Church of the Good Shepherd

History of Church

In Madras, now known as Chennai, the Capital of Tamilnadu in India, the best chosen area, second to none in its beauty is the Sullivan Gardens (presently called as C.I.T. Colony) in Mylapore. This area which is opposite to the Music Academy at the intersection of Cathedral Road, Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai (formerly Edwards Elliots Road) and T.T.K Road (formerly Mowbrays Road), stands the elegant, beautiful and artistically distinct old building is the Good Shepherd Church which was dedicated to the glory of God on 25-01-1899. This Church was originally part of the Scotland Mission and is following Anglican way of worship in Tamil Language. Initially it was a functioning as an associate of the Santhome Church (St. Thomas Tamil Church) which is near the Santhome Cathedral a Catholic Church, where one of the great Apostles (St. Thomas) was laid into rest.

Sullivan garden which had a place of about fifteen acres of land has its own history. The founder of the head postal department in Tamilnadu was Sullivan. He was offered a piece of land in the heart of Madras by the government in accepting a meager amount. Since this area was full of trees and lush shrubs it was called as Sullivan gardens. And even the road behind the Good Shepherd church leading to the Sanskrit College is called the Sullivan Garden Road (now renamed as P.S. Sivasamy Salai).

After the death of Sullivan in 1842, Arch-deacon Harbour purchased this land. During the year 1847 this land was sold to an organization viz: “Society for the Propagation of Gospel” (S.P.G.) for Rs.1700/-. A theological college was established in this area by the “Society for the Propagation of Gospel” (S.P.G.) in 1871 and a large room in the house for the head of college was set apart for prayer purpose. The services were held in the early stages exclusively for the benefit of the students of this college. But later the local Christian residents who were about five hundred families felt the hardship of going all the way to Santhome to attend the Chapel meant for students of this college. Day by day the number was increased and the people opted to visit this large room for meeting their religious needs.
In due course more and more people from nearby places like Pudupet, Gopalapuram, Alwarpet started attending the prayers which resulted in the desire of building a church.

In 1875, the Rev. Savarirayan started the work to raise amount to build a church. The first collection during that time was Rs.311/- and 12 paise. Later his son Theophilus continued the collection work and in 1886 a sum of Rs.111, 5 Anas and 8 paise was collected. This work was entrusted with the Madras Diocesion Committee and various departments allied with it carried on with the work of vigorous collection. At one stage even a handful of rice were collected from the houses and sent to the committee.

In the year 1891, with the help of Rev. David of St. Thomas Tamil Church, Santhome, a small S.P.G. Church was born.

In 1894, the Rev. Westcott who was the presbyter-in-charge of Cathedral Church felt the urgent need of the local congregants and therefore wanted to start the Church building work. When he initiated the works, his wife Mrs. Westcott helped him and stood as a support. Another interested person was one Mr. W.L. Fozen F.R.I.B.A. who put the estimation of Rs.15,000/- but they had only Rs.1548, I Anas and 2 paise on hand.

The foundation stone was laid in 1894 by Mrs. Westcott and this cost of Rs.3000/- was raised by Rev. Westcott and Rev. Gnanamuthu.

The building works could not be proceeded fast due to want of required amount and Rev. Westcott himself donated Rs.2000/- and the SPCK offered an amount of Rs.1000/- Added to this, the last Will amount of an English Lady Mrs. Mariot which was Rs.10,000/- was obtained, which put the total to Rs.17,000/.- The building work was then carried out with the assistance of an Building Architect Mr. W.N. Baakson and the church under the European “Gothic” style and which is unique in its structure was completed in 1898 and was dedicated on the 25th January 1899 by the then Madras Bishop Rev. Fredrik Bell. This dedication ceremony was very grand in the sense that the whole compound was beautifully decorated with flowers and was also well illuminated. The celebration was marked with singing of songs inclusive of Psalm 24 by many Choir members belonging to different churches followed by 25 Clergies, Rt. Rev. Arch Deacon Arthur Williams, Bishop Fredrick Bell and several congregants of Church who took out a procession around the church. In general, the service was very remarkable. Several Englishmen, Anglo – Indians and others participated and was named as the Church of Good Shepherd by Bishop Fredrick Bell.

The unique feature of this church is that it was built in “Gothic Style” and no wood material was used for building, and this is the only Church of its kind in the whole of India. It is constructed with well elevated walls converged on top to form an arch shape without even a single pillar. The ceiling which is beautifully built without any pillars or iron rod is the specialty and this is a unique church in which anyone from any corner can see the Preacher on the Pulpit or on the Altar.

There are seven memorial tablets in the church of which five were erected in honour of the clergies who had served in this church. There is one small black stone embedded in the outer right side wall of the church and the inscription on it is as follows: “AMDG. This stone was laid by EAW, March 26th, 1894. The Baptism Font was erected to the Glory of God and in appreciate remembrance of the labours in Madras of Rev. Joseph Gnanavolivu from 22nd April 1893 to 19th April 1897 who was the first Indian Martyr who died for the sake of religion”.

However not much development took place thereafter and the first expansion took place in 1949 along with the golden jubilee celebrations.
After the formation of Church of South India (C.S.I.) on 27-09-1947, the Church of Good Shepherd along with many Churches in South India became a part of C.S.I.

In all these years the Good Shepherd Church has grown in very many angles and serves the Christian families in the heart of the Madras City.