Long before Theodore Royapan Doraisamy, or TRD as he was fondly known, was appointed Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore, it was impressed upon him in his early childhood days that his mother had dedicated him to the ministry. Born in 1912 in Nagercoil (today part of Tamil Nadu, South India), the 15-year-old TRD committed himself to God while listening to the preaching of the evangelist, Dr Stanley Jones, in 1927.
Coming from a line of Methodist pastors, Methodism seemed to be part of TRD’s DNA as he went forth to become a faithful servant of God in the Methodist Church, as educationist, preacher, author and archivist. Indeed Bishop Emeritus Dr Doraisamy answered Jesus’ call to His disciples to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. (Matt 5:16)
TRD’s life was a life full of good works, and by the time he returned to glory in 1992, at 80 years old, he had served faithfully with distinction and dedication in the civil service and church ministry.
A journey rooted in faith
TRD was the eldest son of the Rev Michael Robert Doraisamy, one of the early ministers of the Tamil Methodist Church, Singapore; his maternal grandfather was supply pastor of Seremban Tamil Methodist Church.
He married Annabella Christie in 1941, and they were blessed with three daughters – Preima, Padhma and Heima, and a son, Rabi. During the war years, while Annabella and the children were sent to India for their safety, TRD stayed behind in Singapore to soldier on and endured, continuing to serve the Lord, teaching and preaching and saving souls, persecution by the Japanese notwithstanding.
TRD wore two hats – as full-time educationist in the Civil Service, and as a part-time, self-supporting pastor.
He held pastoral positions at several Methodist churches in Singapore – Pasir Panjang Tamil, Wesley and Tamil Methodist Church (Short Street). During this period, he also earned his Master’s at the Boston University School of Theology where his thesis was on “A Philosophy for the Mission of the Church in Malaysia”. He later earned his doctorate from the Senate of Serampore College in India.
As Secretary of Christian Education in 1949, TRD also had oversight of the Sunday schools, Methodist Youth Fellowship, churches and schools. During his tenure as District Superintendent in the late 60’s, Barker Road Chapel and Trinity Methodist Church were founded, and a plot of land in Queenstown was earmarked for the future Faith Methodist Church.
One of TRD’s landmark contributions was convincing the Methodist General Conference in the United States of America to allow the formation of the official autonomous Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore, which was constituted on August 8, 1968.
Five years later, in December 1973, TRD was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore. His three-year tenure saw him visit all the Methodist churches in Malaysia and Singapore, even as new churches were added to the fold.
Bishop Denis Dutton said: “Bishop TRD served with distinction and refined integrity. He brought to the Episcopal Office dignity and respect.”
In 1976, TRD was conferred the honorific “Bishop Emeritus” after stepping down as Bishop.
A distinguished educationist
TRD embarked on his teaching career at Seremban Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) in 1929, before going on to teacher training at Raffles College on a scholarship. He graduated with a diploma in Arts Certificate of Education in 1933, and thereafter, went on to serve for 18 years at ACS Singapore.
Former ACS principal, the late Earnest Lau, wrote of his teacher: “TRD taught me just after the second World War. He believed in ethical principles, which he showed by example, like honour, obligation and responsibility – virtues which we should emulate.”
TRD went on to become Chief Examinations Officer and Head of Department, as well as the Principal of the Teachers’ Training College for four years from 1967. One of the Vice-Principals of the college, Dr Lau Wai Har, remembered that TRD often exhorted the trainee teachers with the concept of the 3Ps – Professionalism, Patriotism and Perfection. His legacy at the college included laying down a professional ethical code for teachers.
In 1968 TRD was conferred the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in recognition of his invaluable services in education to the nation.
A year before he retired from the Civil Service in 1972, TRD was also appointed Chief Inspector of Schools.
A commitment to documentation
During his lifetime, TRD was also a prolific writer. He authored as well as edited many books, magazines and other official publications, including his own autobiography My Cup Runneth Over, and compilations such as Forever Beginning: One Hundred Years of Methodism in Singapore, Heralds of the Lord and Candles of the Lord.
Many of these publications may be found in the Archives and History Library of The Methodist Church in Singapore, which he also initiated and managed from 1981 till 1992.
Picture courtesy of Bishop Emeritus Dr Doraisamy’s family
Dr Tong Hoo Ing contributes to Methodist Message as a volunteer writer. A retired neurologist, he also volunteers with the Bethany Methodist Nursing Home. He worships at Wesley Methodist Church.