Six pastors served St. Andrew’s in the three and one-half decades following Harcus’ ministry.
Three shepherded the Church through periods of dire national economic difficulty, and three faced, first hand, the horrors of war.
One of them, Rev. D. Fergus Ferguson, served during the darkest days of the 1920’s world depression, during which St. Andrew’s lost over 40% of its corporate-donated income. Of Ferguson’s stewardship, a close observer of the times wrote: “That the Church in the end recovered lost ground says much for the dour and unyielding spirit of the minister.”
Even the weather turned against the people of Malaya. The Great Flood of 1926 saw a metre of water in the centre of K.L. Office and shop workers paddled to work in sampans and when the waters receded, the Chartered Bank spread millions of soggy bank notes to dry on the Selangor Club’s padang.
Another flood in 1930 stayed within the banks of Sungei Gombak, but the high water swept the body of a tiger through the city… the last time a tiger, more or less on the loose, was seen in downtown K.L.
By the mid-1930’s, economic recovery was in full flow and new vigour was installed in St. Andrew’s. Two Westminster graduates followed each other into the pulpit, Rev. A.H. Pringle in 1935 and Rev. Alfred Webb in 1939. (For Webb it was something of a homecoming; he’d been born in Singapore.) The Church grew from strength to strength until Rev. Webb’s ministry was summarily brought to an end by World War II. In 1939, too, was held the first national congress of local Malay associations.
PETALING ST., K.L.’s Chinatown, the year the Church’s foundation stone was laid. The fastest way to get about – by rickshaw.
This group was to become the United Malays National Organization, which has been the leading political party of Malaysia since “Merdeka” in 1957.
In the late 1930’s, K.L. bulged with a population of over 140,000. Throughout Malaya, something like 20,000 private cars, 2,500 motorcycles, 1,500 buses, 1,000 taxis and 5,000 lorries jammed streets and “highways”.
St. Andrew’s celebrated prosperity’s return with a new organ that replaced a wheezy old harmonium that had served well, if crankily, for years. The new instrument was the first pipe organ ever installed in any church in Selangor, and was dedicated on 16 April 1939. Its 29 display pipes were cast and milled in England, but the rest was built entirely by craftsmen.
But the world was again at war. On 8 December 1941, Japanese troops invaded Malaya at Kota Baru. In just 70 days they swept the 350-mile length of the Peninsula and took Singapore.
The occupiers of Kuala Lumpur looted St. Andrew’s of organ pipes, books, bibles, hymnals and four brass memorial tablets. Communion plate and vital Church records simply disappeared. Early in the occupation the Church was used as a warehouse. Later, local English-speaking Methodists took the building over for regular worship services and prevented further depredations.
A considerable part of the Presbyterian Church in Malaya went into internment, including Rev. Webb and many of his congregation. Many died in notorious prison camps in Singapore, Sumatra and Thailand. But the years of internment were not a break in the work of the Church. They were not even an interruption. The prison camp experience proved to be a determining and even creative event for the Presbyterian Church in Malaya.
One of the most significant results is cited by an eminent churchman imprisoned for 4 years in Singapore’s Changi Gaol, who joined other Presbyterians in planning the post-war rehabilitation of the Church in Malaya. Those discussions resulted in the conviction that:
“We had been too exclusively the Church of the white man. To have a church isolated from other churches, other races, is wrong. We came out of internment determined to throw of any isolation of the past.”
In Changi Gaol, bible, history and language classes were set up from the first day of imprisonment. In this “university”, a Scots minister taught Hebrew. In time, members of the Singapore Jewish community came to Changi, and joined the Hebrew class. This led to considerable merriment at one of the prison variety shows when a comedian noted his amazement that a Scotsman could teach Jews anything at all.
British forces liberated Malaya in September 1945, and in early 1946 a small group of Presbyterians returned to K.L. and re-started services at St. Andrew’s. The group found “Church and Manse in bad need of repair…servant’s quarters in ruins, furniture of Church and Manse looted, pipes and electric blower of the organ removed, lights, fans and sanitary installations out of order.”
By the end of December 1947, a new minister, Rev. Sydney Evans, was installed, major repairs and refurbishing accomplished, the organ partly mended and a car bought. St. Andrew’s was ready to begin…again. Rev. Evans (former businessman, soccer international, “a good mixer and fine preacher”) and his congregation worked miracles in Kuala Lumpur and began again the Church’s traditional outstation ministry.
But in mid-1948, just as postwar rehabilitation of both the Church and parish was about complete, a new danger struck. On 16 June, communist terrorist bands attacked remote estates and butchered three rubber planters.
THE EMERGENCY, 1948-1960. A British rifleman and Iban tracker on alert. In this vicious struggle, 6,398 communists, 1,851 Security Forces members and 2,461 civilians were killed.
These were the first acts of a national tragedy for Malaya… the beginning of 12 years of bitter internal war which has come to be called “The Emergency”. In the first year of the Emergency, terrorists staged 50 “incidents” a week. In the first half of 1951, communists killed an average of 100 people a month, including British High Commissioner Sir Henry Gurney, assassinated on the Fraser’s Hill road on 7 October 1951.
Not until July 1957, after the war had raged for 9 years, was there recorded a month with no civilian, military or police deaths due to terrorist action. By 1959, what was left of the original guerrilla army of 10,000 was driven to the Malay/Thai border, and on 30 July 1960, The Emergency was officially declared over.
While terrorists roamed the remote areas of St. Andrew’s parish boundaries, outstation activities had to be curtailed. But outstation services were held; although for security reasons, times and places were announced only at the last possible moment.
In his annual report to the Church for 1949, Rev. Evans stated: “During the past year, together with other communities, we absorbed the first shock of terrorism and its consequences and settled down to the task of carrying on our work under the new conditions.”
On 14 May 1950, regular broadcasts from St. Andrew’s were begun over Radio Malaya. Sunday nights, from 6 to 7 pm, members in K.L. shared worship with a large, unseen congregation in lonely and dangerous places.
In 1953, St. Andrew’s Ladies began to raise money for a stained glass window for the Church. By late 1954, enough was subscribed, a design of an Edinburgh firm chosen, and yet another window was promised, the gift of Sir John Hay. (See photo next page.)
In 1957 came “Merdeka”… Independence. The new nation of Malaysia was born. In welcoming the new country, Rev. C.E. Marvin wrote: “It is not so much a question of how Merdeka will work as one of how all of us will work with Merdeka. It is the personal responsibility of everyone to help secure for all the true benefits of freedom.”
St. Andrew’s was quick to feel one effect of Merdeka. Malaysianisation policies soon meant losses among the congregation, 37 in the first seven months of 1957 alone. The loss was offset by the welcoming of 39 new members. A routine had been set that continues today; the regular, sweeping turnover of St. Andrew’s congregation, with virtually 100% of the expatriate members changing every two and one-half years.
1959 saw the end of Christian service broadcasting over the national radio network. The last such broadcast was made from St. Andrew’s on Christmas Sunday.
And in 1959 a long-standing St. Andrew’s record was broken. For years, 62 miles was the longest distance travelled to attend Sunday worship. The new mark was set by two young estate managers who regularly drove 67 miles, one way, for services.
By 1960, expatriate life in Kuala Lumpur had evolved into the pattern that continues today. The former preponderance of colonial officials was more than offset by the new waves of businessmen and technicians who flocked to Malaysia’s vibrant, growing capital. And as had numbers of the Old Malaya Hands, many of the new arrivals and their families came to adopt St. Andrew’s as their church home.