Towards the end of January I will be embarking on what will, I hope, be a trip to remember – a pilgrimage to India, “in the footsteps of St. Thomas”. I shall be hiding in the shadows of AATW for a month or so, as there’s not only packing and preparation, but also things I need to do before I go, and no doubt a lot of catch up of things afterwards. However, I did want to share with friends here what the organiser of the trip has put in his flyers – which is the content you see below.
We are most fortunate at my church to have a few Indian families from the Syraic and Orthodox traditions worshipping with us, and the splendid fellow who is organising this trip somehow seems to have the ability to open doors, as you can see by what is planned for us all. When I get back, I hope to tell you a little about it all – if there is interest shown, that is. I am excited, but I don’t want to brag. However, I have only been on one overseas physical pilgrimage before – to Jordan, including Mount Nebo. No doubt those contextual theology notes will come in handy after all!
The Pilgrimage will cover all the important churches founded by St Thomas, the Apostle of India and also his place of Martyrdom at Chennai. As these churches are mainly situated in the heartland of Kerala, the pilgrims will have the opportunity to enjoy the picturesque surroundings of the land better known as “God’s Own Country”. We will also be meeting various church leaders to get an overview of the contribution of the churches and to understand the development of Christianity in India.
1. Visit all the churches and Christian communities (8 in total) established by St. Thomas in India – from the port he landed at in Kerala, and follow all the places he went. Then finally to go to the place of his martyrdom at Chennai (Madras).
2. Visit the following church heads in India, and understand more about Christianity in that part of the world with a face to face discussion with each of them: (a) Roman Catholic Church – bishop and cardinal at Kochi; (b) Orthodox or Mar Thomas Church; (c) Church of South India (Anglican) – bishop of Chennai at St. Georges’ Cathedral, Chennai.
3. Participate in a Holy Eucharist in English at the Orthodox / Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, as per the local tradition
4. Participate in an evening family prayer with a Christian family, to be followed by a traditional ‘Syrian Christian’ dinner – or, to participate in a ‘get together’ meeting with the representatives of all the Christian denominations in Kerala to be hosted by the United Christian Movement.
5. Celebrate a ‘Thanks Giving’ Holy Eucharist at the Anglican Cathedral at Chennai on the concluding day of the pilgrimage, along with the local bishop and community leaders.
6. Enjoy the nature of God’s own country (Kerala), known for its beautiful surroundings and its culture. Also learn how Christian faith has grown in the multifold of other religions present.
Places of Interest
This is one of the oldest churches in India and it is part of the churches established by St. Thomas. The church at Palayur is unique in that the present church has a continuous history of two millennia and stands on the same spot where Apostle first established it.
Kottakavu near Parur was the next centre where the Apostle preached the Gospel and founded a church. There are many interesting legends attached to this church. This picture is the renovated old church as of today.
Kokkamangalam was another centre of the missionary activities of St. Thomas. It is believed that the Apostle spent one year at Kokkamangalam and baptized one thousand and six hundred persons to Christianity.
Niranam church is the oldest church in Kerala. It is believed that the church was founded by St. Thomas the Apostle, in AD 54. The church was reconstructed several times since then. The stones in the church shows the reconstruction in 1259.
This church has the importance that it is the first Ecumenical church in the world and has been dedicated by all the denominations as an example of heritage by St. Thomas. The Nilackal church is located in the interior part of the Sabarimala hills, while other churches built by St. Thomas are near coastal areas.
The Kadeesha church is believed to have been built in 1519 AD but has a history dating back to 825 AD. While the original church had a palm frond-thatched roof, the present structure is a renovated one. However, the altar of the church is the one erected in 1519.
One final thing….just want to share this link: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/csi-appoints-woman-as-bishop/article5176691.ece