Local Church History
The ministry in Kluang goes back to the 1950s when it was part of a larger region which included Cha’ah and Segamat. The Pastors who served in the early years include Rev. S.M. Pandian, Rev. K.J Timothy and Rev. Subramaniam. In those days there was no Anglican or Mar Thoma Church in Kluang and so the believers joined the Methodist Church. In 1963, Rev. S. Sundararaj was the Pastor of this large circuit with his headquarters in Kluang. Weekly worship services were held at Kluang and Cha’ah and in several surrounding estates. The Sunday school and WSCS met regularly. In 1964, the Full Membership for Kluang – Ayer Itam – Rengam Circuit was 97. This large circuit was divided into two, namely: “Cha’ah – Johore-Labis Circuit” and “Kluang – Ayer Itam – Rengam.” Rev. S. Sundararaj was the Pastor in charge. A piece of land (2 1/4 acres) was purchased for $4,200. This land was ideally situated between the Cha’ah town and the Johore-Labis Estate in which the majority of the Christians lived.
The Early Years
In 1965 Rev. A.G. Rasanayakam took charge from the first week of April, just in time for the Easter Services. The Kluang Circuit had Kluang as the center and the pastor covered Rengam, Layang-Layang, Batu Pahat and Mersing. The Full Membership dropped from 96 to 55 and there were 90 children. The reason for the drop was because the membership roll was not revised for a long time. Finance was a challenge. Regarding the purchase of land for a parsonage, the DS made three visits, each time to view a new site but all of them proved futile.
New Parsonage Purchased
In 1966, the DS reported that the church was in desperate need of a strong and new leadership. The Full Membership dropped from 83 to 46 at the end of 1965 and by the end of 1966 it dropped to 40. As a result, the finance was further affected. The new parsonage was purchased for $11,000 from funds contributed earlier by various sources. It was ready for occupation by the end of 1966. In 1967, the Full Membership was 85. A young theologically-trained couple, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Devasagayam were stationed at Kluang from January 1967 and they took charge of Cha’ah, Kluang, Mersing Circuit. When TPAC was formed in 1968, some members of the Kluang Tamil Church joined the English Methodist Congregation along with the pastor.
From 1969 to 1973, Rev. John Abraham was the Pastor. He faced many difficulties but patiently reorganized the church. In addition to the regular Sunday services, he conducted cottage prayer meetings every Friday in the homes of members. He visited the neighbouring estates once a fortnight using his scooter.
In 1969, the Full Membership was 38 and in 1970 it was 37. About 40 young people, and a few adults from Kluang and Cha’ah Tamil Churches attended the National Youth Institute held at Port Dickson from 9 – 12 April. This was the first time the youths of these two churches attended such an Institute.
In 1971, though the parsonage was bought five years earlier, the transfer was not done till this year and the church had to pay $100 for the lawyer. The assessment of the parsonage was not paid for the past three or four years and the pastor was served with a notice. As there was no money in the church, the pastor paid RM 300 from his own pocket. Out of 37 Full Members, all, except one or two, were under the low income group. They sent $100 for the Conference Benevolence Fund. As Kluang and Cha’ah had the same pastor and the latter was bigger, very active and had a house for the pastor, it was thought it would be better for the pastor to live at Cha’ah and visit Kluang once a week.
British Military Camp Closed
In 1972 the Full Membership was 38. The closing of the British Military Camp caused several church members to be retrenched and move to different towns. This greatly affected the membership and the activities of the church. The few members who lived in the town area were of the low income group and thus the church underwent another year of financial strain. However, despite this, the church members came forward and contributed liberally. They promised to pay the debts and other Conference commitments.
