The Early Years
Rev. Samuel Abraham from TMC Kuala Lumpur (1900 to 1916) and Rev. Edward Isaac from TMC Ipoh (1911 to 1917) travelled to conduct worship services in Taiping. In 1905, Rev. Horley got a piece of land along Jalan Panggung Wayang from the British Government. A wooden building with an attap roof was built here for worship services. The Tamils met at 8.00 am, the Chinese met at 11.00 am and the Wesley service was at 5.30 pm. In 1930 Rev. Job Gnanasihamony was involved in the Tamil Outreach work in Taiping. He was followed by Rev. Milton David, Rev. Joseph Kingham, Rev. Ratnasamy and Rev. S.M. Rajamoney. The change of the state capital of Perak from Taiping to Ipoh in 1937 affected the local church. As the Government Officials moved to Ipoh, so did many church leaders.
The Second World War Years
During the Japanese occupation from 1940 – 1942, the church building was occupied by the Japanese Army. All the church pews were taken and scattered all around Taiping town. Rev. N.G. Manickam together with Mr. G.D. Richard collected these pews one by one, carrying them on their shoulders. Although beaten by the Japanese soldiers they managed to salvage some of these pews.
Rev. N.G. Manickam pioneered outreach work in the Pondok Tanjong and Selamat Estates. He asked the managers in these two estates for a piece of land to build chapels. His request was granted and two chapels were built with the help of donations received. During this period there were only 9 families in the Taiping church namely Rev. N.G. Manickam, G.D. Richard, J.B. Manuel, Kulanayagam, Mrs. Kingham, Chelliah, Thambipillai, Benjamin and Edward Dawson.
Strong Lay Input
The Sunday service was at 9.00 am. The first MYF President was Mr. Peter Johnson Richard. When the name Methodist Episcopal Church was changed to Wesley Methodist Church the Tamil congregation objected. Rev. N.G. Manickam with Mr. G.D. Richard, Mr. Aria Ratnam and Mr. J. B. Manuel approached the Bishop on this matter. The Bishop acted on it and the original name was reinstated. Mr. J.D. Rajaram, Dr. J.W.G. Kovilpillai and Miss Flora Knight helped with the ministry in the estates. Tamil and tailoring classes were also held. Mr. A. Wilson conducted the Sunday school and taught songs in the two chapels on alternate Sundays. Mr. A. Wilson managed to get two big church bells from the Norwegian Christian members through Dr. Alf Oden Hansen, a missionary doctor. In 1956, TMC Taiping was moved from the Perak District to the Northern Malaya District.
Acquiring Land at Jalan Tembusu
The All Saints Anglican Church Taiping had a piece of land designated as a dwelling place for the propagation of the gospel. This was at 14 Jalan Tembusu on which stood an old parsonage.
In 1979 when the land came up for sale, the then TAC President Rev. John Kovilpillai and Mr. E.V. Nesaratnam, the Chairman Board on Finance pursued this matter and in 1984 the property was purchased.
Hosting the Third TAC Youth Institute
From 1977 to 1979 Rev. Jacob David was the Pastor. In 1978 there was one Church School in Taiping, with 18 students and 1 teacher and another in the estate with 35 students. The MYF had 20 members and the WSCS 16 members. Prison ministry was carried out too. In 1979, the local MYF under the able leadership of Miss Susan Ebenezer, hosted the 3rd Conference Youth Institute from 2 - 6 April. This was held at the Treacher Methodist Girls’ School Taiping. The Conference Youth Director Rev. David Tharmakan wrote in the Souvenir Program, “Taiping hosted the very first Youth Institute in the year 1964…”
From January to May 1980 Miss Saraswathy Suppiah, the Conference Field Worker, was appointed to take charge. Mr John Millason was appointed next from June 1980 and he served till May 1981. The frequent change of pastors caused a lot of unhappiness in Taiping. The Full Membership was 112. The Worship Services were held in Taiping (Sundays) at 9.30am, in Selamat Estate (Sundays) at 4.00pm and Pondok Tanjong Estate (Fridays) at 4.00pm. Rev. N.G. Manickam who had retired helped in administering the Holy Communion. The church spent RM 600 for a bus to bring the children to Church School and another RM 120 a month on rental for the parsonage. Mr. Jayakumar Velayuthan came forward as a candidate for Full-time Ministry. Pastor Denison J. Jayaratnam took charge of the church from June 1981. The Worship Service day and time at Pondok Tanjong was changed to Tuesdays at 7.30pm. A new Church School in TRP Estate was started as an outreach work of Selamat Estate. Prayer Fellowship was started in Pokok Asam by Mr. P.P. Abraham. A new typewriter costing about RM 1,600/- was donated in memory of Rev. & Mrs. N. G. Manickam. About RM 3,200/- was spent to equip the church office. A Mini Van was purchased at a cost of RM 12,136.50. Although about RM 8,982.35 was by loans, a rubber tapper earning just RM 200 a month, gave her gold jewellery valued at RM 2,650, towards this purchase. The members pledged their one month’s salary for this project. The parsonage was a rented house.
