Monday, March 29, 2010

History of The Good Shepherd Church

The Church of the Good Shepherd is situated at the intersection of three important roads, namely, Cathedral Road, Edward Elliot's Road and Mowbray's road.

In Chennai (formerly Madras) the best chosen area second to none in its beauty is the Sullivan Gardens in Mylapore and in this area, very nearer to the Music Academy, stands the elegant and artistically distinct one hundred and eleven years old building, The Good Shepherd Church.

Sullivan Gardens is a place about fifteen acres of land in its history. The founder of the head postal department in Tamilnadu was Sullivan and he was offered a piece of land in the heart of Madras by the government by accepting a meager amount. Since this area was full of trees and shrubs it was called Sullivan Gardens. And even the road behind Good Shepherd Church leading to the Sanskrit College is called Sullivan Gardens Road.

After the death of Sullivan in 1842, Archdeacon Harper purchased that land and in 1847, it was sold to the S. P. G. (Society for the Propagation of Gospel Knowledge) for Rs. 1,700/- A theological college was established in that area by the SPG in 1891 and a large room in the house of the head of the college was set apart for the prayer purpose. The services were held in the early stages exclusively for the benefit of the students of that college. But later the local christian residents who were about five hundred families felt the hardship of going all the way to Santhome to attend the church services, started attending the chapel meant for students of that college. Day by day the number increased, and the people opted to visit that large room for meeting their religious needs. In due course more and more people from nearby places like Pudupet, Gopalapuram, Alwarpet started attending the prayers which resulted in the desire for building a church. The church came under St. Thomas Tamil church, San Thome as a unit.

In 1875, The Rev. Savarirayan started the work to raise amount to build a church. The first collection during the time was Rs.311/- and 12 paise. Later his son Theophilus continued the collection work and in 1886 Rs.1111, 5 annas and 8 paise were collected. That work was entrusted with the Madras Diocesan Committee and various departments carried on the work of vigorous collection. At one stage even a handful of rice was collected from the houses and sent to the Committee.

In 1894, the Rev. Westcott who was the presbyter-in-charge of St. George's Cathedral felt the urgent need and wanted to start the building work. When he initiated the work, his wife Mrs. Westcott helped him and stood as a support. Another interested person was W. L. Foxen F.R.I.B.A., who put the estimation to Rs. 15,000/- but they had only Rs.1548 and one anna and two paise on hand. The foundation stone was laid in 1894 by Mrs. Westcott and that cost of Rs.3000/- was raised by Rev. Westcott and Rev. Gnanamuthu.

The building work could not be proceeded fast due to want of required amount and Rev. Westcott himself donated Rs. 2000/- and the SPGK offered an amount of Rs.1000. Added to this, the last will amount of an English Lady Marie which was Rs.10000 was obtained, which put the total to Rs.17,000. The building work was carried out and the church was consecrated on 25th January, 1899 by the then Madras Bishop Rt. Rev. Fredrik Gell. That ceremony was attended by most of the Englishmen, Anglo-Indians and others, and was named as Church of The Good Shepherd. The consecration ceremony was very grand, the whole compound was decorated with beautiful flowers and was well-illuminated. The choir and the Theological College students and about 25 clergymen, the Archdeacon, Arthur Williams and others took out a procession around the church, singing songs.

The unique feature of this church is that no wood material was used in building the church and this is the only church of its kind in the whole of India. It is with well elevated walls which converge on top to form an arch shape without even a single pillar. The ceiling which is beautifully built without any pillar or iron rod or any other material is the speciality and so this is the only church in which anyone from any corner can see the preacher on the pulpit on the front side of the church.

Golden Jubilee Celebrations:
Until the formation of C.S.I. in September 1947 and union of this church with C.S.I., not much developments took place and the first expansion was taken place in 29.01.1949 along with the golden jubilee celebrations. The golden jubilee celebrations were held under the auspicious president-ship of Rev.Honest Chinniaya. In memory of this celebration, a tower was raised at the entrance of the church and was dedicated by the Bishop Rt.Rev.Pekenham Walsh. A statue of Good Shepherd was also installed during this celebrations, which was donated by Simon Jesudoss.

