Wesley Methodist Church Penang is one of many local churches that belong to and are connected to the English-speaking Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. It is the oldest Methodist church in Malaysia.
THE EARLY YEARS
Wesley Penang traces its history to 1891, when Rev Daniel Davies Moore, a Methodist minister from Prince Edward Island, Canada, was commissioned by the Methodist Church in Singapore to begin English work in Penang Island. In July 1891, he led the first English service at the Penang Town Hall. Rev Moore was one of the founding missionaries of the Anglo-Chinese School Penang, known today as Methodist Boys’ School (MBS).
Later the English service moved to a rented home for missionaries, and conducted its first Sacramental Service in August 1891. In November the same year, the English service moved to the Armenian Church (no longer extant) in Church Street. The first Sunday School began and the church formally started with three members.
The church would move to a few more locations over the years—the Priory in Northam Road (a garage for Runnymede Hotel) in 1893, and Penang Anglo-Chinese School’s new building in 1897. In 1910, the church acquired two houses at Larut Road for Boarding House and Missionary Residence.
THE FITZGERALD MEMORIAL CHURCH
A year later, on 26th December 1911, the cornerstone for the church building at its present location of Burmah Road and Larut Road was laid. In order to acquire the piece of land, the church had to swap plots on Anson Road and Burmah Road for the one on Larut Road.
Construction of the church building in English architecture style was completed in 1912. On 26th November 1912, the new church building was dedicated by Bishop W.P. Eveland, and was named the FitzGerald Memorial Church in memory of Bishop James M. FitzGerald, who presided over the 15th Session of the Malaysia Methodist Conference in Penang in 1907, and his daughter Cornelia.
In 1927, the church finally paid in full the total building cost of Straits Dollar $18,500, with an additional $1000 spent for the initial fittings. A few years later, in 1931, the church was renamed Wesley Methodist Church Penang.
During the Second World War (1942-1945), the church compound was used by the Japanese Army as their base camp. The church had to move its service to the Madras Lane Chinese Methodist Church. After the war ended, the church returned to its property at Burmah Road, and activities soon resumed.
From there, the church went through several rounds of renovations and expansion, and membership began to grow as well. In 1947, the Methodist Youth Fellowship was organised and continues to operate until present day. A year later, the church reorganised the Women’s Society of Christian Service. Other ministry groups were started in subsequent years; for examples, the Intermediate Youth Fellowship in 1951, the 2nd Company Boys’ and Girls’ Life Brigades in 1952, the Youth Centre (now MYC Hall) in 1954.
With greater independence and autonomy, especially after Merdeka and the formation of Malaysia, a strong local leadership soon emerged in the late 1960s. The church would continue to grow by leaps and bounds to present day where it remains as one of the prominent Methodist churches in Penang and Malaysia.
Today, Wesley Penang organises two English services and one Mandarin/Hokkien service weekly. It also offers programmes, activities, and support groups for people of all ages and from all walks of life. In the midst of a host of challenges facing society and nation, Wesley Penang continues to hold forth the Word of life, making disciples, and serving the wider communities for the common good of all and for the glory of God.