Local Church History
The Early Years
Some of those who came to Malaya from Thirunelveli in Tamilnadu, South India in the late 1800s, seeking possible employment, found their way to Ipoh. Most of them settled in Buntong/Tamil Settlement and some of them were already Christians. In 1908, the first Tamil Methodist Church building in Tamil Settlement was built at the cost of $800. It had only a wooden frame with slate roof and cement floor with no pews. Mr. M. Gnanamuthu was the first catechist. In 1912, Rev. Edward Isaac became the first Pastor of this church. The church hall, where the old sanctuary was situated, was named after him. A lane nearby is also named “Lorong Isaac”.
Ministry of the Methodist Women and Bible Women
In 1930, the WSCS was established by Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Ayaduray and Mrs. Kirubhai Pakianathan. The first President was Mrs. Lee. The Bible women played a major role in the ministry among women. Mrs. Lydia Nallathamby was the Bible Woman from 1934 – 1941. Then Mrs. Paripoornam Swamidian became the Bible Woman from 1946 – 1961 followed by Mrs. Ponnamal Samikan from 1971 – 1978. Mrs. Janet Paul (Chinniah) helped in the Women’s Work from 1962 – 1965.
From 1932 to 1937, Mr. S.M. Pandian served as a Catechist. In 1932, Rev. N.G. Manickam was the Pastor responsible for the building of the parsonage. It was demolished in 1976 to make way for the third sanctuary.
“Rev. J. Milton David, pastor of the Tamil Church at Ipoh, has had one obsession this year – a new church for the Tamil Settlement. Over two thousand dollars have been subscribed. This amount, together with the grant from the Committee on Church Extension will enable the building to proceed at once…” (MAC Minutes 1940)
From 1938 to 1945 Mr. Suvi Kovilpillai served as a Catechist. On 11 February 1940 the cornerstone was laid for the second sanctuary, which served the people well for 36 years. It was built at the cost of $3,800.00. Rev. J. Milton David worked very hard for this building to come up. It was dedicated on 27 October 1940 by the Mission Superintendent Dr R.L. Archer. Mr. Suvi Kovilpillai was then the catechist.
The youths played a vital role in the life of this local church. In 1941, a group of young talented youths known as Bala Vinotha Sabha, together with Mr. J.V.K. Lambert and the church members, raised funds to build the porch for the second sanctuary. It was built on 30 April 1941. The effectiveness of the ministry among the youths is best seen in the number of Pastors and Conference Lay Leaders this local church has produced. It is significant that of the pastors, the following were elected TAC Presidents: Rev.David Tharmakan, Rev.P.Tevaraji, Rev.C.Vincent Jayaraj and Rev.Dr. Dennis Raj. The Conference Lay Leaders include Mr. K. Pandian, Mr. Paul Devadason and Mr. Peter Palliah.
In 1950, the Edward Isaac Memorial Hall was built mainly through the efforts of Rev. S.S. Pakianathan. For his fruitful ministry and to remember his sacrifice, dedication and devotion, the Ipoh Municipality was convinced to name the access road to the church as “Lorong Pakianathan”. During that period Rev. G.D. Thambidurai was the Pastor and Headmaster of the Methodist Tamil School in the church compound. The Edward Isaac Memorial Hall was dedicated by Bishop R.L. Archer on 12 August 1950.
Formation as a Local Conference
“On November 6, the Tamil Settlement Church in Buntong, near Ipoh, was organized into a separate quarterly conference. For some time it has been related directly to the Tamil Church on Lahat Road, but it has its own pastor, and has had separate youth and women’s organizations, and its own building. With the assignment of two Conference elders as pastors of the two congregations, discussions were begun looking toward the establishment of a separate organic structure. There was a remarkable demonstration of good feeling and the leadership of the Holy Spirit as the Official Board met on 2 October to make the decision. A small joint committee two days later sealed the arrangement.” (MAC Journal 1960 p. 46)
Moving Forward as a Local Church
Rev. John Abraham was the Pastor when the congregation was officially organized as a Local Conference in 1960. “The establishment of a separate Quarterly Conference in Ipoh’s Tamil Settlement…has proven to be a wise move. One year ago the income for the combined church was $9,585.67. This year, there was an income for the Town Church of $8,362.30 and in the Tamil Settlement $7,903.59, or a total of $16,265.89. Increases in membership have been recorded in both places.” (MAC December 1961 p. 62)
Rev. K.J. Timothy, was the Pastor from 1962 – 1964. In spite of reverberations in this congregation, there is a certain vitality about it and it continues to grow…” (DS Report MAC Journal 1964 p. 76)
Rev. D.K. Gnananantham, the longest serving Pastor, was in charge from 1965 to 1975. He continued to serve after his retirement. He is fondly remembered for his hard work and fatherly approach to ministry. He passed away at the age of 68 while still in service on 11 May 1975. Rev. Chellaraj Fenn was the acting pastor for the remaining months.
