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ffrdywalter@yahoo.co… on March 7, 2013

HOME CHURCH NAGERCOIL - THE CHURCH WHICH I LOVE I Fredrick Castro Grandson of Mr Fredrick Nehemiah and Grace Sundarabai Fredrick take immense pleasure in writing about the Home Church nagercoil. This is a church which will always be in my memory .The church in which I spent almost the whole of every Sunday till I attained the age of 10 (Sunday church sermon from 8 to 10. Sunday class in Allen Memorial hall from 10 to 11. Go back home to have lunch. Endeavour class from 4 to 5. Evening church sermon from 5.30 to 7 Pm. Come home to have supper) The church in which I attended the marriages of several relatives, The church to which my Thathi (Grace Sundarabai Fredrick) carried me when she attended Friday prayer, womens Fellowship meetings and several other meetings which she attended, The church whose Choir was simply scintillating and one like which I have not seen till date (I am 52 years old now),The Church in which I have sang several songs, The church in which I got the first prize in my life, when I was about 7 years old (a new testament) for memorizing and writing down Bible verses, The church in which my Thatha (Fredrick Nehemiah) was a Deacon/Cashier/Secretary from 1966 to 1981 when my mother died ,The Church which was renovated mainly under Thathas supervision and ofcourse that of many others, The church in which the last sermon of my loving Thathi and Thatha was held and laid to rest. This Church is one which I will never forget and cherish seeing .When I searched the Websites I found that not many an article was written about this great church. I thought that I should pick up the threads from all available sources and put up this article about this church …The church in which my Great grandfather was a Deacon… The church in which my Grandfather mr Fredrick Nehemiah held the posts of Deacon, Accountant, Treasurer and Secretary from 1966 to 1981…MY CHURCH. My Great Grandfather Mr G.N.Nehemiah M.A.L.T (Professor of History – Scott Christian College) was a deacon up to 1925. He was also one of the founder members of the Nagercoil Evangelistic Band in1906 and continued to spread the Gospel through this band up to 1925. My Grandfather Mr. Fredrick Nehemiah was a District Munsiff. He was known for his straightforwardness, Honesty and fair judgments. On his retirement he became the hot favourite of the Christian community to be nominated as Deacon of the C.S.I .Home church Nagercoil. He was a Deacon of the Home Church from 1966 to 1981 (when my mother died). During this period he has functioned as Secretary of the Home Church from 1979 to 1981, Treasurer from 1973 to 1979 and accountant from 1972 to 1973.He was also the president of the YMCA Nagercoil and held various posts in the YMCA's in and around Nagercoil. He took active part in the renovation of the Home church and the building of the Pastors houses. During these constructions I used to take snacks and lunch to Thatha and there I would find him holding an umbrella and sweating out but would refuse to take his eyes off the construction. Such was his honesty that the church members wanted him to be in all the committees. His straight forward approach, of course, was not liked by all but this class was a negligible minority and could not dissuade him to quit active church functions. He was the president of the Nagercoil YMCA, Treasurer in the Home church, Secretary of Marthandam YMCA and held very many posts at the same time. I would not have seen any retired person as busy as my grandfather and Grand mother. They were seen here today and there tomorrow and we did not know where they will be the next day. My Thatha Mr Fredrick Nehemiah was the most wanted man in all Christian meetings. After his retirement from the post of District Munsiff he dedicated his time to serve the church. He was invited either to host the meeting or as the guest of honour or to preside or address or conduct meetings. During his entire tenure he was nominated and was elected without any propaganda. In fact, every year after 1974 or so he would plead to the congregation to count him out of the official positions but always his name was proposed and seconded by many and automatically he will get high number of votes and win. Almost this was the case for every nominee. No one went from house to house begging for votes and no one lured voters by any means. Let me tell you how Christians during my younger days upheld the sanctity of the church. I am sure that I will never see such spiritual behavior again during my life time. If there were 10 posts to be filled up the entire congregation unanimously elected 10 persons and there were no elections as such. Sometime later it came to filing nominations and getting elected. Sometimes, by mistake 11 or 12 people filed nominations, it was only due to oversight and not intentional. Immediately word would spread and mostly the junior most persons would withdraw their proposal immediately. If not juniors someone will pull back his proposal and volunteer to stay out just to ensure that there was no dirty election like in politics and there was no disgrace to the Lord Jehovah. It was purely to ensure that others do not say that there was a fight between members of the church for a post. It was purely to ensure that others did not speak ill of the Christian community. When I was doing my 10th or SSLC I don’t remember correctly, one day Mr A.T.Joseph (Retired deputy Superintendent of Police )who was also a very popular man in the Christian community in Nagercoil and held prestigious positions in the Nagercoil Home Church came to our house and told my Grandfather that a very shameful incident has taken place. He told that one of the nominees to the deacon election had printed pamphlets containing manifestos and was going from house to house distributing the same. It was so shocking to hear it. Everyone was very dejected and annoyed and this shameful act was the talk of the town. Though this person was a good person, he was defeated just because he distributed pamphlets like a politician. The congregation condemned it as an immoral act and told that such immoral acts would spread like cancer across the congregation and the entire sanctity of the Christian community would be spoilt. When I was doing my MA, I found nominees standing near the gate of the church openly and shamelessly distributing pamphlets like in a political election. I witnessed house to house campaigning also. I just cannot digest these changes. Maharasan @ Vedhamanickam – the father of the protestant movement in Nagercoil and real founder of the Home Church Nagercoil. The history begins thus. In 1799 there lived in Mylaudy a Hindu called Maharasan a Scheduled Caste by community was on his pilgrimage trip from Mylaudy to Chidambaram. Dissatisfied with what he experienced during the pilgrimage he stopped in Thanjavur to see his younger sister and Brother in Law who lived there. On Sunday he stood outside the doors of a church and listened to the ceremony dispensed by one preacher J.C.Kohlhoff. The preacher recognising him to be a pilgrim by the dress he was wearing persuaded Maharasan to stay back and know more about the Bible and after eight days of listening to the preacher Maharasan was baptised as Vedhamanickam. He came back to Mylaudy a refined man. Though he told nothing to his relatives and friends his relatives began to see the change in him and started probing him as to why he was a different man altogether, Vedhamanickam slowly began to unveil what he had heard from the preacher. He showed the New Testament and started to explain the new truths he had learnt. Many denided him and started practicing the Hindu ways more zealously than before, however some listened and agreed. Like all true Christians believers were few and troubles were so many that vedhamanickam decided to sell his lands and move elsewhere. But before doing this he decided to go once more to Thanjavur and find out if he could get some help. Hence in 1805 Maharasan made one more visit to Tanjore. To his joy he came to know from preacher J.C.Kohlhoff that there was a Missionary in Tranquebar who was learning Tamil and once the learning was complete he will come to Mylaudy. Vedhamanickam extended his journey to Tranquebar and met this someone …Ringeltaube and requested him to come to Mylaudy. On April 25th in the following year, 1806, Ringeltaube passed through the Aramboli Ghats, the great green doorway into Travancore from the south, and was taken with fear and trembling to meet the little flock at Mylady. The small group of followers whom Vedhamanickam had earned with dedication and hard work was called the “Little Flock” in those days. The Brahman official at Aramboli had forbidden him to rest in the ordinary rest house, and the missionary's first days were spent in the huts of the present day Scheduled caste Pariahs with only such comforts as they could provide. Ringeltaube's letters and reports are refreshing reading. He saw things as they were and described them in plain terms. Of his first visit he says, “I spent here the Lord's day very uncomfortably in an Indian hut in the midst of a noisy gaping crowd which filled the house. Perhaps my disappointment contributed to my unpleasant feelings. I had expected to find hundreds eager to listen to the word, instead of which I had difficulty in making families collect for an hour." But however later on as days went by he took the people under his care and appointed Maharasan @ Vethamanickam as their catechist. Origins of the Home Church Ringeltaube wrote a request to the magistrate to treat the people with justice, and entered into negotiations with the Dewan (the renowned Velu Tampi) through Colonel Macaulay, the British Resident, for permission to build a church. It was in March 1809 that the order came, and on a piece of Vethamanickam's land, from which the coming crop of rice not yet ripe was hurriedly cut, the foundation of the first Protestant Church in Travancore was laid. In September 1809 it was finished and dedicated, and at its opening service many converts were baptized and the Lord's Supper was celebrated. It was a small shed with mud and brick walls and thatched roof enough to seat about 50 people. RINGALTAUBE AND HOME CHURCH NAGERCOIL The CSI Home Church Nagercoil or the Nagercoil Home Church or the Home church CSI Nagercoil or affectionately called the Kalkoil (Stone church) has its history dating back to the great Missionary RINGALTAUBE or Rev. William Tobias Ringeltaube . He first set foot in a small hamlet called Mailaudy in 1806. During the years from 1806 to 1809 Ringeltaube only visited Travancore occasionally. But by the end of 1808, he seems to have devoted himself entirely to Travancore and he set up the first Christian church in 1809 in Mailaudy.

