31 January 2016

The protestant church in Blimbingsari

In Bali, many Christian churches have incorporated local architectural finishes that lifts both the eyes and the spirit of worshippers who attend Sunday and Holy Day services. While there are a number of churches in an around Bali’s capital of Denpasar with Balinese “touches,” the full expression of this genre is encountered in the village of Blimbingsari, Bali. The Protestant Church that stands in this picturesque village was referred to until recent times as the “Pura Gereja” – blending the term of “Pura” or temple for Balinese Hindus with the Indonesian term from the Portuguese of “Gereja” for church. Those travelling the well-kept roads leading into the village cannot help but notice the neat arrangement of homes built and the obvious commitment to trash-free cleanliness, worthy of emulation in other parts of Bali.
In front the Village Hall for Blimbingsari stands the Protestant Church – one of the oldest and most unique churches in Bali.
The existence of the community traces back to 1939. After conducting a survey and obtaining permission, the village was built. At the time this was a dense jungle called ‘Alas Angker’ filled by dangerous animals such as large snakes, tigers and other vicious denizens of the forest. The elders of the village of Blimbingsari then cleared away the jungle to make space for the first wave of settlers that numbered around 30 people. The trees cleared away, home were built, gardens established and village streets marked out. Among the essential structures erected was the Protestant Church of Blimbingsari.
Originally, the church of the Village of Blimbingsari was built in a European style. But, in 1971, an earthquake damaged the old church and a new church was built adopting Balinese architecture. That church, still standing today, resembles a Balinese religious temple with an outer yard of jaba sisi, a traditional Balinese split entrance or gapura, and a central place of worship. And, like a Balinese temple, but very much unlike a traditional church setting, the central worship area has no confining walls.
The churches architectural finishes includes many Balinese style carvings made by an Ubud artists depicting stories from the Bible. One base relief shows Jesus washing the feet of his disciples with Jesus wearing Balinese dress. Also unique to the Village of Blimbingsari, local church members attend services in traditional Balinese costumes for services that are conducted in the Balinese language. In the lead up to the Christmas holidays, villages make traditional Balinese Penjor stand that adorned local streets while the womenfolk prepare the traditional dish of lawar Bali for the coming communal feasts. And, while other churches in Bali use the Western convention of a bell to call worshippers to prayer, the church at Blimbingsari strikes a wooden kulkul to summon the devote. Desa Blimbingsari is now home to 270 Christian Protestant families living a short distance from the nearby village of Palasari settled in the late 1930s by exiled Balinese of the Catholic Religion.
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