BUILDING UP THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD
A land measuring 12 grounds and 1123 ½ square feet was gifted by Mrs. P.F. Isacke to build the Wesleyan chapel to preach and expound God’s holy word and for performing all other acts of religious worship. A sum of Rs.6394.84 was raised as donation from many subscribers and the Wesleyan chapel was built in the year 1829. Subsequently minor additions and alterations were done over the years. In the year 1952 the church verandah was built by Rev. John Millns and his friends. With an ever-growing congregation, there was great need to expand, renovate and refurbish the entire church. Rev. Lenoard Basker Samuel took over from Rev. Dr. Arun Gopal in 2007. When the proposal to build the house of the Lord was brought to the council, it was felt that the church should be extended. A project of this magnitude envisaged clear direction from our Lord. Though it was a huge task to do it taking into consideration the various factors, there was a clear and specific call from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘
‘These people say, the time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: Is it a time for yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Hag.1:1&2) ”Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take Pleasure in it and be honored” says the Lord.” (Hag. 1:8)
The three fundamental requirements from a worldly perspective for executing a project of this kind are funds, structural expert and an architect. Amazingly, a finance professional, a structural engineer and an architect were serving the council at this point of time. Though the proceeding was never easy, the Lord worked out a perfect plan in such an awesome way that he put all barriers away as it was realized that it was the Lord who was leading the team from the front. The battle clearly belonged to Him. The core team for the project execution was put in place consisting of a Finance Professional, a Structural Engineer, an Architect and a Spokesperson. The Treasurer and the Architect provided the lead to the project. All documentation and records since 1794 were dug into. The initial work relating to documentation and drawing commenced in October 2007. With all available records, the necessary papers were submitted to the cantonment office for approval. The project team learnt to be patient as it took more than 75 days to obtain the final approval. Invariably every day, it was waiting patiently at the door step of the cantonment officer. On a particular day, it was a wait for more than six hours by the pastor and the core team to meet the cantonment officer. It was the Lord who gave the team the much needed wisdom, strength and endurance to move on despite the delay. Finally when the approval was through, it was tears of joy for all as everybody praised our Heavenly King for what He has done for the Church. .
Subsequently, the Diocese gave its approval with the new Secretary taking charge. The ground breaking function was fixed on the 13th day of April 2008. Soon after the Sunday morning worship service our Pastor along with his wife gave a call to everybody. All the Sunday school children and teachers under the leadership of the Sunday School Superintendent led the march and the congregation members both young and old followed in large numbers ushering the church into a new phase of its History. As the foundation stone was laid, one of the senior most members of the church led the congregation into praying and singing. This was the beginning of a great era in the church history.
The immediate task was to raise funds so that the project gets completed before Christmas 2008. This was quite ambitious taking into account the small size of our congregation. The challenge though was huge, was given to the treasurer. The moral and financial commitment of the Council Members towards this project was immense. This gave the core team a huge confidence in approaching people for funds. As the process of raising funds was initiated, the conviction was that as worshippers and members of the church each of us should contribute for the execution of the project.
The first phase of the fund rising started with a pledge of rupees ten thousand from members and worshippers. The challenge was that if God can do it in 1829 enabling His children to raise 6894.84 to build the church, why can’t he do it now. Many families came up with a pledge. Within the first three weeks of initiating the project, a pledge of more than One Million Rupees was raised. The hand of our Lord was upon the team. As the pledge amount started trickling in, the project began. When the structural work was coming to an end on the extended side, the complex work was to remove the pillar inside the church which hindered the congregation’s view of the altar. In order to control the cost, it planned to retain the old roof but replace the old beam with a new one so that the pillar could be removed. It was felt by the core team that the symmetry of the church would be affected if the old roof and the walls on the northern side was retained.