Pastor Seenisamy was the next Pastor from 1976 – 1977. The parsonage for the third sanctuary was built and dedicated on 31 August 1977 by Rev. V.A. Chelliah. The Foundation Stone of the sanctuary was laid on 3 July 1976 by Bishop Emeritus T.R. Doraisamy and dedicated by Bishop C.N. Fang on 2 October 1977. The building cost was RM 167,460.
Rev. C. Pandian took charge from 1978 – 1981. Rev. Gabriel Jabanathan followed and was the Pastor for three years from 1982 – 1984. From September 1984 till February 1985, Rev. A.E. Joseph was the Acting Pastor, when Rev. Gabriel Jabanathan went for his Master’s Studies in USA. During this period, pastoral care came through Mr. A. Selwyn, a Church Worker and member of the local church. Mr. Selwyn’s ministry was effective and greatly appreciated. The next Pastor in charge was Rev. S. Duraisingam, a son of Tamil Settlement Church, who had his upbringing in this local church. He served for two years from 1985 – 1986.
From 1987 – 1993, Rev. Victor Vethamani took on the Pastoral responsibility. In 1992, Ministerial student Moses Jeyaseelan served here. During his tenure the cornerstone of the church extension building to the third sanctuary was laid by the resident pastor Rev. Victor Vethamani on 20 December 1992. The building was then dedicated by the TAC President Rev. David Tharmakan on 8 May 1993. Also in 1993, Ministerial student Mr. Robert Selvakumar did his One Year Practical Work here.
Rev. Joseph Komar was the Pastor from 1994 – 1995. He was assisted by Supply Pastor Barnabas Baskaran. The construction of the fourth sanctuary started. The cornerstone was laid by the TAC President Rev. David Tharmakan on 8 January 1995. Also in 1995, Ministerial student Jonathan Jesudas was placed here. The next Pastor was Rev. Devadas Ratnam from 1996 – 1997. In 1996, Ministerial student Samuel Periathamby completed his One Year Practical Work here. The sanctuary was dedicated on 9 June 1996 by Bishop Denis C. Dutton. The cost was RM 1.5 million and it can seat 1,000 people. This is the largest Tamil Methodist Church in Malaysia.
Rev. Hendry Ponniah served for four years from 1998 – 2001. In 1998 the Full Membership was 848. There were 14 Cell Groups. The church concentrated on building the Menglembu Outreach. They started two new Outreaches in Foothills and Kinta Valley. The Church School had 350 children and 43 teachers. They also had 4 Outreach Church Schools. In 1999 the Full Membership was 873. The MYAF membership increased to 64. In 2000 the Full Membership was 902. They also had crisis counselling. In 2001 Pastor Krishnan and ministerial candidate Mr. Stephen Gunarajah assisted the Senior Pastor. The Full Membership was 940. For their Lahat Baru Outreach, they paid 10% deposit of RM 36,000 to purchase 2 shop lots on 10 October 2001.
From 2002 – 2004 Rev. M.G. Thana Raj was the Pastor. In 2002 Rev. Krishnan and Church Worker Padmanathan served together with Rev. Thana Raj. In 2003, the DS saw the church as a “training ground for the members and the Pastors” and also “a caring church which blesses the district with prayers, leadership and finance.” In 2004 Pastor Francis Lee was placed on Assignment, together with Pastor M. Joseph a Church Worker. Seeing the need of TMC Penang, they sent some money to equip their office. They supported the Taiping Church as well.
