On Sunday 4 November 2018 some 1800 people from across Brisbane gathered in colourful attire to celebrate the blessing and dedication of the former New-Life Lutheran church, Hilllcrest – now St Thomas the Apostle Syro Malabar Parish Church.
‘The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, based in India, is a Major Archiepiscopal Church in full communion with the Apostolic See of Rome. The church follows the East-Syrian liturgy which dates back to the third century’, explains Graham Huf, Lay Chaplain at St Mark’s Lutheran Church Mt Gravatt. ‘Known for its deep-rooted spirituality and high rate of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the Syro-Malabar Church is perhaps the most vibrant Catholic church in the world, with over four million believers and a rich and fascinating history.’
Syro-Malabar Catholics trace their origins and faith to the missionary efforts of St Thomas the Apostle, who landed at Kodungallur in Kerala, India, in 52AD. St Thomas was martyred at Mylapur, Chennai, India, in 72AD, after preaching and then establishing Christian communities in different parts of India.
At the turn of the century, many Malayalee families migrated to Australia from India and various other parts of the world.
During the dedication service, parish priest Father Farghese Vavolil gave a brief history of the church plant, paying tribute to LCAQD Bishop Paul Smith and District Executive Officer Michael Turner for their assistance in making the day a reality.
Father Farghese Vavolil and Graham Huf had previously met and formed a relationship through their work at Greenslopes Hospital, where they both serve as chaplains. Through their friendship, Graham found himself in the unique position where he was personally invited as a special guest at the dedication service as the representative of the LCAQD.
‘I felt a real sense of excitement that God is obviously working in this community – especially among the young people’, Graham says. ‘Approximately fifty young people celebrated their first communion at the service!’
Graham says that members of the LCAQD would always be welcome to worship at St Thomas the Apostle Syro Malabar Parish Church, but to just be aware that the language used in worship is Malayalam, one of 22 scheduled languages of India.
Graham encourages members of the LCAQD to pray that God would continue to work his saving grace among those immigrants from India and elsewhere and that God would continue to give new life to this once thriving community.
‘A couple of years ago the Men’s Prayer Group from St Mark’s went to the campus and prayed that God would continue to bless this church plant’, he says. ‘At the time a group from another denomination was worshipping in the building, and we prayed that God would use this facility to further his kingdom, but we could never have imagined the direction that God has taken!’