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Sunday, 8 November 2009





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Christ Church celebrates 156 years of worship

Christ Church, Galle Face celebrated 156 years of evangelical worship in Sri Lanka, on October 13. A special Fellowship Thanksgiving Service will be held today (November 8) to commemorate the occasion.Christ Church was begun by the CMS or Church Missionary Society and was known as the CMS Cathedral in those days, The foundation stone was laid on January 21, 1853, by the Bishop of Colombo the Rt. Rev. Chapman. On October 13, 1853, the church was opened.

Christ Church in the past

Rev. G. Pettitt, Secretary of the CMS in Ceylon was its first Vicar, but returned to the UK a short while later due to ill-health. He was replaced by Rev. William Knight and subsequently by Rev. C.C. Fenn, until Rev. Henry Whitley took permanent charge. Rev. Whitley worked among about 6,000 people living in and around Slave Island, including Malays, the soldiers of Ceylon Rifles brought in by the Dutch, and ministered in all three languages.

His incumbency is best remembered today because of his tragic death as a result of an old school wall falling on him in November 1860 while he supervised construction. Rev. Whitley's death saw the succession of a long line of CMS representatives who served as the Vicars of Christ Church.

W. A. Tunstall, a British architect, did the original design of the church, free of charge. The initial structure was small, and built with local materials, mainly of kabook.

In 1897, the West wall fell, due to the deterioration of its kabook from heavy monsoonal showers.

The church was rebuilt on its old design in brick and its foundation stone was laid on 14th June 1898 by Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. R. S. Copleston.

Its construction in early Gothic style features a pointed arch nave arcade and king post roof bracing into a succession of flying buttresses. The emphatic verticality of both elements and structure soar upwards to heaven and towards God, as if defying the strength of gravity. Stained glass had been used for the windows in the sidewalls of the sanctuary, as well as the intricately set East window and the Rose window with their myriad colours. The floor is mosaic, placed in a repeating geometrical pattern.

Christ Church today

The interior is refined with timber carvings on pews and the stands are engraved with intricate foliage traceries. The building of the belfry began in 1918 and was dedicated in 1919.

The bell, weighing one ton, was donated in memory of Lt. C.M.G. William Wilson Mitchell, by his widow. The cross on the top of the church was placed in 1954.

Today, Christ Church consists of two parishes - the English under the incumbent Ven. Joseph Sarvananthan and the Tamil under Rev. Norman Jeyachandran. English services are held at 7 am and 6.00 pm.

The Tamil service is at 8 am. The Sinhala Eucharist is sung at 9.45 every Sunday. This truly fulfils the church's mission of uniting people of many walks of life, irrespective of caste or creed.

Christ Church has been the chief evangelical centre of worship in Colombo for over a century. Although the surroundings have changed dramatically and the Church is now dwarfed by towering skyscrapers comprising hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and commercial enterprises, Christ Church continues in its perennial task of relating to the contemporary lives of its people as it preaches the message of the Gospel of Peace.



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