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164th Anniversary celebration:

History of the Methodist Church, Wellawatte

The Wellawatte Methodist Church, celebrates its 164th Anniversary with a thanksgiving and confirmation service, on Sunday July 13, at which the preacher will be the Vice President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka, M.A. Sumanthiran.

This church, “Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy” situated in the heart of Wellawatte Junction - has apart from serving its members and yet others through the years, been as well a silent sentinel to reassure and sober the countless many who pass by it.

In keeping with the characteristic worldwide feature in the coming to be of the Methodist Churches, the Wellawatte Methodist Church too, had a humbler beginning through the formation of a School in 1818, which gave rise to a prayer group that eventually led to a society, the preliminary stepping stones to establishing a church. In all this, Cornelius Wijesinghe, a teacher and lay preacher, along with a few others played a major part.

By the year 1843 the little prayer meeting in Wellawatte had grown to the size, that they could request the Rev. C. B. Gogerly to establish a ‘house chapel’. The word Chapel in those days was used to distinguish them from Church, which was the Anglican (Church of England) church which had expelled John Wesley for his ‘unorthodox behaviour’.

On January 21, 1844, a house chapel was opened near the Boy’s Industrial Home, and the Rev. David de Silva was stationed at the Wellawatte to ‘House Chapel’ with a congregation of 25, which soon grew to 44 adults and 28 children. By the end of 1844 it had 90 adults and 50 children. This was the birth of the Wellawatte Society of the Methodist Church.

In January 1845 a dedicated and committed member of the Sinhala society donated a block of land, and a ‘House Chapel’ was built. In the same year a mixed school was established, to help in the education of the children of the area.

In 1847 the Society faced a lot of opposition from a rich mudalali, and thombo holders, but despite this outside opposition it made steady progress under the guidance of its minister, and by 1858 there were 5 ‘House Chapels’ in the Wellawatte area with a total of 400 families.

The Buddhist controversy and the death of the Rev. Gogerly in 1859 caused some drop in membership, but a large nucleus remained faithful. In 1880 a piece of land by the Galle Road was purchased.

On January 7, 1899 the foundation stone of a new chapel was laid on the site by the Rev. Marshal Hartley and a large number of laymen and women, which included Mudliyar Arthur de Silva, the minister’s son, and other members of the Sinhala, Tamil and English congregations, clergy and members of the civil and military establishment.

Addresses were given by the clergy, whose names are remembered by many even today; Hartley, Fonseka, Moscrop and Mendis.

The collection that day was Rs. 1,100.00; a lot of money a hundred odd years ago. And a large number of people attended to witness the ceremony. The building was completed and dedicated on the 12th of November that year.

The interior was furnished with a pulpit of carved sandalwood and a seating for 210 people and the church was surrounded by some beautiful villas. The total cost of the building was Rs. 8,775.00 and the debt of Rs. 2,000 was soon cleared by the generous giving of the congregation.

There was sufficient land behind the church to subsequently build a school which was named St. Clare’s College. In 1926 a manse was built for the resident minister.

After 39 years a decision was taken to replace the old church by the Galle road and the final service was held in that building on the 12th of May, 1940 at which the Rev. D. J. Batholomeuz, H. de S. Wickremaratne and F. M. Kedward presided.

The foundation stone for the present building was laid on the 14th of October, 1939 and completed and dedicated on the 1st of July, 1940 by the Rev. H. R. Cornish. It was of an ultra modern design for the time, and was said to resemble Judson College Chapel in Rangoon. The Rev. F.M. Kedward made a great contribution at that time, supervising the construction and monitoring the expenditure.

Tamils, Burghers and Sinhala worshipped together in this church, contributing much to the society, and also to the surrounding secular society, right up to the 50s and 60s with large congregations led by dedicated ministers supported by a strong, vibrant and committed lay leadership.

In the recent years much has been done to refurbish and renovate the church, to construct a mission house, a community hall and to improve the landscape. We remember with gratitude and joy all those, too numerous to mention in the space of an article such as this, whose sacrifice and dedication established and sustained the Wellawatte Society, and the wider Methodist denomination and Christian church at large, and gave so much to the whole society around them.

And we pray that we may be found faithful in our generation, to revive and regenerate the work they began 164 years ago.

Catholic unity brings Peace

The essential goodness of all catholics are that they are made in the image of God and God is at work restoring the lost likeness which shines out throughout smiling eyes. Let their light shine. Saint Pauls enumeration of the fruits of the spirit says; Love, Joy, Peace, patience, Kindness, benignity, long suffering ... when we cultivate these wonderful virtues and radiate them, then our light shines.

As catholics it must shine. Because for many of them catholics they will meet as they go along their everyday way where they might well be the only place where God’s love can turn up in their lives.

Undoubtedly all catholics would want to be in a place where God’s love turns up in this world.

It is much easier among Christian Churches to have a union of hearts than a union of minds.

The extensive and enduring ecumenical efforts since Vatican II have resulted in better relationships between Christian Churches. These efforts at the reunion of Christians which would undoubtedly bring peace have been widespread and consistent ever since the second Vatican Councils decree on ‘Ecumenism’. Since then ecumenical prayer, dialogue, conferences exchanges have grown and continued to this day.

The whole quest of life is to come to purity of heart. Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see god.

We must shine in united peace so that all can see our good works and honour the Father, not for own glory but for the Father’s.

Catholics need to be deeply aware that all the good in them and their unity comes not from themselves but from the Lord.

Ecumenical dialogue is varied. All Christians should stop calling one another names. There should be a sympathetic study of one anothers forms of belief, worship and practice in order to discover areas of agreement. In various Christian traditions there are barriers to union that can be overcome only by compromise and radical change on the part of one or other of the parties or both.

