The Church of Our Holy Saviour, Labuan

Anglican Diocese of Sabah

The COHS History

The existence of Church of Our Holy Saviour began in 1838, when James Brooke (1803 – 1868) headed a private expedition to Borneo to help suppress a revolt. Brooke became the first Governor of Labuan in 18th December 1846 when a treaty was signed with the Sultan of Brunei.

Letters of Patent were issued on 6th June 1855, erecting the “island of Labuan and its Dependencies into a Bishop’s See or Diocese to be styled the Bishopric of Labuan.” Rev. McDougall, who led the first group of missionaries from England to Borneo, was nominated as the first Bishop of Labuan. On 18th December 1866, He consecrated under the name of “St. Saviour’s Church”, a church which had been erected at Labuan the previous two years under Rev. Moreton.

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In 1889, Rev W.H. Elton was the Rector-in-charged for the Labuan church. Being based in Sandakan, Rev. Elton visited Labuan every quarterly up to 1899, when the Bishop made arrangements for the Rev. Fred Perry (Missionary for Keningau) to visit Labuan six times a year. Lay services were held by Mr H St. John Hughes on the other Sundays. The Labuan Mission had two centres, one at Victoria Harbour, where European Christians predominate and the other at Coal Point (the other side of the Island), where the Chinese Christians have built themselves a little church, and are ministered by Chinese catechists.

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In Rev. Elton’s 1891 annual report to SPG, he wrote: “The chief work of this third year of the North Borneo Mission has been the building of a third Mission station at Labuan. Just two years ago the handsome little church (St. Saviour’s Church), built during Bishop McDougall’s Episcopate, was burnt to the ground in a jungle fire, and it was impossible to raise enough funds to rebuild the church, I am building a good substantial school-church, closer to town, on a site given to the SPG for a school some three years ago. The building was all but completed four months ago, when a hurricane of unusual violence visited Labuan and completely wrecked the building. However, I went down to Labuan and signed a new contract for the rebuilding of the school-church and I have already raised more than half the sum required in North Borneo. I hope to open the school-church before the end of the year. As yet we have no English missionary for Labuan, so for the present, I intend to place a Chinese schoolmaster there, and to visit him about once every three months, and then spend a Sunday there and hold service for the Europeans, of whom there now numbers twenty to thirty”.

Pending the rebuilding of the church at the former place, services were held in the school-church, which was completed in December 1892, and was opened the following February. A Chinese schoolmaster with excellent testimonials came from Hong Kong, but left shortly after his first attack of fever. The school then was only used for services when the Bishop of Rev. Elton could visit Labuan, or when a layman could be found who would take the services. In 1921, the Labuan church was in the care of an honorary reader called Chin Wai Sik. Rev. C Collis and Rev. Chin Pui Yin were taking turns to visit Labuan every month, till Rev. Chin was made priest-in-charge sometime before 1933.

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In light of the growing population in Labuan who lived in the town, the site of the church was considered too far for most. A decision was made to move the church nearer to town. In 1936, funds were sufficiently raised for a new church and a third church, named “The Church of Our Holy Saviour” was built.

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In 1950, Mrs D.M. Boyd donated the 3.17 acres of land in which our present church building stands. On 27th September 1949, Mr Chin Tsun Leong was licensed as the first Honorary Lay Reader in Labuan. Since then, Labuan began to produce fruits of full-time workers. The Church received its first full-time Sabahan pastor in 1977, when Rev. Herbert Tong took over from Rev. Peter Stretton. Under the leadership of Rev. Herbert Tong and his wife, the church moved into evangelism, discipleship, stewardship, and the Children’s Outreach Sunday school. During his ministry, sister Chua Ping Ching responded to full time calling in 1980.

n 1982, as Rev. William Vun succeeded Rev. Tong, the church reaped the fruits of evangelism when the first 100-barrier (attendance) was broken. The need for a bigger church was felt which resulted in the building of the present Church building. It was during his time of ministry that we see Rev. John Yeo today standing as the first “son of the soil” who responded to Lord’s full time call then.

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The charismatic renewal took place under the leadership of Rev. John Loh, Rev. Moses Chin and Rev. Robert Vun. The body of Christ began to be aware of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. In 1996, Rev. John Yeo took office as Priest-in-Charge. The Church adopted the Cell-Church Structure on 18th March 1998. Mobilization of evangelism and discipleship are done through cell (small) groups. On 23rd September 2000, Rev. John Yeo was installed Rector of the parish of Our Holy Saviour, in conjunction of the church’s Jubilee celebration.

The Incumbencies of COHS

1850 - 1861 Bishop Francis Mc Dougal
1861 - 1868 Rev. Julian Moreton
1868 - 1869 Rev. William Balmborough Flower
1869 - 1872 Rev. William Day Beard
1872 - 1889 Bishop Chambers (Kuching)
1889 - 1900 Rev. W. H. Elton
1900 - 1919 Rev. Fred Perry
1920 - 1922 Lay Readers:
Mr. Chin Wai Sik & Mr. Charles Boyer
1922 - 1929 Rev. Strugnell; Rev. Collis;
Rev. Synnott
1929 - 1933  
1933 - 1954 Rev. Chin Phu Yin
1954 - 1957 Rev. Chong En Shin
1957 - 1961 Rev. Vun Nen Vun
1961 - 1965 Rev. A. J. Tudball
1965 Rev. A. P. Daniel; Rev Higgins;
Canon Chin Phu Yin
1965 - 1967 Rev O. J. Holth
1967 Rev. S. W. Davies;
Canon E. W. L. Martin
1967 - 1969 Rev. M. W. Smith
1969 - 1978 Rev. G. P. Stretton
1977 - 1981 Rev. Herbert Tong
1982 - 1987 Rev. William Vun
1988 - 1991 Rev. John Loh
1991 - 1993 Rev. Canon Moses Chin
1994 - 1995 Rev. Robert Vun
1996 - 2006 Rev. John Yeo
2006 - 2009 Rev. David Wong
2010 - Ps. Sim Shiu Kee

Vision Statement

To be
a Spirit-filled Cell Church extending
God's Kingdom
in Labuan and beyond through
Edification & Evangelism