The TMC Kepala Batas began as an Outreach of the TMC Sungai Petani. In 1969, there were 17 members in this Outreach. The meetings were held in members’ homes. It was organised as a Local Conference by the Northern DS Rev. James Solamadan on 23 February 1980. This is the first Tamil Methodist Church to be organised as a Local Conference, after the formation of the Tamil Annual Conference in 1976.
The Early Years
At the time of the formation, there were 45 Full Members. Rev. P. Tevaraji was their first Pastor. Worship services were held on Sundays at 10 a.m. in the estate crèche. Prayer meetings were conducted twice a month by the members. The MYF had 15 members and the WSCS 16 members. There were two Church Schools with 36 children. They had no building and the local church asked the estate management for a piece of land. In 1981, Rev. P. Tevaraji continued as the pastor and gave two days in a week to Kepala Batas. Sunday worship service was at 10.15 a.m. Cottage Prayer Meetings were held fortnightly and Bible studies were conducted. The Full Membership was 47.
The Struggle to own a Building for Worship
From 1982 – 1983, Rev. Stanley Sadagopan was the Home Prayer Meetings were held on Wednesdays. Full Membership remained at 47. The church needed a building but since most of the members were estate workers, they were unable to buy one. In 1983 there was an attempt to purchase a piece of land in Kepala Batas. The cost of the land was RM26,000. A down payment of RM4,000 was paid by the local church in November 1982. Since they had more than RM 5,000 with the Area Executive Council, they appealed for a loan of RM17,000. This money was released, but was not forwarded to the lawyers in Butterworth. The balance of RM22,000 should have been settled by December 1982. Sellers agreed to a grace period of one month till 31 January 1983. This was later pushed forward to 28 February 1983. If the money was not paid by then, they stood to lose the RM 4,000 paid in advance in November 1982. The balance of RM 22,000 was not settled. This problem affected the church and its activities. Many boycotted the Second Local Church Conference.
From 1984–1988, Rev. Peter Devadason gave Pastoral leadership. Being in charge of TMC Sungai Petani as well, the pastor visited this church only twice a week i.e. on Sundays for worship services and Fridays for Cottage Prayer Meetings and home visitation. The church was handicapped because they had neither a building for worship nor a parsonage. The worship was in the estate crèche. Two attempts to buy a piece of land failed. In 1985, the church again tried to buy a piece of land. All related documents for the purchase of the land was sent to the Secretary of the Council of Trustees for study. In 1986, the members continued to worship in the estate crèche. Attendance dropped due to the discouragement of not having a church building of their own.
In 1987, worship services were held on Fridays at 10.30 a.m. Church participation increased and more members became active in the ministry. Regular prayer meetings were held in the homes of members on Thursdays. This provided for a time of fellowship and study. The church finally acquired a bungalow house in a half an acre of land at the cost of RM70,000. The church had only RM23,000 but within a short time the balance was raised. Many individuals in the district responded by donating to this good cause. The church took an interest-free loan of RM12,000 from church members Mr. Arthur and family. The church repaid the loan on a monthly basis. The church renovated the bungalow house with the help of Rev. Ezekiel Raj and Tamil Annual Conference assisted with a loan RM 20,000. This was also eventually repaid. In 1988, worship services were held on Sundays at 10 am. Church worker Mr. Elijah Bala helped the pastor in the ministry. On Mondays, regular bible study and prayer sessions were held. The church paid RM42,550 towards the loan taken from the A.E.C. There still remained another RM1,500 of interest free loan taken from a church member. The church spent RM1,707 on renovating the building. They hoped to put up a church building in the vacant land.
Persevering with Heavy Loan Payments
From 1989–1990, Rev. M.G. Thana Raj was the Pastor. He was assisted by Mr. Mark Supramanyam from 1 January 1989. The members were proud of their church building, for it showed their perseverance against all odds. However the payments on the buildings and fittings took a toll on the finances of the church. Rev. M.G. Thana Raj baptised 3 new believers on 21 October 1990.
From 1991 – 1992, Rev. D.B. Laurence was the Pastor. He was also the pastor of TMC Prai, and was stationed in Prai. Though they began as a rural church, the place of worship was situated within the town council area. Since the place of worship was in the housing area, they faced problems. They hoped that good neighbourhood relationships would soften the situation. There were 25 children and three teachers in the Church School. Sharing the pastor with another local church hindered church growth. The outlying areas and estates had a large Tamil population but there were few workers to reach them.
Received Financial Help to Cope
In 1993, Rev. John Kovilpillai, the pastor in Penang, gave Pastoral leadership from January – April. He was assisted by the Church Worker Mr. Jevaratnam. Pastor N. Rajan came to Kepala Batas on 1 May 1993. The MYF put up a programme in the Public Hall, ‘Rise and Shine’, with songs, dances and meaningful dramas. A new work was begun in Padang Serai. A family of six members were baptised. There was an immediate need of RM 8,000 to do major roof repairs and to accommodate the Pastor’s family. The church faced financial crisis, though they settled their Conference Commitment which was in arrears for two years. In 1994, the church received an amount of RM32,000 to renovate the worship premise together with other repair works.
