In 1904, Mr P.W. Tambyah was one of the founder members of the Tamil Church in Malacca under the leadership of the Shellabears. Mr Doraisamy was described as the ‘first official member’ of the Tamil Church in Malacca. During the early years, the Methodist Church in Malacca was made up of four congregations – Chinese, English, Baba and Tamil speaking. There was no proper church building for worship services. Initially worship services were held in people’s homes. In 1904 a generous local resident, Mr Tan Keong Keng, donated No. 142 Heeren Street to be used as a school and church.
Four Culturally Diverse Groups Begin Under One Roof
When the Methodist Church was built in 1908, it was shared by four culturally- diverse groups of people - Chinese, English, Baba and Tamil speaking. The Dedication Service was conducted by Rev. William F. Oldham. Thus 1908 marked a new era and TMC Malacca had their Centenary Celebrations in 2008. Some of the early pastors who served TMC Malacca include: Rev. Samuel Abraham (1918), Rev. J.J. Kovilpillai (1927 - 1932), Rev. Edward Isaac (1932 – 1935), Rev. Milton David (1936 - 1937), Rev. Kingham Joseph (1938 – 1940), Rev. J. V. Ayaduray (1941 – 1945), Rev. S.J Arthur (1945), Rev. N. G. Manickam (1946 – 1949), Rev. V.A Subramaniam (1950 – 1954) and Rev. V.A. Chelliah (1955 – 1959).
In 1954, with the completion of the new Wesley Church at Tranquerah Road, the Wesley and the Straits-born congregation members shifted to their new premises. From 1960 to 1962 Rev. Peter David was the pastor. Financially, the church was strong. In 1961 Rev. Peter David helped the church to improve on their giving through his prayers and sermons. However, due to his age and health, he was unable to visit the estates regularly.
The Reality Check
The District Superintendent, Rev. Wong Hoon Hee reported “Four Tamil Churches are under my charge and not one yet can support its own pastor…unless we are going to have trained full time ministers who will fit into the churches and members who will sacrifice more in their giving, the future will remain the same as it was in past years.” (MAC Journal 1961, p. 50)
In 1962 the ministry in the Estates were not so good. Sagil, Asahan, Bertam, Merlimau, Jasin Lalang, Jasin Rim and Sungei Bahru estates were visited.
From January 1963 to 1964 Rev. John Abraham was the pastor. In 1963, the defunct Church School was revived by the able Mr. David Rajaram with Miss Betty Dossan as his assistant. He organised a successful Church School Worship Service conducted by the children. Regular Worship Services were held in Sagil and Bukit Asahan by the local Lay Preachers and Holy Communion Service was conducted once a month by the pastor.
In 1964 there were three regular and four occasional Preaching Points, managed by the pastor. There were monthly preaching visits to Sagil, Bukit Asahan and Terendah Camp Cheroh once in two months. Mr. Manoharan, who assisted the pastor in Bukit Asahan Estate, resigned on 31 October. Mr. D. John assisted the pastor in Sagil. He and his wife gave faithful service there. The pastor also visited Kuala Pilah, Segamat, Cha’ah, Kluang, Mersing and Seremban. Evangelistic meetings, called “Go to the People” were held by Rev. Reinoehl and his assistant Mr. Chelladurai. These meetings were held in Bukit Asahan, Sagil and Cha’ah. Mr. F.C. Dossan, a Local Preacher, accompanied the pastor to the estates. There were 46 Full Members and 34 children. There were 3 Adult Baptisms and 5 children.
Lone Congregation in the Old Premise
From 1965 to 1971, Rev. Paul Athimuthu was the pastor. In 1965, the Chinese speaking congregation moved to their new building at Jalan Tan Chay Yan. From then onwards the Church was used only by the Tamil congregation. The Church land was spared Town Council’s acquisition, though the vestry was eventually demolished by the Malacca Municipality in 1975, while negotiations were still going on for an alternate site. Church leaders took great effort to ensure that the Methodist legacy was preserved in Malacca. The unique design of the church, combined with its proximity to the thriving hub of Malacca’s historical sites less than a kilometre away, continues to draw tourists to the church. In 1965, there was outreach work in: Bukit Asahan and Sagil Estates. Mr. & Mrs. D. John of Sagil Estate helped in this work as well as the Church Schools in these two estates. 60 Prayer Calendars in English and Tamil and 750 tracts and 60 booklets were distributed during this year. 50 copies of The Light of Salvation was subscribed to by Melaka-Asahan-Sagil Circuit.