In 1982 there were 8 conversions. A Boys’ Home ministry was started and carried out by Mr. Joseph Benjamin, Mr. Tommy and Mr. Simon Kumar. The Welfare Home meetings were conducted by Miss Grace Malar and Mrs. Rose Dennison. There were special meetings with the following speakers: Sis. Amirthabai (India), Rev. Devadass Ratnam, Rev. Gabriel Jabanathan and Rev. Roy Durban (England). Rev. Simon Chandran was appointed the Pastor in January 1983 and he served till 30 September 1987. Both the church attendance and giving increased considerably. In 1984 the Full Membership was 127. The church became self- supporting.
A number of Cell Groups were initiated. About 25 to 30 prisoners attended the meetings that were held in the Taiping Prison. The response was also encouraging at the meetings held in Parit Buntar. As such, the LCEC requested the Annual Conference to hand over the Parit Buntar parsonage to the Taiping Church.
In 1985, the Full Membership was 124. Six families were baptised and added to the church. In 1986 the Full Membership was 146. Mr. John Kanniah, a Church Worker assisted the pastor. Worship services were held in Nibong Tebal as well with good attendance. The outreach work was strengthened with the appointment of Mr. John Kanniah. Due to leadership problems, no elections were held for the MYF for 1986/87.
Pastor’s Resignation Adversely Affects the Church
In 1987, the Full Membership was 131. There were four Outreach Points – Pondok Tanjong, Trong, Nibong Tebal and Parit Buntar. There were 30 children and 4 teachers in the Church School. On 21 July 1987, the two Outreach areas of Parit Buntar/ Nibong Tebal were declared a local church by Rev. John Kovilpillai, the TAC President. The church received RM 250 as subsidy from the Annual Conference for the Church Worker stationed in Parit Buntar/ Nibong Tebal. During this period there was growth in number and finance. Unfortunately, Pastor Simon Chandran tendered his resignation from the Conference with effect from 1 October 1987. His resignation affected the church very much as many members chose to leave the church and follow him.
In 1988, Rev. M.G. Thana Raj was appointed the Pastor. The Sunday worship time was changed from 10 am to 6.00 pm with effect from 1 September 1988. This was at the request of the Wesley Church. About 30 people attended the service. A Monthly Newsletter was produced to keep in touch with the members and friends. There were two outreach areas – Trong and Pondok Tanjong. The WSCS and Church School did not function for a year. The Finance: Total income for 1988 was RM 28,182. 12 and the Total expenditure was RM 25, 898. 56.
Church Experiences Reconciliation
From 1989 to 1993 Rev. C. Jayaraj served as the Pastor. In 1989 the Full Membership was 88. The Church School, MYF and WSCS were re-established. There was a slow but steady growth in attendance, participation and fellowship. The Prayer Cell met regularly. Healing slowly took place. The Pastor was in charge of two churches - Taiping & Nibong Tebal.
In 1990 the Full Membership was 97. Cell Group ministry was introduced. Rev. Jayaraj brought reconciliation to the church. Though some youths met together in 1991, there was no formal MYF. The WSCS hesitated official formation to avoid paying dues. Though the estate ministry was affected due to industrialisation and migration to towns, the church continued to show concern for the Tamils in the estates. Worship services continued to be held in Selamat estate and Pondok Tanjung chapels. Church School classes were held in Taiping and in the home of a church member in Trong. Church family camps were held in Cameron Highlands and Lumut.
