The Tamil Methodist Church Sungai Petani was part of a large circuit spreading over the state of Kedah. Pastors from Bukit Mertajam travelled to conduct house meetings or services in members’ homes. The first among them was Rev. J. J. Jesudason beginning in 1906. A church congregation was formed in 1918 with about thirty members. Rev. J.J. Jesudason was succeeded by Rev. Edward Isaac, then followed by Pastor S.A. Phillips, Rev. Devasahayam, Rev. J.J. Kovilpillai and Rev. Kingham Joseph. Later, in 1938 a Church Worker, Mr. R. Zacharias ministered. He was followed by Rev. K.J. Timothy, a visiting Pastor to Sungai Petani. He served from 1940 – 1949. He was the first resident pastor who served during the war years.
Church Building Dedication
The present church land was purchased in 1936 for $2,400. On 14 November 1937, the cornerstone of the new building was laid by Bishop Edwin F. Lee. The Church building was completed and dedicated on Easter Sunday, 17 April 1938. Prior to this, the members met in homes and shared premises with the Chinese Methodists at a shop-lot in Jalan Merbau. From 1950 – 1964 Rev. D.K. Gnananantham was the Pastor. It was during this time that the present parsonage was constructed and dedicated by Bishop H. B. Amstutz on 2 January 1959. The parsonage was a gift of the Methodist churches and friends in the U.S.A.
First Sungai Petani Company Boys’ Brigade
In 1960, the 1st Sungai Petani Company Boys’ Brigade movement was established through Mr. P.W. Juby. The Company had more than 100 boys, both Indians and Chinese. Some became Christians and served as Elders and Pastors.
The resident pastor, Rev. D.K. Gnananantham gave permission to Mr. Juby to establish the B.B. in the Church. He became a member of the TMC Sungai Petani. The church supported with personnel as officers and provided the church building and the grounds for their activities. The Pastor was the Chaplain of the B.B. and the church hall was known as the B.B. Hall. The B.B. was an arm of Evangelism for the Church. The uniform, the band, the badge, classes, drill and camping were great attractions for the boys. National and District programs in the form of Pesta B.B. etc. provided opportunities for boys to participate in competitions, social activities etc. The B.B. raised their own funds and did not depend on the Church.
Pastoral Transfer Causes Crisis
From 1965 to 1966, Rev. K.J. Timothy was again the Pastor. The DS Rev. Wong Hoon Hee reported in 1965 that Rev. Timothy suffered heavy financial loss of over $2,000 in hospital bills. He further mentioned: “I do hope the Conference can start an insurance scheme for pastors to prevent the tragedy for ever.” From 1967 to 1968, Rev. Noel Arputharaj was the Pastor. It is to be noted that until 1966, the Pastoral Appointment for Sungai Petani was under the Kedah Tamil Circuit.
In 1969, Rev. E.J. Thoraisingam was appointed the Pastor. The members of the LCEC resigned en bloc, after their appeal to retain Rev. Noel Arputharaj for a period of six months to establish a place of worship (a church building) for Kepala Batas was turned down. The church lost some prominent members permanently. The Full Membership in 1969 was 74.
Revival and Restoration
From 1970 to 1974 Rev. I.G. Sunderarajan served as the Pastor. The church experienced revival and the LCEC began to function again. The pastor was instrumental in bringing the church members together again. There was a steady growth with the emphasis on outreach work. The Youth Centre was built and dedicated by the TPAC President Rev. T.R. Doraisamy in 1970. The church hall was subsequently extended to include a Conference Room and Pastor’s office. In 1973, Mr. Devadas Ratnam, a Ministerial Student was posted here.
Reaching Out to the Estates
From 1974 – 1975, Rev. Paul Athimuthu was the Pastor. Since the Tamil Christian community was small, the Anglicans and Lutherans were also encouraged to attend the worship services. Bible classes and Church Schools were held in the neighbouring Estates by Mrs. Rosalind Rajahser with good results. In 1975, the pastor with some lay people, regularly visited Batu Pekaka Estate, Kuala Ketil, Kepala Batas and Harvard Estate. Two Bible Women, Mrs. Rosalind Rajahser and Mrs. Annamah David worked tirelessly to develop the work in the Harvard, Bedong, Kuala Ketil and Kepala Batas areas. They were instrumental in bringing many Hindus into the Fellowship.
