Uyana Methodist Church celebrates 75 years

By Ransiri Fernando

Uyana Methodist Church is a small beautiful Church. It comprises of brothers and sisters of every level in society. It is important that they should not regard the Church as a merely human organisation or institution.

The Uyana Methodist congregation is celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of the Church Building on November 2, 2002. An Anniversary is a time of rejoice, and an opportunity to be thankful to God, counting the very many blessings. He has bestowed on all.

It is a time to remember with gratitude all those dedicated Pastors and lay leaders who served this Church and gave their best to it. Their Vision, Sacrificial Service, Pastoral Care and their witness have been a challenge to the younger generation. The Jubilee is also the time to look forward - to see new visions to renew our dedication to God and to launch out on new programmes of service. A Jubilee should bring renewal and revival to the church.

Uyana Methodist Church is a small beautiful Church. It comprises of brothers and sisters of every level in society. It is important that they should not regard the Church as a merely human organisation or institution. The Church is in Christ and belongs to God. Members of Uyana Methodist Church should create an atmosphere where people could meet our Lord Jesus face to face.

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Resident priest of the Uyana Methodist Church,
Rev. Sarath Hettiarachchi

The history of the Church goes back to the year 19O3 with the arrival of Rev. Anthony Mendis. Then the city of Moratuwa was not so populated and the number of underprivileged were fewer. However even at that time the social needs of the working class and the poor fisher folk was unmet.

Rev. Mendis was deeply moved by the simple ways in which the people lived and started to educate them and presented the gospel and the love of our living Saviour. Rev. John De Silva who succeeded him went a step further by conducting Bible Classes and appointing a few leaders from Rawatawatte to visit Uyana on a regular basis.

In the year 1907, during the time of Rev. De Silva a cadjan shed was constructed and it served as a Sunday School. A small society was soon formed and the need to have a permanent building to have Sunday Services was badly felt. By this time, Ceylon had become an important British colony both strategically and economically. However the first World War (1914 - 1918) had serious effects on the economy of the country.

In the year 1915, there was an outbreak of violence which started in Kandy District and spread to other parts of the country.

These disturbances were accompanied by rioting and looting and the loss of life and property was considerable. The riots and the war left a great deal of trouble and pushed the country backward.

The Uyana Church too could not make any significant progress till the year 1925. On March 2, 1925 Rev. Dr. W. T. A. Barber cut the first sod for the foundation of the Church, but it took two years to complete the building. On November 2, 1927 it was dedicated and the chief guest was Dr. S. C. Paul FRCS and a pamphlet entitled "The Story of Uyana Methodism" was published as a souvenir. The entire project cost Rs. 10,O2O.00 of which Rs. 2,670.00 was a grant from England and Rs. 4,250.00 from the bazaars of 1924 and 1927.

This Church made history in Ceylon Methodism being the first building to be designed following the ancient Sinhala architecture and open preaching halls. Rev. John Peiris was the Priest-in-charge of Moratuwa and he personally supervised the work of the Uyana Church.

The first twenty five years was a real uphill struggle. There were periods of progress and perhaps longer periods of decline. The advent of Rev. J. A. F. Senaratne helped to draw the people closer to the Church. Signs of animation began to appear. Rev. Fred De Silva brought to the society youthful life and vigour which overflowed and led to the starting of evangelistic activity.

Evangelist Magline Perera was the first resident overseer of the Uyana Church. Uyana Methodist Church became an independent society from August 1951.

Apart from the normal Sunday Services and other special services, the Church caters to members who wish to groupe deeply into the Bible through special study groups. It provides assistance to the poor and down trodden. Poor homes are visited regularly and a Foster Parent Scheme is in operation. Payment of tuition fees, providing stationary and other requisites form part of the social service work undertaken by the young people.

Some members of the Church visit refugee camps and drought stricken areas to distribute bare essentials, dry rations and clothes. Last year the Church started a Nursery for Pre-school children in its newly build spacious Sunday School hall.

The present Minister-in-charge of Uyana Rev. Sarath Hettiarachchi has involved himseslf in all the activities of the Church which were many. He is particularly interested in Peace and Reconciliation work and has contributed immensely towards all the peace programmes not only in Moratuwa but throughout the country.

The Service of Thanksgiving was held on November 3, 2002 presided over by the President of the Methodist Church Rev. Noel Fernando, Rev. Sumith Weeramundi the Superintendent Minister who has been the leading hand. A large number of clergy and laity are expected to attend this service.

God has given Uyana Church a beautiful building. Let is be a light house giving light, hope and direction to those tossed to and fro in the stormy sea of life.