He also set up a village church school and a Central school or Seminary .Later on he also set up 6 churches in Thamaraikulam,Putthalam, Eethamoli,Jamestown,Aathikaadu and Kovilvilai which functioned under the Mission Centre in Mailaudy . The church in Mylaudy was the first one. He handed over these churches to one Maharasan Vedhamanickam when he left Mylaudy in 1816. OPOSSITION TO THE MISSIONARIES BY THE EAST INDIAN COMPANY Many of you might be thinking that the Europeans helped the Missionaries in spreading the Gospel but one should remember that it was the Britishers of the East India Company who were much against these missionaries . The review of the East India Company's Charter of 1813 had for the first time fully opened the door to India for missionaries. Before this, chaplains employed by the Company were explicitly banned from preaching to the Indians, and the entry of missionaries severely restricted. The Company's concern was that militant well-meaning Christian evangelism might so threaten some Indian cultural or religious practices, viewed as barbaric or evil in the drawing rooms of Britain, as to interfere with its vital commercial interests. So Charles and Martha Mault had arrived among an army of young men and women, "idealistic, altruistic adventurers intent on spreading the word". But it has since been suggested that the bloody Mutiny of some three decades later was in part an Indian reaction to the zealous way in which these missionaries advanced their 'alien' cause - the very effect which the East India Company had tried to prevent. Further it was thought that if the missionaries gave education to the Indians the prospects of the East Indian Company may be threatened. HISTORICAL PROOF OF OPPOSITION In his book”Memories of War” Colonel Bales, who lived in Nagercoil in 1824,wrote that European pastors Mead and Mault were desperately attempting to build a huge church with the donations from others & even if their plans for building the huge church materialises I wonder wherefrom they are going to bring the congregation members to fill the building. In 1824 the dignitaries from LMS Mr Daniel Dyer and George Bennet recommended to the LMS that such a huge church for a derisory small hamlet was quite unnecessary and that the work should be stopped. By 1843 when the order from the LMS to keep the construction work in abeyance was communicated the wonderful pastors Mead and Mault had completed the church construction with stones to fill the foundation and the base and with a thatched roof.