Help of Ministerial Students
In 1973 the Full Membership was 37. Rev. John Abraham, inspite of his ill health, faithfully carried out his duties to the best of his ability till 31 October, 1973. In 1974 the Full Membership was 36. Mr. Jacob David, a ministerial student, took charge of the churches in Kluang and Cha’ah from November 1973 to April 1974. When he left, Mr. Peter Devadason, also a ministerial student, took charge of the churches. Both Mr. Jacob and Mr. Peter served well and the churches began to grow. After many years, the first Carol Party was held. The church had a debt of RM 2,234.20 on the parsonage, accumulated over the years. The church took steps on this matter and paid RM 750 towards the parsonage debt.
In 1975 and 1976 for about five months, when the church was without a pastor, Rev. Rasanayakam, a retired pastor, helped in the Holy Communion and other services. Rev. & Mrs. William Harris and family arrived in Kluang on 25 September 1975 and were warmly accepted by the congregation. In 1975 the Full Membership was 37. In 1977 Rev. & Mrs. Harris had to leave Malaysia due to immigration problems.
Regular Estate Outreach Work
From June 1977 to 1980, Rev. Devadass Ratnam took charge of TMC Cha’ah and Kluang. In 1977, the church started a Building Fund which stood at RM 15.
In 1978 Bible Study was organized in two new areas – Kahang and Air Bemban. In 1979 the Full Membership was 60. Work was done in Paloh, CEP Niyor, Ulu Remis, Rengam, Elaeis Estate and Ellar Estate. There was a monthly bible study conducted for Hindus in Rengam and Ulu Remis. The Building Fund stood at about RM 3,000 and the church prayed for a place of worship. The church worship service was held at the parsonage. In 1980 the Full Membership was 54. Rev. Devadass Ratnam left at the beginning of the year and Mr. John Millason replaced him. Regular Estate Outreach was carried out in Paloh, Rengam, Ulu Remis and a pioneer project was started in Bukit Benut.
Pastor A. E. Joseph was the Pastor in 1981. The Full Membership was 51. Worship services were held every Sunday evening at the MarThoma Church. The Outreach points were at Rengam, Paloh, Kempas, Klebang Estate and Sri Lallang. A Church School was conducted in Rengam fortnightly with an average attendance of about 15 children.
From 1 July 1982 till 1985 Rev. Solomon Abraham was the Pastor. In 1982 the Full Membership was 45. The pastor was in charge of the Kluang and Johore Bahru churches. Worship Service was at 6pm at the Mar Thoma Church. As a result of migration of the youths to Singapore and other places and the lack of capable youth leaders, there was no MYF. Definite plans were made to revive the MYF and volunteers came forward to help. The WSCS was formed with a membership of about 17. The Building Fund with AEC Methodist Headquarters stood at RM 8,778.59. (Board on Property report page 118)
In 1983 the Full Membership was 48. Worship services were held on alternate Sundays and Fridays at 5:30 pm at the Mar Thoma Church. The MYF was active under the guidance of Miss Ruth Ratnam. In 1984 the Full Membership was 55. The Worship services were held on two Sundays and two Fridays at the Mar Thoma Church. The English bible study met fortnightly. In 1985 the Full Membership was 57.
Moving into Koperasi Building in Sunrise Park
Rev. Victor Vethamani was the Pastor in 1986. The Full Membership was 56. Worship services were held on the 1st and 3rd Sundays and on the 2nd and 4th Fridays at 5.30 pm. The Holy Communion service was held at 5.15 pm. The Bible Study was revived to help overcome spiritual lethargy. The Church School was a great encouragement for the church, as it was restarted this year. In the past, the main obstacle was transport and an own place of worship. God had enabled them to overcome both these limitations. Classes were held fortnightly on Fridays at 3:30 pm with 4 classes with about 20 children. The church moved into their new place of worship in December 1985. They left the Mar Thoma church premises and moved into a rented place at the Kluang Koperasi Building in Sunrise Park. Rev. Emanuel Rajasher was the Pastor in 1987. The Full Membership was 55. Worship services were held on Fridays and Sundays. This arrangement was made in view of the pastor’s commitment to the Johore Bahru church.