In 1966, the Full Membership was 89. A full-time pastor was appointed here from the beginning of this year and he was able to visit more estates in the Circuit. The work in Sagil Estate continued with the help of Mr. & Mrs. D. John. They helped in the worship services and also in the Church School. The work in Bukit Asahan estate seemed to have worsened. As a whole, the finance was weak in this Circuit. The parsonage in Melaka was surrendered to the Methodist Girls School (Secondary) for the sum of RM 10,000. This money would be with the Trustees, till the congregation was ready to build a new parsonage. 1967 Asahan Estate ministry was hampered due to a strike. In 1969, Malacca, Bukit Asahan and Sagil Circuit Full Membership rose from 115 to 130. There were 53 members in Malacca town and the rest were from the estates and the surrounding towns. Once a month cottage prayer meetings were held regularly in the homes of the members. Christians from other denominations and even some Hindus attended these meetings.In 1970 the Full Membership increased to 140. There was an increase in attendance at worship services both in Bukit Asahan and Sagil Estates. In 1971, the Full Membership increased to 150. The Lay Preacher, Mr. D. John who was in charge of Sagil Estate Church, was doing honorary work for more than 15 years.
From 1972 to 1986, Rev. Noel Arputharaj was the pastor. In 1972 a new Church School was formed in Asahan Estate. The church was affected by the sudden death of the Local Preacher Mr. D. John of Sagil Estate. The finance in Malacca was low and for the first time in history, it organised a Church Dinner to raise funds for its projects. A total sum of $3,800 was raised with God’s help. The TPAC President, Rev. T.R. Doraisamy was present to grace this occasion. In 1973, the Church faced a great challenge as the Malacca Municipality proposed to take over the Tamil Methodist Church. They did this for the extension of the newly-built Fire Brigade Complex and for the widening of the Jalan Gelanggang/Jalan Kubu Junction. The Municipality offered the church a piece of land in Bukit Bahru, about 2 miles away from Malacca, in exchange for their present site of Lots 25 and 26. This was without any compensation. The church negotiated with the Municipality for a more reasonable amount of compensation. On 6 October the church organised a Tamil Drama event under the patronage of the Chief Minister of Malacca and raised about $8,000.
In 1974, the Stewardship and Finance drive was launched in Malacca and its Circuit and the members contributed more this year. The Malacca church lost two important and active members this year: Mr. F.C. Dossan the Lay Preacher and Mr. P. D. Rajadurai. Regarding the proposal to take over the Malacca church by the Municipality: This proposal was finalised at a mutual discussion on 25 November 1974. The Municipality agreed to give a land measuring 18,000 sq. ft., in exchange for the church’s site of 4,700 sq. ft., and also a compensation of $10,000. According to the negotiation with the Municipal Commissioner and his Board, the church could continue to use the present building till 31 December 1975, but would have to give up the vestry by the end of February 1975.
In 1975, the Full Membership was 109. There were regular weekly services in Sagil Estate and Asahan Estate. They were not able to start the Building Plans because, the sub-division of the land was not finalised by the Municipality. When they met up with the Municipal Secretary on 21 November 1975, they were advised to submit the building plans to the Malacca State Development Corporation. The Municipal Secretary assured them of his assistance, should there be any problem. Evangelist Jeevanandam from India, visited the churches in this District. His ministry greatly revived the churches. The church underwent various stages of restoration to ensure safety. The air-conditioning of the church helped to avoid the dust pollution and the noise from the adjacent roads.
In 1977 the Pastor, Rev. Noel, was ill for a few months. During that period, the members helped to carry out all the activities of the church, including the work in Sagil and Asahan. Rev. E. Suwito, the pastor of the Wesley church helped to serve Holy Communion. In 1978 there was much concern over the delay in the Building Project. 1979 Mr. Daniel assisted the Pastor in the ministry in Asahan & Sagil. The Full Membership was 108. Bible Study and Prayer meetings were conducted. They met once a week in the homes of members. The Malacca Bible Study group was doing 1 Peter. MYF was formed in Malacca. There was an active MYF in Sagil.
In 1980 the Full Membership was 121. Mr. Daniel, who was assisting the pastor in Sagil and Asahan, was transferred to serve in Bukit Rotan and Batang Berjuntai. The members of Sagil helped the pastor to conduct services in Asahan. There were three Church Schools and a few church members helped to provide transport for the children.
