The ministry in Prai was initiated when Rev. Chellaraj Fenn was the pastor of TMC Penang from 1976 to January 1979. Prai became an Outreach of TMC Penang. It was organised into a Local Conference by Rev. V. John Kovilpillai, the President of the TAC on 21 April 1981. The Northern DS, Rev. K. James Solamadan, presided over this meeting. Rev. Simon Chandran was appointed the first Pastor. The Full Membership was 38. Initially the Sunday worship service was at 6 p.m. and it was held in the home of Mr. Gnaniah, a church member. The church booked a semi-detached house for RM 83,000. A down payment of RM10,000 was paid. A WSCS and a Church School was formed.
Moving into the Semi-Detached House
From 1982 – 1990, Rev. David Tharmakan was the Pastor-in-charge. In 1982, the church bought the semi-detached house and the Penang church was very helpful. The Full Membership grew to 40. The Sunday worship services were conducted at 4 p.m. In 1983, the time for the Sunday worship services changed again and was held at 7.30 a.m. In 1984 the Full Membership stood at 47. Through evangelistic meetings, a number of non-Christians started to attend the services and there were a few conversions. In 1985 the Full Membership grew to 52. The church ventured into Kulim for outreach work. A group of young boys went every Wednesday for home meetings. The church paid RM 800 towards the loan taken from the A.E.C. They still had another RM 16,000 to settle, which they hoped to pay up by the following year. A sum of RM 1,000 was sent to the Prai church by TAC towards the payment of the loan.
In 1986 the Full Membership continued to grow and became 56. Church Worker Pastor Bani assisted Rev. Tharmakan. Worship services were held on Sundays at 8 a.m. There was also a Youth Service every 1st Sunday of the month at 6 p.m. Except for the Communion Services, all the other services were conducted by Pastor Bani. Kulim Outreach had regular worship services on Sundays at 5.30 pm. This was held in the home of one of the members. They looked for a place for the worship service and Wesley Methodist Church Kulim was contacted. Due to lack of teachers, the Church School had some problems but Mr. P.P. Abraham took over and revived it.
Ministering to Children
In 1987 the Full Membership was 61. Rev. David Tharmakan and Church Worker Mr. Ramadason gave pastoral leadership. Tuition classes were conducted in the church for poor children by two of their members. Most of the students were from Hindu homes. A number of them accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour because of the good example set by the teachers. The Conference gave a monthly allowance of RM 250 for the Church Worker.
In 1988 the Full Membership was 54. The worship services were held on Sundays at 7.30 a.m. An average of 35 members attended. There was poor attendance for the Church School because Hindu parents prevented their children from attending the classes. Another reason was due to some children attending the free tuition classes provided on Sunday mornings.
Mak Mandin Outreach: Bible Study was conducted in the home of Mrs. Nyanammal on Sundays at 7 p.m. About 15 people attended the study and Mr. P.P. Abraham was the co-ordinator of the work. In 1989 the Full Membership was 60 and there was good lay participation and leadership. In September 1990, Rev. Tharmakan left for the US for his Masters studies. From November 1989, the church had the services of Rev. Mark Subramanyam who helped in some ministries and visitation.
First Resident Pastor
From December 1990 Rev. Laurence Belavendran was posted to this church. In a short time he visited and ably consolidated the ministry. The work in Nibong Tebal/Parit Buntar was very encouraging. Rev. C. Jayaraj helped with the Communion Services and Mr. P.P. Abraham was the coordinator. In 1992 the Full Membership was 63. The church premise was becoming too small for the growing congregation. An extension programme was planned. The outreach work in Nibong Tebal/Parit Buntar was handed over to Penang on 1 June 1992. In 1993 the Full Membership was 57. Rev. D.B. Laurence took full charge of Prai from December 1992, thus becoming the first resident Pastor of Prai.
