A the end of January, a delegation from the Cathedral travelled to India to visit St. Paul’s, Edayattupadam, a village parish of the Diocese of Madyha Kerala, Church of South India. The Cathedral has been involved in helping this parish build a new church building. Sharon and I made the trip two years ago and returned this time with a larger group which included Dorothy Konyha, Ed, Chris, Henry and Nina Palattella and their neighbor Ruth Swaney. Cathedral members Darrin, Kara, Ian, and Michael Gladney, on assignment with GE in Bangalore, joined the group upon our arrival. Sunil Yesudas, who was instrumental in beginning the relationship of the “two St. Paul’s,” was also along for several of the days in India.
While we experienced the sights and sounds of India from the coastal waters of Cochi to the mountains near Munnar, it was our time in the village of Edayattupadam that was at the heart of the visit. The village parish is primarily a congregation of the working poor. Their congregation is thriving and becoming recognized as a spiritual center for the region. In the village itself, even non-Christians come to the church to pray and be prayed for. Appropriately, it was St. Paul’s Feast Day when the folks from Erie’s St. Paul’s joined with their Indian brothers and sisters for worship.
St. Paul’s Day is kept with great festivity, with processions and prayers on both the eve and the day. The visitors from Erie were met at the edge of the village, presented with flowers, and led in procession to the church with choir, drummers and a band leading the way, along with many colorful Indian umbrellas. The church was filled to overflowing, out the door, on the steps and around the building with people looking in the windows. Women were on one side, men on the other, with the children sitting on mats in the front, open Bibles in their laps. The Liturgy was three hours long with a forty-five minute sermon. The Prayers of the People include many opportunities to come forward for prayer and the laying on of hands. Despite differences in language and custom, it was recognizably the Eucharistic Liturgy of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which we all share in common, and so we were at home with our people — the people of God. A noisy and joyful procession around the church (three times) came at the end, followed by lots of picture taking with the visitors.
We were happy to present just over $5000, including offerings collected from our Sunday School, so that work could resume on the small Sunday School building next to the church. In my remarks I said , “We have been blessed with some material riches to share with you. But you have spiritual riches to share with us. Pray for us, pray for us, remember our faces and pray for us, because we are spiritually poor.” And indeed we are.
During the trip, I was reading and reflecting on the writings of Leslie Newbigin. He went to India as a missionary, eventually serving as a bishop in the Church of South India. Returning to England later in life, he realized that we are now as much missionaries in our Western societies as he had been in India. And indeed we are.
The Very Reverend Dr. John P. Downey, Dean of Cathedral of St. Paul