Local Church History
Pre-Malacca Street Era 1896 – 1899
When God led eight young men to gather for prayer and Bible Study in 1896, the foundation was laid for the formation of the Tamil Methodist Church Kuala Lumpur. The eight were: Dr E.T. McIntyre, Messrs Daniel Poore, R.S.V. Muthuthamby, J.A. Barnabas, J.S. Appadurai, Arianayagam, S. Sittampalam and Rasiah Knight.
The First Congregation, Location and Pastor
The congregation of this church first met at the junction of Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) and Java Street (now Jalan Tun Perak). Friday 18 June 1897 saw the official opening of the church. Dr W.T. Kensett, a medical missionary, was appointed the first pastor of the church. He engaged Mr. Vedamanickam, a teacher, to assist. In 1899, the Tamil congregation bid farewell to Dr Kensett, who left for America on furlough.
The Malacca Street Era (1900 – 1961)
From 1900 – 1916, Rev. Samuel Abraham was the pastor. On 11 March 1900, the building of the Episcopal Church at Kuala Lumpur was completed and dedicated by the Presiding Elder Dr. W.G. Shellabear and assisted by Dr. B.F. West. Rev. S. Abraham, was also needed in the school. In 1904, freed from school work, he became full time pastor of the KL Church. There were 61 Full Members. Ministry extended to the Prison, Kuala Kubu, Rawang, Kajang and Seremban. In 1908 worship services began at Brickfields and Batu Road. Prayer meetings were held for the Tamils working at the Central Railway workshop. Rev. Abraham died at the age of 53 and for his contribution was worthily called the Tamil John Wesley by his colleagues.
From 1917 – 1927 Rev. J.A. Supramaniam was the pastor. He was both pastor and an educator. It was during his ministry that the Tamil Church in Sentul was established. During this period, the local church was blessed by the ministry of outstanding servants of God like Sadhu Sunder Singh (1922), Bhagavathar Vedanayagam Sastriar (1924) and Dr. E. Stanley Jones (1926). There was a strong children’s ministry under the leadership of Dr. (Miss) Gladys McIntyre. There were 200 children enrolled with an average attendance of 150.
The Malacca Street Parsonage and the Church Hall below were completed and dedicated by Rev. Horley in 1923. The Parsonage cost $7,800.The Official Board agreed to the naming of the Church Hall in memory of the late Rev. Abraham, when they were informed that the Abraham family had contributed $500 towards the building of the Church Hall.
The church was affected by the Floods of 1922 and the church organ was damaged. There was another flood in 1926. This time the organ was salvaged by the timely intervention of Rev. Supramaniam and Mr. Sinniah the sexton.
The Tamil Youth Group, known as the Epworth League was formed in 1923 with Miss L. Stuckey as the first President. Dr. E.T. McIntyre and Mr. D. V. Kandiah were the Advisors. The executive committee of this youth group was then called the “Cabinet.” In 1924 the Sentul congregation became independent from the mother church with a fulltime pastor.
The Rev. S.S. Pakianathan served as the pastor of this church at three different times. Firstly, from 1928 – 1929. Secondly, from 1932 – 1933, during which time he was assisted by Rev. J.V. Ayadurai and Rev. S.A. Philips. At the third period, 1938 – 1946, he was assisted by Rev. J.D. Asirvatham. Rev. Pakianathan saw the church through the troubled period of World War II. While serving as the pastor, Rev. Pakianathan was also heavily involved in the setting up of the Pakianathan Seminary in Ipoh for the training of Tamil Workers. Apart from this, he was also instrumental in initiating the publication of the “Light of Salvation”, a Tamil periodical of the Malaya Annual Conference in 1934.
Other pastors who served during this period include: Rev. S.M. Thevathasan (1930 – 1931), Rev. J.J. Kovilpillai (1934), Rev. P.L. Peach (1935) and Rev. J.S. Arthur (1935 – 1937). Following the Second World War, the shortage of suitable local pastors was acutely felt. The KL Church began looking to recruit pastors from India and Sri Lanka. Rev. J.W.A. Kadirgamar from Sri Lanka became the first of such pastors (1947 – 1948). Other pastors who served during this period include Rev. Paul Athimuthu (1949 – 1952), Rev. V.A. Subramaniam (1953 – 1954) and Rev. E.J. Ponniah (1955 – 1957). Rev. B.C.D. Mather was the second of the expatriate pastors to take pastoral appointment at the KL Church. He was on contract for three years (1958 – January 1961). He served from January 1958 – September 1960. “Rev. Paul Athimuthu graciously accepted the Bishop’s call to fill the KL Tamil Church pastorate in October in addition to his duties in Tanjung Malim Church and School.” (MAC Journal 1960 p. 53).
