A Wedding in the Family

by | Aug 1, 2023

Church front

This post was originally published on murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com.

We celebrated a wedding in the family last weekend–my brother’s sweet, smart, beautiful daughter is off to start married life in Edinburgh.

This was my first time visiting the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, which is one of Singapore’s oldest Presbyterian churches. 

It was founded by Rev. Benjamin Keasberry, a missionary sent out by the London Missionary Society to Singapore in 1837. Keasberry’s ‘target’ audience was the Malay community. Back in the colonial days, this was considered acceptable.

This is a bit more complicated than it sounds, because according to the British in Singapore, to be Malay is to be Muslim. What, then, is a Malay who is not Muslim? According (again) to the British, they were ‘Native Christians’ (regardless of their personal beliefs). 

Fortunately this term is no longer used. 

Keasberry preached in Malay at the Little Malay Mission Chapel or ‘Greja Keasberry’ (‘Keasberry Church in Malay).  In time, these services attracted not only Malays but also Peranakans (Malay speaking Straits born Chinese).

Keaseberry Plaque

The English Presbyterian Mission acquired the Little Malay Chapel in 1886 and renamed the chapel the Straits Chinese Church, then the Straits Chinese Presbyterian Church.

And since services were no longer conducted in Malay, the church was renamed the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Sign

Carlyle pic

In recent years I’ve not spent much time in church, but I was surprised that the pastor officiating the ceremony chose to evoke at length the unhappy union of Thomas Carlyle and his wife when talking about the coming marriage–

(Remember Samuel Butler’s “It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four,”? Maybe it’s better not to.)

I hope it was the merely the Scottish connection or a passion for Thomas Carlyle that prompted that!

But I’ll wish them well and say no more.