Historic New Church in Thailand Dedicated
By Regina Henderson*
At the entrance of the Phrametta United Methodist Church’s campus are these words of scripture:
“Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.”
Bishop Bruce R. Ough gleefully cuts the crimson ribbon at the gated steps, officially opening the church doors. Ough is the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area leader and the bishop assigned to Thailand. Photo Regina Henderson
With over 200 people in attendance, Phrametta United Methodist Church officially opened its doors to the mountainous Akha village in the northern Chiang Rai province with a service of dedication on Saturday, Oct. 26. As the first United Methodist-constructed worship building in the country of Thailand it was a historic moment in Methodism.
“To God be the glory!” exclaimed Bishop Bruce R. Ough gleefully as he cut the crimson ribbon at the gated steps, officially opening the church doors. Ough is leader of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area and the bishop assigned to Thailand.
As the people gathered inside the new, pristine building, so did the wind --like the Spirit itself.
The dedication began outside, under a plethora of colored tents, with an opening prayer and the singing of “How Great Thou Art” in each one’s native tongue. Some people proudly wore their Akha traditional dress while others put on their western “Sunday best” for the Saturday dedication.
With the help of an interpreter, Bishop Ough preached from 1 Kings 8:22-30 with a nod to Ephesians 2:20-25. Citing the passage from 1 Kings as the “greatest prayer of dedication,” Ough referred to King Solomon standing before the altar and declaring God’s promises before the assembly of Israel.
“This is our prayer today,” Ough proclaimed, “God, bless this place!”
“What does a church look like where the Spirit of God is present?” he asked.
“Ephesians tells us [the church] is a place where God lives through the Spirit, and Jesus is the cornerstone. It is Spirit-filled and Spirit-led with people who are standing on their tiptoes looking for when God is present next.”
The two-story church building with seating for 200 is equipped with audio-visual equipment, a chancel, wooden pews and wide windows that allow natural, piercing light to fill the room. Below the sanctuary are residential quarters, which serve as the parsonage.
A Volunteers in Mission team from the Northeast Jurisdiction made the wooden pews last July with the assistance of a skilled, woodcrafter pastor from the Korean Methodist Church. Global Ministries missionaries Gary and Cindy Moon are assigned to Thailand and arranged the mission team’s work.
“[It was] a joy to see brothers and sisters of different backgrounds coming together for the cause of Christ” said Gary Moon.
The building was funded by the local community, the General Board of Global Ministries, the Korean United Methodist Church and contributions from around the connection.
Filled with pageantry, pomp and circumstance, the dedication service drew the entire Akha community to its spiritual pinnacle. Representatives from the Korean Methodist Church, the General Board of Global Ministries and Payao Bible College were also present. The celebration culminated with a hearty meal with local fare.
Although the building was completed in February, the pastor, the Rev. Phichai Nirunruk, insisted there would be no worship services in the new facility until it had been properly dedicated to God as part of the annual meeting in October.
“I wanted this building consecrated with the bishop’s blessing,” Nirunruk said. Until the dedication, the congregation worshipped in the church’s outdoor community center adjacent to the newly constructed building.
Phrametta means “mercy home” in Thai. Phrametta United Methodist Church is one of six emerging congregations in Thailand. Another 300 United Methodists worship in house churches. As Pastor Nirunruk explains, “Now the church members are not so much afraid of the ancient spirits as they are afraid of the Holy Spirit.”
“I praise God for this place,” a church member said.
*Regina Henderson is the General Board of Global Ministries associate general secretary for Justice and Relationships.