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Mar Thoma Congregation

Mar Thoma in New Zealand

Mar Thoma Congregation
I presumed that there are a variety of Christians from India in New Zealand, but I don’t think I knew, until Phillip Tovey told me, that there is at least one Mar Thoma Church parish in New Zealand. And there are possibly other communities – I am trying to find out.

The St Thomas Mar Thoma Church meets in St Thomas Anglican Church, New Lynn. [I can find out little more about that Anglican Church (they do not appear to have a website) than that the “Clergy In Charge is The Reverend Thomas Thomas” – you could not make this up!]

Rt. Rev. Joseph Mar Barnabas Episcopa
Rt. Rev. Joseph Mar Barnabas Episcopa
The Mar Thoma Syrian Church Of Malabar is in full communion with the Anglican Church. This is a church that traces its life back to St Thomas the Apostle. There are a number of denominations that are called Saint Thomas Christians deriving from Kerala, India. Mar Thoma are also in full communion with the Malabar Independent Syrian Church.

In Auckland, their service every Sunday is at 11 a.m. alternating 1st & 3rd Sundays Malayalam Qurbana (“Holy Offering” or “Holy Sacrifice” ie the Eucharist), 2nd & 4th – English Communion, 5th Sunday – Holy Qurbana in English/Malayalam.

The main Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer of the East Syrian tradition is the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari (particularly significant because it lacks the Last Supper story which many in the West regard as consecratory), while that of the West Syrian tradition, including Mar Thoma, is the Liturgy of Saint James [a liturgy developed some time from the first to the fourth century].

The Eastern Churches may be further grouped into the Great Eastern Church and the Lesser Eastern Churches. The Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches belong to the Greater Eastern Church while the Coptic, Armenian, Syrian and Indian Churches come under the Lesser Eastern Churches group. The latter were (and still are) self governing churches.

The Mar Thoma Church retained its oriental form of worship and practices, and added to it a missionary zeal gained from study of the open Word of God and encouraged by the work of western missionaries.

The Mar Thoma Church therefore, is neither a Protestant Church of the Western type nor an Orthodox Church of the Eastern type. It is oriental in its worship, autonomous in its administration, and missionary in its actions. It is a bridge between the Eastern and Western ecclesiastical traditions.

Not only, then, in this country do we have three Tikanga (cultural streams) with parallel jurisdictions of different bishops in the one church over the same geographic area, but we have at least one other episcopal jurisdiction in full communion with these. For those interested, happy exploring of the links I provide, and of thinking through some more about this…

Top photo – the Auckland congregation

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21 thoughts on “Mar Thoma in New Zealand”

  1. It is always satisfying to get a glimpse of the exrent of “the Holy Catholic Church”. As i understand it the liturgy of ST. James the Just is one of the oldest still extant. The lack of the last Supper in the consecratory is, I understand, also accepted by Rome in the Syriac churches in communion with it which more than irritates some of the most conservative commentators on the Roman rite.

  2. I am not sure what you mean by the Anaphora having ‘no Last Supper story’, or what you infer from this. Every text of the Liturgy of St James that I have ever seen has an instution narrative that is entirely recognisable as what might be described as a ‘Last Supper story’. Translations into English mary vary slightly but the content and intent is far less equivocal than any Anglican liturgy I have seen:
    “When he, he was given up, or rather gave himself up, for the life and salvation of the world,taking bread in his holy, immaculate and unblemished and immortal hands, looking up heaven and showing it to you, his God and Father, giving thanks, blessing, sanctifying and breaking it, he shared it among his holy and blessed Disciples and Apostles, saying: Take, eat. This is my body………..”

    In common with other Eastern Rite liturgies the epeclesis follows rather than preceedes the instution narrative; but unlike some Anglican litugies which either make no reference to the Holy Spirit or ask the Spirit to descend on anything and everything except the gifts on the altar, the anaphora is regarded consecratory in it’s entirety.

    1. Thanks, Richard. There is no suggestion in my post that the Liturgy of St James lacks the Last Supper story. As I indicate, it is “the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari… [that] lacks the Last Supper story”. Blessings.

  3. Our Utrecht Union Old Catholic Churches are towards the process of entering full communion with the Mar Thoma Church too. And the circle will be completed.