At this juncture, the Bishop and the diocesan secretary made an unscheduled visit to the Church and advised the core team to renovate the northern side through a new roof and wall. The pastor suggested fixing wire cut bricks around the church. The whole exercise would have heavy financial implications. At this point, the next phase of fund mobilization began. This time it was through the harvest festival. Though the target was huge, the core team took the challenge head-on. Many items were taken up as pledge by the congregation. The response was huge and unimaginable. There was all round participation by the church with the Church Secretary taking the lead in the auction. The first sale went for rupees 65000/- which is a record in the church history. The briyani sale that year was very special. Special because live goats were brought in from Andhra Pradesh with one of our council members taking full charge, spending a sleepless night in getting it done. The natural outcome – the target was well exceeded, which is yet another record in the history of our church. The participation from the congregation was huge and spontaneous.
The effort of the core team involved in the project was fabulous by any standard. The entire structural work with the detailed drawing in seeing to it that the old structure and the new structure were seamlessly brought together was an engineering marvel. Now the church does not have a pillar inside and can seat 350 plus people. The effort of the structural expert was well appreciated by members across the board.
The work of beautifying the church was entrusted with the Architect. The old architectural style with a far superior exterior was planned and executed by him. The wire cut brick exterior which is a tradition with Methodist churches was missing in our church. This was an innovation. Each of us can see for ourselves the wonderful way in which things have unfurled at the end.
Finally the church with all its grandeur was completed with a traditional exterior and a rich interior blending the old and the new. The central piece of the old architecture alone has been retained and the rest has been made new. The entire sound system was revamped and with an LCD Projector in place through the great effort of our Spokesperson in the core team, there was a total transformation in the way worship is conducted ever since.
The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts. Haggai 2:9
By the immense grace of our Lord, the core teams’ working relationship was excellent and was of the highest order as it was ordained by our Lord and well supported by the Pastor, Local Church Council and Church worshippers. The effort of the evangelist, sexton and gardener were remarkable. Lives were ready to be lost for the sake of kingdom extension. Our sexton almost lost his life when he came in contact with a live wire. Our Lord mercifully saved him with a purpose.
The congregation members need special appreciation for upholding this project before the throne of grace and for their sacrificial giving and encouragement throughout the project.
Finally the church was rededicated for the glory of God on the 14th day of December 2008, in just eight months by our Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Devasahayam with the entire congregation bursting into joyous worship and praising God who reigns forever and ever.
The church after renovation has caught the eyes of all the passers-by including the foreign tourists who frequent that area as it is at the foot of St. Thomas Mount, the very place where one of the Disciples of Christ, Thomas, was martyred.
“St. Thomas Mount requires more attention than we are able to give it. The friends there are anxious to see the chapel put in order;… we will do something towards repairing the house, which the lady (Mrs. P.J. Isacke, window of late Captain William Bazette Isacke) who gave it is anxious to see done soon.”
-extract of a letter from Mr. Carver, Missionary dated April, 1829
“On White-Monday we set the working to pull down the parts of the building at Saint Thomas’s Mount, necessary to be removed, in order to form a place of worship: and by the liberality of the public, we hope to be able to complete the work in a decent and respectable manner …… We have to be thankful for the kind assistance of Mr. John Law, Architect, for the efficient directions and advice which he has given, by which much expense and trouble will be avoided. This building is now in progress; the foundation at each end are new, and the walls are rising, at this date, some feet above the ground. The chapel is not intended to be large; it is plain and neat. The Gothic order was preferred, because it admitted strength, and gave an appearance which otherwise could not be obtained. The situation also, at the foot of the sacred mountain, where Roman Catholics continue, with undiminished zeal, to assemble annually, in noisy and often times disorderly multitudes, rendered some attention to the point necessary,”
– Extract of a letter from Mr. Carver, Missionary dated 30th June, 1829.
“The building is covered in, and will be finished in a few months. It is a neat specimen of the Gothic Order, and much admired by every one who has seen it.”
– Extract of a letter from Mr. Carver, Missionary dated 30th September, 1829.