The Birth of a Local Conference
From May 1976 – April 1977, Rev. David Tharmakan was the Pastor. In 1976, Mr. A.E. Joseph, a Ministerial Student, was also posted here. Rev. Tharmakan was succeeded by Rev. P. Tevaraji from May 1977 – 1981. Rev. Tevaraji intensified the work in Kepala Batas and Jerai. Also, during Rev. Tevaraji’s tenure, Kepala Batas was organised into a local church in 1980. 36 members were transferred out to make a total of 45 Full Members to make this Outreach a Local Conference.
One notable thing was that Rev. Tevaraji opened the parsonage to 3 school going senior boys. Two of them became Christians. One of the boys, Mr. Devadass, was instrumental in eventually bringing 18 of his family members to Jesus Christ. Three of them are currently serving as pastors in TAC. They are Rev. Ezekiel Raj, Rev. S. Krishnan and Rev. Jayabalan.
From 1982 – 1983 Rev. S.M. Sadagopan was the Pastor. Church school ministry was held in Sungai Petani, Kuala Ketil and Harvard Estate. The Full Membership in 1982 was 89. The Youth Fellowship was not functioning because many youths had left the town seeking jobs. However, the Harvard Estate MYF continued to function.
From 1984 – 1988 Rev. Peter Devadason was the Pastor. In 1987 the Jerai Chapel, an outreach of the Church, was established in Sungai Toh Pawang. This chapel was officially opened by Dato Dr. Peter Vanniasingam and dedicated by the DS Rev. David Tharmakan. Mr. Elijah Bala was employed as Church Worker in 1987 to do the ministry and he served till the middle of 1991. The building was in use till 1995, after which the church was relocated to Bedong Indian Camp. In October 1987, the Church purchased a van for the outreach ministry for RM 22,000. The Church also purchased the Jerai Church building and a house in Bandar Baru for a sum of about RM 130,000.
From 1989 – 1991 Rev. M.G. Thana Raj served as Pastor. The Full Membership in 1989 was 134.There were notable blessings in the worship and Bible Studies. More people attended the worship and about 25 attended the Bible Studies. A unique feature of this church was its “Asrama Methodist which caters to the needs of estate children and ministers to them.” (Journal 1990 p. 108). In 1991 the Full Membership dropped to 110. Twenty members were transferred out and a few were unaccounted for.
From May 1992 – May 1993 Rev. Joseph Komar became the Pastor. In 1992 the Full Membership was 128 and became 177 in 1998. Rev. Joseph Komar took over from Rev. Thana Raj from December 1991. Mr. David Raman helped in the Kuala Ketil and Jerai Outreach as Church Worker. Regular worship services were held in Jerai on Saturdays at 7pm, Kuala Ketil on Saturdays at 7.30 pm. and Sungai Petani on Sundays at 7pm. Area Fellowship meetings were held in six areas. The extension of the Hall was completed and was renamed, “Rev. Noel Arputharaj Hall.”
From June 1993 – 1994 Rev. Hendry J. Ponniah was the Pastor. In 1993 the Full Membership was 129. The MYF ministry was combined with the Boys’ Brigade. In 1994 the Full Membership was 138. Five Area Fellowships met fortnightly on Wednesdays.
Ministry Expansion with Property Purchase
From 1995 – 1997 Rev. N. Rajan was the Pastor. In 1995 the Full Membership was 151. Four adults were baptised by Confession of Faith. Jerai service was held on Fridays at 7pm. Mr. Samuel Periathamby responded to the call for the Full Time ministry. In 1996 the Full Membership was 150. Being centrally located, many of the district activities were held here. A special musical program was arranged on 26 November 1996 to raise funds to buy musical instruments and the response was good. Young adults were leaving elsewhere for employment. 13 members were transferred out. The church purchased the following: (a) Land with a wooden house on Lot 197 Bukit Semeling, District of Kuala Muda, Kedah (b) Property on grant No. 19875 Lot No. 13488, Mukim Sg. Petani, Daerah Kuala Muda for RM 32,500. TMC Penang gave a short term soft loan of RM 10,000. In May 1996, another terraced corner house with a small piece of land was purchased in Bandar Baru, Sungai Lalang, for the Bedong outreach ministry.