Facelift for Church Building and Compound
From 1995–1997, Rev. Hendry Ponniah was the Pastor-in-charge. In 1995, the church paid all the expenses for church renovations, their arrears and current commitments to the Conference and the District. The Church building and its compound got a new “facelift”. The place of worship was carpeted. A new fence and a brick wall were erected in front. The members were proud of their sanctuary. Ministerial student Mr. Dennis Raj did well to build the work under the able guidance of Rev. Hendry Ponniah. The DS observed that though the members’ enthusiasm increased, they lacked unity and leadership and there was a need for the members to be exposed to the other churches.
Kulim Outreach Handed to Kepala Batas
In 1996, Rev. Hendry Ponniah was assisted by Supply Pastor James Ravindaren. The local church focused on building the unity among the members. The church now had an overhead projector to help their worship service. There were 21 children baptised this year and this was due to the neglect in the previous years, due to the influence from other denominations discouraging child baptism. The church paid all its Conference and District dues. There was a regular gathering on Fridays for fasting and prayer and about 20 to 30 people attended. Kulim Outreach was handed over to Kepala Batas by Prai where there were 3 families. Church School was held on Saturdays and Sundays in Tikam Batu (11 children) and Kepala Batas (27 children). Six teachers helped in this ministry. The MYF met on Sundays and had a membership of 21 of which about 15 attended regularly. The WSCS met twice a month in the church and had 25 members.
New Leadership Emerged
The church launched into a building project called “Nehemiah Project”. They hoped to make further extension to the present worship hall and extend to the back of the church building, to provide for the pastor to stay. The church organized a dinner on 15 October 1996 to raise funds for this project. To foster fellowship, the church organized a picnic at Batu Ferringhi, Penang and a football game between the youths and the elders. Pastor James Ravindaren’s contribution to this church was very remarkable. The church grew in all areas and new leadership emerged.
In 1997, the young Robert Selvakumar was the Assistant Pastor. The church received a subsidy for pastoral support. The Kulim ministry was more of a preaching point than an Outreach. There were two Church Schools, one in Tikam Batu (Saturdays) and another in Kepala Batas (Sundays). Transport was a problem. The church pursued to extend to the back of their building and worship hall. They started a van project to overcome the transport problem. Though the church was marked by enthusiasm and zeal, the available resources and personnel were limited. In 1998, after a year of being an Assistant Pastor, Rev. Robert Selvakumar took charge of the church. He continued his emphasis on the teaching of the Word.
The church continued to receive subsidy for Pastoral support. There were plans to build a new sanctuary and the parsonage. The cost of the project was estimated at RM 200,000. The church organized a successful Fundraising Dinner on 22 August 1998. They still needed to raise another RM 150,000.
Plans to Renovate and Extend Church Building
From 1999–2001, Pastor Segaran was appointed the Pastor. The pastor’s gifting in worship developed the church into a worshipping community, witnessing to the neighbours. The full membership was 101. Concerted effort was still lacking in the Kulim Outreach. The Church School had an enrolment of about 35 children, with five teachers. Ten adults participated in a Church School teachers training programme. In 2000, about 60-80 people attended the weekly worship service. The full membership was 93. The drop in membership was due to members transferred to other places. Kulim was the only outreach point where a small team ministered twice a month. A survey of the church land behind the sanctuary was done. There were plans to renovate and extend the present church building. The giving was poor, though the church managed with the subsidy received from the Conference. In 2001, the “singing pastor” was busy helping to raise funds to purchase a van for the church’s ministries. The full membership was 99. A Church School was started in Taman Keladi (Sungai Petani) and about 38 children (including non-Christians) attended. Gospel tracting was done in Kulim. With the pressure from the neighbours, the church considered buying a shop house for worship purpose. Three Area Fellowships were started.
Forced to Move to Rented Premise
From 2002–2006, Rev. Edward Devadason, the pastor of Prai, was the Pastor- in-charge. In 2002, 13 children attended the Church School in Taman Keladi. A teachers’ training program called AWANA was conducted on 13 April 2002 by Mrs. Lila Chelliah, in which TMC Jerai also joined. The fencing of the compound was done. Renovation work to the church building was done at a cost of RM60,000. In 2003, five Cell Groups met regularly and the participation was good. The Christian Education Committee started a library. There were two Church Schools, one in Kepala Batas attended by 15 children and another in Tikam Batu with 24 children. The building was renovated and air-conditioned at a cost of RM65,000. Due to strong opposition from the Majlis Perbandaran, the congregation had to move to a rented premise. Appeals were made to the Majlis Perbandaran as well as other relevant authorities to provide a piece of land where a church could be built.
