St James's Church, Yeovil welcomes Indian congregation

31st May 2024

Around 100 people came together at St James’s Church, Yeovil for the first gathering of Mar Thoma Church, an Indian congregation that will be meeting at St James for worship every two months. 

The Mar Thoma is a reformed Orthodox Christian denomination, rooted in the province of Kerala, India. They worship in the Malayalam language. Some members of the church have relocated to the UK from India and have settled in the Yeovil area, so were looking for a permanent base to use for regular worship. The Mar Thoma leadership approached St James to discuss the possibility of developing an agreement for sharing the building. 

Mark Felstead, who is a lay worship assistant at St James, said, “At St James, we have been feeling that God is bringing together more people from different cultural backgrounds. This was a wonderful opportunity, warmly welcomed by our Vicar the Revd David Keen and Bishop Michael, for which the Mar Thoma expressed their enormous gratitude.”

The name Mar Thoma translates as Saint Thomas, and the church traces its origins to Saint Thomas's missionary work in India from AD 52 to AD 72. Mark, and Chris Harris, a Reader at St James, were among those who attended the inaugural service and were provided with an English translation of the liturgy. Mark said he feels it is a privilege to offer welcome and hospitality to others in the community, “It is a very beautiful expression of the body of Christ. To have a church from another part of the world within our own precincts feels like the most enormous joy and privilege. 

“I also think connecting with other cultures and communities is a wonderful opportunity for us. Everyone who's heard about it feels that this is something very special for St James.”

The first service was a Pentecost celebration, led by Fr Sanoj, who came to Yeovil with other members of the Bristol Mar Thoma congregation and some of those who worship at St John’s Church in Taunton. Reflecting on the service Mark said, “Their faith and their church community is so important to them and is clearly greatly cherished. All the care and love they put into making their worship as beautiful as it is, is a wonderful sign of their faith and their love for God.”

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