History of GEFC
Geylang EFC is a merger of 2 EFC churches: Emmanuel House (“EH”) and Peninsula Evangelical Free Church.
Emmanuel House – EH began as a component church of four (later 3) Emmanuel churches then meeting as one church in the Singapore Bible College (SBC) from 1970-72. These were: Emmanuel Evangelical Church (EEC) retaining a majority of the members; Emmanuel Chapel moving to a terrace house in Queenstown; Emmanuel Christian Fellowship (later called Covenant EFC) with 17 members, and EH. It (EH) moved to Jalan Novena Selatan where it grew from 30+ to 60+ worshippers. With space constraints and the noise inconvenience to neighbours, it decided to look for bigger premises. In 1980, it leased a meeting hall in the Kampong Java Road YWCA facility which housed a kindergarten, several squash courts and a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Rumour had it that sermons there were “finger-licking good”. The young church also sent out its first missionary couple, Kim Tok and Dolly in 1978 to India.
EH had to contend with several more moves in its journey towards being an independent and growing church. In 1988 the lease ended due to re-development plans for the KK Hospital. EH then moved to EEC premises at 307 Pasir Panjang Road, having its service in the late afternoon. At this time, Kim Tok returned from India and became its Associate Pastor for an interim period of 2 years. Soon EH made a decision to move to 721 Bukit Timah Road, the premises of Covenant EFC, using the afternoon slot.
In 1990, Rev Kenny Fam was appointed its pastor. As it grew, the church continued its search for better facilities and timings for its congregation. In 1996, leaders from Peninsula EFC met with leaders from EH and commenced talks on a possible merger and its modalities. Despite some apprehension, God’s peace led both parties and the first combined service was held in the Methodist Girls School auditorium.
Peninsula EFC – PEFC arose out of the ashes of major leadership issues between the church leaders of a mainstream denomination and its congregation located in the Orchard Road area. Despite mediation efforts even by national church leaders, it was unfortunately a deadlock outcome with no resolution. Many members were disenfranchised with the situation and many left the church. To provide a conducive environment for worship, a section of the members left to begin a separate worship service.
This inaugural service was held on 11 Oct 1987 in the ballroom of the Peninsula Hotel (hence its name). The fellowship was initially without a pastor, but the lay leaders felt they had to hold the congregation together for the sake of many who were hurt by the separation. Besides the worship service, Sunday School and youth groups were started in the adjacent “bar” of the hotel. After more than a year of its formation, it was recognised that the church had to be held accountable to a larger body other than its own leaders. Hence, it explored the various denominations to affiliate to. The EFC denomination offered the best in respect of the independence each local church had but yet being part of and being accountable to an established denomination. After a number of warm meetings with the EFCS leaders, the denomination accepted its application.
So, on 26 Feb 1989, the name was changed to Peninsula Evangelical Free Church. Over the years, it moved from Peninsula Hotel to a quaint little chapter at Dempsey Road (Ebenezer Chapel now occupied by the White Rabbit restaurant) for a more conducive environment and space. As the church grew further, it later moved to the auditorium of the newly completed Methodist Girls School at Blackmore Road.
Geylang Evangelical Free Church – EH and PEFC were similar in size with similar goals – to find a permanent home and settle down. In 1996, by God’s grace, the EEC umbrella sold its property at 721 Bukit Timah Road for a good price. The sales proceeds were shared with its 3 churches, including EH. With these funds, God opened doors for EH, together with Youth For Christ, to jointly purchase a piece of land at Lorong 27A Geylang with the plan to develop a building to house the work and ministries of both entities. Seeing the ministry opportunities and general similarity between the churches, EH extended a gracious invitation to PEFC to consider a “partnership” so that combined, they can do far greater ministry and a wider outreach work than as single churches. Although the leaders of both churches already knew one another through their interaction at the national board, a series of “intense” meetings over the months gave them further resonance of a common shared vision, leadership style and ethos, church practices and ministries’ outreach.
Things moved quickly. In Oct 1996, both churches held a combined worship service at the Methodist Girls School for the congregations to “get to know” each other. A year later, the congregation merged and renamed itself, “Geylang Evangelical Free Church”. Through this new name, the identities of both churches were “put” aside so that the “new” church can start afresh. 2 short years later in 1999, the church moved to its new building at Geylang, named Emmanuel House, as a tribute to Emmanuel House’s (the church) humble beginnings at Jalan Novena Selatan. GEFC’s entire 55% share of the development costs (YFC’s share is 45%) was fully funded by way of the sales proceeds, members sacrificial giving as well as members’ non interest bearing personal loans. Within a few short years, the personal loans were all paid off. Praise be to God.