History of Egmore Wesley Church

100 Years of Egmore Wesley Church (1905 – 2005)


1795 – Methodism as a Society separated from the Anglican Church and became the Wesleyan Methodist Church.

1813 – Protestant missions to India legalized by an Act of British Parliament.

1813-14 – Thomas Coke, James Lynch & five others left for Jaffna on Dec. 30th. Coke died en route. Others arrived in Bombay, and moved on to Sri Lanka.

1815 – Andrew Armour, a Scots soldier, helped gather a “Methodist society” in Madras. Five “Methodists” in Madras asked for a missionary from Sri Lanka.

1816 – Oldest Methodist chapel in Asia established at Pettah, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

1817 – Madras Mission emerged. From Ceylon, Lynch arrived at Point Calimere (Kodikkarai). On Feb 3rd he went to Tarangambadi and visited the graves of Ziegenbalg and Plutschau en route to Madras.

1817 – Mar 2 At Madras, the first public service was held in a stable in George Town. Initially Lynch lived in the house of Mr. Durnford, and preached in his own hall. In his letter of 24th Dec 1817: “My congregations are increasing. I preach on Thursdays, and twice on Sabbath days, and read and expound a Homily every Tuesday”.

1819 – James Lynch built the first Methodist Church at Royapettai in Devonshire House compound; opened March 7.

1819 – Feb 1 WMMS in Madras inaugurated. Frederick Orme an English lawyer, became the first Secretary. Later Royapettai became the headquarters for WMMS in South India.

1820 – Elijah Hoole arrived from London. Hoole preached in Tamil & English and translated hymns and worked on revising the Tamil Bible. Preached at Thiruppachur, Wallajabad, Thomas Mount, Poonamallee and beyond.

1822 – Church at Popham’s Broadway, opened April 25th to an overflowing crowd. Rev. Lynch was joined by London Mission Society Rev. W. Loveless and Rev. C. Traveller. Lynch preached on Matt. 18:20: “where two or three are gathered in my name. . .”

1829 – St. Thomas’ Mount Chapel built on site given earlier by Mrs. Isaac. Members were both soldiers and others from mixed nationalities.

1845 – Ebenezer E. Jenkins arrived. A great English and Tamil preacher. Jenkins started an English school at Royapettai that later became Wesley College.

1855 – Rev. Robert Stephenson was appointed for English work in Madras and preaching centers were opened in Vepery, Royapuram and Chintadripet, in 1874 in Perambur.

1892 – Madras district had 8 circuits. European members totaled 166, and were confined to city and St. Thomas’ Mount. Native members totaled 1105: Poonamalee (58), St. Thomas’ Mount (223), Madhurathakam (42), Thiruvallur (360), remaining Native Christians (422) in the four Madras city circuits.

1892 – Garden House at 203 Poonamallee High Road was purchased for the pastor of the English circuit, with a lotus pond in front. Rev. John Beard was the first pastor to occupy the manse. The English circuit included Perambur, St. Thomas Mount, Broadway, Fort, and Pallavaram.

1898 – Rev. John Breedan was appointed to the English circuit in Madras, and worked to
build the new chapel much needed by the Christian population expanding in the Vepery and Egmore areas.

1903 – Dec 28 The lotus pond was filled in and the foundation stone was laid for the new Wesleyan Methodist Church on Poonamalle High Road. Prof. George G. Findlay, D.D. presided and fellow missionaries Rev. Dr. Rudisill, Rev. William Goudie, Rev. Charles H. Monahan and Rev. F.W. Kellett, W.E. Hoare all attended. Rev. William Goudie and Rev. John Breeden both gave messages.

1905 – Feb 11 Egmore Wesley Church was inaugurated. Rev. J.Cooling opened the door and Rev. William H. Findlay, General Secretary of the Wesleyan Mission, gave the message. Later, a large public meeting was chaired by Mr. William E. Hoare. A collection was taken for construction of the church in Perambur, which was also built in 1905. Thirty members from the Broadway church formed the core of the new congregation, and were soon joined by many others.

1917 – Centenary of the Broadway Church was celebrated with Rev. Tunbridge in charge.

1919-22 – Rev. Leslie D. Weatherhead was the popular preacher of Egmore Wesley and attracted students from the young Women’s Christian College (founded in 1915) as well as non-Christians to the services. He was married and his son baptized in the church.

1922-28 – Rev. J. Oswald Cochran served Egmore Wesley and again from 1934 to 1945, thus being the longest serving missionary, 15 years.

1929 – Rev. F.W. Shaw become superintendent and started the tradition of Fetes (fairs) to raise money for the church. Mr. Kayte became organist, followed by Robert Dawson, Mr Michael, Mrs Damayanthi Santwan, Prabhu Singh, Jayaseela Edwin, Ebenezer Edwin, Leslie Vigor, Rueben Dawson, Mrs Ranjini Victor, Mrs Padmini Easwariah .

