The 150th Anniversary of any institution is an event to be celebrated; 150 years of uninterrupted worship is a blessing, and so it is with the Holy Emmanuel Church, Moratuwa, founded in 1860.
Interestingly, the Church was founded by someone who was a Buddhist, who was dedicated to monkhood by his parents and had his early education in the Palliyagodella Buddhist Temple in Moratuwa: Jeronis de Soysa. However, his interest lay mainly in the study of Sinhala, astrology and ayurveda which he practised with a sincere desire for the welfare of others and not as a means of earning money.
Sir Emerson Tennant, in his book “Ceylon”, refers to his residence “Moratu Walauwa” as “the model of a Sinhalese mansion with its gardens and oriental grounds” and goes on to add that “the entire district has benefited by the generosity of this public spirited man and, in recognition of his patriotism in opening roads and promoting the welfare of the inhabitants, he has recently conferred on him the rank of “ Modliyar of the Governor’s Gate”.
This was in 1853. During this time he had become daily associated with the Revd. William Oakley, the C.M.S. Missionary in caring for the less fortunate, and embraced the Christian faith with his entire household. It was in commemoration of this great event in his life and in thankfulness for divine blessings that Mudliyar Jeronis de Soysa constructed Holy Emmanuel Church.
Although the Church was constructed in the colonial era, its worship and activities were conducted in both English and Sinhala. The Church caters perhaps to the largest number of Sri Lankan Anglicans and its Sunday School is said to be the largest in the region. The increasing participation of the laity, particularly women and youth in the activities of the Church, especially in social service, mainly to the two ends of the social spectrum: Elders and Youth in the laudable establishment of the “Sunshine Home” and the Educational and Scholarship Fund, is testimony to its vibrancy and Christian witness.
Despite the prestige of Holy Emmanuel, the Souvenir is written objectively and realistically without any flattery, and admits of its ups and downs and its shortcomings in expanding its social outreach; it is thus an honest record of its history and of its parishioners coping with change and its attendant problems, rather than being an adulatory publication on the occasion of a landmark anniversary.
The Souvenir also provides an incisive insight into problems faced by the Anglican Church worldwide [comprising 77 million], which impact on Holy Emmanuel as well.
The Souvenir is beautifully illustrated and is replete with photographs of the Church as well as of its previous and recent Incumbents, inspiring Messages, the various arms of Church activity and its Constitutional and Administrative Development over the 150 years covered, which provides interesting, informative and inspiring reading.
The words of the compilers of the 125th Anniversary Souvenir seem to have inspired the compilers of the 150th Souvenir: “Remembrance of the past will enable us to shape our future aright. It should be our prime endeavour to transform ourselves from a state of luke warmness to one of intense devotion and faithfulness to foster mutual Christian Love amongst ourselves and to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to those who do not know Him”.
The compilers of the 150th Anniversary Souvenir must be congratulated on having produced a comprehensive and elegant publication that lives up to this inspiration and to the very name of the Church : “God with us”.