The history of The Mar Thoma Church in the North American and European continent represents the dreams and aspirations of the faithful members of the Church. Commencing as a small prayer group in 1972, the first approved parish was recognized in New York in 1976. From this humble beginning, the Mar Thoma Church began to grow.
As per the decision of the Episcopal Synod, the decision was made to form the “Diocese of North America and Europe” to meet the specific needs of the parishes and its members in this area. As the need to truly ground the church into the reality of the “Western” world was felt, the Diocesan Assembly took the step to permanently house the Diocese. Hence, the Diocesan Assembly purchased property in Richboro, PA, in 1994, and later moved to its current location in Merrick, N Y. Since the young diocese needed to be nurtured and developed, the Episcopal Synod appointed the first resident Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Zacharias Mar Theophilus with effect from October 1993. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Euyakim Mar Coorilos now serves as the Diocesan Bishop.
As our Diocese grew, so did one of its parishes, The Mar Thoma Church Philadelphia, whose roots go way back to the early sixties. During that time, a few Christians belonging to different denominations in Kerala came to Philadelphia for higher studies and hopes for a better life. They decided to meet together once a month on a Sunday to worship in their traditional way, using their Malayalam Liturgies. This formed a non-denominational Christian congregation.
Over time, more and more Malayalee Christians came to the United States. Many of them chose to settle down in and around the Philadelphia area. Along with the increase in people began the formation of different Malayalee congregations.
The MarThoma Church Philadelphia parish is now 39 years old. The Late Rt. Rev. Easow Mar Timotheos visited us in the fall of 1976 and encouraged us to establish a congregation of The MarThoma Church to foster the faith and practices of our parent church in India. A special meeting of The Mar Thoma Church members living in the Phladelphia area was convened in October 1976 under the leadership of Rev. K.S. Mathew. It was decided in that meeting to form a MarThoma congregation in Philadelphia. The name adopted for the congregation was “Mar Thoma Christian Congregation of Philadelphia”. In 1977, the Missionary Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrystosom recognized it as a congregation of our Mother Church and appointed Rev. K.S. Mathew as the first vicar. In 1983, the congregation was recognized as a Parish by the Synod and the name of the congregation was changed to its current name, “The MarThoma Church, Philadelphia” which was approved by the State of Pennsylvania in 1985.
In June 1989 the Parish acquired a place of worship at 2060 Orthodox St. The first service was officially conducted in December 1989 and our present place of worship was dedicated in June 1990 by the Diocesan Bishop at that time….The Rt. Rev Dr. Philipose Mar Chrystostom. Our parish celebrated its Silver Jubilee in October 2001.
In March 2009 the Parish acquired its current place of worship at 1085 Camp Hill Road, Fort Washington PA 19034
Our parish currently has 236 families and is led under the leadership of Rev. Jinu Abraham. Rev. Dennis Abraham serves as the Youth Chaplain for the South East Region, which our parish is a part of.
We strive to conduct 2 services each Sunday; One service in English and the second service in Malayalam. One Holy Communion Service is conducted every Sunday. In addition to Sunday service, our parish has 8 prayer groups providing time for fellowship for our parish members outside of church. Additionally, 8 organizations exist to cater to the special needs of our members. This includes the Sunday School, Edavaka Mission, Sevika Sanghom, Yuvajana Sakhyam, Youth Fellowship, Young Women’s Fellowship, English and Malayalam Choirs and the Resource Center. In addition to meeting the needs of our members, our Parish continues to play a role within the local community as well as participate in Ecumenical functions.
As you can see, our parish has been a part of an amazing journey….from this journey came the inception of three daughter parishes leading and nurturing Christians in and around the Philadelphia area…..and the journey continues with each passing day. Lets us remember that the decisions we make today will be a part of our history tomorrow.
Passage from Romans 12:6-8 reads:
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Let us remember our church motto: “Lighted to Lighten”. Chances are, you have a book right in front of you with this logo printed on it. We see it everywhere. What does it mean? In Mathew 5:14 we read “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl”. The role of the church is to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every believer and member of the Church is given the light….Use the light, use the abilities that God has given to each of you, so you can lighten others.