In 1981, Bible Study for young adult women was formed in Malacca. The church building was repaired and painted. A jumble sale was conducted to raise funds for the Church School and church Christmas party. Copies of “Our Daily Bread” were distributed to members. A church member in an Old Folks Home and a poor Hindu couple received monthly monetary help. The church helped to distribute food hampers to poor families in Jasin, Alor Gajah, Merlimau and Malacca Town during the Carollers’ visit. The hampers were donations from the Lions and Lioness Clubs. Evangelistic meetings by Evangelist Victor Swamidas, Sister Joyce Samuel and Annamah Mathews were held in Malacca. All formal negotiations for another site or the retention of the present church building and site failed to bring any concrete reply from the Municipal authorities or the Chief Minister. A final attempt to speak to the Chief Minister on a personal level was made.
In 1982 the Full Membership was 120. The parsonage compound was fenced and the levelling completed at a cost of RM 6,000. In spite of their needs, the church helped the following projects: Cha’ah Church Building Fund, Cha’ah Church Van Fund, Alor Star Parsonage Building Fund and the Prai Church Building Fund. The land promised by the Municipality in exchange for the present parsonage was not given yet. The Building Fund with Methodist Headquarters stood at RM 41,785.08.
In 1983 the Full Membership was 120. Bibles donated by Mr. and Mrs. Caesar Wellington were given to all children during the Christmas party. The church contributed towards the Ministerial Training and Outreach work. From 1 July 1984 Pastor Thana Raj served as the Assistant Pastor. The Full Membership was 122. A video film was screened monthly in Malacca and Alor Gajah. Fasting and prayer on public holidays was introduced, apart from the regular Area Fellowship and Prayer meetings. A new Church School was started in Alor Gajah. The parsonage was in the Methodist Girls’ School compound.
In 1985 the Full Membership was 121. The ministry of TMC Malacca included the outreach work in Alor Gajah, Jasin, Merlimau, Asahan and Sagil. Regular and weekly Bible study sessions were held in Asahan, Sagil, Alor Gajah and Malacca. There were 25 children in the Church School in Malacca town. The Church School in Alor Gajah had 10 children with 3 to 4 Hindus joining the class occasionally. The Malacca Municipality conveyed to the church that the building will not be affected by the widening of the road. This meant that the congregation could worship at their present site. In 1986, just before Christmas, the church underwent some minor repairs and repainting costing RM 2,500.
From 1987 to 1989 Rev. S. Duraisingam was the pastor. In 1987 the Full Membership was 133. TMC Malacca lost 91 members when they were transferred into Asahan/Sagil Local Conference. But there was an addition of 46 members (18 adult baptisms in the Alor Gajah circuit ministry) and 28 were restored. TMC Malacca had outreach work at Alor Gajah, Muar, Sungai Udang, Solok Duku, Alor Village, Jasin and Merlimau. There were 37 youths, mainly in the Outreaches. In 1988 the Full Membership was 146. The Alor Gajah Outreach grew in ministry as well as membership. They had a membership of 55. The Church Workers Mr. Albert Simon and Mr. D. Rajendran worked tirelessly to build this ministry. TMC Malacca recommended Alor Gajah Outreach to be made a Local Conference.
In 1989 the Alor Gajah Outreach was formed as TMC Alor Gajah. The new parsonage plans were submitted to the Municipality.
From 1990 to 1992, Rev. Stanley Sadagopan was the pastor. The Full Membership was 72. Worship service was at 9.30 am on Sundays. An average of 25 adults attended. About 60 attended on first Sundays when there was Holy Communion. The work of the church was greatly affected by the ill health of the pastor but the church remained active. The location of the church was causing problems for the members. The building is at the junction of traffic lights and it was difficult to find parking space for cars near the church. In 1991 there was a major renovation costing RM 61,000. In September 1992, a porch was added to the church building. The cost of RM 13,000 was mainly paid by the late Mrs Miranda Rajadurai and the late Mrs Herbert Samuel.
From 1993 to 2000, Rev. Justin Clarance was the pastor. In September 1994, a new vestry costing RM 26,000 was built behind the church to replace the one demolished by the Malacca Municipality in 1976. This new addition finally provided a place for the Church School and also the pastor’s office. In 1998, the original wooden windows from 1908 that were repeatedly infested with termites over the years were replaced with aluminium frame-work and sliding glass windows at a cost of RM 15,000. From 2001 to 2004 Rev. Jevaratnam was the pastor. The church was declared as part of “Historical Zone C” by the Melaka Government in 2003.
