St Andrew’s unveils new bell tower for its centennial

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church’s elders commissioned a bell tower to commemorate the centennial of its founding. ― Pictures by Firdaus Latif
St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church’s elders commissioned a bell tower to commemorate the centennial of its founding. ― Pictures by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — From its genesis in 1917 up until the present, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church along Jalan Raja Chulan has only gone from strength to strength.

To commemorate the centennial of its founding, the church’s elders commissioned a bell tower, which was unveiled earlier today before its congregants.

Standing at nearly 20 feet in height, the tower also included the final sealing of a time capsule by the church, which was prepared in October. It also included four Malay Mail articles. Covered by a concrete slab, the capsule is set to be reopened sometime in 2118.

The second time capsule contains four Malay Mail articles, a Bible, coins from the church’s donation box, a church service program and a digital history of the 100-year-old church. — Picture by Ham Abu Bakar
The second time capsule contains four Malay Mail articles, a Bible, coins from the church’s donation box, a church service program and a digital history of the 100-year-old church. — Picture by Ham Abu Bakar

The tower’s architect Issey Chong speaks to Malay Mail at the St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Kuala Lumpur April 7, 2019.
The tower’s architect Issey Chong speaks to Malay Mail at the St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Kuala Lumpur April 7, 2019.

The tower’s architect Issey Chong said construction began sometime in the fourth quarter of 2018.

“The planning for the tower began at the start of 2017, and I understand the church set aside a part of its budget for that,” he told the Malay Mail.

The commission came in around the same time. Chong and three of his colleagues from Veritas Architects Sdn Bhd only took two to three weeks to complete the design, including the relevant detailing such as horizontal trellises, fixing and modelling. 

Himself a member of the Christian faith, Chong said he did not intend to build an ordinary-looking bell tower.

“It was designed to incorporate traditional and modern building materials.

“We used 100 timber planks, used for concrete formwork, around the tower which is a nod to the church’s 100th anniversary,” he said.

Congregants of the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church along Jalan Raja Chulan pray during the unveiling ceremony of the bell tower, April 7, 2019.
Congregants of the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church along Jalan Raja Chulan pray during the unveiling ceremony of the bell tower, April 7, 2019.

The planks also provided a wood grain effect for the naked eye, but is more hardier and resistant than ordinary wood.

“The crucifix on top of the tower facing the main road was constructed from fibre-reinforced plastic, which has the same wood grain effect but also presents a softer touch to the structure,” Chong said.

Perhaps the most interesting element is the curvature design within the tower, which changes when viewed from different angles, particularly by those outside the church grounds.

“As you travel along the main road, when you look close enough it seems as though the tower is opening up and moving its contents,” he said.

The church’s bell, originally commissioned from a Dutch company in 2008 for St Andrew’s 90th anniversary, was subsequently installed in to the tower upon completion.

The church’s Board of Managers member Kenneth Tan speaks to Malay Mail in Kuala Lumpur April 7, 2019.
The church’s Board of Managers member Kenneth Tan speaks to Malay Mail in Kuala Lumpur April 7, 2019.

The church’s Board of Managers member Kenneth Tan said the bell was initially kept inside the church, and underwent careful maintenance before being moved to its present location.

“It rings twice a day, before the two services at 8.30am and 11.30am, respectively,” he said.

Tan gave a brief overview of St Andrew’s history, stating that it was founded by Scottish Presbyterian expatriates in October 1917.

“They laid the foundation stone to the main building that month, and by April 1918 the church was completed.

“Throughout its history the church has always been a favourite of expatriates living in Malaysia,” he said.

This is because many expatriates find it somewhat difficult to integrate into local churches, since they are very Malaysian in flavour.

“At St Andrew’s we are aware our congregants come from many different church traditions. Plus the fact that the services are conducted in English makes it much easier for everyone.

“In previous years many of these expats were from Western nations, but in the past few years we have also welcomed an increasing amount of expats hailing from parts of Africa and Asia-Pacific,” Tan said.

With an average of 300 congregants, he said the church now looks to its future optimistically.

“The bell tower is meant to symbolise our preparation for the century ahead, so it is always best to keep positive thoughts,” he said.