The Brickfields Era (1961 onwards)
A new era began when the new church site in Brickfields of 1.225 acres was obtained on 22 November 1958. The Ground Breaking Ceremony was conducted by the District Superintendent Rev. H. Haines and the Service was conducted by Rev. Mather on 16 July 1959. The Foundation Stone was laid by Rev. S.S. Pakianathan on Saturday 22 January 1961.
On Sunday 16 April of the same year, the final worship service was held in the old Church at Malacca Street. The cost of the new Church and its additional buildings came to about $200,000. The first service in the new Church was held on Sunday 23 April 1961.
With the departure of Rev. Mather back to Sri Lanka, Rev. W. Denver Stone from the West Virginia Conference, USA, became the next pastor of the church from January 1961. He served till he was transferred to Sumatra in July 1962.
The Abraham Memorial Hall and Parsonage at 197 Jalan Sultan Abdul Samad were dedicated by Bishop Amstutz on 6 May 1961 and assisted by the District Superintendent Rev. Ho Seng Ong, the most senior Asian Pastor Rev. J.V. Ayaduray and Rev. W.D. Stone. In 1962, Rev. Jacob Paul, who assisted Rev. Denver Stone, took pastoral charge from July 1962 to April 1964. Missionary Miss Janet Cooper was also appointed to help. Rev. Jacob Paul was transferred to Klang Tamil Church in April 1964.
Rev. T. Thangaraj was the pastor from May 1964 – July 1965. Rev. Prabhu Das Roberts was the pastor for two years, from August 1965 – April 1967. Rev. T. Thangaraj, having completed his studies, returned to pastor the church from May 1967 – April 1970. He also gave lectures on Social Studies at the University Malaya. The Sentul pastor, Rev. John Kovilpillai, covered KL Church from May to June 1970.
When Rev. Jacob Paul returned after his studies, he took pastoral charge from 1 July 1970 – 1973. He had a strong Bible Study group, which supported a missionary in Kashmir. The Deeper Life Mission in 1971, with Dr. Sam Kamaleson, saw God doing great things in the lives of many. Since Easter 1971, a very active and enthusiastic Bible Study Group met once a week. Miss Ruth Beckett, an O.M.F. Missionary, on secondment to our Conference, was involved in Church School Teachers’ training in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of our country. Her contribution to improve the quality of Church School teaching will be long remembered. The Church was affected by a major flood for the third time in its history in January 1971. Rev. Francis Sunderaraj, the last of the foreign missionaries to pastor KL Church, served from 1975 – 1976.
Outreach Work Gained Momentum
Outreach work was part of the activity of the church from the time of Rev. Abraham. In the 1960s, the Tamil Sunday School was conducted in the afternoon mainly to cater to the children in the nearby quarters. In the 1960s, when Rev. Prabhu Das Roberts was the pastor, weekly visits were made to Mary Estate in Batang Berjuntai on Saturdays. Due to the lack of facilities, Church School was conducted in a Hindu temple and under the shade of trees. At that time, this ministry was made possible by an American OMF missionary of Greek origin, Miss Genie Orthites. Transport was provided for this ministry by the KL Church men, who took turns to drive. Among them were Mr. E.V. Nesaratnam, Mr. Cecil Victor, Mr. I. Ponnuthurai, Mr. Daniel Doraiappah, Mr William David and Mr. Benjamin Niles. Others who went to minister included Ms Grace Vethamani, Jeevam Selvaretnam, Esther Samuel, Jeyamalar Samuel and Annathai Doraisamy.
Post Missionary Pastors Period – 1976 onwards
Rev. V. John Kovilpillai became the first local born pastor to be appointed to the KL Church in 1976. He was the pastor from 1 September 1976 till 1990. Rev. Kovilpillai was elected TAC President in November 1976. He had the dual responsibility of heading the Tamil Annual Conference as well as the KL Church.
In 1981, from June to December, Rev. S. Duraisingam was the Assistant Pastor. From 1982 to 1985, Rev. Victor Vethamani was the Assistant Pastor. In 1984, the first Preaching Class was conducted by him. From 1986 to 1988 Rev. Peter Jebasekaran was the Assistant Pastor. From 1989 there were two worship services – Tamil at 9.00 am. and English at 10.30 am.
