In the 1800s, the Tamils were found widely settled in Perak. They had come from India and Ceylon for employment, mainly in the sugar cane and rubber plantations and also in the railways. Amongst them were those who had become Christians in their homeland. The South Indian Tamils were mainly from the District of Thirunelvely whilst those from Ceylon were from the Jaffna Peninsula.
Rev. C. W. Underwood - the First Foreign Tamil Minister to Malaya
In 1889, Rev. Oldham brought Rev. C.W. Underwood, a Ceylon-Tamil Christian worker, from the American Board in Ceylon. He sent him to Perak to survey and assess the needs of the Tamils there. Rev. Underwood is the very first foreign Tamil minister to reach out to the Tamils in Malaya. He reported back that there was a great potential for opening work amongst the Tamils in Perak.
The First Five Tamils on the Full Membership Roll
In November 1894, Rev. T.W. Stagg, the first Methodist missionary arrived in Ipoh from Singapore. Out of the Christian Tamils, he formed his first Full Membership Roll for the Tamil work. There were five – Mr. A Sabapathy, Mrs. Ann Sabapathy, Mr. J.V. Lambert, Mr. Swamadason and Mr. W. Samuel. Rev. Stagg, after a brief ministry, returned to his homeland due to his wife’s ill-health.
Rev. Horley Laid Strong Foundation for the Tamil Work in Perak
It was only when Rev. William Edward Horley arrived to take over the Mission station in August 1895 that rapid development of mission work in Perak began to take place. He was instrumental in laying the foundation of the English, Chinese and Tamil work in Ipoh and its surroundings. In 1896, when the Ipoh Church was established, Rev. Horley was the Pastor of both the Tamil and English congregations. He had the assistance of Pastor Paul Kuppusamy and Mr. J.V. Lambert in doing evangelistic work among the Tamils. In 1899, as a result of open-air worship services conducted in various towns around Ipoh, 16 adults were baptized, of whom 4 were Tamils.
Parsonage for the Tamil Pastor of a Church With Fluctuating Membership
From 1900 – 1905, Pastor Paul Kuppusamy continued to assist Rev. Horley. There was a break in his duties when he went on leave to India to get married. In 1902 there was an influx of 60 members who joined the Tamil congregation, bringing along with them letters of introduction from their churches in India. Following that, two lay preachers were employed to assist Pastor Kuppusamy. In 1903, a parsonage was erected for the Tamil pastor in the church compound. The Full Membership of the church at this time was about 105 and it was considered the fastest growing congregation at that time. However, the membership of the church was always fluctuating, for many of its Tamil members returned home to India after some time.
Consolidating Ministry with Missionaries and Lay Pastors
The Tamil congregation, during the early period, was blessed with missionaries and also had the help of Tamil lay pastors. These lay workers were able to remain with the congregation for at least four years. In this respect, the contribution of missionaries like Rev. Horley and Rev. Leuring, together with Pastors G. Gnananantham (1906 – 1907), Simon Peter (1908) and Job Gnanasihamoney (1909 – 1910) is noteworthy.
The Growing Church Faced Influenza Epidemic
Rev. Edward Isaac served the Ipoh church for seven years (1911 – 1917). It was a period of consolidation as he laid firm foundation for the propagation of the Word amongst the Tamils in Ipoh. Bishop Emeritus T.R. Doraisamy described him as a worker who served “loyally, faithfully and with great courage.” Next, Rev. Ponniah Paul (1918 – 1921), moved the work further with diligence. But sadly, during the 1918 influenza epidemic, 14 members died in 12 days. However, by 1921, the Tamil congregation recovered satisfactorily and was in a stable condition.
Facing Economic Depression
From 1922 to 1926, Rev. J.J. Kovilpillai ministered to the congregation with fervour. However, during the last year of his stewardship and into the tenure of Rev. M. V. Nitchingham (1927 to 1929), the dreaded economic depression also hit Malaya. Large numbers of Tamil workers in the plantation sector were affected, some of whom were members of the Tamil-speaking congregation. In spite of the double setbacks of ill health and economic challenges, steps were taken to restore the church.
