Achariam, S.G.

1908 - 1974
First locally ordained Lutheran pastor

Rev S.G. Achariam, lovingly known as “our pastor”, was born on July 11, 1908 in Sirkali, Tamil Nadu, India. He went to school in the historic town of Tranquebar (now Tharangambadi), South India where the first Lutheran missionaries landed over two centuries ago and set up the Tranquebar Mission. 

After education in South India, he came to Malaya in 1928. His proficiency and command of the Tamil and English languages earned him the post of court interpreter in which he served the Malayan government for over 20 years. 

While he was in the civil service, he worked as a lay preacher and devoted all his leisure time for God's work in many parts of Malaysia. His impulsive urge and yearning desire to serve Christ made him resign from the government post even though he was at the top of his pay scale. 

After an intensive course of theological training in Chennai, he was ordained as a pastor in 1961 in Kuala Lumpur by Bishop R.B. Manickam of the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church, India and became the first locally ordained Lutheran pastor in Malaysia.

From then on he served the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia (ELCM) as pastor in charge of many congregations until his retirement in January 1974. The last post he held was pastor of the Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intan) area. His wife, Mrs Maragatham Achariam, also served as acting director of Bethany Home. They had five sons and two daughters. One of his sons, the Rev Jeremiah Achariam, served as an ELCM pastor for more than 30 years.

Rev Achariam was unique in caring for the spiritual needs of children and youths. He directed special attention towards those members who could not go to church because of distance and other difficulties. Teaching Sunday school was his passion and there was hardly a youth camp that he missed.

He was an able composer of sonnets and many of them appeared in the Lutheran Herald. He was the only pastor who could sing most of the Tamil lyrics. He was very closely connected to the ELCM from his early days and was like a walking encyclopaedia on its history.

His tireless and dedicated service to the people won’t be easily forgotten. There were occasions when he conducted three, sometimes even four, services on Sundays. He was never tired of travelling, and distance and diffculties were never a problem to him when it came to the question of conducting a service.

He also laboured relentlessly for Christian unity and the growth of ecumenism in Malaysia. When he was pastoring in Penang, he was elected chairman of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM), Penang branch for two years. Conducting kalachebams was his other special contribution to the CCM. Every Easter Monday he would conduct kalachebams wherever he was and no matter how busy he was. 

His vast experience as court interpreter enabled him to contribute much when the Christian Marriage Ordinance was promulgated during the British rule in Malaya. In 1968, he was requested to baptise over 100 Sengois in the Tapah district due to his knowledge of Bahasa Malaysia. 

Rev Achariam passed into eternal rest on August 21, 1974 at the age of 66.

His demise meant the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia lost a stalwart pastor who was a strong pillar of support and a selfless worker who, like a candle, burnt himself out to spread the light of the Gospel throughout Malaysia.


Rev Dr Allan Vairamuthu

© CCM-2011. This article from A Great Cloud of Witnesses: A Historical Record of Key Pastors in the Indian Churches in Malaysia and Singapore is reproduced with permission of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, with editing for clarity and brevity.