The Diocese of Madras laid on a fellowship lunch for several thousand people last month as the Church of South India (CSI) celebrated the 70th anniversary of its formation. The Church of South India was formed on 27 September 1947 when the Church of England in southern India and the Methodist Church in South India joined the Congregational, Presbyterian and Reformed churches in the already-united South India United Church. As a united church, in addition to being a full member of the Anglican Communion, the Church of South India is also a member of other global Christian communions, including the World Methodist Council and the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
To mark the anniversary, thousands of Christians from the five southern states of India and the Jaffna diocese of Sri Lanka gathered at St George’s Cathedral in Madras for the service of Thanksgiving and Holy Communion. It was here, 70 years ago, the formal inauguration and formation of the “united and uniting” Indian Church took place. All 24 diocesan bishops of the CSI took part in the Communion service.
Festivities began at 8.30am, when the CSI moderator, Thomas K. Oommen, led a procession from the Bishop of Madras’ residence to the cathedral. He was followed by the deputy moderator, Dr Vadapalli Prasada Rao; the general secretary, the Dr Daniel Rathnakara Sadananda; the treasurer, Advocate Robert Bruce; and the Bishop of Madras, Dr George Stephen. Behind them were the bishops of the CSO, and other international and national church leaders, including Bishop Andrew Watson from the Church of England’s Diocese of Guildford; Bishop Philip Masih from the Methodist Church in Uttar Pradesh; Bishop Mathews Mar Makarios Episcopa, from the Mar Thoma Church; and Samuel Logan from the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India. Thousands more joined the joyful procession – which included traditional drums and colourful folk and cultural performances – to the cathedral where they witnessed “the dawn of the eighth decade and the dusk of yet another decade of church unity,” the CSO said.
The service included a throwback to the past: the opening hymn, “O, God, our help in ages past”, was the opening hymn at the inauguration service in 1947. The service was conducted in English and five different South Indian languages: Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Tulu. Holy Communion was distributed at points throughout and even outside the cathedral. During the service, the CSI released a new Book of Common Worship and hymnal books; as well as a music album, Swara Bhavana, by the CSI Women’s Fellowship.
The service was followed by the fellowship lunch for thousands of CSI members.