During Rev. John Kovilpillai’s tenure, several Outreach Points were started. Couples were put as coordinators and this proved to be very effective. Many of these Outreaches have since become Local Conferences:
1. Ulu Klang: Ministry was started in the 1950s. The coordinators included, Mr. & Mrs. Muthu Thaver, Mr. & Mrs. John Ponnampalam and Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Ngo. It became a Local Conference on 11 December 1994.
2. Sungei Way/Subang: work started in 1975 with Mr. & Mrs. J.D. Rajaram as the coordinators. It became a Local Conference as TMC Petaling Jaya on 11 May 1986.
3. Batang Berjuntai: Work here was done as early as 1926 but restarted by KL Church in the 1960s as well as in 1980s. In 1976, all the members joined TMC Bukit Rotan.
4. Kampong Sri Pinang: Work started here in 1981 with Mr. & Mrs. David Chelliah as the coordinators. They were incorporated with TMC Petaling Jaya and became members of that local church.
5. Rawang: Work began in 1981 in the home of Mr. & Mrs. G.J. Thanaraj . Mr. & Mrs. Robert Ananthan were coordinators. It became a Local Conference on 1 November 1992.
6. Sungei Besi/Serdang: This ministry was started in 1987. The coordinators included Mr. & Mrs. G.M.M. Mutu, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Ananthan and Mr. & Mrs. I. Ponnuthurai. It became a Local Conference on 7 January 1995. They are now known as TMC Serdang.
7. Bangi/Semenyih: Work started in October 1984. Coordinators for this ministry included, Mr. & Mrs. G.M.M. Mutu and Mr. & Mrs. I. Ponnuthurai. It became a Local Conference on 3 January 2004.
8. Kampong Kayu Ara: Started in 1986 with Mr. & Mrs. P. Iyadurai as the coordinators. On 1 June 1995 the membership of this Outreach was transferred to TMC Bukit Rotan. They became a Local Conference on 19 February 2005.
9. Selayang: This Outreach was started in 1987 with Mr. & Mrs. A. Subramaniam as the Coordinators. It became a Local Conference on 9 April 2009.
10. Cheras: The first Outreach to be created as a Satellite Church, together with the members of TMC Sentul church. They became a Local Conference on 27 March 2010.
Rev. Peter Jebasekaran was the pastor in charge from 1991 – 1992. In July 1991 the Annexe extension of the Abraham Memorial Hall was completed. The unveiling of the Commemorative Tablet was by Bishop Rev. Denis C. Dutton and the Official Opening Ceremony was by Rev. V. John Kovilpillai.
In 1991 the Methodist Seniors Fellowship was formed. From April 1992 till 1994, Rev. Emanuel Rajahser was the Assistant Pastor. In 1992 the Church was fully air conditioned and the sound system upgraded
Rev. James Solamadan was the pastor in 1993. In that year Ms. Emily Singam came forward to serve as the church’s first missionary. She was sent to Jordan. Rev. David Tharmakan served as the pastor for one year in 1994. He was also then the President of the TAC.
Ministry help to TMC Bukit Rotan
In the early 1970s, the pastor of the KL Church was also appointed as the pastor of TMC Bukit Rotan. Along with the pastor, members of the KL church made trips to Monmouth Estate (the sanctuary at Bukit Rotan was in an unusable condition). Help was extended to teach Church School, conduct sewing classes, hygiene and family planning. The Union Biblical Seminary students were also given practical exposure in ministry under the supervision of the KL Church pastor. The students included, Mr. Gabriel Jabanathan, Mr. P. Tevaraji, Mr. Simon Chandran, Mr. S. Duraisingam and Mr. Peter Jebasekaran. Mr Victor Vethamani helped in 1975/76 before going to the seminary. As in the 1960s, several KL Church men helped to give transport on Sunday afternoons.
Rev. P. Tevaraji was the pastor from December 1994 till 1998. From 1995 to 1999, Rev. M.G. Thana Raj was the Associate Pastor. Area Fellowship meetings and Bible Study were encouraged. He was elected Conference President in November 1998.
Rev. Victor Vethamani was pastor from 1999 – 2007. He was assisted by Rev. M.G. Thanaraj (1999), Rev. Dennis Raj (2000 – 2003). Rev. Timothy Krishnan (2004) and Rev. T.D. Peter (2004 – 2007). In 2000 an Anti-Dadah/HIV/AIDS Program was organised by the local church with Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir as the special guest.