Every Taman and Every Jalan
Rev. D.B. Laurence served for eight years from 2005 – 2012. In 2005 the Full Membership was 1023. Rev. Tankaraj joined the pastoral team. The members were given teaching through the Cell Groups. Their target was a cell group in “Every Taman and Every Jalan.” VBS was well attended by about 416 children. Help was rendered to the Good Shepherd Home. They had started an Outreach in Gunong Rapat. They fenced the Pakianathan Quarters. In 2006 Gunong Rapat was being prepared to be a regular outreach. The church had 466 students and 43 teachers in 4 localities in their Church School ministry. There were about 100 non-Christian children. There was an LCEC Retreat with Rev. Joseph Komar as the Speaker. He spoke on leadership. In 2007 Rev. Jayabalan and Pastor M. Joseph assisted the Senior Pastor. The Full Membership was 1076. There was a Worship Seminar with Rev. Herbert John. About 75 participated, with those from Lahat Baru.
Centennial Celebration with a Daughter Church
In 2008 Pastor Silvester Louis Martin was one of the Assistant Pastors. The Full Membership was 1138. The church had their Centennial Celebration with the theme “Century of Grace”. There were 115 members in the MSF. Lahat Baru Outreach became a Local Conference on 19 January 2008. This was their first and only Outreach to become a local Conference. In 2009 the Nepali ministry grew rapidly under the leadership of Pastor Surai Lal and his wife. In 2010 an Outreach was started in Cameron Highlands with Sunday worship and Friday prayers. A new building was purchased to strengthen the Gunong Rapat ministry. They continued to provide help for the Methodist Tamil School Ipoh. In 2011 Rev. Laurence had the assistance of Rev. Jeyarajah and Rev. Dennis Raj as a Part time Pastor. The Full Membership was 1061. New work was started in Tanjung Rambutan. In 2012 the Full Membership was 1089. Gunong Rapat Outreach was lacking local leadership. The Church School in Tanjung Rambutan was reaching 60 with mostly non-Christian children.
Rev. Dennis Raj, the next Pastor, served for four years from 2013 – 2016. In 2013 the Full Membership was 1080. Rev. Dennis, Rev. Segaran, and Pastor Noel Thangamuthu formed the pastoral team. They met for prayer every morning from 9.30 – 10.15 am. The members were encouraged to pray at the altar from 9.30 am to 3pm. There were morning prayers at 6am on Saturdays. There were 5 Outreaches: Gunong Rapat, Cameron, Kledang Mas, Tanjung Rambutan and ministry to the Nepalis. Pastor Ben Richard was appointed to take care of the Cameron Highland ministry. The Cell Groups used Rev. Victor Vethamani’s Small Group material. Ms. Sharon Tangarajoo and Mr. Roland David committed themselves for the Fulltime ministry. Mr Daniel Thangaraj was appointed fulltime Worker for the Cameron Highlands ministry.
In 2014, Ms. Rachel Koilpillai was the fulltime prayer coordinator for the church. Through the Centennial Benevolent Fund (CBF) the church helped many needy families. In 2015, Rev. Dennis, Rev. Segaran, Mr. Noel Thangamuthu, Ms. Annammah, and Ms. Rachel formed the Ministry Team. Fulltime worker Ms. Annammah gave good leadership in Cameron Highlands. The Tanjung Rambutan ministry was previously held in a rented house but they now moved to a shop lot. The Church School and worship service were attended by many Hindus. In 2016 the Full Membership was 1071. Kledang Mas functioned more like an evening Service and about 40 attended. Rev. Dennis Raj was elected as the TAC President in November 2016.
The present Pastor Rev. Sandireaseheran took charge in January 2017. In 2017 the Full Membership was 1056. The Small Groups met in 15 places on alternate Tuesdays. This ministry was used as an avenue to reach out to the neighbourhood. They organized a “Kid’s Camp”, Teachers Training and conducted a Children’s Worship Service. In 2018 the Full Membership was 1065. All Outreaches were showing signs of growth. Leadership was developed. Forty-five youths attended the Alpha Youth Program. The church and individuals contributed RM 68,775 towards purchasing Bahasa Malaysia Bibles for East Malaysian churches. A program on drug abuse was organized with “Agensi Anti Dadah Kebangsaan.”