Diamond Jubilee Celebrations:
The diamond jubilee was celebrated in 1959 and in memory of this, a pair of iron gates were fixed at the front entrance. The compound wall also was raised and a pathway laid. Due to the formation of new residential colonies in and around the Sullivan Garden, the number of christian families started to increase in that area, which resulted in the increase in the members of the congregation, hence, the need to have an extension of the church to accommodate more people was felt. So, it was decided to expand the western side and it accommodated about 120 people more. The initiative was taken by Rev. D.I. Vedanayagam and the work was started on 6th June, 1965 and was completed in 1966. On November 27th of the same year, it was dedicated by the then Bishop of Madras Rt. Rev. Leslie Newbigin.

Platinum Jubilee Celebrations:
The platinum jubilee was celebrated from 20th to 27th October, 1974. In memory of this , the foundation stone for a new parish hall was laid on 27th October, 1974 and the hall was completed with the help of different associations of the church, like that of women's association, youth association, and the pastorate committee members. The work was completed and the parish hall was dedicated on 31st July, 1977 by Rt. Rev. Sundar Clarke, the then Bishop of Madras.
Other improvements include digging a well near the creche in 1984 at a cost of Rs.4000 and fixing up of sodium vapour lamps. The foundation stone for the new creche with modern amenities was laid by Rt. Rev. H.S Thanaraj on 9th September, 1985. 86th anniversary was celebrated during 1986.

Centenary Celebrations:
The centenary celebrations were held on 25.01.1999. During that time, the church was rededicated by the Bishop in Madras, Rt.Rev.M.Azariah.

There are seven memorial tablets in the church of which five were erected in honour of the clergies who had worked in this church. There is one small black stone embedded in the outer right side wall of the church and the inscription on it is as follows: "AMDG. This stone was laid by EAW, March 26th, 1894. The Baptism Font was erected to the Glory of God and in appreciate remembrance of the labours in Madras of Rev. Joseph Gnanavolivu from 22nd April 1893 to 19th April 1897 who was the first Indian Martyr who died for the sake of religion".

In all these years, the Good Shepherd Church has grown on all strides and serves the christian families in the heart of the Chennai city. 500 families are worshipping in this church and the Sunday services are in Tamil.
Palm Sunday - 2010

The church commemorated our Lord's Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday by taking out a procession immediately outside the church. The procession was lead by our dear pastor, Rev. B. Devaprasad followed by the choir, Sunday School children/teachers and other fellowship groups. The Pastorate Committee members guided the procession and ensured that vehicular traffic on the road did not get affected. They also distributed palm crosses to some police personnel and people on the road who showed interest. It was another way of sharing the Gospel - the good news.

111th anniversary of The Good Shepherd Church

On 24th Jan, 2010 our church celebrated her 111 th anniversary. The Sunday Service started early and the church was overflowing with her congregation. Our dear bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. V. Devasahayam (Bishop in Madras) graced the occasion and inaugurated the Parish Hall's first floor Air Conditioned hall and the open air kitchen.

Our church pledged to build two village churches. When our pastor gave a call to the congregation to come forward and contribute funds towards these churches, a large number came forward.

As part of the festivities, our dear pastor, Rev. B. Devaprasad and the Pastorate Committe had organised Bible quiz and games. Breakfast and lunch was provided at the church premises for a small token fee.

Sunday School Christmas - 2009

Our church celebrated the Sunday School Christmas Programme on 6th Dec 2009. This was the first Sunday School Christmas Programme of our church for our dear pastor, Rev. B. Devaprasad. The programme went off well under the pastor and Pastorate Committee's encouragement and guidance. This year, unlike the previous years we had two Santa Clauses. The Junior Santa is Master Joshua.

Christmas Tree - 2008

The church under the leadreship of our dear pastor, Rev. V S Vijayakumar and the Pastorate Committee celebrated the "Christmas Tree" on 28th Dec 2008. It was an afternoon of fun for members of the church - for the young and old alike.


Youth Ecumenical Carol Service - 2008

On 13th Dec 2008 our church hosted an Youth Ecumenical Carol Service, under the leadership of our dear pastor, Rev. V S Vijayakumar and Pastorate Committee. While many churches had come forward to participate only some churches' youth could make it for the Carol Service. Mr. C Rajan, Commissioner of Customs, Chennai (member of our church), delivered the message.

Sunday School Christmas - 2008

On Nov 30, 2008, children and Sunday School teachers of our church celebrated the year's Christmas Programme at the recently constructed stage. The programme under the leadership of our dear pastor, Rev. V S Vijayakumar and the Pastorate Committee, had Bharatha Natyam performance, Bible verses recitation, choreography, short plays and Pati-manram (debate). The programme ended with the children enacting The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ and a visit by Santa Claus. It was an evening where the children and teachers displayed their talents for the glory of God.