Rev. Vincent Jayaraj assisted in the Holy Communion service. The children’s ministry was organized during the early part of the year and had an enrolment of about 32 children.
From 1988 to 1992, Rev. David Jeyabal was the Pastor. The Full Membership was 52. Outreach Ministries were conducted in two estates, one in Pakloh and the other in Ellar. The church sent 4 members for the Young Adults’ Camp held in Penang. The church paid its TAC Commitment Fund in full. In 1989 the Full Membership was 81 and in 1990 it was 96. The church met for worship on Sundays at 5 pm. They had two large preaching points – Rengam and Layang – Layang. The members in Rengam joined the Layang-Layang members for worship on the first Monday of the month for Holy Communion. Layang-Layang had 25 Full Members and their worship services was held in the local Presbyterian Church. In 1991 the Full Membership was 95. The Outreach in Rengam / Layang- Layang had no place of their own to hold worship services. In 1992 the Full Membership was 96.
In 1993 Rev. Peter Jebasekaran was the Pastor. The Full Membership was 100. The worship was enriched with the purchase of a drum set and an overhead projector. From 1994 to 1996 Rev. Duraisingam was the Pastor. Supply Pastor Paul Maniam was placed in Kluang from 1994 to 1995. The Full Membership in 1994 was 102 and in 1995 it was 87. The Worship service was on Sunday at 9.30 am. In 1996 Rev. Duraisingam was assisted by Ministerial Candidate Mr. Reuben Kanagalingam. The Full Membership was 91. Worship service was changed from 9.15 am to 8.30 am. The church applied for a piece of land from the State Government.
From 1997 to 2000 Rev. Abraham Ponniah Selvanayakam was the Pastor. In 1997 the Full Membership was 100 and in 1998 it was 106. The church bought a second van for ministry. In 1999 the Full Membership was 101. There were six Area Fellowships that met every 2nd and 4th Saturdays in Kluang. For the Outreach in Layang-Layang, a shop house was rented from 25 July for worship and other programs. In 2000 the Full Membership was 96. A single-storey house was purchased for RM70, 000 (Board on Property report).
Purchase of a 1 ½ Storey Building
In 2001 Rev. C. Paul, the Pastor of TMC JB, pastored here also and was assisted by Pastor Seenivasagam David. In 2001 the Full Membership was 111 (the growth was through Confirmation). From 2002 to 2005 Rev. Seenivasagam David was the Pastor-in-charge. There were 23 members in the MYF. Though a large number of these youths were residing outside Kluang, yet they organized some very exciting programs like ‘Climbathon – Gunung Lambak’ and they maintained the Shekinah, a music group.
In 2002 the Full Membership was 121 (the increase was due to transfers in). They purchased a 1 ½ storey building costing RM260,000. The church thanked all TAC churches that contributed towards their Fund and also thanked the Conference for their support.
Coin Box Project
In 2003 the Full Membership was 117. They started worshipping in the new building from 1 October. In 2004 the Full Membership was 121. Due to the closure of an oil mill in Layang-Layang, the attendance there was affected. However, work in Simpang Rengam was started with four families. The women raised funds for the church building through the coin box project. They also collected 10 cent coins for MMM. In 2005 the Full Membership was 121. The MSF was formed on 3 April with 18 members. They met regularly. Prison Ministry was carried out on Mondays.
In 2006 Rev. Jonathan Jesudas, the pastor of TMC Johore Bahru, was the Pastor-in-charge. Church Worker Mr. Isaac Nathan assisted. The Full Membership was 115. The Layang-Layang Outreach was closed because the believers there had moved out. Although Rev. Jonathan could only come to Kluang to conduct the Communion Service and LCEC meetings once a month, he guided the church well. Pastor Isaac Nathan, the Church Worker, along with his wife gave good leadership.
