Sunday, July 24, 2016

Church of Visitation, Seremban (1948)

The first missionary to have ever set foot on Seremban soil was Fr Pierre Henri Borie MEP, who in 1847, was sent by Bishop John Baptist Boucho MEP, the Vicar Apostolic of Malacca-Singapore, to work among the indigenous people in Seremban.

In 1848, there already existed a small Catholic community thanks to the efforts of Fr Borie. Fr Deluette, a priest from Malacca was appointed to cater to the needs of these few Catholics in Rasah and Seremban. He in turn appointed a catechist based in Rasah to cater to the needs of this small community.

In 1885, Seremban came under the jurisdiction of a priest from Kuala Lumpur, Fr Hector Letessier, MEP.

Initially, he visited Seremban once or twice a year. He later negotiated for a piece of land on which a tiny chapel made of planks and attap was erected. From that moment, his visits became more frequent.

Once every two months, he journeyed to Malacca to hear confessions. The trip took two weeks on a jostling bullock cart over roads which were far from being a credit to their makers. Under such circumstances, it was a great boon for poor Fr Letessier to have a stopping place at Seremban where he could rest his shaken frame and say Mass for his wayside flock. Aptly therefore, the chapel was named Visitation — more out of reference to Fr Letessier’s periodical stops than out of deference to the Blessed Mother.

In 1888, Fr Peter Perrichon, MEP was appointed as the first resident priest for Seremban. Fr Perrichon stayed for a period of five years. When Fr Perrichon was transferred to Ipoh, Fr Letessier had to resume his visits from Kuala Lumpur to Seremban. He could only do it for 3 years, after which he was transferred to Penang.

The next priest who came in 1895, Fr Antoine Catesson, MEP was able to build a new church with money raised mainly by the miners of Broga. Among the benefactors was Goh Ah Ngee who gave a generous donation of $1,500.

The congregation kept on increasing and the priest maintained the principle that the one Church was to serve all Catholics, whether Indians, Chinese or Eurasians — the request of having a second church in Seremban for the Indians was not adopted. So, a much bigger church was needed to cater to the growing community.

In 1910, the Church was extended and two wings were added to the side.
A new presbytery for the Visitation Church was built in 1913, by Fr Salvat Fourgs, MEP who served in the parish from 1903 to 1911 and again from 1919 to 1928.The years 1914 to 1918 saw a lamentable depletion of clergy, most of whom were recalled to Europe during the war. During this time, Fr Georges Auguin, MEP was made responsible for the Catholics in both the districts of Seremban and Malacca. When he was transferred to Singapore, he was succeeded by Fr Noel Maury who was an expert in the Cantonese language.

The year 1922 saw the installation of electric lights in the Church. Catholics were delighted at the innovation and the bill of $500 was readily and easily met by their contributions.After a short holiday in Hong Kong, Fr Auguin was back in Seremban, this time for 15 years (1931 to 1946). One of his thoughts was to rebuild the Church which was now inadequate to hold the growing number of Catholics. Everything was conceived on a vast and grand scale. Only the two side walls were retained, the nave was lengthened almost by half, the roof raised, a new apse and two large wings were added together with a belfry with a steeple that made the Church a landmark in Seremban town.

Nearly every item in the Church was new — bells, statues, altar, organ, pews, confessionals, vestments etc.

Fr Auguin had rebuilt the Church and made it one of the most beautiful in the mission. It was blessed in Sept 1935 by Bishop Adrian Devals, MEP.

A blight fell on the Church during the Japanese occupation in 1942. But it was to the everlasting credit of the Catholic Church that her ministers did not flee in the face of onslaught. Seremban parish suffered least, comparatively. Still caution was the watchword, and the lack of transport plus the gruelling restrictions of the police reduced activities to the minimum. Those hectic months proved a splendid opportunity for conversions, and the scores of converted at that time served to show that God can always draw good out of evil.

In 1944, a memorable event took place at the Church of the Visitation. Catholics saw for the first time, the ordination of four priests — Fr Aloysius Chiew, Fr Anthony Khaw, Fr Anthony Michael and Fr Thomas Chin. Bishop Devals was at that time Governor of the Catholic colony of Bahau. Passport difficulties prevented him from going to Penang which is the usual venue for ordinations.

Hence Seremban was chosen.

September 1945 brought victory and relief when the Japanese were defeated. Once again, the Church resumed normal duties in full vigour and liberty and set upon the task of grappling with post-war problems of reconstruction — morally, spiritually and economically.

The Church of the Visitation saw the last of the French missionaries with the departure of Fr Edward Limat, MEP in 1978. From 1980 onwards, the parish has been shepherded by local clergy. Other than the changes resulting from the transfers of priests, the layout of the parish and the church’s structures have remained unchanged.

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Wesley Methodist Church Seremban (1915)

Wesley Seremban was founded in 1915 through the combined works of the local Chinese community and the English missionary workers and lay people.

In the late 19th century, migrants from China came to Negeri Sembilan to prospect for tin and settled down in the Seremban and Lukut areas. These migrants who were of the Christian faith gathered to worship in a small building near the then Convent School field along Jalan Birch (now renamed as Jalan Dato' Bandar Tunggal). A preacher from China had come to work among these migrants.