The Teacher-Preacher Pastors
From 1930 to 1931, Rev. S.S. Pakianathan became the first teacher-preacher to be posted to the Tamil congregation. He was assisted in 1931 by Rev. Fred David, another teacher-preacher. Rev. S.S. Pakianathan resigned his teaching profession and took up full-time ministry in 1931 and became the leading figure of Tamil work, while Rev. Fred David carried on with the ministry of the church. Together the two set about rebuilding the congregation. The parsonage was demolished and rebuilt during this time. Rev. Fred David was the Pastor-in-charge from 1932 – 1937, till he was transferred to Parit Buntar as a Principal of a school.
The Second World War Years
Rev. J. Milton David took charge in 1938 and served till 1941, when the Second World War broke out. From 1942 – 1945, according to oral history, the Lahat Road Tamil speaking congregation met in the Tamil Settlement Methodist Church. Rev. J. Milton David and Mr. John Appaduray, who later was ordained Elder, ministered to the congregation.
Two Congregations One Pastor
The Lahat Road and Tamil Settlement churches were served by the same pastor from 1908 till the end of the Second World War. The first common pastor was Rev. Simon Peter (1908) and the last Rev. Milton David (1938 – 1941).
However, both the churches functioned independently, having their own Ministry Agencies and Committees. During this period, they were managed by one pastor under one LCEC. The Ipoh Church traces its beginning to 1896, while the Tamil Settlement Church traces the beginning of their ministry to 1908. The Tamil Settlement congregation was formally organised as a Local Conference on 6 November 1960. However, over the years, these two congregations had several joint programs for their children and youths.
Recovering from the War Years with Pastor-Teachers
The war had its toll on the church and there was a decline spiritually and morally. There was a drop in church membership. It was a time to rebuild. By God’s grace, the church came back on track, with the timely posting of Rev. S.S. Pakianathan back to Ipoh. With his wide experience and foresight, he helped restore the church during his seven year tenure (1946 – 1952). During this time, much emphasis was placed on youth work and the Tamil MYF was formed in 1948, under the inspired leadership of Mr. D.R. Daniel.
Rev. Paul Athimuthu (1953 – 1957) continued to build the church. As a gifted preacher, he gave much time in spite of his teaching job, to promote the Gospel amongst the Tamil people. The pastoral charge was then passed on to Rev. S.J. Ponniah (1958 – 1959), who was the last of the pastor – teachers to serve the church.
The 1960s saw growth in church membership and with it the need for more full- time ministers. The need was acute and required the recruitment of ministers from India and Sri Lanka.
Rev. M. Thangamuthu (1960 - 1963), with an aptitude for Indian music, brought a new spiritual dimension to worship. His caring nature contributed much to the spreading of the Gospel in the church outreach programs, especially amidst the people in the estates.
In 1963, Miss Genie Othites, a missionary from the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, gave assistance to the Tamil Church in Lahat Road during the first eight months of the year. The return of Miss Janet Chinniah from study in Ceylon, in October, was a blessing to the Tamil work in the Ipoh area.
Rev. E.J. Thoraisingam (1964 - 1967) continued the work of the previous ministers effectively. In 1965, the first Outreach work began in Kinta Valley.
Return to Recruitment of Pastors from India/Sri Lanka
Two Indian Missionary recruits followed: Rev. Prabhu Das Roberts (May 1967 - 1968) and Rev. Francis Sunderaraj (1969 – September 1970). The Klebang Outreach was started in 1970. Then, Rev. Chellaraj Fenn, a missionary from the Church of South India, took charge from October 1970 to 1975. Rev. Fenn helped to reorganize and up-date the church membership records.
TPAC was assigned the Kesselring Bungalow and the land on Lot 29123 & 9223s in 1971. The Kesselring Bungalow housed the Northern Malaysia Youth Centre cum Library for the Tamil Churches in the region. At that time, the Anglo- Chinese Secondary School required the land space between the ACS Principal’s quarters and Kesselring Bungalow, to erect an Indoor Stadium (Dewan Teerath Ram). They negotiated with the Tamil Church and built a Christian Education Centre for the Tamil church in 1974 in exchange for the land.
Ministry among Children and Women
Miss Joyce Parkins, an OMF missionary from England, was the Christian Education Coordinator providing training for the Church School teachers. A local, Miss Jayamany Ratnam, was employed as a Woman Worker by WSCS- TPAC and assigned to Tamil Methodist Church Ipoh.
