By Margaret Holt
16 March 2022
Excitement had been building, and members working feverishly, for weeks leading up to the recent Sunday, when the Melbourne congregation of the Church of South India celebrated its 10-year anniversary.
Honoured guests on the day were Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier and his wife Joy Freier.
Worshippers arriving at the MCSI’s home base, St Matthew’s, entered a church beautifully decorated in the Lenten colours of purple and white. The 6 March service was led by Dr Freier, assisted by Reverend Kurian Peter, vicar of St Matthew’s, who ministers to both MCSI and the continuing English-speaking congregation.
On this auspicious occasion the two congregations worshipped together, as they do at least once a month.
The Melbourne Church of South India began in 2011 when a small group of Christian families from the Indian state of Kerala explored the possibility of meeting together regularly for services in their mother tongue of Malayalam.
In due course they had a priest, the Reverend Jobby John, appointed to them and established as the MCSI at All Saints, Mitcham. Membership grew and by 2013 they were looking for a home base closer to the city.
The late Bishop Barbara Darling suggested that if MCSI moved to St Matthew’s, which was at the time without a vicar, Mr John could minister to both churches. So began a time of discussion and negotiation, although the arrangement, in principle, was readily agreed to. For St Matthew’s preparations included complete refurbishment of the vicarage.
Mr John and the MCSI congregation were welcomed to their new home in 2013. Later the Reverend Vinod Victor and family served this congregation.
St Matthew’s also changed its service time to accommodate the new congregation. Before long, a spirit of easy co-operation developed between the new congregation and the old.
For years, the two congregations have been worshipping together at a combined service once a month. At present this blessed congregation is privileged to have the ministerial leadership and pastoral assistance of Mr Peter and his family.
Shared services are always joyful occasions, so St Matthew’s folk were delighted to be able to share the 10-year celebration with MCSI.
The morning service on that day was followed by a delicious lunch – appropriately, of Indian food. But there was more to come!
An afternoon of public celebration saw special guests, including dignitaries from several other churches, along with Dr and Mrs Freier, Bishop Bosco Puthur of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and Councillor Jane Addis, mayor of Boroondara.
They were graciously welcomed and in turn, extended their congratulations to MCSI.
Bishops from Kerala wrote supportive letters of greeting and congratulation to this far away congregation and these were printed in the publication Kerygma (Greek for “proclamation”). Kerygma is the colourful souvenir booklet detailing the first ten years of MCSI, which will be a precious memento of the celebration as this special group of Christians embarks on its second decade in Melbourne.
A decennial video documentary named, The Voyage of Faith depicting the ten year life and witness of the church was shown during the public celebration.