Paloh Becomes Kluang Outreach
In 2007 Rev. Samy Dass was the Pastor-in-charge with Church worker Mr. Isaac Nathan. The Full Membership was 131. The church building was dedicated on 15 September by the Conference President Rev. P. Tevaraji. The Conference Lay Leader, Mr. Steven Solomon, also graced the occasion. TMC Cha’ah, at its Second Local Conference, decided to hand over the Paloh ministry to TMC Kluang and the Kluang Church, at its Second Local Conference, accepted Paloh as their Outreach in 2008. An application for the plot of land No. PTB7373 was forwarded to the relevant authorities.
Training Young Leaders for Small Group Ministry
From 2008 to 2014 Rev. John Simson was the Pastor. In 2008 the Full Membership was 147 and in 2009 it was 153. Ms. Mary served in the Paloh ministry. In 2010 Church worker Ms. Mercy helped and the Full Membership was 160. Ms. Mercy also gave leadership for the Paloh Outreach. An average of 40 people gathered for worship. In 2011 Mr. Kelvin Paul Raj (Pre Ministerial Candidate) and Mr. John Elijah (Church Worker) helped the pastor-in-charge. The Full Membership was 167. There was a shortage of leaders to run the Small Group meetings. New young leaders were trained. In 2012 the pastor had the assistance of Mr. John Elijah, Mr. Victor Gunaseelan (Church Worker) and Mr. Jeyaseelan John (Part time Church Worker). The Full Membership was 168. Eight Small Groups met with an average attendance of 40.
In 2013 the same pastoral team continued. The Full Membership was 168. All agencies were inactive except for the Methodist Women. In 2014 the Full Membership was 169. The MYF and MSF were inactive this year as their members were mostly staying outstation. Another reason was the change of worship services due to the change of weekend holidays. The church lost a good worker, Mr. John Elijah who went to be with the Lord.
The pastor, a visionary, served 7 years in this church and established outreach ministries. The church building underwent renovation and they moved from the first floor to the ground floor for their worship services. (Board on Property report pg. 157)
From 2015 to 2018 Rev. John Mathuni was the Pastor-in-charge. In 2015, Mr. Jeyaseelan John continued as Church Worker. The Full Membership was 168. The church raised RM42,000 to renovate the parsonage. A Combined Church Building Dedication, Thanksgiving and Confirmation Service was held on 6 September. 34 were received as Full Members. In 2016 Mr. Cengkuttan (Church Worker) served in TMC Kluang / Paloh and Mr. Joshua (Church Worker) helped in TMC Kluang / Renggam. The Full Membership was 193. The church renovated its parsonage at 27, Jalan Pinang, Taman Lian Seng, Kluang, at a cost of RM75,000. In 2017 the Full Membership dropped to 130. The Paloh Outreach became a Local Conference on 18 March. In 2018 the Full Membership remained at 130.
In 2019, Rev. Devaraj Balaiyah has been appointed the pastor. Mr. Venkitaraja is the Lay Leader and Mr. Aravin Raj is the LCEC Chairperson. The Full Membership of the church is 142. They have 14 members in the MYF. MYAF is not formed yet, but Mr. Stephen was appointed the coordinator for this Fellowship in the Second Local Conference held in September 2019. There are 15 children in the Church School, of these 3 are non-believers’ children. There are no Cell Groups, but the church has plans to start this ministry next year. They have two Outreaches, one in Simpang Renggam and the other in Layang Layang.
Conclusion: The ministry in Tamil Methodist Church Kluang goes back to the 1950s. Today the church has its own building where worship is conducted and a parsonage for the pastor. The Paloh Outreach was taken over by TMC Kluang in 2008 and in less than ten years, in 2017, it became a Local Conference. In 1965, the Full Membership of the Circuit was 55 and this year it is 142. They still have much to do to build this local church, and with God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, they can indeed achieve great things for the Lord and for the glory of His Name.
Methodist Journals – MAC, TPAC, TAC