Chicken Church

Chicken Church

Or: Bukit Rhema House of Prayer for All Nations

More on Yogyakarta

A giant cement chicken roosting on a forested hill overlooking Borobudur is perhaps a little unexpected, but this is not a cock-and-bull story. In the late 1980s Daniel Alamsjah (who sounds like a good egg, but a bit cracked) was cooped up in Jakarta, and began hatching a plan after he was egged on by God via a vision to build a house of prayer shaped like a… er, dove.

Travelfish says:
There she cheeps. Photo by: Sally Arnold.
There she cheeps. Photo: Sally Arnold

Daniel started to bring the dove (chicken) idea home to roost after visiting his wife’s family in Magelang and seeing some land he was cock-sure was the same as in his epiphany. He didn’t have a nest egg to finance the purchase, so instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, he got cracking and prayed to God. Subsequently he was offered the land at Bukit Rhema for the poultry (sorry) sum of 2 million rupiah. He still didn’t have the cash (even though it was chicken feed), but didn’t want the opportunity to fly by, so decided to wing it and pay it off over a few years.

The intention of the rather bizarre building was no bird-brained idea, but one of love, to bring people of different nationalities and faiths together to pray in one place—birds of different feathers flocking together to feather the nest of world peace.

A literal bird's eye view. Well, almost. Photo by: Sally Arnold.
A literal bird's eye view. Well, almost. Photo: Sally Arnold

But perhaps the story is not all it’s cracked up to be? There are rumours that the building was to be used for a drug rehabilitation project, and when we visited, we ventured into the bowels of the fowl and found several cell-like rooms. It was creepy in a chicken-coop-cult kind of way, but we were too chicken to explore more.

In interviews, Daniel has confirmed that while he once scratched out a living in drug rehabilitation, the small cells are in intended as private meditation rooms. The unusual house of prayer closed its doors a few years after it was opened, as it seems he’d counted his chickens before they hatched, as cost of construction became prohibitive (although there were rumours that he’d ruffled a few feathers in the ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 400 words.)

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Reviewed by

Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.

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