With due reverence to the 180 year old Wesley Chapel, nicknamed as Gothic Chapel by the natives, we had to dig deep into history of the church including the concepts, contributions and tireless works of the early worshippers. The above extract clearly indicates initial work on the actual church structure had been started only with the alterations to the already existing structure not suitable for congregation, but modified to suit the worship with Gothic splendor. The original plan concept executed by Architect John Law consists of the main aisle with cloisters on the northern side with verandah towards the end. On the Southern side platform covered the entire length with centrally punctured entrance lobby. The distinctive features as seen in the Gothic Chapel are the Gothic fluted large arches, buttresses, truncated pyramid turrets and stained glasses.
As we commenced the design for the new extension and renovation, the emphasis to the design was given to Gothic Architecture with its main Nave taller than the Aisle with distinctive pointed arches for the fenestration and buttresses on the walls. In the planning there was great deal of restriction in enlarging the Altar as all four walls have to be retained to keep the restriction in enlarging the Altar as all four walls have to be retained to keep the old central aisle as it was originally planned. But with great care the altar was extended towards the east between the large openings to accommodate more kneeling space for worshippers. On either sides of the altar two rooms were placed, one being the Preacher & Pastors room and the other, the Council room. The western wall was cut open to accommodate stained glass with Biblical elements for more natural light and to enhance the ambience. In the congregation area, the area closer to the Altar is utilized basically to accommodate five major essentials, namely the Pulpit, the Lectern, the Multi-media projection, the choir and the musicians. The Pulpit is turned angular to the congregation to enable the worshipers to face the preacher with ease and to enable the preacher to view the projection on screen. Though the original low pulpit is used, the height has been raised by building a Marble pedestal. The pulpit is provided with data, voice and video projection facilities. The lectern for Bible reading and for announcements is located diagonally across the pulpit. The Multimedia projection that required a wall with substantially low natural light was made available on the Northern side of the Altar-arch with the verandah conveniently blocking any bright light that may result in distorted viewing. Also by locating the projection screen behind the pulpit will enable the preacher to make use of this modern facility with more ease. The choir is located on the Southern side of the Altar facing the Pulpit and their right towards the congregation. The space for the Musicians is located adjacent to the pulpit with all system controls behind the pulpit.
The congregation area is divided into three distinct areas with a central large Aisle which is the remnant of the original structure of the old chapel flanked by Nave on either side. Due to careful planning the originally cramped 130 seat capacity with obstructing columns in the middle, has been transformed into a 350 seat capacity column free congregation space. There are four door ways into the congregation space. The main entry on the South and an entry from the verandah separate the Altar front space from the Congregation space. The two rear door ways leads towards the passages in the Nave. In planning, special care was taken to ensure that the Church is sensitive to the needs of the elderly with ramps on either side.
While designing the interior, utmost care was taken to enhance the acoustical quality and ingress of natural light. In the lighting system both the traditional and contemporary lights have been used. The traditional decorative chandeliers are used in the areas covered with the old structure and contemporary candle lights are used in the extended new areas. The sound system consists of high end Amplifiers, mixers and mikes. There are six speakers strategically located two facing the congregation, one monitor speaker for the altar and one for the choir and two on the verandah.
The exterior of the church is wall finished with bricks primarily of Gothic character called as “Backsteingotik” that gives a traditional grandeur to the church. The other external features are the pointed arches for the fenestrations, buttresses, corner turrets that form the traditional Gothic features blended to give the traditional Gothic character to the church.
In dealing with environment the toxic Asbestos roofing over the Verandah was changed to earthen environmentally friendly clay tiles that blend with the brick exterior of the church.
To summarize, the entire exercise of increasing the space to accommodate reasonably large expanding congregation has been achieved in such a way the contemporary facilities have been blended with the traditional values and character, thereby satisfying the earthly needs of God’s Children that pleases our Heavenly Father in turn.