From 1992, Tamil Methodist Church Taiping was placed under the Perak District. In 1993 the prayer ministry was intensified with All-Night, Saturday morning and Chain prayers. The Pastor also sent a Monthly Newsletter to the members. There was a vibrant group of leaders who helped mobilise the ministries during this time-Mr & Mrs Manickavasagam, Mr & Mrs Jayabalan, Mr & Mrs Paul Durai, Mr & Mrs John Seeni, Mrs. Shanti Chandran, Mrs Janu Charles, Mr.Arthur Sundram and several others.
In 1994 Rev. John Kovilpillai was appointed the Pastor. The Full Membership was 81. Sunday Service was at 6.30 pm. Church school ministries were held in Taiping, Selamat Estate and Trong. MYF met under the guidance of an adult counsellor. The WSCS met occasionally. The Estate Outreach was affected because the people were constantly moving out.
New Church Building
From 1995 to 2001 Rev. David Rasahpandy was the Pastor. In 1995, the Sunday Worship had an average attendance of 30. There were three outreach areas under “Selamat Ministry” – Selamat Estate, Temerloh Estate and Trong. There were two Church schools, one in Taiping and another in Temerloh Estate. In 1996, there were three Cell groups in three different areas on three different days. The church raised RM 10,000 to develop the Jalan Tembusu land. In 1997 Area Fellowships were conducted weekly- on Mondays in Simpang and Fridays in Kamunting. The Building Fund stood at RM 57, 000. The church struggled with finance. The churches in the Perak District contributed RM2,000 to help pay the Conference dues. In 1998, there was one cell group in Kamunting. Outreach work was done in Selamat Estate, Pondok Tanjong Estate and Trong. The Building Fund stood at RM 112,000. In 1999 the Full Membership was 104. The Building Fund stood at RM180,000. The Ground Breaking Ceremony for the New Church Building was held on 30 May 1999. The Corner Stone was laid by the Perak DS, Rev. Hendry Ponniah. The first Sunday worship service was held on 20 August 2000 at 9.00am. The Dedication of the sanctuary cum parsonage by Bishop Dr. Peter Chio Sing Ching, was held on Sunday, 8 October 2000 at 5.00pm. Until 13 August 2000, the worship service was held in the Wesley sanctuary at 5.30 p.m. From 20 August 2000, the service was held at 9.00am in the newly built church building. Average attendance was 60 adults and 20 children. The Full Membership was 112.The MYF was revived and the youths helped the pastor in the outreach ministries. The MW was formally organised on 18 August 2000. The MYAF was also formed.
In 2002 Rev. P. Sandireaseheran was appointed as the Pastor and he was assisted by Pastor Reuben Kanagalingam. The Worship service time was changed to 9.15 a.m. The finance was a challenge at this time - the Income was RM18,763.80 and Expenditure was RM20,695.27. In 2003, Rev. James Ravindaren was the Pastor and was assisted by Mr. John Simson (ministerial student on one year practical break). The church upgraded the parsonage. The Church Finance improved. Only a few leaders came forward to serve.
In 2004 Rev. Joseph Yesupatham was the Pastor. There was a Bible Study & Prayer on Fridays at 8.00pm. The Church School was inactive. Six people accepted Christ. There was Migrant Ministry conducted in Pondok Tanjong
Lack of Finance Hinders Ministry
From 2005 to 2006, Rev. S. Jayabalan was the Pastor. Selamat Estate worship was restarted. Bible Study was conducted in the homes. Four attended Saturday morning prayers. Church School was restarted with 6 children. There was a shortage of teachers. The MW met for prayer on Sundays. The Christian Education Committee set up the Library and the Wesley Church donated 46 books. Provisions were given for the Indian Migrant Workers. New outreach work was started in Bagan Serai. Selamat Estate work was restarted. The church had a huge debt but managed to bring it down to about RM 11,000.00. TMC Tamil Settlement helped to repay the AEC loan. The Conference Commitment was also in arrears. In 2006, the Church School lacked suitable material for teaching. Welfare work and educational talks were done. There was scope for evangelism in the estates surrounding Bagan Serai and Parit Buntar.