Consolidating Outreach Ministry
From 1993 – 1994, Rev. N. Rajan was the Pastor. In 1994 the Full Membership was 58. Worship services were held on Sundays at 8 a.m. The church had a Family Picnic at Batu Ferringhi. The church made new pews which were all donated by the members. From 1995 – 1997 Rev. Hendry Ponniah was the Pastor. In 1995 the Full Membership was 69. The following were the Outreach Points: Bukit Mertajam: The new outreach ministry in this place was started on 8 January. The Conference President, Rev. David Tharmakan, was present at the inaugural service. The work in Nibong Tebal was integrated with the work in Bukit Mertajam. The worship service on Sundays was at 5 p.m. About 30 – 35 people attended. The ministry in Kulim was started on 13 July and they met every 1st and 3rd Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. The church bought a new van which helped the total ministry. The parsonage was renovated. The church looked for another place for the pastor to stay, as there were many practical problems. The church was supportive of the pastor’s family needs.
In 1996 the Full Membership was 69. The membership had been stagnant for many years and the only significant increase was due to the 15 members who were transferred from Penang (Nibong Tebal Outreach) the previous year. The Bukit Mertajam worship was at first held in the Lutheran church building. After 3 months, they moved to the Front-line Community Centre. There were 24 adults and 20 children. The average attendance was 20. They needed a place of worship.
For the first time the church organized a Children’s Camp from 13 to 14 September 1996. The main speakers were Mr. and Mrs. Louis Martin from Ipoh. In 1997 the full membership was 74. The pastor Rev. Hendry Ponniah, was given the unenviable task of building an Outreach Point (Bukit Mertajam), helping a young minister Pastor Robert Selvakumar (Kepala Batas) and at the same time looking after a church of his own (Prai). The church had a One Day Worship Seminar with Rev. A.E. Joseph on 8 May 1997. When the Bukit Mertajam ministry became an Area Fellowship, the church did not have any Outreach Point. In Prai the parsonage and the church worship hall were adjoined. This was inconvenient for the pastor’s family. It also faced constant flooding.
Outreach Ministry was Inconsistent
From 1998 – 2000 Rev. Paul Maniam was the Pastor. In 1998 the Full Membership was 79. Outreach ministry was lacking. The Kulim ministry was started again but nothing concrete happened. The film ‘JESUS’ in Tamil was screened as an Outreach program. In 1999 the Full Membership was 84 and in 2000 it was 88. The church embarked on an extension programme for the sanctuary.
From 2001 – 2004 Rev. Elanko Kannan was the Pastor. In 2001 the Full Membership was 68. Drop in membership was due to transfers out and removal of phantom members from the Roll. In 2002 the Full Membership was 68. The two Outreach Points in Kulim and Bukit Mertajam were restarted. Worship services were held fortnightly at Kulim. About 5 families attended. Weekly services were held in the homes of members at Bukit Mertajam. About 15 - 20 members attended. In Nibong Tebal there was a Prayer Meeting once a month with one family. A Building Project was launched for a two-storey building in the same premises for RM300,000. In 2003 the Full Membership was 90. Efforts were taken to renovate the present place at a cost of about RM70,000 – RM80,000. In 2004 the Full Membership was 89.
Church Building Extension
Estimated cost was about RM100,000. The Committee worked hard to raise the funds. The plans needed the approval of TAC and AEC before it could be submitted to the Local Council. In 2005 Rev. C. Jayaraj was the Pastor. The Full Membership was 94. Once a month, there was an English worship service. Baptism was given to 9 Nepalese on 3 July 2005. The total cost for the Extension Building project of the present premises was RM140,000. There was RM24,000 in the bank. Plans were submitted to the Local Council for approval.
Celebrating 25 Years of God’s Faithfulness
From 2006 – 2012 Rev. Edward Devadason was the Pastor. In 2006, for the first time the full membership reached the 100 mark. The church celebrated its 25th Anniversary, commemorating 25 years of God’s faithfulness. The celebration was held on 28 October 2006 at Suasa Krystal Golf Resort, Sungai Bakap.