Rev. James Solamadan was the next Pastor from 1976 – 1977. He encouraged the LCEC to seriously consider building a new parsonage to replace the old one which was built in the 1930s. This came to reality in 1982. Then it was Rev. J.J. Ratnarajah, a missionary pastor from Sri Lanka, who served from 1978 – 1979. He was the last of the foreign missionaries to serve in this church. Both the Pastor and his wife who were more inclined to old Tamil lyrics, led the congregation to worship the Lord. It was during this period that young people began to take up leadership in the LCEC
The Beginning of Outreach Ministries
Rev. Jacob David was the Pastor from 1980 – 1982. He initiated work in Kampung Chepur (Tasek) and Menglembu as outreach points. He also started the church prayer cells on Mondays. The new parsonage was built for RM 70,000 and was dedicated on 23 May 1982 by Bishop C.N. Fang. The first church van AAR 765 (Datsun C 20) was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Kimis for the church outreach ministry.
Start of Neighborhood Bible Study Groups
Rev. A.E. Joseph, the Pastor from 1983 – 1986, brought revival with the charismatic form of worship. With this, changes were noticed in the members’ personal life. A collection of revival songs were bound in plastic folder for use during worship. He also initiated the Neighborhood Bible Study Groups in seven areas: 1) Jelapang, 2) Lim Garden/Cherry Park 3) Buntong 4) Teluk Kurin 5) Taman Silibin/Taman Rishah 6) Kampong Simee/Canning Garden and 7) Kampong Tai Lee. He also introduced the Pastor’s monthly Newsletter which carried Bible Quiz competitions. There was a marked increase in the offerings, tithes and pledges. Church Prayer Cell was held every Friday in the parsonage from 7 pm to 9 pm. Mr. Louis Martin was assigned as a part-time local church worker to Kg. Chepur.
Assignment of Lot 3564 and Ministry extension
Due to the efforts of Rev. Noel Arputharaj, who was the next Pastor (1987 – 1988), records regarding the assignment of Lot 3564 (10326) to the Tamil church was brought to light. The said property was then fenced-up. In February 1987, the workers’ quarters caught fire and the church van AAR 765 was also damaged beyond repair. The same year also saw the organizing of the 1st local church Children’s Camp from 15 – 18 May and the starting of Klebang and Kinta Valley Preaching Points. A new Ford Econovan ABJ 3386 was purchased in 1987. A second van (Ford Econovan ABM 1296) was bought in November 1988, to be used mainly for their outreach points. In that same year, Rev. Noel was elected as the first TAC Full Time President.
Fire Destroys Ipoh Wesley Church Igniting New Developments to the Tamil Church
Rev. P. Tevaraji took charge from 1989 – 1994. The church embarked on a Multi-Purpose Hall Project on the vacant Lot 3564. But on the 23 February 1992, a fire broke-out and completely destroyed the Wesley Church building. The Tamil Church, which was also using their sanctuary as their place of worship, then began to use their Christian Education Centre (Church Hall) as their new place of worship. The Building Committee and the LCEC then decided not to carry on with the Multi-Purpose Building Project but to build a sanctuary of their own. This included an extension to the existing hall with a gallery to house about 500 people. It was built at a cost of RM364,617. The Ground Breaking Ceremony was held on 11 April 1993 and was conducted by Rev. P. Tevaraji, who was the DS and also Local Church pastor. He also laid the cornerstone on 4 July of the same year. The completed church building was dedicated on 20 August 1994 by Bishop Denis C. Dutton. The final cost of the church building with furniture and fittings and extensions to the existing church hall amounted to about RM 450,000. With the help of YB Dato Seri Samy Vellu (Minister for Energy, Telecommunications & Posts), the State Government gave a grant of RM 100,000.
Ministry at Outreach Points Consolidated
A house at Jelapang, Ipoh, was purchased for RM 25,000 in 1990 and was dedicated as Rumah Methodist Jelapang on 1 February 1992. The Jelapang and Chepor (Tasek) Preaching Points were recommended to become a separate Local Church Conference in 1994. Following that, Meranti Lapan, Bercham and Pusing Outreach Preaching Points were established. In 1994, Mrs. Shanti Ratnam, a member of the church was employed to do full-time social work in the Jelapang area through CARE MALAYSIA.