The house was officially opened by Datuk Paul Money Samuel and also dedicated on 28 November 1998 by Rev. Victor Vethamani, the resident Pastor and the DS for the Northern Malaya District. Datuk Paul had generously helped out in the initial payment for the house.
Faithful Service of the Veterans
Mr. David Raman, the Lay Leader and Dr. Daisy Arianayagam, the LCEC Chairperson, gave many years of faithful service. There was a need for young and committed lay leadership to emerge. In 1997 the Full Membership was 150. A worship Seminar was held with Rev. A.E. Joseph as the main speaker on 9 May 1997. A local youth camp was held from 7 to 9 February and 21 youths attended with Ministerial Student Mr. Dennis Raj as the speaker. There were two classes in the Church Kindergarten with 40 children and two teachers. Mr. David Raman selflessly stepped aside to encourage younger leadership.
In 1998, Rev. Victor Vethamani was the Pastor for one year. He covered this church while still being the resident pastor in Penang. He was assisted by ministerial student Mr. Seenivasagam David, who stayed in the parsonage in Sungai Petani. Rev. Victor conducted Bible Studies on Tuesdays except on the third, when the LCEC met. Full Membership was 177. Nine members were received through conversion. There was a significant increase in giving. A Church School Teachers’ Training was conducted by Mrs. Saras Victor. 12 teachers attended.
The Bedong Church was officially opened by Mr. John Paul and dedicated by Rev. Peter Devadason on Saturday, 28 November 1998 as The Bedong Methodist Home. The TAC gave an outright donation of RM 5,000 and a loan of RM 15,000 for the project. The rest of the money of RM 60,000 was raised by SP and Jerai members. The Church building had provisions to house the first Supply Pastor Easudass Joseph as of 1 January 1998. A church van was donated by Madam Annamal Samuel (mother of Datuk Paul Money Samuel) and her family.
From 1999 – 2003 Rev. Dr. A.E. Joseph was the Pastor. The ministry in Jerai was consolidated. The ministry was conducted in an old Tamil school building in Harvard estate. But the building was brought down to make room for estate development. Worship was then conducted in the wide corridor of the labour line with gas lamps (no electricity). The Jerai Outreach became a Local Conference on 11 March 2000 with 78 members. The occasion was graced by the TAC President, Rev. P. Tevaraji and the Conference Lay Leader, Mr. Peter Palaya.
From 2004 – 2012 Rev. Doraiseelan John was the Pastor. The church continued to experience tremendous growth in membership averaging 10% every year. The growth was mainly due to the emphasis on evangelism by the pastor. Credit also goes to the hard work of Miss Elizabeth John, the Church Worker and the members of the local church and Kuala Ketil outreach.
In April 2004, a shop lot in Taman Batu Pekaka was purchased for RM 80,000 and renovated for an additional cost of RM 70,000. The building was dedicated by the TAC President, Rev. Tevaraji on 12 June 2005. It was named Tamil Methodist Community Centre, Kuala Ketil. The ministry expanded to Malau.
Major Renovation for a 75 Year Old Sanctuary
In 2010, the Full Membership was 213. About 75 children attended the Church school in Sungai Petani and Kuala Ketil. A new van was purchased for RM 98,000. In 2011 Small Group ministries were conducted fortnightly in 15 places. Mr. Sharvin Stephen Michael committed himself for full-time mission work. At the end of October 2012, the 75 year old Church was renovated and restructured with wings on both sides. The extended sanctuary has a seating capacity of 250 people. The entire project, including fence, PA system etc. cost RM700,000. The church received a Government grant of RM 80,000 through the MIC.