BIRTH OF THE HOME CHURCH NAGERCOIL In 1817 the London Missionary Society (LMS) in Britain sent Pastor Charles Mead to take the place of Ringaltaube and in 1818 the Mission Centre or Seminary which was operating in Mailaudy was shifted to Nagercoil to function as the Head Quarters of LMS by Charles Mead. The foundation stone of our fabulous mind boggling HOME CHURCH NAGERCOIL was laid on 1/1/1819 on NEW YEARS day by Reverend Knill who was in Nagercoil as a visiting Guest. Mr Mead was able to employ a good deal of convict labour on the preparation of the massive stone foundation and plinth of the building, and during its erection, which extended over several years, large donations were received from the Maharajah of Tanjore, the Raja of Cochin, and also members of the royal house of Travancore. The erection of so large a building, 127 feet long by 66 wide, capable of seating two thousand people, exhibited a large amount of faith in the purposes of God, and in the certainty of the development of the mission, but recent history has proved that Mr Mead's estimate was rather under than over the mark ; and although the Nagercoil church is still one of the largest places of Christian worship in South India, it is at times not large enough. HISTORICAL PROOF OF OUR GREAT CHURCH In the book History of Travancore from the earliest times by P.Shungoony Menon it is written that the LMS in Nagercoil was permanently established during the reign of her highness Gouree Parwathi Bhye Ranee. This Ranee (Queen) not only sanctioned land to build a church but also made generous and liberal donations for the church like for instance a sum of Rs 5000 & a large bungalow at Nagercoil to enable the LMS to carry on their Mission labours. What is still more extraordinary was that her highness even admitted Reverend Charles Mead in her service as a Judge of the Zillah Court at Nagercoil. In his book Changing patterns of caste & class relations in South India, L.Thara Bhai wrote that the appointment of a missionary as Judge enhanced the importance & influence of the Mission considerably. By 1820 the LMS succeeded in converting a sizable section of the NADAR community of south Travancore to Christianity.By 1940 the church possessed a Medical Mission at Neyoor ,one college at Nagercoil and 237 schools in different parts of South Travancore.In 1860 Dr James Duthie took charge of the Seminary and played a vital role in raising it into a college which is the present Womens Christian College Nagercoil. FINANCIAL CRISIS AND GENEROUS DONATIONS FROM UNEXPECTED QUARTERS The construction of this rather big building 127 feet by 66 feet was completed in 1843.During the construction the founders faced severe financial crisis but help came from several unexpected quarters. This church was built using resources donated by the Ranee of Travancore and the Rajas of Tanjore,Cochin and Travancore. The Ranee of Travancore provided land, Timber,Stones and ordered that the Nagathamman temple elephants (which were maintained by the Ranee) be used for transporting logs ,stones and other materials free of cost. It is told that a large number of prisoners were also used in the construction on the orders of the Raja of Cochin, In the meanwhile Reverend Mead was appointed as District Judge of the Zilla Court at Nagercoil by the Ranee of Travancore. By the grace of God and the persuasion of Reverend Mede or Judge Mede the resident Colonel Munro, the then British ruler of this part of Travancore , donated his Nagercoil Circuit bungalow (the erstwhile Library building of the WCC Nagercoil)to the LMS. The Queen of Travancore donated the land on which the present Womens Christian College stands and the land on which the present church stands and the land on which the present Syndicate Bank stands and the adjoining lands to Reverend Mead. At the time the corner stone was laid 4 families and 18 members were present. I am told that the family of my Great Grand fathers’ father (Mr G.N.Nehemiahs father) was one of the 4 families’ present. I am really proud to be in this family. The small shed, where a few children, ignorant and ill-clad, gathered at Mylady a hundred years ago was the mother of the Christian college at Nagercoil, and the little meeting of the humble company of the first believers at the same place was the mother of the large churches now at Nagercoil, Neyoor, Parachalev, and Trivandrum. God works miracles and of course the growth of this ‘Home Church’ is one such miracle

