175TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS OF ST.STEPHEN’S CHURCH, CNI, BANDRA, MUMBAI
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1
Established in 1845 by the British to meet the spiritual needs of its Protestant Christian citizens in Mumbai, St.Stephen’s Church celebrated its 175th anniversary on January 12, 2020. This report summarises the series of events that were organised to commemorate this significant milestone.
Preparations for the celebrations began during the second half of 2019. During this period, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury was visiting India. I met with the Archbishop at the CSI Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kottayam, Kerala on September 1, 2019, presented him with a copy of Church on the Hill, a book chronicling the history of St.Stephen’s Church, and informed him about our 175th year. The Archbishop conveyed his blessings and good wishes to the Presbyter and members of the St.Stephen’s parish on the occasion of our anniversary.
The 175th anniversary celebrations commenced with a spectacular choral programme at the Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir, Bandra on November 10, 2019. Led by the choir of St.Stephen’s Church, choristers of Christ Church, Byculla, the Paranjoti Academy Chorus and the St. Thomas’ Cathedral lent their support and talent by joining in, with Mrs. Marilyn Chhabra’s magic on the keyboards. Each mellifluous number praised and thanked our Lord for his abundant mercies, harmoniously breathing life to Psalm 71, verse 23: “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you, I whom you have delivered.”
A film on the various activities of the church was aired during the choral programme. Specially prepared for the 175th anniversary, the film provided an overview of the various activities of the church, including the commendable efforts of the Queenie Captain Community Centre Society, the Women’s Fellowship for Christian Service, the Youth Fellowship, and the Sunday School.
Graced by Rt. Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Joshua, former Bishop of Bombay, Dr. Mrs. Usha Joshua, Fr.Michael Goveas, Vice-Rector, Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, Rev.Thomas Jacob, Dr.Mrs.Sybil Thomas, and clergy and sisters from various churches and congregations, the choral programme was a resounding success and received much appreciation from the large audience, consisting of members of our church, their families and friends, and members of different churches.
The choir programme was soon followed by our annual Harvest Festival/Thanksgiving Service and festivities on November 24, 2019. This well-attended service was specially dedicated to gratefully acknowledge, honour and praise the Almighty’s unfailing grace on our parish over the past 175 years, and raised substantial resources to support our outreach and mission activities.
Another momentous occasion was the launch of the St.Stephen’s Chowk and the St.Stephen’s Steps. Designed by Abraham John Architects, and initiated by Karen D’mello, former Municipal Councillor, and Mr. Asif Zakaria, the current Municipal Councillor, this contemporarily designed space, directly aligned with the gate of St.Stephen’s Church, facilitates cultural events and recreational activities, and was inaugurated by Rt. Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Joshua, former Bishop of Mumbai, on December 22, 2019 in the presence of Mr.Alan Abraham, the architect, and members of the local Advanced Locality Management (ALM) committee.
The 175th anniversary celebrations culminated in a special Thanksgiving Service and Programme in our beautifully decorated church on Sunday January 12, 2020. The service and programme were graced by Rt. Rev. Dr. Prakash Patole, the Bishop of Mumbai, Mrs. Smita Patole, Rt. Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Joshua, former Bishop of Bombay, Dr. Mrs. Usha Joshua, former presbyters of St.Stephen’s Church and their spouses, Rev.Dr. Thomas Ninan, Rev. Jeffrey C. Bardey and Mrs. Malati, Rev John Silas, Rev. K.I. Dyvasirvadam and Mrs. Jyotsna, and Mrs.Hannah Ranganadhan. We had the privilege of thanking and honouring them for their valuable service to the church during their tenure.
We were privileged by the participation of several parishioners and the family of former members in the service and programme, and delighted by the presence of Mr. Walter Alfred, centenarian and the oldest member of our parish. senior stalwarts, both former and current, were honoured for their longstanding and faithful service to the parish. These included Late Mrs. Monica Captain, Late Mrs. Queenie Captain, Mrs. Valsa and Late Mr. Viju Chandy, Late Mr. K.C. Cherian, Late Mrs. Susie and Late Mr. George Mathai, Late Mr. K.C. Nainan, Late Mr. Douglas Peacock, Mrs. Loolu and Late Mr. George Thomas, Late Mrs. Irene Whittam, Dr. M.D. David, Mrs. Shalini and Late Mr. Raguel Sumant Dongre, Mr Peter Ferdinands, Mrs. Lizzy and Mr. A.P. Kurian, Mrs. Olga and Mr. Ashley Nazareth, Mrs. Sally and Mr. Sam Varkey. Appreciation was also conveyed to Late Mr. Ganpat Halde, former verger of our church for several years.
Clergy and Sisters from other parishes, including Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas of St. Peter’s Church, Fr.Michael Goveas, Vice-Rector, Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, Mr.Vinod Raj, Diocesan Treasurer, and office-bearers of neighbouring buildings, also honoured us with their presence.
All clergy, senior stalwarts and invitees were honoured with special mementoes created for the occasion.
The programme also unveiled Sitara, a social initiative of St.Stephen’s Church to strengthen our endeavours for the health and educational needs of vulnerable communities in our commitment to expressing our faith in action.
The programme ended with a lunch for the visiting clergy, guests, parishioners and their families.
A number of people worked hard towards all of these programmes. My deep gratitude and appreciation to each and every one of them, especially Rev. Thomas Jacob, Presbyter of St.Stephen’s Church, Vinod Kuriyan, Choir Conductor, and all the members of the St.Stephen’s and other choirs who practiced for several months, the organising committee of the 175th anniversary programme, the Pastorate Committee, the Queenie Captain Community Centre Society, the Women’s Fellowship for Christian Service, the Youth Fellowship, the Sunday School, Mrs. Saguna Doshi, Mr. Phoolchand and Mr. Kishore Mhabdi.
My very special appreciation to the parishioners of this great church for their wholehearted fellowship, commitment and generosity, all of which makes St. Stephen’s the congregation what it is. The world has changed enormously over the past centuries. St.Stephen’s Church has been a beacon of hope and strength to many and continues as a constant witness to the Christian faith in the area.