Church as a Public Space
How can a church be presented in a public space? By asking this question, I presuppose that church and public space are two different things. But, Joas Adiprasetya and Martin Lukito Sinaga argue that the church is the public space itself. Adiprasetya wrote, “Church is not part of the public space, the church is the public space itself”. Sinaga argued, “as public space is how church found itself inseparable from the public space while it can still be differentiated”.
Adiprasetya and Sinaga, on the other hand, have a similar critique on how the understanding about the church as a public space hasn’t been fully understood by local churches (grassroots community). They have identical criteria for how a church can be seen as a public space. Sinaga uses Jose Casanova’s writing, and Adiprasetya uses Jurgen Habermas’ Translatability, Cornel West’s Propheticity, and Judith Butler’s Cohabitation. In short, what makes a church a public space are:
- Church as Priest (Translatability): Church needs to discuss with the community outside the church itself and use language that they can understand.
- Church as Prophet (Propheticity): Church’s activities and concerns are not only limited to theological or internal issues but also include social, political, economic, and other issues.
- Church as Friend (Cohabitation): The Church realises that it is a public and communal activity that is not limited to internal activities. The Church is not allergic to being involved in secular realities.
By using the criteria above, I argue that GKI Cianjur has fulfilled it all amidst many challenges.
GKI Cianjur and Its Context
Cianjur is a regency located in West Java, Indonesia, where GKI Cianjur is. Our little church was established on 19th November 1953 and has been there for 68 years. Initially, our history stretched back to 1863 when C.J Albers (NZV Missionary) went to Cianjur and baptized Ismail and Murti. This is the beginning of Gereja Kristen Pasundan Cianjur, which consisted of Sundanese and Chinese.
Missionaries faced many difficulties evangelizing Sundanese because they were closely tied to Islam. Hendrik Kraemer wrote, “(West Java) a desert, a spiritual Nova Zembla for the [first generation of] Christian missionaries”.
Boksu Gouw Gwan Yang and Tan How Siang as Tiong Hoa Kie Tok Kauw Hwee Khoe Hwee West Java’s leader (THKTKH KH; Chinese Church) at that time, visited GKP Cianjur’s Chinese member on 29th October 1947. In 1949 Chinese members joined house worship in Tan Kiem Yau’s house that was served by Boksu The Tee Bie from Bandung every Sunday. In 1953, a Church building was built in Hos Cokroaminoto Street, number 55. The inauguration ceremony of THKTKH Cianjur was held on 19th November 1953. In 1958, with THKTKH KH changing it’s name to Gereja Kristen Indonesia, THKTKH Cianjur also change it’s name to GKI Cianjur.
Cianjur is known as an Islamic Regency as there are only 9,786 Christians (0.44%) from 2,231,423 people in this regency and only 22 (0.48%) registered churches from 4,539 houses of worship in Cianjur in 2018.
In 2013-2014, seven churches were closed. They were closed because they didn’t have permission, even though they had been there for dozens of years. GGP Bethlehem does their Sunday service in GKI Cianjur after GKI’s Sunday service. For around three years, GII Hok Im Tong did their Sunday service in Bandung (68 Km from Cianjur) until they got their permission and relocated twice by the local government.
The inauguration of the Tiong Hoa Kie Tok Kauw Hwee Cianjur in 1953
Tiong Hoa Kie Tok Kauw Hwee Cianjur’s member in 1953
GKI Cianjur’s Endeavor to Brighten the Corner Where it Placed
Nothing much has changed since the first couple was baptized in Cianjur in 1863, with 2021, Christian is still a minority in Cianjur. In this somewhat barren corner, GKI Cianjur is striving in its endeavour to share the light. GKI Cianjur, in the past few years, has done and is still doing several programs. Some of them are free ambulance service, house of education for children around the church, giving funds for people around the church to start small businesses such as fruit sellers, becak drivers, building a guest house for the sick, fundraising with Banser NU, and many more.
Although it runs many programs, they started it from scratch with many struggles. GKI Cianjur wanted to share Christ’s amazing love with everyone. GKI wants to empower the poor (Mat. 9:35-36; 11:5; 19:21; Mrk. 10:17-21; Luk. 4:18), heal the sick (Mat. 8:1-17, 28-34; 9:1-8, 18-34, 12:9-15), liberate the oppressed (Luk. 4:19; Joh. 8:2-11), and become friend with the exiled (Mat. 9:9-13; Luk. 19:1-10; Joh. 4:1-42; Act. 11:3). And these are some of GKI Cianjur’s Stories.
House of Education (Rumah Belajar Ciranjang)
This place was established on 28th August 2012 to provide free education for people in Ciranjang (part of Cianjur) without seeing their background. Some children can’t read but are always promoted to the next grade in school, and their parents can’t help their children to learn at home.
