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“Farewell church ceremony” The procession of reverends, pastors and church clerks of the First Presbyterian Church down the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road moving from the old church to the new one on Charoenrat Road, 1968.
Boonserm Satrabhaya
church; First Presbyterian Church

The First Presbyterian Church reflects the growth of the new belief that had spread throughout the North. The Presbyterian Christianity was brought in by the American Presbyterians as known by the name of the Christian Community. The first missionaries to arrive in Chiang Mai were Rev. Daniel Mc Gilvary and his family on April 3, 1867 in the time of Phrachao Kawilorossuriyawong (1856-1869). Their purpose was to preach the gospel, establish schools and perform medical work.

When they first arrived, a permanent church hadn’t been established. The representative of the Chiang Mai ruler allowed them to stay at a public hall near the eastern gate of the city. The hall or sala was built by the Mueang Rahaeng officials as a Buddhist rite performing hall. It was strongly built with clay tiled roofs and strong teak flooring. The missionaries used it for their accommodation and center for their teaching for over four years before establishing a permanent one or the First Presbyterian Church, Chiang Mai on Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road

Rev. Daniel Mc Gilvary told a joke about the feeling of the locals who saw them come to preach the gospel. They had white skinned women and children with them. We’ve got to have a look. The people’s favorite time was at our meals. They wanted to see how the foreigners ate and what they ate. We hardly had any free afternoons when we could eat our meals quietly without anyone coming to see us. The villagers would say the Farangs don’t eat on the floor and didn’t use their hands to eat food like we do. That is what “we must see”. However, the gathering of the crowd of people was an advantage. It opened an opportunity for us to talk and spread the religion.

In 1868 Phrachao Kawilorot Suriyawong gave a piece of land on the east bank of the Ping to the missionaries for them to construct the First Presbyterian Church, Chiang Mai. The first church building was a bamboo building. In 1889-1891 it was replaced by a new one which was the first Western style architecture building in Chiang Mai designed and built by Dr. Marian Cheek.

The first phase of their missionary work was done along with modern medical healthcare. The significant diseases at the time were Chronic Malaria, goiter and small pox. The medical service gained them a good reputation and fame. It can be said that the religious work did not succeed as well as the medical services since the government did not support them as much. For example, on September 14, 1868 Phachao Kawilorot Suriyawong sentenced Nanchai and Noisuriya, two of the seven Thai Christians in Chiang Mai with the crime of …neglecting the national religion so they have rebelled against me and deserved to be punished. This made the people afraid and not want to change to Christianity. Until 1869 Praya Thepworachun, an advisor of King Rama III announced a decree stating… one who desires to believe in one religion may do as they want… and in 1870 when Phrachao Kawilorot Suriyawong passed away, the people were free to change their religion to Christianity.

Besides the religious and medical work, the missionaries founded the Frennor School nearby. Mrs. Frannor Nor was the founder. She came to Chiang Mai at about the same time as Rev. Daniel Mc Gilvery. The school accepted both boys and girls as students. In 1923 when the school was closed the students there were transferred to the Royal Consort’s School (Dara Academy School).

During WWII the church was used as a military camp and the church’s clock tower was modified to be an anti-aircraft gun turret.

In 1968 the new Chiang Mai Fist Presbyterian Church was built on Charoenrach road. It was considered very modern. Rev. Taylor Potter, the designer won the prize from one of the Architectural Institutes in the USA.

On November 19, 1968 a farewell church ceremony and procession to the new one was held with the Prince Royal’s College Marching Band leading the parade following with reverends, pastors, church staff and church members marching to the new chapel.


Boonserm Satrabhaya. (2007). Lanna…Muea Tawa (Lanna…Yesterday).
Chiang Mai: Book Worm.

McGilvary, Daniel and Chitraporn Tanrattanakul (translator). (2001). A half
century among the Siamese and Lao : an autobiography. (2nd ed).
Bangkok: Matichon.

Prawat Bot (Church’s History). (1977?). Chiang Mai: The First Presbyterian
Church, Chiang Mai History Hall.

Saguan Chotesukrat. (1972). Khon di mueang nuea (good people of the
Bangkok: Odeon Store.

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