In 2004, three Area Fellowships were held on Wednesdays at 7:30pm. The Church School in Tikam Batu had 25 children and 4 teachers while Kepala Batas had 15 children and 6 teachers. A VBS was held from 23 to 24 of August and 55 children attended. A Church School Teachers’ Training was held on 4 February and 10 teachers participated. In 2005, the full membership stood at 108. The estimated value of the church building and land was RM450,000. The church decided to sell the property for about RM 600,000 and the money to be used to buy a suitable 3 storey building for worship and other ministries. In 2006, the full membership was 113. The church continued to struggle with the sale of their property. Student Pastor Jeremiah Thomas worked very hard for church renewal and growth. He also helped in the ministry at TMC Alor Star.
Kulim Outreach Handed to Sungai Petani
From 2007–2012, Rev. Vinsant Rayar was the Pastor. In 2007, the Full Membership was 116. Three days of evangelistic meetings were held with Rev Herbert John as the speaker. The Kulim Outreach was officially handed over by TMC Sungai Petani to TMC Kepala Batas on 29 September 2007. The worship services there were held on Tuesdays at 8pm. The average attendance was 12 to 15. A VBS was conducted by the Kepala Batas church from 16 - 18 April and 25 children attended. In 2008, the Full Membership was 116. The worship service for Kepala Batas was on Sundays at 9am (weekly attendance: 70-80 School and they met on Saturdays at 2.30pm. A team from Korea visited the church in January and presented their cultural dance and music performance. The MYAF Kepala Batas was formed on 22 February 2009 and for the first time represented the church in the TAC MYAF Camp. In 2010, the Full Membership was 131.Three revival meetings were held with Rev. Ezekiel Raj, Rev. David Rasahpandy and Rev. John Ganabathy as the speakers. The church had an Easter carolling by the MYF. In Kulim, 5 adults and 4 children were baptized. In 2011, the Full Membership was 133. The church sold their land for RM450,000. Mr. David Krishnan committed himself for the full-time pastoral ministry. Education and better job opportunities caused the youths and young adults to go elsewhere.
In 2012, the Full Membership was 116. The youths hiked up Bukit Mertajam and broke into three groups in three separate places and prayed for the church, District and Conference. Easter carolling was done by the youths. Mr. and Mrs. Arul opened their house for Campus Student Fellowship and prayer meetings. About 15 to 20 people attended this fellowship. Financial help was received from the Conference.
From 2013–2014, Rev. Reuben Rajandurai was the Pastor. In 2013, the church conducted Spiritual marking and territorial prayers three times. Focused evangelistic efforts were given to Kulim and Keladi. The Full Membership was 120. In 2014, the church continued with its evangelistic efforts and was in touch with about 50 non-Christian families. The Full Membership was 127.
From 2015–2017, Rev. Samuel Periathamby was the Pastor. In 2015, the young adults were the major financial contributors. The church purchased a property for RM547,500. The Sales and Purchase Agreement was dated 18 September. The Full Membership was 120. In 2016, the Full Membership was 119. Mr. Joseph Ambrose helped as a Weekend Practical Work Student. Four couples attended the Marriage Counselling Training held in Taiping. On 28 February, the Local MSF was formed. Nine seniors attended the National MSF Camp. In 2017, the Full Membership was 117. The church shared the Resurrection message to 11 families on Easter Sunday.
In 2018, Rev. Kunabalan was the Pastor-in-charge and Mr. Paul Davidshan, a Pre-Seminary Student, assisted. The Full Membership was 116. About 12 people faithfully gathered for prayer on Fridays. One member went to Thailand for a short-term Mission. The church purchased a new building for RM 547,500. The church has taken vacant possession of the property.
In 2019, Rev. John Simson is the pastor-in-charge with Pastor Solomon Thangaiah as the Church Worker. The Lay Leader is Mr. Arulmani Sigamony and Mr. Thomas Sowria the LCEC Chairperson. The Full Membership is 115. The new church building purchased in 2015 now has electricity and water supply. They are in the process of doing the MOT (Memorandum of Transfer) and calling for tenders for renovation works. The TAC Property Chairman, Mr. Steven Solomon, is assisting in this matter. The plan was to move after the MOT and renovation works but it is taking a longer time. The membership in the Agencies is as follows: MYF (23), MYAF (25), MSF (30), and MW (40). There are 5 children, 2 helpers and 1 teacher in the Church School. They have one Outreach Ministry which was started on 15 August 2019 in Sungai Dua. This is about 15 kilometres from Kepala Batas. They have one Cell Group.
Conclusion: TMC Kepala Batas was formed in February 1980 and is now 39 years old. At the formation, there were 45 full members. In 2019, their Full Membership is 115. Throughout their existence as a local church, they faced various challenges. Very often their pastor was also the resident pastor elsewhere, e.g. TMC Prai or TMC Sungai Petani or TMC Penang (1993) and even TMC Alor Star (2018). Finance is constantly a challenge. The church has been on the move for the past 40 years and hopes to be in their own premises as they enter their 40th year as a local church in 2020. They have pressed on in spite of all these limitations. With this fervour and the blessing of God, they will surely reach greater heights for the glory of God.
Source: TAC Journals