1933 – Egmore Wesley’s ministry among English-speaking servicemen is highlighted in the Missions Report, reflecting the true spirit of Methodism : « Splendid service , too, is being rendered in the Madras English Circuit, at Egmore, in offering the hand of fellowhsip to the English and Scotch youths who come out from home. To quote from the report : ‘They come out young, to a life entirely different from anything they have been used to ; to servants and affluence. They live among people who have no use for church, where everyone drinks whisky, and in a climate that enervates ideals. I know no situation on earth that puts so much pressure on a man’s moral fibre as this. We have heard and watched man after man go under. One boy, picked up after a motor smash, while drunk, only recovered consciousness to whiper : ‘Don’t let my mother know anytnhing about this.’ One Scotch youth said to me, ‘Nobody cares,’ and he was not one of the soft ones. They are our field, and though they show not a large return in church attendance, we have given time and everything else to them. A large group of them once discussed conversion—a very strange thing for these club-going men. Every month we have rounded them up for service. So far not more than 20 have been together, but always some come. Some have come to a class who have reckoned themselves atheists. This is work not recorded in church returns, and it is only under pressure that it appears in a report. But it is truly our work.’

Methodist Missions in South India. Fortieth Report of the South India Provincial Synod 1933. Appendix X p.91.

1942 Oct 21 – Egmore Wesley Church Hall for fellowship was opened to provide space for Sunday School as well as social events. Mr. Lockley gave the building plan ; Mrs. E. Sales and Mrs. Raymonds declared the hall open at the dedication service.

1945-49 – Rev. John Millns ministered, having a large impact on the development of the church. Choir mistress Mrs Olga Frohlich. Sunday School Superintendent Mrs Ranjini Victor.

The following quote serves as an example of the standing of the church.

‘The Circuit Church in Egmore is crowded morning and evening, people coming as much as an hour before the services. It is famed for its splendid choir, and has broadcast Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Haydn’s Creation. The Carol Service was recorded for broadcasting. There is a weekly local preachers’ study group and seven preachers will take the written examination in February. The Sunday School meets in nearly every room in the Manse as well as in the church and hall. There is a Youth Club which does a first-class job in introducing non-Christians to the Church, and a small but constant trickle of converts, Hindu and Muslim who are publicly baptised after long training. The enthusiasm and affection for the Church is tremendous’.
Church of South India. Madras Diocese. Report on Ex-Methodist Work 1953 p.18
(emphasis is added)

1947 Sept 27 – Church of South India was inaugurated at the St Georges Cathedral. Madras ‘That they all may be one’The Methodist Missionary J.S.M Hooper preached the message.

1956 Jan – Women’s Fellowship formed, headed by Mr. David Rigby, followed by Mrs. H.O.Morton, Mrs. E.L. Thacker, and Mrs. H.S. “Auntie” Charles.

1958 – Rev. Harry O. Morton in his short stay of 2 years helped the stewards to draft a constitution for the church according to Diocese of Madras rules.

1958 – Choir was under the leadership of Mrs. O. Frohlich, and became a self-supporting traveling choir, with regular broadcasts on All India Radio.

1958 Oct – Youth Club was formed with a constitution and support from advisors Mr.&Mrs. D.B. Frohlich and Mr. Sam Isaacs.

1960-64 – Rev. Eric L. Thacker served as Circuit minister and encouraged and taught many lay preachers. Mrs. Thacker developed the Sunday School into ‘one of the best in the city.’

1965 Feb 12-14 – Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of Egmore Wesley Church. Rev. Robert White was Presbyter. Convenor of the Committee was Victor Pandian and Secretary R.C. Royappa. The Rt. Rev. Eber Priestly, Bishop in Medak was the preacher at the services on the 14th.

A Children’s rally was held on the 12th, a Dinner and Meeting held on the 13th with a special message from Mrs. E. Sales, who was a member of the church in 1905 when it was founded. Rev. J.A.J. Binks spoke and Mrs. Reunuka Somesekhar, Principal of Women’s Christian College gave the anniversary address.

1967-72 – Rev. D.M. Samuel served as Presbyter.

1972-79 – Rev. P.G. Cochran served as Presbyter.

1979 – Rev. P.W.Miller served as Presbyter.

1979-84 – Rev. Noel K. Jason served as Presbyter. The balcony inside the Church was built.

1984-89 – Rev. Christopher Solomon served as Presbyter. Foundation laid for the Sunday School Hall on 7.2.1988.

1989.90 – Rev. Augustine Andrews served as Presbyter.On 19th March 1989 Sunday School Hall was inaugurated by the Rt Rev Sundar Clark Bishop in Madras.

1990-99 – Rev. B.J. Premiah served as Presbyter.

1992 – Mrs Damayanthi Santwan became Choir Director, also serving as church organist.

1994 – Parivalaya, “House of Compassion”, was founded as a school and training center for mentally challenged children, particularly girls.

1999-2002 – Rev. S. Chandran Jayakumar Lite served as Presbyter.

2002 – Rev. Dr. Arun Gopal became Presbyter of the English Wesley churches in Egmore, Broadway and St. Thomas Mount.

2003 – 100-year-old C.S.I. Middle School at Perumalpet was repaired by the generosity of the congregation.

2003 – Manapakkam church was built by efforts of Mount Wesley, Egmore Wesley through the twinning program of Madras Diocese.

2004 – The Egmore Wesley church façade was featured in The Hindu in a photograph by R. Ragu heading an article about the Madras Diocese commemoration of John Wesley’s tercentenary.

2005 Feb 20 – Centenary Thanksgiving Service opened the Centenary celebrations. Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. V. Devasahayam gave the message.