Ministering to the National Service Campers
From 2007 to 2009 Rev. John Mathuni was the Pastor. In 2007, the Full Membership was 96.The church ministered to the Christians in the National Service Camp located in Selama. Members accompanied the Pastor when he went for this ministry once a month. There was an increase in giving. Though the AEC loan was settled with the help of TMC Tamil Settlement, the TAC Commitment Fund was still in arrears. In 2008 the Full Membership was 100. The increase of 10 members was mainly through transfers. Finance continued to be a challenge. In 2009 the Full Membership was 104. Selamat Estate ministry continued although many members had moved away from there. Tuition in Kampong Aman attracted 30 children. VBS was held. The MW trained their capable women to be preachers. The MSF was officially formed.
Celebrating 60 Years of Being a Church
In 2010, Rev. D. B. Laurence was the Pastor. The Full Membership was 89. Finance improved. Outreach work continued in Selama and Selamat estates. Cell Group, Fasting & Prayer and Music Class ministries were carried out. From 2011 to 2012 Rev. Seenivasagam David was the Pastor.
In 2011, the pastor was assisted by Student Pastor, Mr. Jerad Tamilselvam and Church Worker, Mr. Louis Martin. Full Membership was 88. There was one Cell Group and prayer ministry every Friday. They organized a Banana Leaf Dinner and raised RM 15,700 for the purchase of a van. In 2012, the Full Membership was 93. The church celebrated their 60th anniversary.
Dealing with a Spirit of Retirement
In 2013 and 2014 Church Worker Solomon Thangaiah was the pastor. In 2013, there was an addition of 7 members through transfers from other TAC churches. Most young people left to study or work in bigger towns.
The DS reported that the “spirit of retirement” was felt in this town. All were slow and relaxed and this was reflected even in the ministry. The church finance improved and they paid all their commitments to TAC. In 2014, the church had one Preaching Point in Selamat Estate. VBS was conducted. There was a great need for new leaders to emerge.
Going Forth Reaching out to Bagan Serai
From 2015 to 2016 Rev. David Rasahpandy was the Pastor and assisted by Full-Time Church Worker Mr. T. Tharmapal, who served till 2018. In 2015 they had a successful Fasting Festival in October. The Church School had 25 children. Mr. Asudas met Nepalese workers in their hostel on Tuesday nights. New work was started in Bagan Serai. In 2016 a Fasting Festival was held in June. The new work in Bagan Serai moved to a shop lot. From 2017 onwards Rev. J. Isaac Nathan has been the Pastor. In 2017, the Full Membership was 108. There was only one Cell Group. Youths helped in Bagan Serai outreach every Sunday. The Church was active only on Sundays. Financial giving had dropped. In 2018 the Full Membership was 110. Bagan Serai Preaching Point gave up the rented premises and gathered in homes. A small number of 8 members play a key role in providing leadership. The Church was active only on Sundays. There was poor participation for week-day programmes in the church.
In 2019, Rev. Isaac Nathan, the pastor of TMC Sungai Siput, has been appointed the Pastor-in-charge with retired Pastor Rev. S. Krishnan as the Resident Pastor. Mr. P. Dass is the Lay Leader and Ms. Sarah is the LCEC Chairperson. The Full Membership is 107. The membership in the Agencies is as follows: MYF (11), MYAF (5), MSF (20) and MW (15). There are 7 children and 1 teacher in the Church School. They have one Outreach and two Cell Groups.
Conclusion: The history of this local church spans more than a hundred years. There were times when the church was excited, seeing membership growth and acquiring property. Frequent change of pastors and often not having a resident pastor due to a shortage of pastors has affected the growth of the church. It is not easy for a church that is located in a town known for its spirit of retirement to see growth but the church is still pressing on to build the new area of ministry at Bagan Serai. By God’s grace they will grow, as they seek to build His Kingdom for the glory of His Name.
1. 21st Session of TAC Souvenir Program, 1996
2. A Brief History of the Tamil Methodist Church Taiping by Rev. N.G. Manickam
3. History by Mr. A. Wilson in the Parsonage Dedication Service Souvenir 8 October 2000
4. Methodist Journals – MAC, TPAC, and TAC