Thousands of the members of the Church of South India from the five different southern states of India and Jaffna diocese of Sri Lanka enthusiastically gathered at CSI St. George’s Cathedral on 27th September 2017 to be part of the historic occasion of the celebration of the 70 years of the formation of the CSI. It was significant that the Thanksgiving and Holy Communion service was held at St. George’s Cathedral where seventy years ago, this two-hundred-year-old church witnessed the formal inauguration of the formation of an united and uniting Indian Church - the CSI, which is one of the pioneers of the church unity in the world. To add meaning to the faith journey of the Church in the past decades, all 24 bishops of the 24 dioceses of the CSI led the Holy Communion worship service.
At 8.30 in the morning, a procession began from the Bishop’s residence, CSI Madras Diocese, which was led by Most Rev. Thomas K. Oommen, the Moderator of the CSI, Rt. Rev. Dr. Vadapalli Prasada Rao, the Deputy Moderator, Rev. Dr. Daniel Rathnakara Sadananda, the General Secretary, Adv. Robert Bruce, the Hon. Treasurer, Rt. Rev. Dr. George Stephen, Bishop in Madras, and all the bishops in active service of the CSI. The delegates of the Global Partners Meet and other ecumenical leaders – Bishop Andrew Watson (Anglican Church, Guildford), Bishop Philip Masih (Methodist Church), Rt. Rev. Dr. Mathews Mar Makarios Episcopa (Mar Thoma Church) and Rev. Logan (United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India) were also part of the procession. Thousands joined joyfully in the procession and entered the Cathedral to witness the dawn of the eighth decade and the dusk of yet another decade of church unity. Traditional drums and folk/cultural performances added colour to the procession.
The Holy Communion Worship Service began by the congregation joining to sing “O, God, our help in ages past”, which had been during the Service of the inauguration of Church of South India on 27th September 1947. Rev. Dr. Daniel Rathnakara Sadananda set the tone for the occasion and extended words of welcome to those attending the worship service. Initial prayers were led by Rt. Rev. Devakadasham and Rt. Rev. G. Dyvasirvadam, the former Moderators of the CSI. The Bible readings were Ezekiel 37: 15- 22; Psalm 122; Ephesians 4: 1- 6; and John 17: 20- 26.
Bishop Andrew Watson of Guildford, the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, brought God’s message. He dwelt on Jesus’ statement; Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings….” (Luke 13: 34), and explained that this remarkable imagery of God communicates God’s passion for the unity of people. This passion is seen in the formation of the Church of South India.
The intercessory prayers were pronounced in five different South Indian languages- Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Tulu. The Holy Communion was shared by thousands of people. Altars were arranged even outside of the Cathedral, which was an expression of people’s participation in the Communion of love, fellowship and unity.
The Holy Communion Worship Service came to close by the prayer and benediction by the Moderator of CSI.
The ‘Book of Common Worship’ and ‘Hymnal Books’ were released during the worship service. A Music Album titled ‘Swara Bhavana’, produced by the CSI Women’s Fellowship, was also released.
A fellowship lunch was organized by the Madras Diocese in which thousands of the members of CSI took part.