From 2013 – 2015 Rev. Jevaretnam Sowria was the Pastor and he was assisted by Mr. Steven Johnson the Church Worker. Mr. Steven Johnson concentrated on Kuala Ketil Outreach ministry from August 2013 and served till February 2014. A new area called Paya Nahu was identified for evangelism work. The work is ongoing. In 2013, Mr. Solomon Jacob, the Conference MSF President, persuaded Rev. Jevaretnam Sowria to appoint a coordinator for the MSF. On 17 November 2013, Rev. Jevaretnam Sowria gathered the seniors in the church after church service and Mr. Sam Munusamy was named as the President. In 2014, Madam Rebecca Perumal was the President and served till end of 2016. In 2016 Mr. John Daniel became the President for 2017-2018 and continues as the MSF President. Cell Group ministry was held in seven areas on alternate Wednesdays. The Church library was reactivated.
Strategy for Effective Ministry
From 2016 – 2018, Rev. Jeremiah Thomas, the pastor in Penang was the Pastor- in-charge. During this period, Church worker Solomon Thangaiah served the church. In 2016, there was a door to door evangelism cum training by Pastor Devarajah Balayah from 9 to 12 June. There was a Congregational Meeting at Kuala Ketil Outreach on 7 October, initiated by Mr. David Raman. The purpose was to create a strategic framework for their outreach work; formation of preaching point at Taman Keladi, Kuala Ketil and Kulim. Also, on 5 November a MOU was signed between Kulim Wesley and TMC SP regarding the use of Wesley Methodist Church as the base for Kulim outreach. In 2017 the Full Membership was 231. A Leadership Training for the TMC Sungai Petani members and the sister churches in the district was held on 14 and 15 January. The guest speakers were TAC Lay Leader, Mr. S. Selvaraj and Associate Lay Leaders, Mr. Samuel Peter and Mr. Guna David. A total of 48 people attended the training. There was Deliverance and Revival Meetings at Kulim from 16 to 18 June 2017 with the help of Prayer House for all Nations from KL.
In 2018 the Full Membership was 224. On 14 April the Young Adults organized a talk on Marriage, Singles, Separated ‘Singles’ & Parenting. They targeted 3 separate groups all at the same time. The guest speakers were Rev. & Mrs. P. Tevaraji, Pastor P.P. Abraham and Mr. Jacob P. Korinthiar. An in-house Church School Teachers’ Training was held on 18 August. It was the first time for such a training to be conducted for those from Kuala Ketil and Kulim outreaches.
In 2019, Rev. John Simson became the pastor of the church with Mr. Anthony Dass assisting as the Church Worker in Kuala Ketil Outreach. Miss Elizabeth John is the Lay Leader and Mr. John Daniel is the LCEC Chairperson. The Full Membership is 221. The membership of the Agencies is as follows: MYF (14). MYAF (15), MSF (10), MW (25). There are 85 children in the Church School.
Kulim Ministry: The work in Kulim began in 1939 by Rev. K. J. Timothy who was resident in Parit Buntar. In 1946, Rev. Rasanayagam took charge of this ministry. He lived in the parsonage in Kulim. The work progressed and in 1953, Rev D.K. Gnananantham reported that weekly Sunday services were conducted in Kulim. This ministry was slowly neglected because the families were spread out in the estates within a radius of 40 miles. Beginning from November 2004 the work was resumed by Rev. Doraiseelan John, Mr. David Raman and Mr. Jacob Paul K. Regular services were conducted at the Anglican Church in Kulim and there were also house meetings. The church worker Mr. Aruldhas Manuvel began visiting some people beginning of 2005 but he passed away after a couple of months. The church handed over Kulim ministry to TMC Kepala Batas on 25 September 2007. In 2015, Ms Elizabeth John was posted as the Church Worker to Kuala Ketil Outreach. Together with Mr. Ezekiel Katriravelu they visited new contacts in Kulim. The LCEC discussed the formation of the Kulim Outreach. Meanwhile, Mr. Nyanapragasam who had difficulty climbing stairs, was unable to attend when his previous, Independent Church moved to a 2nd floor building. In November 2015, he requested that a ministry be started at his house. About 2 weeks later, Rev. Jevaretnam Sowria had the first service at Mr. Nyanapragasam’s house. Thus the Kulim ministry was resumed with new people. At present, Rev. John Simson conducts weekly services on Thursdays.
