The beginning of Anglican mission in Miri may be traced back to 1910, when an oil company sent some 60 Europeans to work in the oil fields, following the discovery of oil there.
Soon a large number of Asian workers descended on Miri to help run the oil industry. By 1920 there were 120 Europeans, and 3,000 local labourers working in the oil industry, majority of whom were Anglicans.
By 1914, services were being held at the Courthouse, whenever the Bishop or a priest stopped there, on their way to Labuan or Sabah. In 1920 the British Resident, R.S. Douglas, was appointed a lay reader. Bishop Danson visited Miri in 1918, and it was decided that a site for the building of the church be identified. A site was found next to the Gymkhana Club. On his visit in 1920, the Bishop went upriver as far as Marudi. The new church in Miri was consecrated on 18 March 1923, and was dedicated to St. Columba. In 1922, the General manager of the oil company, Major F.W. Richards was made a lay reader replacing Douglas.
Paul Chong was brought to Sarawak in 1912 by his uncle, Kong Kuin En. He attended St. Thomas school, and assisted as an organist at the Cathedral. In 1920 the young man was sent to North Borneo to be trained at the College of the Holy Way in Kudat. He was ordained in 1927, and moved to Miri in 1928 where he opened St. Columba’s school one year later.
Paul Chong was transferred to Kuching in 1928 to take care of the Hakka congregation at 4th Mile, Batu Kawa, Siniawan and Bau. He was posted back to Kudat in 1940, where he spent the trying years of the war. After the war, he served in Kuching and Brunei. He was installed as Canon in 1959. Chong En Siong’s sister Chong Liang Chin was a teacher at St. Mary’s, and his brother Chong En Fui, a teacher at St. Columba’s, was one of Sarawak’s first martyrs.
It was only in 1925 that Miri had its first resident priest when Frederick Synott moved there. In 1928, Chong En Siong was transferred to Miri to assist Synott. En Siong opened a school in January 1929 with 13 students in an old Government bungalow, and became its first headmaster. This school later evolved to the present St. Columba’s School. En Siong also visited Lutong and parts of Brunei including Seria, Kuala Belait and Labi. In 1935, En Siong moved to Kuching and was replaced by Lim Siong Teck. Lutong finally got a church when the new building was consecrated in 1936 and was dedicated to the Good Shepherd. Synott retired in 1940, and was replaced by Bernard Mercer.
The Japanese arrived in Miri on 16 December 1941 and at this time Mercer was on leave, leaving Siong Teck in charge. Soon after, Siong Teck was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for helping a downed Dutch pilot. The church and school were acquired by the Japanese, and used as interrogation centre and stores. On 13 June 1945, Siong Teck, Catechist Chong En Fui (En Siong’s brother) and Joel Paul, the church secretary, with 25 others were executed (some said they were beheaded while others said they were shot) by the Japanese.
Miri was without a priest until Sidney Peach arrived in 1950, and was based in Lutong. After a few months he was transferred to Kuching, and was replaced by Cyril Alliston. Alliston was replaced by Bowler in 1952. That year, Andrew Lee Khi Liak arrived from Hongkong and was subsequently made a catechist. Andrew Lee was ordained 10 years later. Since then Miri had a succession of vicars including Clough (1955), Rogers (1956), Holth (1961), Capes (1966), Ngitar Mai (1969), Alfred Chabu (1972), Lee Khi Liak (1975), Perry (1976), Melling (1978), Evans (1979) and John Leong Chee Yun (1983). The present vicar, Nelson Ugas took over from John Leong in 1985.
Lim Siong Teck lost both his parents in a small pox epidemic in Merdang, near Kuching. He was adopted by the Mission and admitted to St. Thomas school in 1912. In 1920 he was sent to Sandakan with a fellow schoolboy Chong En Siong. He was trained at the college of the Holy way, in Sabah, and received ordination in 1927. He was posted to Miri in 1935.
The young congregation in Miri was sorely tried during World War II. Rev. Lim Siong Teck, having shown kindness to a Dutch airman, was severely beaten and imprisoned by the Japanese. A few weeks before the end of the war, in 1945, Lim, schoolmaster Chong En Fui, church secretary Joel Paul and twenty-five others were taken to a rubber estate a short distance from town, and shot. After the war, Bishop Cornwall ordered that the 13th June be kept as a day of commemoration, but this was not observed for long.
The parish of Miri originally included Bintulu, Mamut and the Baram. Bintulu and Mamut later became separate parishes. Peter Howes moved to Miri in 1965 to become the Archdeacon of the Northern Archdeaconery (Comprising Brunei and North Sarawak). His movement to Miri was significant in that his tireless travels and evangelistic endeavours led to the opening of various new parishes like Bintulu, Mamut and Limbang.