Saturday, May 20, 2017

Christ Church, Palayamkottai, Thirunelveli

Christ Church, Palayamkottai, Thirunelveli
Christ Church is located in Palayamkottai Town in Thirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. In the very early times of the British in Palayamkottai, their only place of worship was Clarinda’s Church which had been dedicated in 1785 by the famous missionary Rev. Schwartz of Tanjore. Being a very small church in course of time it could not accommodate the increased number of English worshippers, Palayamkottai being a military center with one or two regiments whose officers were all British.

The military authorities therefore requested the government to build a new church for them. So was Christ church built and dedicated on 23rd February 1856. The church was under the Ecclesiastical Department of the Government which paid the salaries of the clerk and gardeners and the responsibility of maintaining the church in good condition was entrusted to the Public Works Department in Tirunelveli.
Though there were English Chaplains in charge of the English services to begin with, when the new church was built in response to the request of the government, the C.M.S. Missionaries stationed in Palayamkottai agreed to conduct the services in Christ Church in addition to their Missionary work and this arrangement went on till 1955 when Rev. G.N. Kanthayya became the first Indian presbyter to take charge of the church. All through its history, there were Indian Christian worshippers too in Christ Church, their number being very small in the early decades.
When Palayamkottai closed to be a regimental center, the number of English worshipper’s dwindled to as low as 20, but proportionately the number of Indian worshippers increased. Coming to the recent past of our own times, the average attendance at the English services (Evensong) was always below 100. In the centenary history of churches, it is mentioned that only with the starting of a choir by the Palayamkottai Musical Association that the attendance increased significantly.
There had been capable organists, earlier all of them English, the last one being Miss Ardill who had served for more than 20 years. The first Indian organist who took over about the same time as the formation of the choir in 1945 was Mrs. Rachel Devadason who served as organist for 25 years. At the communion service on Sunday mornings Mr. Thompson played the organ for many years. Later he and his son David Thompson rendered very valuable service, playing for evening services too. Since then and up to the present day there have been many men and women who have kept alive the musical traditions of the church by singing at the English service both in the morning and evening.

This history being brief as it is, will not be complete unless we refer in the first place to a succession of English Missionaries who served as chaplains of the church – Bishop Sargent, Rev. T. Kimber, Rev. R. F. Ardill, Rev. G.T. Selwyn, Rev. H.P. Young, Rev. C.W.F. Bennett, Rev. T.S. Garret and several others. Likewise we should mention a succession of Indian Pastors who being in charge of the church took English services too, beginning with Rev. G.N. Kanthayya succeeded by Rev. S.D. Swamidoss, Rev. M.G. Samuel, Rev. D.V.J. Kirubaimani, Rev. V.D. Selvanayagam, Rev. S. Jeyapaul David, Rev. Jasos Selvakumar, Rev. Simson Sigamani, Rev. S. Manickam, Rev. G. Stephen Lionel and now Rev. R. Joseph.
Rev. Dr. Kanthayya also generously permitted them to use this church for their worship in Tamil without any hindrance to the English worship much against the wishes of the members of the English congregation. It was made clear that the Tamil congregation should bear with any delay caused to the commencement of their matins at 9.00 a.m in cause, for some reason the English service extended beyond the usual duration. Thereafter, the Tamil congregation jointly with English congregation looked after the maintenance and upkeep of Christ church.
The Christ Church,
Military Lines,
Tirunelveli – 627002
Palayamkottai is located at about 3 Kms from Thirunelveli and 162 Kms from Madurai. Palayamkottai has an efficient bus network. Palayamkottai bus stand, or Palai Bus Stand as it is popularly called by the locals, was the major connecting hub of the bus network. The Palayamkottai bus terminal is also a major stopover for all buses going to Kanyakumari and Nagercoil. There are also numerous connections between the local Palayamkottai bus-stops and Thirunelveli town.
Palayamkottai also has a railway station connecting Thirunelveli Junction and Tiruchendur. Palayamkottai is adjacent to the Thirunelveli railway junction on the Eastern side. An auto from Thirunelveli Junction will cost Rs.40/-. One can get down at Market stop (Thirunelveli Town/Junction to Samathanapuram bus) and walk 5 minutes to reach the temple. Nearest Airport is located at Madurai.

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