Kuala Ketil Ministry began in the late 1950s. In December 1991, Mr. Barnabas Baskaran was appointed Church Worker and placed in Kuala Ketil. The Conference gave a monthly subsidy of RM 250 towards his salary. He was absorbed as a Supply Pastor by the Conference and transferred to TMC Tamil Settlement in Ipoh. There was no substitute for him. The ministry expanded to Sungai Tawar estate during the time of Rev. N. Rajan in 1997 at the home of Mr. Subramaniam. The ministry and the number of people attending the services began to grow. In 2003, Mr. Isaac Nathan was placed here for his One Year Exposure Program, before going to the seminary.
Kuala Ketil Outreach: The local church purchased a shop house for RM 80,000 with the help of Datuk Paul Money Samuel and family. The building was renovated into a beautiful chapel for RM 70,000. Mr. Moses Raman personally helped in the supervising of the renovation work and contributed much to the progress and development of the extension work. The building was named ‘Tamil Methodist Community Centre’ with the approval of the Majlis Daerah Baling. The chapel can accommodate about 100 people to full capacity.
The Methodist Hostel was first established during the time of Rev. Peter Devadason in 1988 with 4 boys taking up residence in the Youth Centre. The hostel closed down in 1991 after seeing through 7 boys who completed their secondary education with the help of the church. The Methodist Hostel was re- established in 2007 with 8 boys during the time of Rev. Doraiseelan. He provided spiritual training and discipline for the boys and his wife, Mrs. Selvi Doraiseelan cared for the boys by cooking their meals. In 2009, five remained and completed their SPM examination. A number of church members provided free tuition for the boys. Due to the church building extension project, the Youth Centre that housed the hostel was used as the place of worship. Therefore, this initiative was put on hold temporarily. There has been no progress after this, since there were no volunteers to take it up.
Church Kindergarten: During Rev. I.G. Sundararajan’s tenure and after the completion of the Youth Centre, the Sharon Kindergarten was started and sustained during his time. After that, The Methodist Kindergarten was re- established in 1985 in the Youth Centre and continued till 2005. In 2006 it was discontinued due to poor response. There are no plans to resume this.
The Single Mothers’ Home was started with the help of the Nehemiah Project of the TAC. The starting of the Single Mothers’ Home in Sungai Petani was initiated by Rev. Doraiseelan John in 2011. This Home empowered some of these single mothers with children who stayed there for a while. The Dedication Service of this Home (Address: 179B, Jalan Bakar Sampah, 08000 Sungai Petani) for the Glory of our Lord was conducted by the TAC President, Rev. C. Jayaraj on 3 August 2013 at 11 a.m. This Home was closed down in August 2018.
The Semeling Outreach was started in July 2018 with the Korean Methodist missionaries. Rev. Paul Sang-min Lee and his family were in Malaysia for more than 4 years doing ministry among the Tamil people in the Semeling area. In June 2018 they decided to work with TMC Sg. Petani. Mr. Jacob Paul Korinthiar helped with this ministry. An MOU was signed on 22 October between Korea Methodist Church Tamil Ministry at Semeling and TMC SP on mission partnership to develop the Semeling Tamil work.
Conclusion: The church ministry in Sungai Petani goes as far back as 1906. Many pastors and lay people worked hard for the establishment and extension of God’s Kingdom in this region. From the mid-seventies Mr. John Paul and Mr. David Raman together did house visiting, personal evangelism and prayers in Sungai Toh Pawang, Harvard Estate, Kepala Batas, Kuala Ketil and Sungai Petani. Due to their faithful ministry many Outreach Points were formed and two became Local Conferences. Even after the age of 70 years they continued their ministry. These two faithful servants are considered the pillars of TMC Sungai Petani. They were passionate because they experienced the love of Jesus and were deeply committed to Him. They gave their best in serving Him. They have finished their race and the torch is now passed on to the present leadership, to carry the light of Jesus to all people.
1. Raman, David – History of TMC Sungai Petani
2. Methodist Journals – MAC, TPAC, TAC