1843 to 1866 From 1843 to 1866 the pastors of this fabulous church were British missionaries. They were Reverend Mead,Rev. Mault, Rev John Paul Daniel, Rev John Whitehouse, Rev James Duthie in whose memory memorabilia stones have been placed inside our church . Rev Devadason was the first Native Pastor of this great Church on 13/12/1866.A committee to assist the pastor was also formed. On 13/12/1866 this church obtained the status of a Pastorate Church. REVEREND DEVADASAN Rev Devadasan the first Native Pastor of Home Church Nagercoil was a Hindu Brahmin by birth .His original name was NEELAKANDAIYAN SUBBAIYAN.He was born in Tirunelveli District, Srivaikundam Taluk, in Thirukarur in December 1814.According to the prevailing custom at that time he married four and a half year old Lakshmi, his uncles’ daughter. Thereafter he came to Nagercoil for permanent employment and met Rev Mault with an application for Permanent employment & Rev Mault appointed him as a teacher in the ‘village school Thovalai’ in Thovalai. He worked there as teacher for 5 years. During these 5 years he worshipped and performed Pooja in the Hindu temples according to Hindu Vedic Rites. He was in the habit of writing complaints against government employees and he was arrested and locked up in the Trivandrum Jail for 50 days on proved charges of writing false complaints against government employees thereby interfering with their discharge of governmental duties. After his release he came back to Rev Mault and asked for reinstatement and Rev Mault also was kind enough to reinstate him. This was the TURNING POINT for Neelakandaiyan Subbaiyan. This act of love exhibited by Rev Mault moved him and over a period of time Subbaiyan became a Christian and accepted the Lord of Hosts, the lord of Israel and the Creator of this world and the universe and got baptised as Devadason. Because of this his relatives refused to allow his wife Lakshmi to join him. Being separated forcibly he married Santhayee Ammal the granddaughter of Pastor Vedhamanickam in 1842.she expired in 1852.In 1852 as if by miracle his first wife Lakshmi wrote to him requesting him to accept her. He accepted her and she got baptised as Yesunesam and she lived as a pious and God fearing wife till her death. On 13/2/1866 four pastors were ordained for Gods work on the same day. Devadason was one of them. During his period the thatched roof was replaced by alloy aluminium tin sheets and the ‘native church school’ which is adjacent to the Home Church was established. He was a pious man and full of humility and was considered to be a person who was good in resolving disputes. He died at the age of 58 on 10/1/1874 and was laid to rest in the Home Church Cemetery. What was a thatched roof church in 1843 became a tin roof church in1866. I can recollect , when I was a small boy, the clatter made by rain drops falling on the tin sheet during rainy days, which was so loud that it was a hindrance to hear the sermon itself. Somewhere in 1969 or 1970, I am not sure of the year, another renovation took place. The tin roof and wooden frames were replaced with iron girders and asbestos sheets. The windows and doors were replaced with new teak doors and windows. An extension was made to the southern side of the church and the altar was moved further south there by making room for more people to sit. All the lights except for the 3 original chandeliers made of casting (which anyone can recognize) were changed thereby making the church bright. The main pathways which were just gravel and sand topped were converted to cement pathways. I could have displayed several pictures of this great church as it appeared during my childhood days but at that time camera was a costly thing and only few richest people owned cameras. The photographer from the studio only came and took photos. Hence I have no photos.

THE BELL TOWER When I was a small boy there was no bell tower the bell was fitted to a small tower which was in the veranda of the church and a sexton wearing full whites (I have forgotten his name) used to ring it .Church history has it that the bell weighing 96 kilos was manufactured by J.Warner& sons,London in 1876 and was shipped to India due to the persistent efforts of Reverend New port and was installed in 1877.It was a moment of great pride when the new Bell tower designed by my uncle Cheilo Kitchley S/O Doctor Kitchley was dedicated in memory of his father in law Devadason (Founder of Thasor press) was inaugurated on 17/2/1980.My Grand father Fredrick .G.Nehemiah was the Secretary of the Home Church Nagercoil at that time and it was a happy occasion watching him address the congregation at the inauguration function . The Church Choir I would not do justice to myself without writing about the Home Church Choir. Now in 2012 April when I write this I should honestly admit that I have not seen such a fantastic choir in my lifetime. I have been to churches in several parts of India but none matched this choir. When I was a small boy in 1964 at 4 years of age, I could make out what is what. Further my grandfather Mr Fredrick Nehemiah and my grandmother Mrs Grace Sundarabai Fredrick had by then taken me to all our relatives houses. My grandmother would go from house to house collecting donations for various activities of our great church and thus I had come to know almost everyone in the church circle. At that time one Ebenezar thatha (Mr A.J. Ebenezar) used to play the organ during the morning and evening sermons. The original organ was a “Centenarian Stutgart Harmonium” which operated on bellows and not on electricity. I could see him sitting on a stool and pumping the two pedals below the organ with both his feet and playing with the keys to produce sweet scintillating music. In 1967 the electric Hammond organ was purchased. Near about this period I could see Daniels uncle who is one of my relatives and the husband of my music teacher Mrs Thilaka playing the organ in the evening services. Ebenezar thatha will play the organ in the morning. By and by Daniels uncle started playing in the morning and Ebenezar thatha played in the evening. In due course Daniels uncle played in both the morning and evening services. The choir was a fabulous one. None can simply walk into the choir. One was selected after careful observation. There were two practices during every week and anyone who intends to be in the choir had to be there for practice. If anyone absents for 2 practices he was out. The choir was limited to a specific number of singers and only if someone was sent out or went out of the choir voluntarily, due to marriage or transfer in their job, another replacement would be taken. The practices were perfect. One can note the Male Voices - Countertenor, Tenor, Baritone & Bass and the female voices - Soprano, Mezzo Soprano & Contralto distinctly and clearly. They were taught to make full use of these voices by the choir masters. It was real singing and real music. We cannot notice even one mistake either in the singing or in the music. I hope that this choir maintains its standards always. This choir has participated in several Christmas carols and have bagged several prizes.
There is a cemetery and a playground attached to this great church. Every year after the new-year service is over the youth of the church lit fire works like rockets and other crackers. It prolonged for about an hour and we used to stand and watch the thrilling display of fireworks. I can be contacted at frdywalter@yahoo.com. If anyone has some photos of this great church please share. Written by Fredrick Castro.