The Church had come a long way since the missionary pioneers set the building in Kubu Road in 1908. From 2005 to 2006 Rev. M.G. Thana Raj was the pastor. In 2005 the Full Membership was 72 and in 2006, it was 71. The university and college students attended the worship service regularly.
From 2007 to 2010 Rev. M. Tankaraj was the pastor. In April 2008, being the centenary year, the church geared for restoration and renovation works. With the help of generous donors, the church was able to complete the floor tiling work. During the period of renovation that lasted for two weeks in April 2008, church services were held at the Wesley Methodist Centre hall in Jalan Tranquerah.
On 26 July the church had a special Thanksgiving Service. Bishop Dr. Hwa Yung delivered the Lord’s Message, entitled “Renewing Our Promises”. Also present was the TAC President Rev. P. Tevaraji. At the Service, Madam Ruby Gurupatham donated a single-storey bungalow to the church and the Conference. The keys were handed over by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Gurupatham in memory of the late Mr. and Mrs. P.D Isaac to the Bishop.
In 2009 the Full Membership was 71. The Church planned to put up an “Upper Room” at the vestry and a new building at the present parsonage site. It was also noted that one third of the members fell in the seniors’ category. The DS noted that the Church in their effort to reach out was meeting twice a month in Pulau Gadong. In 2010, about 40 – 50 gathered for Sunday Service. There were 21 members in the MSF and they actively participated in all the church activities.
Sunday Evening Prayer Meetings
From 2011 to 2014 Rev. Dr. Joseph Komar was the pastor. In 2011, repairs were done in the parsonage and initial work to restore the bungalow. Limited funds delayed the fencing of the property and the plans to add a floor at the office. Under the Christian Education Committee, Sunday evening Prayer Meetings were held in different homes near the Bukit Rambai area. The Church was encouraged by the fellowship, building of members and the presence of new seekers. The DS reported that it was the same set of people who continued to give leadership. In 2012 the Full Membership was 68. About 25 people attended the fellowship gatherings.
In 2013 the Church invited Rev. D.B. Kulothungan from India, to conduct meetings on how a Local Church can grow. He also visited the outreach work in Nyalas and Air Kuning and gave valuable input. The bungalow at Klebang was sold for RM 510,000. The Church and the parsonage were repainted. The Full Membership was 80. In 2014, the Full Membership remained at 80. The ministry at Air Kuning and Nyalas was affected due to family commitments of the person who was assisting. The youths met and were guided by the Ministerial student Mr. Ezekiel Raj. Due to the lack of funds the project to fence and add a floor to the church office was delayed.
From January to June 2015, Rev. Mark Subramaniam was the pastor. From July to December, Rev. Anthony Panan was the pastor. Mr. Ezekiel Raj was posted as a One Year Practical Student from July to December. The Full Membership remained at 80. In 2016, Rev. Dr. Joseph Komar was the pastor. The church continued to have Cottage Prayer Meetings in the homes of the members. The Full Membership was 79. In 2017, Rev. Joseph Yesupatham was the pastor in charge. Ministerial student Mr. Joel Zechariah served here full-time for his Practical Work. The Full Membership remained at 79. From 2018, Rev. Vincen Dass was the pastor. An average of 10 people attended the Friday Prayer Session. The Full Membership was 80.
In 2019, Rev. Vincen Dass continued as the pastor. Mr. Immanuel Yowan is the Lay Leader and Datuk Dr. N. Rajagopal is the LCEC Chairperson. The Full Membership is 84. The church has no Cell or Small Groups but Home Prayer meetings are organized. There are no Outreaches. The number of members in the Agencies are as follows: MYF (14), MYAF (29), MSF (20) and MW (27). There are 16 children and 3 teachers in the Church School. The average attendance for the weekly Friday Prayer and Bible Study has increased to 20-30.
Conclusion: When the local church building was built in 1908, there were members of four culturally different backgrounds - Chinese, English, Baba and Tamil speaking. Today the Tamil Church is the sole occupant of this church building. In 1969, the Full Membership of the church (which included those in the estates) was 130. The ministries in the estates developed and new local churches were formed. Today TMC Melaka has a Full Membership of 84. Placed in a town with a history that goes back to the time of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British rule in Melaka, it is not surprising that this church is surrounded by historical sites that draw many tourists. The local church is challenged to present an even more ancient Saviour, even Jesus Christ, to the unsaved in Melaka. This would surely build the church and bring glory to God.
1. Centenary Celebration 1908 – 2008 Jeyapaul Samathanam Jesudasan
2. Methodist Journals – MAC, TPAC and TAC