydfil, Bristol, Swansea and Newport. In 2009, they rented an office space near Cardiff Central train station as a place of worship, and later moved to a community hall near the city centre of Cardiff. Around that time, they set up a building fund for the acquisition of a church premises. Offerings were received from local members as well as brethren from various churches in the UK and abroad. In 2011, a house of prayer was established in Cardiff and board members were elected. Thank God, after numerous attempts to find a church building, they managed to purchase a 3-storey office building, with permission granted for use as a church in November 2013. After refurbishment, the chapel was dedicated to the Lord at the end of the year.
Apart from the 9 churches and 2 houses of prayer mentioned above, there are also a number of places of worship in the UK holding regular Sabbath services, including Aberdeen, Glasgow, Leeds, Belfast and Dublin. The following two places of worship have even acquired their own church buildings and have begun holding services there in 2016. The UKGA Department of Religious Affairs, with the assistance of care teams made up of members from various local churches, also regularly sends workers to these places for pastoral visits.
Birmingham Place of Worship As early as the 1980s, there were brethren from abroad coming either to study or work in Birmingham. At that time, they attended Sabbath services at Leicester Church. In 2009, they began to rent a hall in the city centre of Birmingham and held services fortnightly on Tuesdays. In addition, they also gathered together at the home of Bro Yi-Xiang Chao for fellowship. From October 2010 onwards, they held Sabbath services at Bro Chao’s home. 11 members attended the first Sabbath service there. They also set up RE in November 2011. Due to a gradual increase in membership, they rented a unit of an industrial building in June 2013. They were eager to acquire their own church building due to various factors. A church building fund was thus set up and they actively searched for a premises. By God’s guidance, they eventually acquired an old chapel close to the city centre in September 2015. After refurbishment, they moved in to the present premises and started to hold services in March 2016.
Manchester Place of Worship Since the 1990s, the UKGA has been assigning workers to make pastoral visits to Manchester. Each time the workers needed to find accommodation, and there was no fixed location for worship. Accordingly, the UKGA passed a resolution approving the purchase of a flat for the brethren there. However, as the number of members was increasing and RE was established in 2010, the flat was no longer adequate for their needs. They then set up a church building fund and searched for a suitable premises. By the grace of God, they eventually found a premises near a train station in September 2014. After obtaining planning permission from the local council, they began to refurbish the property. Thank God, through His mercy and guidance, and with the concerted efforts of the brethren, the first Sabbath service was held at the new church building on 15 May 2016.
III. Current Situation
As at the end of September 2016, the UK church membership is 2,736. There are currently 64 ordained ministers in the UK, including 6 full-time preachers. In addition, we have 1 trainee preacher and 1 theological student. May the Lord continue to bless and guide the divine work in the UK to glorify His name.
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(updated 24 Jul 2017)