ffrdywalter@yahoo.co… on March 7, 2013

HOME CHURCH NAGERCOIL -

THE CHURCH WHICH I LOVE

I Fredrick Castro Grandson of Mr Fredrick Nehemiah and Grace Sundarabai Fredrick take immense pleasure in writing about the Home Church nagercoil. This is a church which will always be in my memory .The church in which I spent almost the whole of every Sunday till I attained the age of 10 (Sunday church sermon from 8 to 10. Sunday class in Allen Memorial hall from 10 to 11. Go back home to have lunch. Endeavour class from 4 to 5. Evening church sermon from 5.30 to 7 Pm. Come home to have supper) The church in which I attended the marriages of several relatives, The church to which my Thathi (Grace Sundarabai Fredrick) carried me when she attended Friday prayer, womens Fellowship meetings and several other meetings which she attended, The church whose Choir was simply scintillating and one like which I have not seen till date (I am 52 years old now),The Church in which I have sang several songs, The church in which I got the first prize in my life, when I was about 7 years old (a new testament) for memorizing and writing down Bible verses, The church in which my Thatha (Fredrick Nehemiah) was a Deacon/Cashier/Secretary from 1966 to 1981 when my mother died ,The Church which was renovated mainly under Thathas supervision and ofcourse that of many others, The church in which the last sermon of my loving Thathi and Thatha was held and laid to rest. This Church is one which I will never forget and cherish seeing .When I searched the Websites I found that not many an article was written about this great church. I thought that I should pick up the threads from all available sources and put up this article about this church …The church in which my Great grandfather was a Deacon… The church in which my Grandfather mr Fredrick Nehemiah held the posts of Deacon, Accountant, Treasurer and Secretary from 1966 to 1981…MY CHURCH. My Great Grandfather Mr G.N.Nehemiah M.A.L.T (Professor of History – Scott Christian College) was a deacon up to 1925. He was also one of the founder members of the Nagercoil Evangelistic Band in1906 and continued to spread the Gospel through this band up to 1925. My Grandfather Mr. Fredrick Nehemiah was a District Munsiff. He was known for his straightforwardness, Honesty and fair judgments. On his retirement he became the hot favourite of the Christian community to be nominated as Deacon of the C.S.I .Home church Nagercoil. He was a Deacon of the Home Church from 1966 to 1981 (when my mother died). During this period he has functioned as Secretary of the Home Church from 1979 to 1981, Treasurer from 1973 to 1979 and accountant from 1972 to 1973.He was also the president of the YMCA Nagercoil and held various posts in the YMCA's in and around Nagercoil. He took active part in the renovation of the Home church and the building of the Pastors houses. During these constructions I used to take snacks and lunch to Thatha and there I would find him holding an umbrella and sweating out but would refuse to take his eyes off the construction. Such was his honesty that the church members wanted him to be in all the committees. His straight forward approach, of course, was not liked by all but this class was a negligible minority and could not dissuade him to quit active church functions. He was the president of the Nagercoil YMCA, Treasurer in the Home church, Secretary of Marthandam YMCA and held very many posts at the same time. I would not have seen any retired person as busy as my grandfather and Grand mother. They were seen here today and there tomorrow and we did not know where they will be the next day. My Thatha Mr Fredrick Nehemiah was the most wanted man in all Christian meetings. After his retirement from the post of District Munsiff he dedicated his time to serve the church. He was invited either to host the meeting or as the guest of honour or to preside or address or conduct meetings. During his entire tenure he was nominated and was elected without any propaganda. In fact, every year after 1974 or so he would plead to the congregation to count him out of the official positions but always his name was proposed and seconded by many and automatically he will get high number of votes and win. Almost this was the case for every nominee. No one went from house to house begging for votes and no one lured voters by any means. Let me tell you how Christians during my younger days upheld the sanctity of the church. I am sure that I will never see such spiritual behavior again during my life time. If there were 10 posts to be filled up the entire congregation unanimously elected 10 persons and there were no elections as such. Sometime later it came to filing nominations and getting elected. Sometimes, by mistake 11 or 12 people filed nominations, it was only due to oversight and not intentional. Immediately word would spread and mostly the junior most persons would withdraw their proposal immediately. If not juniors someone will pull back his proposal and volunteer to stay out just to ensure that there was no dirty election like in politics and there was no disgrace to the Lord Jehovah. It was purely to ensure that others do not say that there was a fight between members of the church for a post. It was purely to ensure that others did not speak ill of the Christian community. When I was doing my 10th or SSLC I don’t remember correctly, one day Mr A.T.Joseph (Retired deputy Superintendent of Police )who was also a very popular man in the Christian community in Nagercoil and held prestigious positions in the Nagercoil Home Church came to our house and told my Grandfather that a very shameful incident has taken place. He told that one of the nominees to the deacon election had printed pamphlets containing manifestos and was going from house to house distributing the same. It was so shocking to hear it. Everyone was very dejected and annoyed and this shameful act was the talk of the town. Though this person was a good person, he was defeated just because he distributed pamphlets like a politician. The congregation condemned it as an immoral act and told that such immoral acts would spread like cancer across the congregation and the entire sanctity of the Christian community would be spoilt. When I was doing my MA, I found nominees standing near the gate of the church openly and shamelessly distributing pamphlets like in a political election. I witnessed house to house campaigning also. I just cannot digest these changes. Maharasan @ Vedhamanickam – the father of the protestant movement in Nagercoil and real founder of the Home Church Nagercoil.