Full unity can be accomplished only by a church or denomination recognizing that it has been in error and moving to embrace the truth. The church established by Christ the Lord is indeed unique and one of Peace to the church and the respective countries. Many Christian communions present themselves to others as the true heritage of Jesus Christ.

All proclaim themselves to be disciples of the Lord but their convictions clash and their paths diverge as though Christ himself were divided. When the Lord tells all that they are a city set on a mountain he is most emphatic. The light of all Catholics must shine in unity and peace so that all can see their good work and honour their Father in heaven.

It is hard to justify the claim by most non-Catholic Christians that the Bible is the only source of God’s revelation. Catholics believe that it is divinely inspired a source of revelation and guidance for the people of God bringing peace and unity.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the church of Jesus Christ existed long before there was a Bible and that it is in fact the church itself passed judgement on which books were truely inspired by God. Many of those who trod on the ecumenical path with their eyes wide open to where it inevitably would lead now have entered into serious dialogue on specific points of doctrine.

They should try to reach unanimity in belief as it would bring peace among many denominations and through such peace our country would have peace. That all Catholics and other Christians be united is one of the many churches deepest concerns. The final objective should be that all believers of Christ specially the Catholics of every nation and culture should increasingly live in communion and reciprocal respect for one another.

The Catholic must take the initiative fostering unity with the blessings of the Holy Father which he constantly give an aim for peace among all Catholics and other religions thus ultimately paving the way for national reconciliation and trust between all ethnic groups.

Miran Perera – Kandy

Annual feast of the precious blood, Pamunugama

The procession

The annual historic and traditional feast of the Most Precious Blood was celebrated for the 140th year in succession on July 6 at St. Joseph’s Church, Pamunugama, attended by a large congregation of devotees from the parish and from outside.

The festive week commenced with the celebration of Mass in the Pamunugama cemetery, remembering the dead ancestors who kept alive the ancient devotion to the Precious Blood in the parish and passed it over to the present generation.

Novenas were conducted in preparation for the feast and the preacher at these novenas was Rev. Fr. Calistus Fernando of the Family Apostolate Centre, Tudella.

The Vespers Service on 5th July was presided by Rev. Fr. Feely Muthukuda of St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya and at the end of Vespers, there was the traditional procession around the church with the Holy Relic of the Holy Cross, attended by the Members of the Confraternity of the Precious Blood and the Society of Youth of the Precious Blood, Pamunugama.

The Festive High Mass on 6th July (first Sunday in July) was presided by His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony Perera, Bishop of Galle, assisted by Rev. Fr. Raveen Perera, Director, Philosophate, National Seminary, Ampitiya and Rev. Fr. Gratien Hapuarachchi from Spain, now in Sri Lanka on his annual visit to attend this feast of his native village.

The feast was well attended by a large congregation of devotees including priests and nuns.

After the festive Mass there was the traditional Corpus Christi procession which proceeded from the church upto Gonsalves College premises and after benediction on a beautifully erected stadium, the procession made its way back to the church where the final benediction was imparted and the festive service was brought to a close.

This annual feast also marked the 28th anniversary of the priestly ordination of His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony Perera, a priest-son of Pamunugama. We felicitate His Lordship on this happy and Holy occasion and we wish His Lordship all God’s blessings, protection and guidance. Picture shows the Corpus Christi procession in progress.

Text and Picture by D.N.B. Kirihetti, Pamunugama group correspondent

125th Jubilee celebrations of St. Thomas’ Girls School, Matale

St. Thomas’ Girls’ School, Matale

St. Thomas’ Girls’ School, situated in the heart of the historic city of Matale, will celebrate her 125th Jubilee on 3rd July 2008 in a grand scale. It was Rev. Fr. Romail, who started this school in 1872 with 75 boys and 18 girls, in one part of the Catholic Church. Later, Rev. Fr. Pius Fernando took the initiative to register this institution as a school in 1880.

In 1883, this school was named, St. Agnes’ convent and the first Mother Superior was Sister Mary Agnes and the principal was, Mrs. Susan Bick Mayer. She devoted her time and energy to develop this institution. Sister Mary Catherine was the first sister to become the principal of St. Agnes’ convent.

A philanthropist, one Mr. John Doo, from Negombo, donated a land in 1901, to put up permanent buildings necessary for this school. The main school building was erected in 1930 with funds raised by other donors of the area. This building was refurbished in 1983 and was made a two-storeyed one to accommodate more students.

In addition to all these another new three storeyed building was put-up and a library with all facilities were provided for the students to enrich their knowledge.

Although this is predominantly a Catholic school, there are Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims of various faiths studying together like children of one mother. The parents of all three communities contribute largely towards the development of this school. Very specially the Catholic religious activities and of other religions are held in the school. This institution has become a school of religious and ethnic harmony.

The principal and the teachers take much effort in promoting sports and other Cultural activities of the school. The principal said that she is very much concerned about the education as well as discipline of these young ladies.

At present there are about 800 girls and 35 lady teachers in the school. Most of the students are day-scholars but there is also a hostel to provide accommodation for girls who live far away from the town.

There were 13 Catholic nuns who had held the post of the principal. Among, them Sister, Mary Lilian Mendis, Mary Devika Rajapaksha, Mary Trisa and Marie Jeevanee Matins have contributed and devoted their time and energy to make this Girls’ school an outstanding institution. Rev. Sister Marie Florida is the present principal who takes great strides and effort to make St. Thomas’ Girls School, in Matale an, outstanding educational institution in Sri Lanka.

A public meeting will be held in the school main hall on 3rd July. Most. Rev. Dr. Viannie Fernando - Bishop of Kandy will be the Chief Guest.



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