The Centennial Year
During the tenure of Rev. John Kovilpillai (1995 – 2000), the Jelapang/Chepur (Tasek) preaching points were constituted as a Local Church Conference on 30 June 1996 with 118 Full Members. The main church building at Lahat Road was air-conditioned at a cost of RM 48,000. A morning-prayer session on Sundays from 8.30am to 9.00am was started in the church since September 1995.
At the 1996 Annual Conference Session, the resolution to name TMC Lahat Road as TMC Ipoh was accepted. From the 9 – 13 May 1998 a combined VBS together with TMC Tamil Settlement and the Holy Spirit Anglican Church was organized. Also on 18 October 1998, the MSF was formed. In the year 2000, plans for the Multi-Purpose hall were redrawn under the leadership of Mr. Thevaneyan David.
Rev. Peter Devadason was the Pastor from 2001 – 2003. The leadership for the Multi-Purpose Hall project was handed over to Mr. R. Steven, the Building Chairman in 2003. On 7 March 2004 the Ground Breaking Ceremony was conducted by Rev. M.G. Thana Raj, the Perak District Superintendent. On 2 May, the Corner Stone was laid by Rev. P. Tevaraji, the TAC President. The work was completed, costing RM 1.3 million.
Rev. A.E. Joseph was reappointed as the pastor here (2004 – 2008). On 5 June 2005, the New Multi-Purpose Hall was dedicated by Bishop Hwa Yung. On 19 April 2008, Bercham Outreach became a Local Conference. Rev. Devarakam John (Herbert) the next Pastor served from 2009 – 2012. In 2009, Pastor Paul Mani came on board and was given the task to build the ministry in the Pusing area. The Hall Extension Project, which was started on 8 July 2012 for a sum of RM 102,000, was completed in October the same year. On 1 November, the Cornerstone was laid by the TAC President, Rev. C. Jayaraj at the Pusing Lot.
Rev. Vinsant Rayar was the Pastor from 2013 – 2017. In February 2013, a shop- lot at Pusing Mewah was purchased for RM 349,000. Also, in September the same year, a new van was purchased for Pusing ministry for RM 98,000. On 7 February 2015, Pusing was organized as a Local Conference. In the same year the Lighthouse Preaching Centre was started in the “Little India” part of the town. This was done to mainly reach out to the Indians in Simpang Pulai area. Charles Abraham’s meetings and a program on 21st Century Evangelism by Rev. John Ganapathy were conducted.
Rev. Samuel Periathamby became their new Pastor in January 2018. His task was mammoth, for he was also the pastor of TMC Prai and the Northern DS as well. After serving one year in Ipoh, he was transferred to Johore Baru.
In 2019 Rev. Seenivasagam David was appointed as the next pastor. The Full Membership is 496. Currently there are 8 Cell Groups and Simpang Pulai is their Outreach. They have 40 members in the MYF, 33 members in MYAF, 83 members in MSF and 76 members in the MW. There are 50 children and 13 teachers in the Church School. Work started on 21 August on The Christian Education Hall Renovation / Extension. The total cost of the project is estimated at RM 800,000. Upon completion of the renovation / extension, there will be one Mini Hall attached to the Church Building. The side wing would be used for Sunday Worship Services. The wider open area would be for the church fellowship.
There will also be 6 class rooms, 1 new kitchen, 2 new toilets for men and women, 1 store room and 1 new Baptism Pool. The Ground Breaking Ceremony was held on 1 September by the Retired Minister Rev. P. Tevaraji and the Local Church Pastor Rev. Seenivasagam David. It was conducted after the Family Sunday Service.
Conclusion: TMC Ipoh is the second Tamil Methodist Local church to be established in Malaysia. It is now 123 years old. It has a very long and eventful history. God has been faithful and His gracious hand has raised many faithful pastors and lay people to build this church. Several Outreaches that were started have now become local churches. Several servants of God have been raised by this local church and sent out to become pastors and church leaders elsewhere. Though much has happened, as John Wesley would say, “The best is yet to be”. The Lord will surely take TMC Ipoh on to greater heights, as they look to Him for direction and strength in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Local Church Souvenir Programs