The history begins thus. In 1799 there lived in Mylaudy a Hindu called Maharasan a Scheduled Caste by community was on his pilgrimage trip from Mylaudy to Chidambaram. Dissatisfied with what he experienced during the pilgrimage he stopped in Thanjavur to see his younger sister and Brother in Law who lived there. On Sunday he stood outside the doors of a church and listened to the ceremony dispensed by one preacher J.C.Kohlhoff. The preacher recognising him to be a pilgrim by the dress he was wearing persuaded Maharasan to stay back and know more about the Bible and after eight days of listening to the preacher Maharasan was baptised as Vedhamanickam. He came back to Mylaudy a refined man. Though he told nothing to his relatives and friends his relatives began to see the change in him and started probing him as to why he was a different man altogether, Vedhamanickam slowly began to unveil what he had heard from the preacher. He showed the New Testament and started to explain the new truths he had learnt. Many denided him and started practicing the Hindu ways more zealously than before, however some listened and agreed. Like all true Christians believers were few and troubles were so many that vedhamanickam decided to sell his lands and move elsewhere. But before doing this he decided to go once more to Thanjavur and find out if he could get some help. Hence in 1805 Maharasan made one more visit to Tanjore. To his joy he came to know from preacher J.C.Kohlhoff that there was a Missionary in Tranquebar who was learning Tamil and once the learning was complete he will come to Mylaudy. Vedhamanickam extended his journey to Tranquebar and met this someone …Ringeltaube and requested him to come to Mylaudy. On April 25th in the following year, 1806, Ringeltaube passed through the Aramboli Ghats, the great green doorway into Travancore from the south, and was taken with fear and trembling to meet the little flock at Mylady. The small group of followers whom Vedhamanickam had earned with dedication and hard work was called the “Little Flock” in those days. The Brahman official at Aramboli had forbidden him to rest in the ordinary rest house, and the missionary's first days were spent in the huts of the present day Scheduled caste Pariahs with only such comforts as they could provide. Ringeltaube's letters and reports are refreshing reading. He saw things as they were and described them in plain terms. Of his first visit he says, “I spent here the Lord's day very uncomfortably in an Indian hut in the midst of a noisy gaping crowd which filled the house. Perhaps my disappointment contributed to my unpleasant feelings. I had expected to find hundreds eager to listen to the word, instead of which I had difficulty in making families collect for an hour." But however later on as days went by he took the people under his care and appointed Maharasan @ Vethamanickam as their catechist.

Origins of the Home Church

Ringeltaube wrote a request to the magistrate to treat the people with justice, and entered into negotiations with the Dewan (the renowned Velu Tampi) through Colonel Macaulay, the British Resident, for permission to build a church. It was in March 1809 that the order came, and on a piece of Vethamanickam's land, from which the coming crop of rice not yet ripe was hurriedly cut, the foundation of the first Protestant Church in Travancore was laid. In September 1809 it was finished and dedicated, and at its opening service many converts were baptized and the Lord's Supper was celebrated. It was a small shed with mud and brick walls and thatched roof enough to seat about 50 people.

RINGALTAUBE AND HOME CHURCH NAGERCOIL

The CSI Home Church Nagercoil or the Nagercoil Home Church or the Home church CSI Nagercoil or affectionately called the Kalkoil (Stone church) has its history dating back to the great Missionary RINGALTAUBE or Rev. William Tobias Ringeltaube . He first set foot in a small hamlet called Mailaudy in 1806. During the years from 1806 to 1809 Ringeltaube only visited Travancore occasionally. But by the end of 1808, he seems to have devoted himself entirely to Travancore and he set up the first Christian church in 1809 in Mailaudy.

He also set up a village church school and a Central school or Seminary .Later on he also set up 6 churches in Thamaraikulam,Putthalam, Eethamoli,Jamestown,Aathikaadu and Kovilvilai which functioned under the Mission Centre in Mailaudy . The church in Mylaudy was the first one. He handed over these churches to one Maharasan Vedhamanickam when he left Mylaudy in 1816.

OPOSSITION TO THE MISSIONARIES BY THE EAST INDIAN COMPANY

Many of you might be thinking that the Europeans helped the Missionaries in spreading the Gospel but one should remember that it was the Britishers of the East India Company who were much against these missionaries . The review of the East India Company's Charter of 1813 had for the first time fully opened the door to India for missionaries. Before this, chaplains employed by the Company were explicitly banned from preaching to the Indians, and the entry of missionaries severely restricted. The Company's concern was that militant well-meaning Christian evangelism might so threaten some Indian cultural or religious practices, viewed as barbaric or evil in the drawing rooms of Britain, as to interfere with its vital commercial interests. So Charles and Martha Mault had arrived among an army of young men and women, "idealistic, altruistic adventurers intent on spreading the word". But it has since been suggested that the bloody Mutiny of some three decades later was in part an Indian reaction to the zealous way in which these missionaries advanced their 'alien' cause - the very effect which the East India Company had tried to prevent. Further it was thought that if the missionaries gave education to the Indians the prospects of the East Indian Company may be threatened.

HISTORICAL PROOF OF OPPOSITION

In his book”Memories of War” Colonel Bales, who lived in Nagercoil in 1824,wrote that European pastors Mead and Mault were desperately attempting to build a huge church with the donations from others & even if their plans for building the huge church materialises I wonder wherefrom they are going to bring the congregation members to fill the building. In 1824 the dignitaries from LMS Mr Daniel Dyer and George Bennet recommended to the LMS that such a huge church for a derisory small hamlet was quite unnecessary and that the work should be stopped. By 1843 when the order from the LMS to keep the construction work in abeyance was communicated the wonderful pastors Mead and Mault had completed the church construction with stones to fill the foundation and the base and with a thatched roof.

