The Mar Thoma Syrian Christian Fellowship in Visakhapatnam had a humble beginning. It originated in the form of a miniature prayer group, organized way back in 1952 by late Mr. O.P. Philip, a very devoted Mar Thoma member, who was an employee in the railways.
Syrian Christians from Kerala, belonging to different denominations, mostly working in Government organizations such as Railways, P&T, Port and Navy , have been residing in Visakhapatnam since many years. However, except attending now and then, services in Telugu or English in local Churches, they had no opportunity to conduct or attend services in Malayalam, as there was no organizational setup to assist them
It was in such a background that Mr. O.P. Philip took the initiative to arrange a get-together of few Kerala Christian friends. At a meeting convened by him in July, 1952, It was decided to conduct monthly prayer meetings. Initially the group comprised Mar Thomites, Orthodox and C.S.I members and prayers were conducted in individual houses by turn. Usually they were led by Mr. Philip.
In due course, thanks to the help and guidance by Rt. Rev. Alexander Mar Theophilose, the Missionary Bishop of Mar Thoma Church, who paid a brief visit to Visakhapatnam in 1956, it was decided to conduct Malayalam Sunday services every month, for which, St. John’s Church authorities were kind enough to give permission. The first Holy Communion Service conducted in Malayalam by Rt. Rev. Alexander Mar Theophilose at St. John’s Church in 1956 was attended by about 60 members, comprising of Mar Thoma, Orthodox, and C.S.I. members. Soon after the service, a meeting was held and a decision was taken to start a combined monthly Malayalam service at St. John’s Church.
It is noteworthy that Rev. Dr. C.S. Samuel of Mahasamund (M.P.) was the first visiting priest to conduct Malayalam service according to Mar Thoma rites at St. John’s Church. Similar arrangements were also made to conduct Orthodox, as well as C.S.I. services by visiting priests from neighbouring states.
A two-day visit by Rt. Rev. Thomas Mar Athanasius on 25-1-1960 was an encouraging factor that helped the spiritual growth of Mar Thoma residents in Visakhapatnam.
In early 1961, as the membership of the Malayalam Christian Congregation increased substantially, the Orthodox members who were numerically more, opted to form a separate parish. Later, they built a church of their own, for which Mar Thoma members also extended help. Subsequently at general body meeting held on 19.3.61, it was decided to form the Mar Thoma Parish at Visakhapatnam to which the C.S.I. members also joined. Rev, D Alexander was the first visiting Mar Thoma Vicar to conduct Malayalam Service in the St. John’s Church after the formation of the Parish. While ordinary services were arranged by Lay leaders on 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month. Holy Communion was conducted once in every two months by visiting priests. More than 10 priests from various neighbouring states rendered their services as visiting priests during this period.
The Christian congregation lead by various denominatios of the Kerala Christian community has completed 50 years of existence in this City of Destiny, and it is high time to work for the goal ‘LIGHTED TO LIGHTEN’.
On completion of 25th year of the MAR THOMA CHURCH, a JUBILEE BUILDING is under planning and mobilization of funds and other resources are in the process. The Foundation Stone for this building is being laid by Rt.Rev.Dr.Abraham Mar Paulose tirumeni on to-day the 7th Feb., 2010.
The other welfare programme being planned are, Setting up of free dispensary, Health Care, Vocational Training Centre, Geratic Care Centre, and Medical guidance centre. It is hoped that with divine guidance and active co-operation of the members, we would succeed in our endeavours.
May God permit us to re-generate our spirit of service and mobilize adequate resources to run our projects and programmes successfully and prove ourselves to be worthy of and to have our goal achieve “LIGHTED TO LIGHTEN”.