In the beginning, the people who lived near Rumah Belajar were sceptical because a priest (Rev. Hendra from GKI Cianjur) proposed this activity. They were worried that their children would become Christian. In the end, they agree to the proposal and let their children learn in Rumah Belajar.
Youth from GKI Kavling Polri Jakarta in 2018 visiting Rumah Belajar Ciranjang
As time goes by, the educator is from the church and Muslims who were educated in Rumah Belajar in the past years. Six youth were also given partial scholarships to continue their university studies to become better educators for the children who are still learning in Rumah Belajar. Rumah Belajar get their needed fund from GKI Cianjur and support from other GKI.
Some of the Educators selling food to fund Rumah Belajar
Free Ambulance Service
GKI Cianjur’s dream was to have an ambulance to help people who need it in Cianjur. Ambulance for transporting the sick or hearse to carry the body of a deceased person to the funeral was expensive to people in Cianjur, even for some of them, was a luxury thing. On easter 2017, GKI Cianjur held crowdfunding and finally got one ambulance and one used hearse by God's grace. For information, the average budget for Christmas in GKI Cianjur was around 15-20 Million Rupiah (1,000-1,400 USD). The cost needed to get two ambulances were approximately 400 Million Rupiah (28,000 USD; budget for 28 years of Christmas in Cianjur).
GKI Cianjur Ambulance with heart, heartbeat, and cross symbolize love, hope, and faith
Since 2017, a team of volunteers was made. They are the ones who did all the services to the public. They are ready to escort the sick or the deceased 24/7. They are not only escorted around Cianjur but also to other places that are hundreds of kilometres away. Sometimes some people were needed to go to a better hospital in a bigger city or sick people far away from Cianjur who needed to be taken to hospital in Cianjur. We can see the documentation of their journey and reflection on this page.
Sadly, in July 2021, the ambulance got into an accident and can't be used.
But, by the grace of God, GKI Cianjur got new ambulance as a replacement.
Sangu setiap sabtu (S3; rice every saturday)
This program started as GKI concern for the homeless in Cianjur. It’s all started when one of the homeless in Cianjur was passed away in 2017. He passed away alone in his loneliness. Because of that, GKI Cianjur was moved to know more about the homeless who spent their night under the star with their empty stomach. This movement is called Sangu Setiap Sabtu (S3) or Rice Every Saturday.
GKI Cianjur started it by going around Cianjur City once a week, every Saturday, searching the place where the homeless slept, becoming friends with them, hearing their stories, accompanying them, giving them food for tonight. As time goes by, not only food but also several other helps that were provided by GKI Cianjur. Some homeless people were given funds to start their businesses as fruit sellers. Others were given medicine when they were sick. Some of them who had mental issues were taken to the psychiatry ward, and others were reunited with their families.
The other problem they faced was their right to get free medication from the government. In Indonesia, people can get free medical treatment if they have a BPJS card, and for getting BPJS Card, they need to have Identity Card (KTP), and an Identity Card needs an address of living. As they are homeless, they didn’t have any address, so they couldn’t get their ID Card so did their BPJS card. S3 community helped them solve this by addressing the local government to help them.
Many stories have been shared from 2017 until now. Why are they homeless? Some of them were chased out by their family, some had mental issues, their parents threw some out, and some only got 5,000 Rupiah each day (0.3 USD) to feed their three children. Even a 1-litre bottle of drinking water costs around 5,000 Rupiah and one portion of plain rice without anything around 3,000-5,000 Rupiah. GKI Cianjur, through S3 Community, tries to be their best friend by being there for them.
For the last year, S3 is still sharing food for the homeless amidst the pandemic. But the difference is S3 invites the homeless to take the food in GKI Cianjur.
We can see the documentation of their journey and reflection on this page.
GKI Cianjur as Priest (Translatability), Prophet (Propheticity), and Bestfriend (Cohabitation)
As Priest, GKI Cianjur has opened their door to build discussions with realities/ the others around them. GKI Cianjur opened room for conversations with language that the others could understand. We can see how GKI Cianjur can convince people to accept Rumah Belajar or raise funds together with Banser NU.
As Prophet, GKI Cianjur is searching for answers to everyday difficulties. From education for children, transportation for the sick and the deceased, food for the homeless, a place to sleep for strangers, and opening their door for everyone, including other closed churches.
As Bestfriend, GKI Cianjur opened themselves to meet with realities around them. GKI interact and lives with the children who need education, the sick who can’t pay for their transportation, the deceased that needed to be brought to their resting place, the homeless who didn’t have a place to sleep and food to eat, and people who have different religion and worldview.
Mat 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Mat 5:15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
Mat 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
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