In 2019 Rev. Sandireaseheran continues as the Pastor-in-charge. New graduate Mr. David Retnam was placed here as Member on Trial. The Lay Leader is Mr. Samuel Peter and the LCEC Chairperson is Mr. D. Vilson. The Full Membership is 1075. The membership of the Agencies is as follows: MYF (42), MYAF (100), MSF (220) and MW (170). There are 174 children and 29 teachers in the Church School. There are also 14 Cell Groups. The church has three Outreach work – in Kledang Mas, Gunong Rapat and Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands. They also have outreach work among the Nepali migrants in Taman Rishah, Ipoh.
OTHER NOTEABLE MATTERS
Recognition from Ipoh Municipality
It is significant to note that two roads leading to the church have gained recognition from the Ipoh Municipality and have been named after two pastors who had served in the Tamil Settlement Church. The roads are known as Lorong Isaac and Lorong Pakianathan.
The Church and the Tamil School
The Methodist Tamil School in the church compound was started on 1 March 1948 by Rev. S.S. Pakianathan. His main aim was to give education to the children residing around the church.
Initially part of the parsonage, the church building and the shade of a mango tree were used as classrooms. The first headmistress was Mrs. D.B. Jesudass. The initial enrolment were 14 pupils and within a month it increased to 81. In 1949, the school, along with church members, the public and the government, worked hard to build a school building in the church compound. In 1950, the Edward Isaac Memorial Hall was built as an extension to the church. The school made use of it as well – it was divided into three classrooms. In 1993, the church extension building, renamed as Edward Isaac Building, was constructed with three classrooms at the upper floor. The first floor was used as the school office and staffroom. In 1997 the enrolment increased to 320 pupils with 22 teachers and 5 staff. In 1998, to cater to the increasing number of pupils, a three storey school building was built in Jalan Madras. It was the first Tamil School in the country that was constructed with steel structures. The construction cost was RM 1.3 million. With the completion of this building, the school moved out of the church premises. Source: “Century of Grace – 1908 – 2008 Celebration Souvenir Book p. 27)
The Church and the Pakianathan Seminary
The Pakianathan Seminary was started by Rev. S.S. Pakianathan, the Principal of the Seminary. In 1950, he applied and obtained a piece of land in Jalan Wayang from the government. Four houses were built on the land as a training point for ministry. One house was used as a Theological Seminary and the other three to house the trainees and the school teachers. The teachers who served in the Tamil Methodist School obtained their training from the theological seminary. However, when the ministry came to an end, the houses were rented out. In 2007, a parsonage known as “The Pakianathan Illam” was built on the land for the Assistant pastors.
The students were taught practical preaching, lyrical singing in Tamil and spoken and written English. The male students became Supply Pastors in Perak District while the female students helped in the WSCS and Church School work of the Church. The untimely death of Rev. J.D. Asirvatham, the pastor from 1952 – 1954, was a great loss to the Seminary.
Rev. P. Athimuthu also taught in the Seminary. Rev. Pakianathan did the major share of the work in the Seminary, in addition to his work as editor of Light of Salvation (the predecessor of Berita TAC). The Seminary’s progress depended on the growth of the Methodist Tamil School. If there were more classrooms, then more men could be brought in as teachers and trained as preachers as well.
Conclusion: Though Tamil Settlement became a local Conference on 6 November 1960, the beginning of the ministry of this local church goes back to 1908. The rapid membership growth saw the need for several church buildings. But the Full Membership peaked in 2008 with 1138 members and after that has not gone beyond this figure. The church has given birth to one local church - TMC Lahat Baru. The church has produced four Conference Presidents (Rev. David Tharmakan, Rev. P. Tevaraji, Rev. C. Jayaraj and Rev. Dr. Dennis Raj). Three of the Conference Lay Leaders are from this church (Mr. K. Pandian, Mr. Paul Devadason and Mr. Pater Palaya). The church has also produced several pastors and lay leaders who are serving God’s people elsewhere. In 2008, their theme for celebrating 100 years of ministry “Century of Grace”, rightly captures God’s role in all these – it has been His grace all the way. From humble beginnings Tamil Settlement Church has risen to great heights. But the best is still ahead, if the church would remain humble and totally committed to the Lord. Then all glory would rightly go to Him alone and the church would be blessed.
1. MAC/TPAC/TAC Journals
2. “Century of Grace – 1908 – 2008 Celebration Souvenir Book p. 24” & MAC Journals
3. Local Church Souvenir Programs