The year 2004 was significant:
Children’s Church Ministry was started
Worship service time changed: Tamil service at 8.15 and then to 8 am
English service at 11.15 am. Coffee Fellowship 9.30 – 10.00 am
Church School/Bible Study/MYF from 10. 00 – 11.00 am
Telegu and Nepali Worship service began in February
Indonesian Worship Service was conducted in the premises
Small Group Ministry began with Mr. Jason Olivo as the first coordinator
Alpha Course was conducted
Rev. M.G. Thanaraj was the pastor for one year in 2008. At this time the church had Rev. E.C. Gnanasekhar from India as the Associate Pastor. Due to visa difficulties, his wife could not be with him. Thus this arrangement could not continue.
Rev. Justin Clarance took charge as the pastor from 2009 – 2017. He was assisted by Rev. Ruben Kanagalingam (2009), Rev. Edwin Rajamoney (2010 – 2012), Rev. Samy Dass (2013 – 2016) and Rev. Herbert John (2017). Some of the highlights of this period include:
• Ulu Pudu Outreach Point launched 2009
• Outreach work in Pantai Dalam launched 2011
• Brickfields Community Football Program 2010
• The Million Leaders Mandate Leadership Course 2010
• RM 1 million for Building Project received through Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib 2013
• Mission Trips and ministry to the Penans in Miri began 2013
• Miss Jayam Devadason, a member of this church ‘bequeathed’ her house to TMC KL on10 January 2014
• Reading through the Bible (24 hours) was held during the Lent Season
In 2017 the Church celebrated its 120 Years’ Anniversary. The Church embarked on a Discipleship Study program for the adults with an average attendance between 60 to 70 members.
In 2018, Rev. Herbert D. John became the Senior Pastor of this church with Rev. David Abraham as his Associate. Among other happenings included the Annual Bible Camp that was done for the very first time. In 2019, Rev. D.B. Laurence was appointed as the Associate Pastor. Very sadly, Rev. Laurence suddenly passed away on 31 January 2019. He served the local church that had sent him for the fulltime ministry for one month. Rev. Herbert continued as the sole pastor of the church. Mr. John Ananthan the Lay Leader and Mr. Augustus Jeremiah the LCEC Chairperson, are giving able support.
In 2019 the Full Membership is 580. They have 12 Small Groups. The Church Kindergarten has 56 children, 3 classes; 4 teachers, 3 assistant teachers, 1 cleaner and principal. There are 3 Trainee teachers from the Methodist College. The Church’s Mission involvement is very commendable. Their budget for 2019 is RM353,200. They are supporting 13 Mission Workers. Their commitment to MMM is RM60,000. They have 140 students in the Church school with an average attendance of 90 to 100. MYF has 59 members, MYAF has 41 members, MW has 58 members, and MSF has 90 members. The Social Concerns ministry is strong with their Learning Centre meeting on Saturdays from 10.30 am to 3pm. Apart from the church members, there are outside volunteers, including some Methodist College KL students. These students participate to fulfil their community service requirements.
Those who became Pastors from this Local Church
The following were sent to become pastors from this local church: Rev. Victor Vethamani, Rev. Emanuel Rajahser, Rev. Hendry Ponniah (home church is Sitiawan), Rev. D.B. Laurence and Rev. Raymond Raj Ponnuthurai.
Lay Leadership to the Annual Conference from the Local Church
The KL Church had and still has a major role in the ministry of the Tamil Conference (TPAC and TAC). The first Office for TAC was in the KL Church. Key lay leaders like the Conference Treasurer (Mr. Sam Supramaniam, Mr. Cecil Victor), Finance Chairman (Mr. E. V. Nesaratnam, Mr. P.S Nagaratnam, Mr. J.D. Rajaram, Mr. Anthony Row and Mr. Augustus Jeremiah), Mr. V. Tharumaraj (Conference Secretary) and Mr. A. Chelvarajasingam (Chairman Salary Review Committee).
Today the KL Church is 122 years old. The church continues to grow and impact the lives of many. God has been faithful and the church continues to look for doors of opportunity to serve the Lord.
1. Methodist Journals
MAC, TPAC, TAC
Three Pioneer Pastors – compiled by Mr. E.V. Nesaratnam
Celebrating 120 Years (1897 – 2017) Pictorial History
3. Souvenir Programs
a. Dedication Service of TMC KL in Brickfields in 1961
b. TMC KL Outreach Ministries (Blue)
c. Walkathon in aid of Sg. Way Subang Church Project 1985
d. 85th Anniversary 1896 – 1981
e. Dedication Service of Abraham Hall Extension and 3 storey annex 1992
f. Celebrating 50 Years in Brickfields 2011
g. 100 Years Celebration 1896 – 1996
4. Other Resources
a. Correspondence Files
b. Local Church Newsletter
c. Personal Interviews