BIRTH OF THE HOME CHURCH NAGERCOIL

In 1817 the London Missionary Society (LMS) in Britain sent Pastor Charles Mead to take the place of Ringaltaube and in 1818 the Mission Centre or Seminary which was operating in Mailaudy was shifted to Nagercoil to function as the Head Quarters of LMS by Charles Mead. The foundation stone of our fabulous mind boggling HOME CHURCH NAGERCOIL was laid on 1/1/1819 on NEW YEARS day by Reverend Knill who was in Nagercoil as a visiting Guest. Mr Mead was able to employ a good deal of convict labour on the preparation of the massive stone foundation and plinth of the building, and during its erection, which extended over several years, large donations were received from the Maharajah of Tanjore, the Raja of Cochin, and also members of the royal house of Travancore. The erection of so large a building, 127 feet long by 66 wide, capable of seating two thousand people, exhibited a large amount of faith in the purposes of God, and in the certainty of the development of the mission, but recent history has proved that Mr Mead's estimate was rather under than over the mark ; and although the Nagercoil church is still one of the largest places of Christian worship in South India, it is at times not large enough. HISTORICAL PROOF OF OUR GREAT CHURCH In the book History of Travancore from the earliest times by P.Shungoony Menon it is written that the LMS in Nagercoil was permanently established during the reign of her highness Gouree Parwathi Bhye Ranee. This Ranee (Queen) not only sanctioned land to build a church but also made generous and liberal donations for the church like for instance a sum of Rs 5000 & a large bungalow at Nagercoil to enable the LMS to carry on their Mission labours. What is still more extraordinary was that her highness even admitted Reverend Charles Mead in her service as a Judge of the Zillah Court at Nagercoil. In his book Changing patterns of caste & class relations in South India, L.Thara Bhai wrote that the appointment of a missionary as Judge enhanced the importance & influence of the Mission considerably. By 1820 the LMS succeeded in converting a sizable section of the NADAR community of south Travancore to Christianity.By 1940 the church possessed a Medical Mission at Neyoor ,one college at Nagercoil and 237 schools in different parts of South Travancore.In 1860 Dr James Duthie took charge of the Seminary and played a vital role in raising it into a college which is the present Womens Christian College Nagercoil.

FINANCIAL CRISIS AND GENEROUS DONATIONS FROM UNEXPECTED QUARTERS

The construction of this rather big building 127 feet by 66 feet was completed in 1843.During the construction the founders faced severe financial crisis but help came from several unexpected quarters. This church was built using resources donated by the Ranee of Travancore and the Rajas of Tanjore,Cochin and Travancore. The Ranee of Travancore provided land, Timber,Stones and ordered that the Nagathamman temple elephants (which were maintained by the Ranee) be used for transporting logs ,stones and other materials free of cost. It is told that a large number of prisoners were also used in the construction on the orders of the Raja of Cochin, In the meanwhile Reverend Mead was appointed as District Judge of the Zilla Court at Nagercoil by the Ranee of Travancore. By the grace of God and the persuasion of Reverend Mede or Judge Mede the resident Colonel Munro, the then British ruler of this part of Travancore , donated his Nagercoil Circuit bungalow (the erstwhile Library building of the WCC Nagercoil)to the LMS. The Queen of Travancore donated the land on which the present Womens Christian College stands and the land on which the present church stands and the land on which the present Syndicate Bank stands and the adjoining lands to Reverend Mead. At the time the corner stone was laid 4 families and 18 members were present. I am told that the family of my Great Grand fathers’ father (Mr G.N.Nehemiahs father) was one of the 4 families’ present. I am really proud to be in this family. The small shed, where a few children, ignorant and ill-clad, gathered at Mylady a hundred years ago was the mother of the Christian college at Nagercoil, and the little meeting of the humble company of the first believers at the same place was the mother of the large churches now at Nagercoil, Neyoor, Parachalev, and Trivandrum. God works miracles and of course the growth of this ‘Home Church’ is one such miracle

1843 to 1866

From 1843 to 1866 the pastors of this fabulous church were British missionaries. They were Reverend Mead,Rev. Mault, Rev John Paul Daniel, Rev John Whitehouse, Rev James Duthie in whose memory memorabilia stones have been placed inside our church .