In 2007 the Full Membership was 91. Monthly outreach ministry was conducted at Nibong Tebal. Rev. Victor Vethamani conducted a 3 session (3 days) Study on Biblical Covenant in July in the main church. There was a Church Family Camp to Hatyai in March. 43 members attended this. It was also a mission exposure trip and they visited Teach Centre.
In 2008 the Full Membership was 93. Nibong Tebal ministry officially started in the month of April. They ministered to about 5 families in that area. The service was held in Mr. Darshan Singh’s house. The Corner Stone Laying Ceremony was held on 10 February by the President Rev. P. Tevaraji. Due to certain problems, this project was delayed. In 2009 the Full Membership was 91. The church adopted a Community Centre in Myanmar and sent RM300 monthly through MMM. It was a sad year because the church was robbed of its musical instruments, LCD and a computer.
Nibong Tebal Ministry functioned well with the assistance of the Church Worker Mr. Shanmugam. There were about 5 new families. Services were held fortnightly on Sunday at 7.30 p.m. in Mr. and Mrs. Darshan Singh’s home. Around 15 - 20 people gathered for service fortnightly. In 2010 the Full Membership was 96. The church contributed RM350 per month to the Mission Community Centre in Myanmar. All outstanding work for the Building was completed.
Celebrating 30 Years with a New Approach to Ministry
In 2011, the Full Membership was 101. The church ventured into student ministry, especially among the Polytechnic students. On 21 August, the youths and children planted 7 “Payung Indonesia” trees around the church premises and celebrated with the theme “My Green My Dream”. On 1 October the 30th Anniversary Open House Celebration was held on the church premises. Many outsiders and friends were invited. On 2 October, a Thanksgiving Service was conducted. In 2012 the Full Membership was 104. The church took a new approach to ministry – establishing Ministry Teams (Evangelism, Social Concerns, Church school & Missions). Members were encouraged to have family altars in their homes.
From 2013 – 2018 Rev. Samuel Periathamby was the Pastor. In 2013 the Full Membership was 102. Pioneering work was done in Taman Merak where the pastor and some leaders went every week. In 2017, the evangelism team made regular visits and made new contacts in Lunas and Simpang Ampat. The church building was badly affected by flood in November.
In 2018, Rev. Samuel Periathamby was transferred to and was stationed in TMC Ipoh. He continued as the pastor-in-charge of Prai for another year. Pastor K. Saravanan, a new graduate (graduated 2017), was appointed as Assistant Pastor and placed in Prai. Major renovation to the sanctuary was done, due to the damage caused by the flood.
The church renovation work was carried out from January 2018 till March 2019. The cost was about RM150,000. During this period the Sunday Worship Service was held at 5.00pm at the Prai Baptist Church, Chai Leng Park, Penang till March 2019. The Full Membership was 91. New contacts were made in Lunas and Simpang Ampat.
In 2019, Rev. K. Saravanan was appointed Pastor of Prai. The Lay Leader is Mr. Regu Chander and the LCEC Chairperson is Dr. Emmanuel Jairaj. In March the church renovation was completed. A Thanksgiving Service was held on 11 March. God met all the financial needs and guided the church in the rebuilding of the new sanctuary. The Full Membership of the church is 97. The membership of the Agencies is as follows: MYAF (20), MSF (30) MW (25). There is no MYF. There are 17 children and 5 teachers in the Church School. There is no Cell Group or Outreach ministry.
Conclusion: TMC Prai is 38 years old. At the time of becoming a Local Conference, their Full Membership was 38. Their current membership is 97. This is of concern because the church has no Outreach point, Cell Group ministry or youth group. The youths in the church are few in number and many are away due to their education. The church is involved in evangelism, making regular visits to Lunas. They have made new contacts there. One major setback the church faced was the great flood of 2017. This disrupted the Church’s ministry and added a heavy financial burden. But the church has come through by the grace of God and looks forward to brighter times ahead. Having a young pastor and young adults in church leadership, this would no doubt take place with the help of God.