The construction of the building was initiated by Rev. W.H. Elton in 1888 and took him almost 13 years to complete. It was designed by New Zealander Mr. B.W. Mountfort who designed the church based on Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand, which was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake. The building was first constructed with belian (ironwood) timber, followed by brick and finally stone, which is said to have from the nearby Buli Sim Sim, while the white stones that adorn the windows and doors are from Hong Kong. The stones were delivered from Buli Sim Sim by prison labour at RM1.25 per cubic yard. A cubic foot of stone weighs approximately 140 lbs and each stone was painstakingly laid atop each other.
Rev. W.H. Elton
Despite of that, almost every year on 29th Sept, Rev. Elton celebrated the church anniversary and the annual accomplishment of the construction. A severe shock of earthquake shook Sandakan on 21st Sept 1897 but no damage to the stone walls of the church. The construction work continued with significant progress each year and finally it was completed in 1906. In 30th Sept. 1906, the church of St. Michael was dedicated. Rev. Elton continued as the Rector until 1914 where he went back to England and passed away on 17th Dec 1914.
13 years appeared a long time to modern builders who could easily complete such a project in a year. As for Rev. Elton, a full time minister, he had to attend to his visiting duties as well as supervisor and administrative duties. All construction work was suspended whenever he was away. Apart from that he also faced the shortage of money, the lack of skilled workers, the absence of lifting equipment and machinery to carry the stones and the initial skepticism of the church committee over an ambitious project. Nevertheless, he labored on with the vision and conviction that God had given him until the completion of the building for the sake of the people and the future generation of Sandakan.
Pre-War & Japanese Occupation Era
Rev. Thomas Cecil Alexander
From then on, a number of priests came who most of them attached to St. Michael’s school as the principal before become the rector of St. Michael’s church. In 1914, Rev. Thomas Cecil Alexander was appointed as rector and followed by Archdeacon Bernard Mercer who took the office as rector from 1926 – 1939. Then Rev. Henthorne who was the headmaster of St. Michael’s school since 1936, took over as the rector of St. Michael’s church and assisted by Rev. Sung Khi Fong.
Rev. Sung Khi Fong
The Japanese landed in Sandakan in 1942. On 28th Sept. 1942 the church was closed and was used as military store. Services were then held in Rev. Sung Khi Fong’s house. On 5th June 1945, the church was bombed and burned. Rev. Sung was the priest in-charge until 1947 when Rev. Sparrow took over from 1947 until 1949. From 1949 – 1950, Rev. Sung was in-charged again.
The Lomax Era & Post War Era (1950 – 1973)
In 1950, Rev. Frank Lomax arrived and looked into the rebuilding and restoration of the church. The church was restored in 16th Dec 1950. Rev. Lomax was burdened to do the interior mission. He was heavily involved in mission and evangelism work in the interior of Sabah such as Labuk, Tongud, Sapi, Telupid and Segama area together with Bruce Sandilands who had the similar burden and vision. The North Borneo Interior Mission (now Sabah Anglican Interior Mission, SAIM) was started in 1956. In 30th Dec 1957, Epiphany Mission Tongud was started with Bishop Cornwall commissioning Rev. Puntang and Catechist Kiri for the work.
The New Era (1973 – 1985)
In 1973, The Ven. Yong Ping Chung was sent to be the rector of St. Michael’s church. It was another turning point for the church. In 30 – 31st July 1973, an important meeting took place whereby a thorough and critical consultation held for SAIM. It was the first time since 1965. The whole SAIM was reviewed and constructive recommendations were made. Among the recommendations made included the setting up of a simple bible school, translations of reading of Gospels and Epistles into the local languages, more emphasis on evangelism and the catechist system to be reorganized.
The Ven. Yong Ping Chung is a man of vision and dream. After praying for almost two years ,he proposed the building of a daughter church in 1976 and the building fund was started in August 1978. The daughter church, The Church of The Good Shepherd was consecrated on 6th May 1984
Spiritual Revival (1985 – 1998)
In the 1990s, Rev. Ku Tuk Su, the Rector during that time and his pastoral team, led the church into spiritual revival. The church experienced the power of the Holy Spirit as it moves in the Spirit through praise and worship, weekly revival prayer meetings and other evangelistic meetings. Many back-slided Christians came back to church as they recommit their lives. Many people were set free from their spiritual bondages, healings took place, families turned to Christ and many altars were demolished. Young men and women dedicated their lives to serve God full time. In 1991, the construction of the Parish Hall began as the St. Monica primary school is relocated to mile 5. It was completed and dedicated by Bishop Yong Ping Chung in 1993.
God’s work and ministries continue through the leadership of different rectors. In 2003, Canon Moses Chin who was the rector at that time, together with a group of POW relatives from Australia initiated the installation of stained glass in the church as a memorial to the POW and a way of appreciation to the local people who risked their lives to help the POW during the Japanese occupation. In 2004, the stained glass windows known as the fellowship Windows were dedicated in a special service accompanied by the magnificent Hallelujah Chorus. The uplifting designs of the four windows which tell different messages from the Bible, enhance the worship atmosphere in the church. Around the same time, the hostel ministry for the interior students was started by the same group as another way of expressing their thanks to the local community during the Japanese occupation.
Many more constructions and maintenance work continued to be carried out. The retaining wall, the car park, the hall toilets were upgraded for the benefit of the people. Ministries continue to grow. In 2008, St. Michael’s church under the leadership of Rev. Clarence Fu took over the Seguntur School Ministry when Ps. Barnabas who started the ministry handed it to the church. The purpose of the welfare school is to provide basic education for the immigrants who do not have the opportunity to enroll into government run school. To date, the school is serving 288 students aged between 5 to 12. Ten of the church staffs serve as teachers. It also has a weekly worship held in the school hall at 3.30 pm every Sunday. Recently, we have started Super Kid’s Club for the Christian Children in the school.
During the leadership of Canon Chak, the concept of cell group was introduced to strengthen the small groups and the church as a whole. Many groups were reorganized and revived as the church moves forward.
Our Vision Statement is
“Becoming a follower, who CELEBRATES, CONNECTS and CONTRIBUTES to the Kingdom of God in Sandakan and beyond”
We want to continue to Celebrate the goodness and faithfulness of God through building strong Sunday Worship Services. We want to actively involve in the works of evangelism through Alpha Course, Personal Evangelism, and Evangelistic Meeting. We want to Contribute the community through social activities and impacting the youth and children through our outreach programs. We want to raise up workers to serve in the local church and send to the mission fields. May we experience His favor in the Year of Jubilee. All Glory to be to God. Amen!