    Don’t you also have Mariavites in New Zealand? If so, you’d have one more episcopal jurisdiction in full communion with yourselves.

  4. As far as I can tell, the Mar Thoma Church is entirely within the West Syriac Rite. It appears that the Malankara church was originally East Syriac, but that difficulty in obtaining a bishop at various points in the distant past led to West Syriac (Syriac Orthodox) bishops ministering to the church. The Malankara church is today deeply fragmented (with a number of ongoing lawsuits between them). Some elements use the East Syriac Rite, while others use the West. Two particular churches are in communion with Rome: the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church (West Syriac) and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (East Syriac). Anglican-missionary influence, particularly in religious education of the clergy, led to a number of reformers breaking away from the larger West Syriac Rite contingents. The more conservative of these are the Mar Thoma Church, retaining much of their liturgy. Less conservative reformers joined what later became the Church of South India and the St Thomas Evangelical Church.

  5. I’ve been chatting today with a MarThoma Christian, a student at EIT – who goes to his local Presbyterian Church, once a month, for communion. He wasn’t aware that there are others from his church in Hawke’s Bay – including a group who meet to pray together regularly.
    Not sure how often their priest gets down this way – but the others I have heard from are quite devout – another recently refused an offer of some Sushi I was eating for lunch… said his fasting for Lent included not eating meat, including chicken and other white meat!

  6. Just reached here through google search.

    There is a Marthoma Church in Auckland. Here is the link http://www.aucklandmarthoma.org

    There could be other Kerala based Syrian churches (also Known as St. Thomas Christian churches) also in NewZeland, because the people belonging to these churches tend to move/migrate together and share many things. Usually there could be Indian Orthodox or Indian Jacobite church also near to a place where there is a Marthoma Chuch (and Vice Versa also).

  7. You may know the answer to this. There are many fine eastern churches. Do you know if Mar Thoma Church membership is open to all races and backgrounds ? I don’t like to ask this question but it is an important one. Many eastern churches do not seem to have any members who are not in whichever ethnic group the church is aimed at.

    1. Thanks, Antony. I cannot give a definitive answer, but I would be very surprised to find that there is a restriction of races and backgrounds. Although you notice “many eastern churches do not seem to have any members who are not in whichever ethnic group”, my understanding is that if you want to join them and fit in with their approach there is no restriction. Blessings.

  8. Thank you for adding this page. I am from Kerala and belong to Marthoma church, I was searching for Kerala churches in NZ after reaching in NZ two weeks back and found this page. I found that there are more Kerala based churches in New Zealand. there are churches by Syrian Catholics, Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church, and Indian orthodox faction as well in NZ. Copying the site URLs so that it might help someones who searches for it.

    http://skccw.nz/ – Syrian catholic church
    http://sdiocnz.org/ – Indian orthodox church
    http://www.sgiochamilton.org/ – Indian orthodox church
    https://www.stpeterschurch.org.nz/ – Jacobite Syrian orthodox church

  9. I thought it would have been better to study a bit more before writing this type of articles. In New Zealand, you could find Mar Thoma groups in all big cities especially we have a big congregation and our own vicar in Auckland. In Christchurch we have about 20 Mar Thoma families and we hold non-communion service once every month and a home prayer fellowship and Sunday school on the last Saturday of the month. Wellington, Hamilton and Palmerston North have their own prayer fellowships and Sunday school classes.
    So as for other churches. Orthodox group have two registered churches one in Christchurch and one in Auckland with two separate priests and Jacobite church has also having more than two priests and various congregations in New Zealand.
    If anyone is interested to join in a Mar Thoma group anywhere in New Zealand please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to help.

    1. Thanks, Laly. I’m not sure why you are castigating me for writing this positive post about Mar Thoma nearly a decade ago. There is now a facebook page and a couple of websites (here and here) – all these are half a dozen years after the post you are criticising was posted. I do not know how you expected people to “contact you”? Blessings.

  10. I am really sorry…, my apologies. that was not a criticism. I just wanted to see the facts strait, especially people are still referring your article and thinking that Mar Thoma sabha is still in its infancy in New Zealand. I can see that this article was published in 2014 and by that time I think, our third vicar was here. Thank you for providing other links. God bless you.

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