Born in 1855 in Gangtou Village, Tong'an County, Xiamen, Fujian, Hong Kechang was the son of a carpenter and a mother who earned a living by weaving and selling fabric. During his childhood, Hong attended a private school in his village, where his parents had already converted to Christianity. They enrolled Hong in a Tong'an Church-affiliated school, where he converted to Christianity and underwent baptism by the Rev. Leonard William Kip.
After his baptism, Hong became a teacher at Guankou Elementary School. In his early years, he studied the Bible with his friend Lu Gangzhang, with Wang Qishang being their teacher. Later, he enrolled at the Southern Fujian Holy Word School. After graduating from Talmadge College at the age of 25, Hong became the first Chinese teacher at this church school.
Soon after, he, along with Yang Zimei and Chen Chunbing, also took on the role of elders at the Zhushu Church in Xiamen. He served as the president of Talmadge College for twelve years, becoming the first Chinese teacher and pastor in the college's history. Subsequently, Hong also established a Chinese-western school in Zhangzhou and worked as a teacher.
His students excelled in a variety of fields, taking on significant responsibilities in education, business, government, and church ministries. Unfortunately, while teaching in Zhangzhou, his second daughter succumbed to an epidemic. He considered this a calling from God and dedicated himself to serving at Shima Church.
On October 10, 1900, Hong was ordained as the fourth pastor of Shima Church. Throughout his thirty-year tenure, the congregation grew steadily, and the church underwent renovations.
The Shima Church, originally known as "Ju’nai Church," was rebuilt in 1892 under the guidance of Rev. Lin Wenqu. However, by 1912, the church structure had deteriorated, possibly due to termite infestation, posing a risk of collapse. On November 28, 1915, Pastor Hong presided over a council meeting where it was unanimously agreed that the old church urgently needed renovation, requiring a budget of ten thousand yuan.
On August 20, 1927, under Reverend Hong's leadership, the church decided to demolish the old walls and rebuild, a project that lasted over six months and cost nearly 43.5 million yuan. Besides the church, two pastor's residences and a deacon's house were also constructed.
Rev. Hong Kechang had a passion for truth, honesty in his dealings, a disdain for deception, and a strong aversion to sin. He possessed keen intellect and visionary foresight, striving for the development of Shima Church.
Personally raising funds overseas, he established the Shima Private Elementary School. Serving as president without salary for more than two decades, he helped formulate creeds and regulations in the church and created hymns.
On June 8, 1928, he passed away due to a brain disease at the age of 74. His funeral was held at Shima Church with several hundred participants, and he was laid to rest in the Xiangkeng Church Cemetery, Bangshan Town, Longhai City.
In commemoration of him, the Intelligencer Leader, the official newspaper of the Reformed Church, published a memorial article titled "Leaving the Secular Life."
1. History of JiexiChurch in Shima Street, Zhangzhou, Fujian (Draft)
2. Gulangyu History: Celebrity Painting Biography from Xiamen by Zhou Minhui
- Translated by Abigail Wu