Rev Devadason was the first Native Pastor of this great Church on 13/12/1866.A committee to assist the pastor was also formed. On 13/12/1866 this church obtained the status of a Pastorate Church. REVEREND DEVADASAN Rev Devadasan the first Native Pastor of Home Church Nagercoil was a Hindu Brahmin by birth .His original name was NEELAKANDAIYAN SUBBAIYAN.He was born in Tirunelveli District, Srivaikundam Taluk, in Thirukarur in December 1814.According to the prevailing custom at that time he married four and a half year old Lakshmi, his uncles’ daughter. Thereafter he came to Nagercoil for permanent employment and met Rev Mault with an application for Permanent employment & Rev Mault appointed him as a teacher in the ‘village school Thovalai’ in Thovalai. He worked there as teacher for 5 years. During these 5 years he worshipped and performed Pooja in the Hindu temples according to Hindu Vedic Rites. He was in the habit of writing complaints against government employees and he was arrested and locked up in the Trivandrum Jail for 50 days on proved charges of writing false complaints against government employees thereby interfering with their discharge of governmental duties. After his release he came back to Rev Mault and asked for reinstatement and Rev Mault also was kind enough to reinstate him. This was the TURNING POINT for Neelakandaiyan Subbaiyan. This act of love exhibited by Rev Mault moved him and over a period of time Subbaiyan became a Christian and accepted the Lord of Hosts, the lord of Israel and the Creator of this world and the universe and got baptised as Devadason. Because of this his relatives refused to allow his wife Lakshmi to join him. Being separated forcibly he married Santhayee Ammal the granddaughter of Pastor Vedhamanickam in 1842.she expired in 1852.In 1852 as if by miracle his first wife Lakshmi wrote to him requesting him to accept her. He accepted her and she got baptised as Yesunesam and she lived as a pious and God fearing wife till her death. On 13/2/1866 four pastors were ordained for Gods work on the same day. Devadason was one of them. During his period the thatched roof was replaced by alloy aluminium tin sheets and the ‘native church school’ which is adjacent to the Home Church was established. He was a pious man and full of humility and was considered to be a person who was good in resolving disputes. He died at the age of 58 on 10/1/1874 and was laid to rest in the Home Church Cemetery. What was a thatched roof church in 1843 became a tin roof church in1866. I can recollect , when I was a small boy, the clatter made by rain drops falling on the tin sheet during rainy days, which was so loud that it was a hindrance to hear the sermon itself. Somewhere in 1969 or 1970, I am not sure of the year, another renovation took place. The tin roof and wooden frames were replaced with iron girders and asbestos sheets. The windows and doors were replaced with new teak doors and windows. An extension was made to the southern side of the church and the altar was moved further south there by making room for more people to sit. All the lights except for the 3 original chandeliers made of casting (which anyone can recognize) were changed thereby making the church bright. The main pathways which were just gravel and sand topped were converted to cement pathways. I could have displayed several pictures of this great church as it appeared during my childhood days but at that time camera was a costly thing and only few richest people owned cameras. The photographer from the studio only came and took photos. Hence I have no photos.

THE BELL TOWER

When I was a small boy there was no bell tower the bell was fitted to a small tower which was in the veranda of the church and a sexton wearing full whites (I have forgotten his name) used to ring it .Church history has it that the bell weighing 96 kilos was manufactured by J.Warner& sons,London in 1876 and was shipped to India due to the persistent efforts of Reverend New port and was installed in 1877.It was a moment of great pride when the new Bell tower designed by my uncle Cheilo Kitchley S/O Doctor Kitchley was dedicated in memory of his father in law Devadason (Founder of Thasor press) was inaugurated on 17/2/1980.My Grand father Fredrick .G.Nehemiah was the Secretary of the Home Church Nagercoil at that time and it was a happy occasion watching him address the congregation at the inauguration function .

The Church Choir

I would not do justice to myself without writing about the Home Church Choir. Now in 2012 April when I write this I should honestly admit that I have not seen such a fantastic choir in my lifetime. I have been to churches in several parts of India but none matched this choir. When I was a small boy in 1964 at 4 years of age, I could make out what is what. Further my grandfather Mr Fredrick Nehemiah and my grandmother Mrs Grace Sundarabai Fredrick had by then taken me to all our relatives houses. My grandmother would go from house to house collecting donations for various activities of our great church and thus I had come to know almost everyone in the church circle. At that time one Ebenezar thatha (Mr A.J. Ebenezar) used to play the organ during the morning and evening sermons. The original organ was a “Centenarian Stutgart Harmonium” which operated on bellows and not on electricity. I could see him sitting on a stool and pumping the two pedals below the organ with both his feet and playing with the keys to produce sweet scintillating music. In 1967 the electric Hammond organ was purchased. Near about this period I could see Daniels uncle who is one of my relatives and the husband of my music teacher Mrs Thilaka playing the organ in the evening services. Ebenezar thatha will play the organ in the morning. By and by Daniels uncle started playing in the morning and Ebenezar thatha played in the evening. In due course Daniels uncle played in both the morning and evening services. The choir was a fabulous one. None can simply walk into the choir. One was selected after careful observation. There were two practices during every week and anyone who intends to be in the choir had to be there for practice. If anyone absents for 2 practices he was out. The choir was limited to a specific number of singers and only if someone was sent out or went out of the choir voluntarily, due to marriage or transfer in their job, another replacement would be taken. The practices were perfect. One can note the Male Voices - Countertenor, Tenor, Baritone & Bass and the female voices - Soprano, Mezzo Soprano & Contralto distinctly and clearly. They were taught to make full use of these voices by the choir masters. It was real singing and real music. We cannot notice even one mistake either in the singing or in the music. I hope that this choir maintains its standards always. This choir has participated in several Christmas carols and have bagged several prizes.
There is a cemetery and a playground attached to this great church. Every year after the new-year service is over the youth of the church lit fire works like rockets and other crackers. It prolonged for about an hour and we used to stand and watch the thrilling display of fireworks. I can be contacted at frdywalter@yahoo.com. If anyone has some photos of this great church please share. Written by Fredrick Castro.

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Photo taken in Vettunimadam, Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu 629001, India

Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 3, 2009
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    by zenn441
    • Camera: SONY DSC-T20
    • Taken on 2007/10/22 01:15:45
    • Exposure: 0.167s (1/6)
    • Focal Length: 6.33mm
    • F/Stop: f/3.500
    • ISO Speed: ISO400
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
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