He has an English- speaking congregation of about 175, a bit larger than the Khmer-speaking congregation. Looking to the future, the Revd Gregory Whitaker and his two congregations are building for the future. The newly envisioned Church of Christ Our Peace (CCOP) will have a nave seating 300 and a social hall large enough for 200. Both congregations would then be able to hold simultaneous services when needed. The Revd Whitaker, his pediatrician wife and their four daughters have been in Cambodia for two years. Each year the size of the congregation has doubled. He has reason to think larger.
Prior to the Maoist Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia had 73 Christian churches. The Khmer Rouge destroyed all but a handful of them, as well as, many other religious structures of other faiths. They turned the primary Mosque in Phnom Penh into a literal pigsty. They blew up both Roman Catholic Cathedrals in the country and turned the cathedral cemetery in Phnom Penh into a banana plantation. Since the adoption of the 1993 constitution the official religion is Buddhism, but Cambodia has had religious freedom and all religious groups in Cambodia have seen steady growth. Islam and Christianity appear to claim about 3% of the population each, with the majority of Cambodians practicing Theravada Buddhism. Islam has a more visible presence through the construction of mosques because many Christians in Cambodia are members of house churches.
The CCOP is in the Cambodia Deanery of the Diocese of Singapore, which is part of the Province of the Anglican Church of South East Asia. The church owns the former mayoral estate in Phnom Penh. But the building is in bad repair with falling ceilings and leaky roofs. A lot of construction is in process around the property and has caused the first floor to flood during rainy weather as water drains away from the new construction projects. Much of the estimated $3 million needed to build the new structure has been donated by Anglicans in Singapore and the locals are working to raise their portion for the church. Hoping that construction will begin in JAN 2016, after they have raised at least 75% of the total cost, the congregations have taken temporary residence for worship by renting an auditorium on the 6th floor of the Phnom Penh International Institute of Art.
The new church will be 8 stories tall. Special features will be a 14 bed guest house, a sheltered rooftop garden and a ceiling cross that filters natural light focused onto the baptismal font. The expat community in Phnom Penh is continually changing and growing, so the Revd Whitaker, an American missionary priest, emphasizes community as a main draw of the CCOP ministry, gathering English-speaking folks from many denominational backgrounds.
Information and photos for this story gathered from the Khmer Times.
Posted by David Allen