Ilford Asian Choir over the last few decades are reputed to be one of the finest if not the finest Pak-Christian choirs in the UK.
Asian Christians from across the nation gathered together to meet in prayer and harmony as they celebrated the formation of the first Asian Christian Church in the UK, in 1967. Groups from across the country presented testimonies of the growth of their own churches and their aspirations as they heard past accounts of the famous beginnings of the pioneers at St Mary’s.
1st Secretary for the High Commission of Pakistan in the UK Dlidar Ali Abro
Though the High Commissioner of Pakistan was not able to make it to the event as planned however the 1st Secretary Dildar Ali Abro attended in his place. The first secretary was greeted with some flowers from one of the organisers of the event Hannah Chowdhry (14 years) and was then asked to present trophies to the leading dignitaries within the Pakistani Christian community, which included:
Daniel Singh – First Asian Christian Pastor ordained in the Church of England
Bishop Michael Nazir Ali – First Asian Bishop ordained in Church of England
James Shera MBE – Former Mayor of Rugby
Dr Peter David – First Pak-Christian GP employed by NHS and founder of Gateway TV
Pastor Mehboob Ellahi – Pastor of Walthamstow United Reform Church who led Asian Congregation after death of Daniel Singh and now Pastor in Wales
Pastor Noble Samuel – Pastor of Walthamstow United Reform Asian Church and later Heston United Reform Asian Church. He is also founder of Bible TV.
Asif Bhatti – Former Choir leader at St Mary’s Church and winner of Asia Gold Medal
Revd Amelia Jacob – First woman clergy in UK Asian Christian Church
Morris Johns – A local councillor and secretary for the All Parliamentary Party Group for Pakistani Minorities
Though the event was sponsored entirely by the BPCA we invited Asif Mall of Pakistan Minorities Rights Organisation to partner with us on an historic event that was created to unite our community. Asif Mall duly presented the event and we hope to build on this partnership for future years.
Dilshad collected two trophies one posthumously for his father-in-law Daniel Singh ‘Outstanding Leadership for Pakistani Christians in the UK’ and for his brother-in-law Asif Bhatti ‘Outstanding service for the Pakistani Christian community in the UK)
Guest Speakers included:
Pastor Mehboob Ellahi – Former Pastor for WURAC and current minister at Praise and Power Ministries UK.
John Bosco – Anchor for MATV’s Gateway TV
Shaheen Zar – Ilford Asian Church
Faisal Gill – Pakistani Gospel Rapper
Teerth Sond – Sikh Convert to Christ who leads ‘The Fellowship of Saints in Walsall
Pervaiz Sardar – Nottingham Asian Christians
Stephen Anjum – Birmingham Representative of BPCA
Pastor Ajmal Chaughtai – Overseas Christian Community
During research into the early Asian Church Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association discovered an article which referred to the start date of the early church as 1969, a date which was recorded in a USPG article dating back to 1985. The article reminded Mr Chowdhry of Daniel Singh the first Asian minister ordained in the church of England and arguably across any denomination in the UK.
Revd Daniel Singh had galvanized the earlier church and due to his impeccable morals and dedication to his work was able to build a thriving Asian Christian church which at it’s peak is believed to have around 70 members. Not bad when you consider there were few Asian Christians in the country and they were all scattered.
In 1978 the Bishop of Stepney, Rt Revd Trevor Huddleston paid for Revd Daniel Singh to attend Oak Hill College and in 1978 after completing his course Mr Daniel Singh became an ordained minister. He led the church with great honesty and integrity and people were touched by his passion for God.
The article was incorrect about the start date however, as though the start date for Daniel Singh was in 1969, the building had rather provided the location for church services for Pakistani Christians since 1967. Permission was granted after Revd Johnson approved a request after a meeting with the early founding members of the church, which included Mujeeb, Najeeb and Waheeb Chowdhry. From 1967 till the appointment of Daniel Singh, church services had been led by lay preacher Akhter Samuel who is still alive today.
Prior to 1967, these three founding brothers had started a home church at a building just opposite the church. B collaborating together the Chowdhry brothers had bought a small grocery store and flats above which they all shared. The address of that building was 123 Upper Street which is now has new ownership and is leased by Papa John’s pizza company.
The church grew form strength to strength and at its heyday was serving a congregation of around 50 people with over a hundred attending for special Christmas and Easter events. In the 1970’s distinguished Dr Pater David, who was the first NHS GP from the Pakistani Christian Community became Chairman of the Church Committee at a time when Asif Bhatti a world renowned Gospel and Hindi singer led the church choir.
The church moved from St Mary’s Church a short while after the death of Daniel Singh in 1994 who it is believed was so pleased with news of the agreement of a 99 year lease to hold services in All Saint’s church, Tufnell Park, that he died the same day news was received. Here’s the cliff-hanger….
There is a lot more history to be shared about the early church and BPCA have commissioned a researcher to undertake the initial work towards a publication. A socio-linguist trained in anthropological study will complete a narrative and BPCA are committed to publishing and providing free copies of the history to churches and individuals.
Wilson Chowdhry, said:
“Our publication will be out next year and we hope that the free historical account will inspire future generations of Pakistani Christians in the UK.
“By mapping the successes and failures of our community we hope to use the past as an opportunity for change and a stimulus that drives our community to even higher achievement.
“Celebrating the last 50 years or so of the pioneering Pak-Christian church that began at St Mary’s and proliferated across the UK through traceable oral-history links has been both awe-inspiring and a testament to the indomitable spirit of our community.
“Every adverse moment led our community to greater things and bigger challenges and our recent celebration cemented that into the hearts of those who new little about that progress, hitherto.
“Remembering the achievements of those who came to Britain with nothing and carved out new lives, teaches us that anything is possible when we put our trust in God.”
British Pakistani Christian Association has sent the following text for a plaque which we hope to install at St Mary’s Church. The plaque if agreed will inspire generation after generation of Pak-Christians in the UK, and will cement our heritage at a landmark church in London:
John Bosco collected an award for James Shera ‘Outstanding services for the Pakistani Christian community of the UK’
Pastor Mehboob Ellahi ‘Outstanding Services to Pakistani Community in the UK’
Morris Johns ‘Outstanding service to Pakistani Christians in the UK’
Revd Amelia Jacob awarded for being ‘First woman ordained as minister for Pakistani Church in UK’
Sonia Bhatti collected an award for Noble Samuel ‘Outstanding service for the Pakistani Christian community of the UK’
Dr Peter David was awarded for ‘Outstanding services to the Pak-Christian Community in UK’
Asif Mall compered the event superbly.
Pastor Ajmal gave a rousing speech
Faisal Gill spoke about the need for unity.
Pak-Christians came from across the country to celebrate 50 years since the initial church.