Beverley Warren Colemand remembers the Nonya childhood of Archbishop Moses Tay

BY 1954 LESLIE WILSON, the brother of Leonard Wilson, the Bishop of Singapore, left for me as his successor as Vicar of Malacca and North Johore three congregations which worshipped every Sunday morning in Christ Church, Malacca: they were separated by language. In serving the Chinese and Indian-speaking congregations I had to use interpreters. At the Eucharist for those who wished to worship in English there was nonetheless a predominance of English-educated Chinese, Indians and Eurasians.

To help me as interpreter for those who only spoke Chinese I had a Miss Blanche Tobin, who had served previously in the Chinese Inland Mission, as had many others who had been ejected from China. Soon after my arrival I learnt from her that Mr and Mrs Tay had two sons and a daughter who wished to be confirmed. My visit to their home was a revelation and of the utmost value to my ministry to the Chinese-speaking members of Christ Church for the next three years, and consequently in Indonesia. I arrived on a Friday evening: an older daughter, already confirmed and my organist at the English-speaking Eucharist, interpreted, because her parents spoke no English. The wages earned by members of the family during the past week were placed on a table: father then said prayers thanking God for their health, their employment and so on. The money was then counted and a tithe or tenth gathered together and put into a bag to be offered to God at worship next Sunday. I realised that this family and certainly the majority of the other families of the Chinese-speaking congregation lived by biblical precepts: their canon or rule was that of the Scriptures: their code of behaviour was “according to the Scripture”. Many Chinese at that time had come to their Christian belief by reading the Scriptures (mostly New Testaments) carried round by colporteurs of the Bible Societies and handed out even in remote villages, brought by bicycle or on foot.

This was the ambience in which Moses, son of Mr & Mrs Tay of Malacca, was nourished, as much by example as by word. Consequently in preaching to the Chinese-speaking congregation one preached from the Scriptures which they loved and which moulded their lives. On their faces and in their eyes could be seen, one might say “Sir, we would see Jesus.” (I found the same in Indonesia)

Lest anyone should suggest that Archbishop Moses Tay is out of touch with life in the so-called “real world” it should be pointed out that his vocation was first of all to be a medical practitioner in the city of Singapore in which one could hardly escape reality. When Moses Tay first felt the call to be a doctor his parents asked me to teach him Latin. His vocation to the priesthood only came latter. While serving for nearly seven years in Indonesia (part of Singapore diocese) I only got news of him or his family when I came to a diocesan synod. Since he became Bishop of Singapore (at the time of the tragic death of his first wife) we have kept in touch.

No one should be surprised at his stance and of others from that area of the Far East at the Kuala Lumpur Statement. To these Chinese Christians whom I had the privilege of serving for 10 years – and the same may be said of Indian Christians – the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God. They would all agree with article A of the Lambeth Quadrilateral (of 1888) “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as ‘containing all things necessary to salvation’, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith”, and probably with the other three articles as well. Let us thank God for their stance and give them all the support which they so much deserve in upholding the Faith as expounded in the Scriptures and once delivered to the Saints.

Beverley Warren Coleman was Vicar of Malacca and North Johore from 1954–1957.