While the works among the Chinese was being carried out by a Chinese-speaking worker, an English layman, Mr. Bailey who was then the Chief Police Inspector in Seremban, became active in the church and helped start an English-speaking congregation. The District Superintendent of the area then, Rev. W.G. Shellabear, reported in the Conference Journal of 1916 that "English speaking congregation grew and an evening service was held. The messages at both the morning and evening services were translated into Chinese." This was the beginning of the English Congregation and that year was 1915, considered the birth year of the Wesley Methodist Church in Seremban.

In 1957 the church started a Bible class for the British soldiers in Seremban. Financially, the church was well off. It paid $2,700 for pastoral support in that year and average attendance at the worship service was 100.

In 1959 membership increased to 206 (membership today is close to 400). In 1960, the church building was extended with a wing and basement to cope with increased membership and activities.

In 1961, the 1st Seremban Boys' Brigade Company was started with 20 boys from both the ACS and the Methodist Afternoon School, Seremban. That same year, the first local pastor cum principal of the ACS, Seremban, Rev. S.T. Peter Lim, was appointed.

In 1965, both the church and the school celebrated their 50th anniversary. And in 1983, Bishop Denis C. Dutton broke ground for the planting of an outreach point at Taman Ujong, Seremban. This outreach point would become a full local conference, i.e. a local church, on 14th January 1991.

In 1993, the parsonage-cum-office opposite the church building on Jalan Lintang, Seremban, together with the ACS school field, was acquired by the state government for commercial development (Terminal 1 Shopping Complex). The parsonage moved to the building next to the Taman Ujong church that was purchased in 1985. The office moved to a rented premise in a shop-lot on Jalan Dato Lee Fong Yee in the heart of Seremban town. It was relocated to another building nearby before it finally moved into its own building at the present address in Taman Bukit Chedang. The ground floor is being used for the PBS ministry.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Church of the Primacy of St.Peter (1933)

The Church of the Primacy of Peter is a Franciscan chapel that incorporates part of a 4th-century church. It is located at Tabgha on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee and commemorates Jesus' reinstatement of Peter after a fish breakfast on the shore. (John 21)

The chapel is small and made of grey stone, with a modest tower in one corner.  At the base of the chapel's walls on the west end, the walls of the late 4th-century church are clearly visible on three sides.

Like the early church, the modern chapel incorporates a large portion of the stone "table of Christ" (Latin: Mensa Christi) at the altar. This is where Jesus is believed to have served his disciples a fish breakfast after they landed on shore (John 21:9).

On the lake side of the church are the rock-cut steps mentioned by Egeria as the place "where the Lord stood." (John 21:4).   It is not known when they were carved, but it may have been in the 2nd or 3rd  century when this area was quarried for limestone.

Below the steps are six heart-shaped double-column blocks known as the Twelve Thrones, which can be under water when the lake level is high. Originally designed for the angle of a colonnade, they were probably taken from disused buildings and placed here to commemorate the Twelve Apostles. ( Luke 22:30 )

Just beside the church is a small Crusader building. Also nearby are Byzantine water towers that were designed to raise the water level of the powerful springs so that they flowed into a series of irrigation canals and mill-streams.


Around 381 AD, the Spanish pilgrim Egeria visited the area and reported that next to the Church of the Loaves and Fishes "are some stone steps where the Lord stood" (John 21:4).  Egeria does not mention a church here, but one was built on the site by the end of the 4th century. It was roughly the same size and shape as the original Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and its east end enclosed a flat rock identified as the table on which Jesus offered breakfast to the disciples (John 21:9).

In the 9th century, the church is referred to as the Place of the Coals.  This name refers to the incident of Jesus' preparation of meal for the apostles, building a charcoal fire on which to cook the fish. (John21:9)

By 808 AD, the Twelve Thrones had been placed along the shore to commemorate the Twelve Apostles. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

All Souls' Church, Cameron Highlands (1958)

Located in Taman Sedia, Tanah Rata, the plateau's little Church of England was once known by the early members of its congregation as The Cameron Highlands Church.

During the 1950s till 1960s, church services were conducted at the Cameron Highlands Hotel ( now Cameron Highlands Resort ), Slim School ( now Slim Army Camp ), or Eastern Hotel ( now Century Pine Resort ).  

In 1958, Miss Anne L.P. Griffith-Jones, OBE (1890–1973) donated a site adjoining the Slim School to the Anglican Church.

The construction of the church commenced in early 1958. The British Army provided a dismantled Nissen hut and donated $1,000 towards the total erection costs of $4,643.

The church was completed in September 1958 and, except for some minor renovations, remains essentially unchanged to this day.

The name ‘All Souls’ Church’ was given at its consecration on Thursday, 30 April 1959 by the Right Rev. Bishop H.W. Baines, Bishop of Singapore and Malaya to commemorate the soldiers who died in the two World Wars.

The church, under the direction of the Missionary District of South Perak, was initially ministered to by chaplains of the British Armed Forces and expatriate clergy from the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) seconded to the Diocese of West Malaysia.  Later it became a part of the Parish of South Perak and in 1986 it became a part of the Parish of Batang Padang, Tapah, Perak.  On 30 August 1998, All Souls’ Church was inaugurated as a Missionary District.

"To the Glory of God
this church is erected by the British Army
and civilian communities
for Christian worship in Cameron Highlands”