Most if not all the churches in Ipoh began operating from small attap-roofed shacks. Bigger wooden buildings were constructed when their congregation expanded and eventually brick buildings with better facilities were erected in their place in the 1800s. The architecture of these buildings were mostly Gothic, the style favoured in those days. With their solid structure and stained glass windows and skylights containing pictures depicting the various events in Christ’s life, these churches are very imposing and a sight to behold. These magnificent buildings are still standing and serving till this day. In line with the series featuring places of worship for all the major religions, Ipoh Echo went in search of some of the more prominent churches in Ipoh
Most Christian Denominations Represented in Ipoh
According to historical records, Christianity was brought to the Malay Peninsula as early as the 7th century AD by Christian Arab traders and evangelistic Christians from Persia. It was only after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1511 followed by the Dutch in 1649 that the religion began to flourish. However, during these two eras Christianity was only confined to the region around Malacca. When the British acquired Penang in 1786 and took over Malacca in 1795 they slowly brought the religion into the hinterland and began their mission work mostly in the field of education, medical help, community services, welfare as well as tending to the needs of the poor and destitute.
The major Christian denominations in the country are Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran and some independent charismatic ones.
CHURCH OF ST MICHAEL
24 Church Road, 30300 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 254 0176/242 0877
Fondly called St Michael’s Church by Ipohites, this church has the distinction of being the first Christian church to be built in Ipoh. It was started by a French missionary priest, Fr. Emile Barillon, with a few parishioners in 1890 in a wooden structure on the present Main Convent ground across the road. Construction of the present Gothic-styled building started in 1893 and was officially commissioned in 1896.
From its humble beginnings the church has expanded to include a block housing its administration office cum priests quarters, a parish activity centre, a funeral parlour, a columbarium and an outdoor Stations of the Cross. Other beautification works such as a fountain and a bronze statue of St Michael the Archangel was erected including the installation of air-conditioning of the whole church.
The church now has about 3000 parishioners and celebrated its 120 years jubilee in 2010.
CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES
45 Jalan Silibin, Taman Lim, 30100 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 527 9349
With the influx of Indians settling down in Ipoh during the construction of the new railway lines in Malaya in the 1900s the need for a church to serve the Indian community was greatly needed at that time. Father Emile Marie Henri Saussseau, a French missionary, started the church in a small attap-roofed wooden structure in 1901. When the congregation outgrew the size of the church a bigger wooden structure was erected in its place in 1905. Later, it was decided that a brick building with modern architecture be constructed to coincide with the centenary celebration of Our Lady’s apparition in 1858. The blessing and opening of this Gothic-style building was completed in 1959. This majestic structure still stands proudly to this day. The church boasts of the custodian of one of Br Joseph McNally’s most famous masterpieces, the one and only masterpiece of his in the world. A beautiful outdoor grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes as well as a Heritage Gallery, where artefacts dating back to 1890s from the Vatican City and around the world are prominently displayed.
THE WESLEY METHODIST CHURCH
121 Lahat Road, 30200 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 254 5331/254 2155
The Wesley Methodist Church was started by Rev. William E. Horley in September, 1895 in a small attap Malay house behind the Land Office. It initially doubled-up as a church cum school and was considered the oldest Methodist building in the Federation then. Construction of the present brick building commenced in November of that year when sufficient funds were raised from the community. The history of the church is very much tied up with the Anglo-Chinese School which has grown to be one of the premier schools in Ipoh.
As with the fate of all the other churches, services were either temporarily suspended or halted during the 2nd World War when the Japanese took over the buildings for their military use. After the Japanese occupation, the church expanded to include two new wings and a church hall in the 50s. However, in 1991 the church suffered a serious fire which damaged much of the furniture and building. Due to its historical and religious significance rebuilding works were undertaken to retain most of its original design. Today, the church stands proudly at 122 years old.
ST JOHN’S ANGLICAN CHURCH
134 Jalan Raja Musa Aziz (Jalan St John), 31400 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 254 8146
The Church of St John the Divine or more commonly known as St John’s Church started conducting services to the mostly European expatriates during the early 1900s with no specific church buildings. Services were then held in government buildings especially in court houses. The present church was built in 1912 of English design with Gothic architectural features.
During the 2nd World War the church was used as a factory for producing noodles and all the wooden fixtures in it were stripped off and used as firewood. After the war British soldiers took chairs from the Majestic Hotel to be used to start their first service. Normal services resumed after 1949 with some restoration work done to the church.
Sometime in 2009, it was found that the wooden ceiling of the church was in danger of collapsing due to water seepage and termite infestation. Through consultations with various experts it was decided to fully restore the church rather than having the problem fixed. It was a wise decision as the building has maintained its magnificence and has since been gazetted as one of Ipoh’s Heritage Sites listed in the Heritage Trail Map. The church celebrated its centenary in 2012.
ST ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IPOH
47 Jalan Golf Club, 30350 Ipoh.
Nestled at the junction of Jalan Golf Club and Jalan Tun Dr Ismail one can’t help but notice a Tudor-style structure reminiscent of a building in the Scottish highlands. Built sometime in 1927, the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Ipoh was originally started to serve the expatriate planters and estate workers who were mostly from Scotland. It had been surmised that some of the parishioners who came from surrounding areas like Taiping, Teluk Anson, Bagan Datoh, Sungkai, Batu Gajah, Sungai Siput and Gula used to arrive for service in their helicopters which landed beside the vast church compound.
During the outbreak of the 2nd World War in 1941 services were temporarily suspended and only resumed in 1946 despite the loss of most of the moveable assets during the Japanese occupation. After the War, the expatriate presence was reduced and the church was eventually handed over to the Gereja Presbyterian Malaysia in 1988. The Chinese congregation just celebrated their 50th anniversary beginning of this year. Services are now conducted in both Chinese and English.
By SH Ong