Instead something more tasty was offered
By Tek Chong
An unofficial urgent notice was circulated to all the Bible Study groups of the different halls. All undergrads of the University of Hong Kong were divided into different halls. In almost all the halls there was a Bible Study group. The notice went something like this: “please pray ‘like mad’ for the Christian Association Committee members: Chan Wing Leong, Yiu Chun Kong and others, because they are meeting the Vice-Chancellor to ask for an important request”.
The then Vice- Chancellor was a Very Important Person not only in the University but he was also a British knight – “Sir Something-Something”. It was rumoured that his salary was as high as the Governor of Hong Kong. So these lowly students trembled to face him with a ‘preposterous’ request: “ Sir, can you kindly change the nature of your annual Christmas Carol Service?”
Our honourable British knight cum physiology professor, was also a music lover. His pride and joy was to conduct the HKU Choir on behalf of the Christian Association. The choir members consisted of many distinguished members of the university staff and undergraduates. The annual concert was a prestigious event. The Governor who was the Chancellor of the University graced the occasion with his consort arriving in his Rolls Royce. Everybody who was somebody in Hong Kong high society longed to get an invitation to this glorious Christmas Celebration.
But the executive committee of the Christian Association was not happy with the nature of the Christmas Carol Service. They felt that the Christmas carols chosen by their Vice- chancellor were not carols but songs – like “the goose is cooking”, “beer jugs filling”, “reindeer prancing” had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ. So after much prayer and careful consideration, it was decided to seek an interview with the conductor, with the ‘humble request’ from the Christian Association to kindly “substitute some of the secular songs with some appropriate Christian carols.”
It needs to be said here that the Christian Association just had a new Executive Committee. This group of young men and women were brilliant scholars from the top schools of the Colony. They were bred in strong churches and were well grounded in the faith. Hence they decided to make a stand. They wanted their Christian Association to reflect that it was truly a CHRISTIAN association. They felt that the Christmas service should be an evangelistic tool for outreach. Thus this unavoidable interview in the Vice- Chancellor’s office.
HKU Christian Association at retreat
Later we heard a first- hand report from one of the ex-co members.“When chairman Wing Leong humbly presented our request, there was a silence…… slowly our VC’s face turned from pink to white and then the redness appeared. After a long pause, he took a deep breath and said, “No I will not….in fact I was thinking of no longer conducting the choir. I am taking my wife back to England for a white Christmas.”
So God answered our prayers. And it came to pass that on that Christmas the Hong Kong University Christian Association did present a Christian Christmas Service to a packed audience. One of the medical students Pang Wing Fuk conducted and eventually he became the official conductor of the HKU CA Christmas choir.
The story did not end there. Having got the choice of songs, we decided to get a guest speaker to give a gospel message. I was asked to request Dr Donald Chan, a lecturer of Gynaecology & Obstetrics to be the speaker. Knowing him to be a no-nonsense evangelical church elder, I hinted that he should make his speech more soft-sell and politically- correct. Dr Chan gently stopped me, ‘Kwong Tek if you want that kind of message please get another person. The only Christmas message I give will be that on that Christmas day – God became man; Jesus the God-man came to live and die to redeem us from sin….”
So started our new tradition of the HKU annual Christmas Service evangelistic outreach which continued through the years that I was there. END
Tek has been writing a series entitled “Far away and long ago” about events in his youth. His memory may not be that accurate but the gist of it is true”