Glimpses of a Spiritual Lifeline

Mrs Ruth Abraham Wesley

The Wesley English Church (WEC) was never just a church that we have been members of since the past, say, 52 years!! To my parents (the late S. K. Abraham and Hannah Abraham and we their children (the late Jason and Peter) and we who continue to be a part of the church (Jacob, Esther and Ruth) WEC has been an integral part of our lives and a spiritual lifeline ‘thru’ all the changing scenes of life’.

Being transferred from Allahabad, and looking for a Methodist church, my parents and we, their 5 children became members of this church way back in 1956. My dad who instinctively took a deep interest in the workings of the church was the youngest (at around 30) to be elected to the PC and as it turned out was the oldest PC member when he passed away (at 70) in November 1993. I must mention here that dad was the first ever Indian to be elected Secretary of our church and served as a very willing Secretary for an unbelievable time period, I think, of over 25 years! During these years he involved himself with the various activities in the church, -- the Men’s Fellowship, which in later years he even revived together with Mr Chander and Mr. Panicker. As Convenor of the ‘Wesley Forum’,together with Mr. Karat, he organized talks which were followed by lively discussions on general and social topics of relevance. I still remember a talk of how our eyes can deceive us with a talk on ‘optical illusions’ by a scientist from the Indian Institute of Science.

As Secretary, dad took a lot of interest and enjoyed the ‘Announcements’ he had to make every Sunday. At a time in the 1960s when there were no emails, internet, cell phones or even easily available land phones, I still remember how he would cycle up to the UTC to get the hymn numbers for the Sunday service and then Saturday evenings were always devoted to writing out the Announcements. He so embellished and in turn, enriched it with relevant quotations and anecdotes to make people think, humorous real-time situations to make people chuckle and always managed to tug at people’s heartstrings to make them empathetic, and never hesitated to say sorry if he had slipped up on something. And so his Sunday Announcements, as so many would tell him, became an event that so many in the congregation actually waited for!!

Dad also had a great singing voice and believed that singing in church was one way to give glory to God (much to the annoyance, I think, of the choir as dad’s side of the congregation would follow his booming voice and sing hymns at his pace!! He kept quite in sync with members who were a lot younger and found the gang of friends (Kenny, Manoj, David and Billy) truly rejuvenating. Often on the way back home from his early morning walks dad would take a breather and sit down on the steps of the closed church door - we think he must have found the “prayer-soaked walls” of the church almost therapeutic!! The last portfolios he held were that of Convenor of the Centenary celebrations and representing our church at the Diocesan Council, but when we lost my mother very suddenly in 1987, it devastated dad so softly and slowly that he seemed to have, in retrospect, just lingered on till 1993.

My mother was an active member of the Women’s Fellowship, its Bible studies (also TAFTEE) as well as the cooking demonstrations. As children we went thru’ Sunday School (we remember Mrs. Kirkwood, Mr. Manuel, Mrs. Galliyot, Mr. Balfour, and Mr. Elmo Fernando. Esther and I were part of the choir for many years and sang under Mr. Singh, and Mrs. Kingsley. We were enthusiastic members of the Wesley Youth League (we remember Basil and Ranjini Rebeiro, Rema and Ravi Gnanadickam, Sonny and Iris Devadason). We took part in skits of social relevance or just entertainment, cooking experiments, visiting the sick in hospitals, carol singing in an Army truck! (courtesy Maj. Joseph). As an active member in the Youth League which for a season successfully included many from different faiths, my brother Jason organized youth services - some sensitively disturbing and some daringly different - be it prayers for social justice which included ‘fallen women’, handing out a white flower to the congregation as a sign of peace; Prakash Joseph singing Dylan’s ‘Blowing in the wind’ perched on the altar railing; or the taped music of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘A most peculiar man” being played during the service - the congregation was indeed awakened.

As children we belonged to a part of a bigger family of Church friends - we can never forget the families of Mr. G Ross, Miss Hart, Mrs. Galliyot, Mrs McDermott, Mrs. Burgess, Rev. Arangaden, Mr. Miguel, Col. Paul, Mr. A C David, Rev. Frith, Mr. Band, Miss Coin, Mr. Legge, Rev. Harris, Mr. Hart (who was the secretary previous to dad) - the list could be endless.

Indeed, the Wesley English Church has been a ……… witness ‘through all the changing scenes’ of our lives -- our confirmations, betrothals, weddings, christenings and as if in full circle, the christenings and confirmations of our children. And of course the sad part of our lives -- the funeral and memorial services of my father, mother and brothers.

Wesley English Church will always be to us a spiritual monument. Our prayers are that this Church will continue to be a source of solace, strength and joy to generations of God’s people renewing our belief in the faith that beyond the scaffolding of life’s uncertainties that encompass us,“God stands watching
over His own”.