This is an insightful historical account of the All Saints Anglican Church in Menteng, originally written by Andrew Lake, former Vicar of All Saints’ Anglican Church Jakarta and revised and updated by permission of Andrew Lake, March 2023. The church has lived through 200 years of Indonesian history, and Jakarta has quite-well developed around it. This story paints a picture of that era, in the perspective of the Christian communities of the time.
The Church Grounds
A Church Is Built
All Saints’ is the oldest English-speaking institution in Indonesia and was founded in 1819 by the London Missionary Society to train missionaries for China. The original church was constructed of bamboo and became known locally in Dutch as the Engelsche Kerk (the English Church), but in 1831 the bamboo structure, which had been destroyed by termites, was replaced by the “new and handsome chapel” we see today, although the building today has had several alterations since 1831.
By the terms of the treaty in which Java was handed back to the Dutch, the small British merchant community was allowed to remain. The land on which the church was built was purchased by the London Missionary Society in 1819, but it was on 7 January 1822, when the Reverend and Mrs. Walter Medhurst of the London Missionary Society landed at Batavia, that the work of the church was significantly extended and enhanced by services being held for the Chinese, Malay, and the British community.
Medhurst was a visionary whose primary aim was to take the gospel to China, which at the time he landed in Batavia, was closed to missionary work. Not to be confounded by China’s closure, however, he sought to evangelise the expatriate Chinese of Southeast Asia so that they would take the gospel back to their home country. In 1843 when China began to open to foreigners the Medhursts left Batavia to fulfil their life’s ambition. By trade, Medhurst was a printer and left a legacy of being a pioneer of Chinese Christian publishing.
The Church Building
Medhurst opened the present church in 1831, which had been built in a Georgian style. For the first 150 years there were no exterior walls, only pillars of brick and plaster with screens that extended down to head-height providing shade and allowing air circulation. It was unpretentious and un-adorned compared to churches built a generation later in the Gothic revival style.
The most visible change to the church in recent years was enclosure of the side verandas in 1989 to accommodate the growing congregation. Since 1995 an attractive pendopo or gazebo has graced the front lawn.
Medhurst was probably a Wesleyan, which is reflected in the original floor plan of the church: typical of a non-Conformist chapel. Subsequent chaplains, who were from the Church of England, made the church more distinctively Anglican by adding a chancel and sanctuary, completed in stages by 1863.
Ornaments and Furnishings
Although for most of the Church’s history the clergy were Anglican, the proprietors of the building were the British Protestant Community, which included Scottish Presbyterians and other Protestant groups who were by nature against adornment that hinted of idolatry or sacramentalism. Thus, there are no stained-glass windows, of which the Victorians were very fond, and the only decorative windows are some modest lead lights in the sanctuary.
The only concessions to the decorative impulses of the Victorian and Edwardian eras were the carvings seen on the stone font and in wood in several places. There are Four distinctive motifs which appear in carvings:
1. The sacred monogram “his”, which is a representation of the name of Jesus with the Greek letters: Iota Eta Sigma, found on the baptismal font, the reredos (the panel behind the Communion Table) and the credence table (the side table in the sanctuary).
2. Plants. There are different kinds of plants carved on each of the eight panels at the top of the font, each symbolising a Christian grace or doctrine; e.g., ivy represents eternal life, oak represents fidelity, while the grape vines on the panelling in the sanctuary and chancel evoke the holy communion and the words of Jesus, “I am the vine and you are the branches”.
3. The symbols of the trinity (the Christian doctrine of one God, worshipped as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is represented by the clover leaf circles found on the pulpit
4. Variously shaped crosses are seen on the lectern: the six-pointed star of David,
symbolizing the Old Testament Scriptures, is set between two crosses representing the New Testament Scriptures. The ornate roof cross was popular in Victorian times, integrating three symbols: the cross representing sacrificial death, the circle representing eternity and lily petals on the arms of the cross, representing life, which combined mean Jesus Christ is the source of eternal life.
Graves and War Memorials
The gravestones now lining the walls of the eastern aisle were relocated to the church between 1913 and 1930. Some had been discovered in the floor of a godown in Kali Besar, while the gravestone of Barrett was found at Rempoa near Ciputat and the gravestone of Hamilton was found at Amboyna in Maluku. There are several memorials, one of the most interesting is that of James Bowen, who met an early death.
The World Wars
A memorial plaque at the rear of the church commemorates the 11 British community members killed in the first world war (1914-1918). The second world war is commemorated by a further plaque.
Some of the Allied POWs during World War II were imprisoned at Tanjung Priok where they built a chapel and set in to two windows representing the nationalities of the prisoners. A painting of the chapel hangs in the vestry and the painted windows are preserved at the rear of the church. The chapel built by the POWs later became the first church in the Roman Catholic parish of Tanjung Priok but has since disappeared.
Other Historic Sites With Connections to the English-Speak Community
1. Christchurch, Surabaya, which was erected in 1930 is on Jalan Diponegoro. Here, services were conducted mainly by Lay Readers as the Vicar from Jakarta who visited three or four times annually, and by a several missionaries. The church was passed to the Association of Indonesian churches in the mid-1960s during the period known as the confrontasi.
2. The Batavia English Library, where Christian literature was printed, published, and retained, forms part of the “new” vicarage around which the vicarage was later built. The original vicarage, now named Medhurst House, is itself an historical building, being built around the mid- 19th century (picture right, taken circa 1860).
3. Fort Marlborough in Benkulu Sumatra was built in 1762, replacing Fort York (1690), providing a residence for Raffles as Lieutenant Governor from 1818 until the return of Sumatra to the Dutch in 1823
4. The Jakarta Cricket Club, which was located off Jalan Diponegoro and now forms part of the Universitas Pancasila campus, was a centre of expatriate social life. The long, single-storey building is still recognisable by the clock turret on the roof. The size of the former cricket ground has been reduced but is still known as Lapangan Inggris (The English field).