Sidney Raymond Anderson was born on December 7, 1889 in Rising Star, Texas, where his father ran a large farm and also the general store. Olive Watkins Lipscomb was born on October 8, 1890 in Greenwood, Mississippi, the daughter of a college dean and a Methodist minister. Sid was educated at Rising Star High School, the Polytechnic College (later Southern Methodist University) and Vanderbilt Divinity School, graduating in 1914. Olive was also a college graduate, attending Scarritt College and Vanderbilt University, where she and Sid met.
Olive’s mother (Bessie Watkins Lipsomb, 1869-1957) had been very active in the missionary movement and had been to China. This influenced Olive and Sid to choose China as their mission field and their first full time job. Sid arrived in China in August 1914 and was ordained at the East China Conference in Suzhou (Soochow) in 1915. He studied Chinese in Songjiang (Sungkiang) and became fluent in the local dialect (Shanghainese). Initially, he worked in the countryside of Jiangsu Province, riding “foot boats” around a circuit of small towns and villages that seldom saw any western faces. Meanwhile, Olive left America in September 1915, on board the SS Mongolia. She taught English at a girls’ high school in Suzhou (Soochow) until 1919 and then returned to America on furlough.
Olive and Sid were married during this first furlough, on December 17th 1920, in her mother’s apartment in Nashville, Tennessee, Dean Tillett of Vanderbilt performing the wedding ceremony. They returned to China after their honeymoon around the world through Europe. Their only child, Sidney Junior, was born in Kuling (Lushan) on August 29, 1922.
Olive and Sid spent the best part of the next thirty years working at Moore Memorial Church (MMC), the largest Protestant church in East Asia, located in downtown Shanghai. Moore was an Institutional Church, running many social programs. They oversaw a very busy seven day a week program, including choirs, a kindergarten, health clinics, Sunday school and many different relief organizations, touching from 1000 to 2000 persons daily. When Bob Pierce visited the church in July 1947, he was so inspired by what he saw that he went on to found World Vision.
One of the most interesting and unusual of the many community groups associated with MMC in this era was the 3Ns Club of “nine naughty but nice girls”. These girls rented a rundown building in the so-called “badlands” area of Shanghai and ran it as a community center, day school and health clinic. Some of the leaders of the local gangs gave help and support to the club, hoping that through this their children would receive an education and therefore not be forced to turn to crime when they grew up.
Another important group was the shoe shine co-operative for homeless boys. The purpose of this group was not to train boys for a life of shining shoes, but to give them a start at independence, suggesting exciting goals they had never dreamed of.
Later in life, when asked to speak about his experiences in Shanghai, Sid Anderson often told the story of one of his little shoe shine boys:
The wide reach of these groups and the interests involved may be illustrated by an incident a few years ago in Hong Kong. I was in a Barber Shop, and suddenly someone was shining my shoes. I said, “Never mind, I shine my own shoes”; and a young man said, “Never mind Pastor An, I am one of the Boot-black group in the MMC. I got across the border and temporarily am making my way by shining shoes. Your bill is already paid - and I remember our happy experiences in the MMC.”
The work of the Andersons was interrupted by the Pacific War. Olive had already returned to the United States prior to Pearl Harbor, for treatment at the Mayo Clinic for suspected breast cancer. Sid was interned by the Japanese at a camp in Pudong between February and September 1943, before being repatriated aboard the MS Gripsholm as part of a prisoner swap with the USA.
In 1945, Sid was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the Texas college he had graduated from back in 1914. From then on, he was proud to be known as “Dr. Anderson”. The Andersons returned to Shanghai after the war and resumed their busy life at Moore Memorial. But things became increasingly difficult as civil war engulfed China. They stayed on for a while after the communist takeover, hoping to continue their work under the new regime, but were eventually forced to leave, on July 25th 1950.
A former colleague of the Andersons, Bishop Jiang Changchuan (ZT Kaung), denounced them in June 1951, as part of the “accusation movement”. At a rally of over ten thousand people held at the former dog racing track, he attacked Sid Anderson and Bishop Ralph Ward as “jackals and wolves” draped in a religious cloak, who had worked with Bishop Chen Wenyuan to enslave the Chinese people. Friends of the Andersons sent a translation of proceedings at the meeting to them. They forgave Jiang, on the basis that he must have been pressured into reading a prepared script.
Soon afterwards, in August 1951, the Andersons arrived in Hong Kong, where they helped to found the North Point Methodist Church. They spent twelve years there, caring for refugees from the mainland Methodist conferences, opening schools and clinics, and carrying on a program of personal counseling. The helped nurture future leaders of the church in Hong Kong, such as Lincoln Leung. A plaque inside the foyer of that church commemorates the contribution that the Andersons made to Christian life in both Shanghai and Hong Kong. In July 1963, they retired to San Francisco, and were active members of the inner city Glide Memorial Church. In 1971, Sid and Olive retired to a church retirement home, “Wesley Woods” in Atlanta Georgia. Olive passed away quietly on January 4, 1978 and Sid soon after, on February 28. On March 12, 1978, at their request, their ashes were scattered at sea off the coast of New England, hoping that they would float across the ocean and return to their beloved Shanghai.
- Oral interviews with Sid Anderson Jnr in New Milford CT (son of Sid and Olive Anderson), 2001-06.
- Letters between the Andersons and their family in America, 1914-79.
- Xie, Songsan, Moertang shilue [A summary of the history of Moore Memorial Church], unpublished manuscript, Shanghai, 1950.
- Anderson, Sid Jr., China My Great Teacher, Xlibris, 2005.
- Keating, John Craig William, A Protestant Church in Communist China, Bethlehem PA: Lehigh University Press, 2012.
- Lin, Chongzhi, Banshiji de zhufu [A half century of blessings], Hong Kong: North Point Methodist Church, 2003.