The Mar Thoma Church is known under different names to signify its various association over the centuries such as ‘The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church or Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar’, which can be often confusing. This ancient Church is believed to have been founded by St. Thomas, the apostle, in AD 52 in India. Now the Church is known simply as the Mar Thoma Church (MTC). This name stands for its association with St. Thomas, Eastern worshipping traditions and connections, St. James liturgy, and the reformation ideas of the nineteenth century.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the life of this ancient Syrian Church in Kerala, India, was in a state of decline and flux. Lack of theological insights, unscriptural doctrines and lacklustre leadership weakened the Church. ‘The Mission of help’ from the Church of England and CMS missionaries came to Kerala in 1816-17, which made invaluable contributions to the reformation of this ancient Syrian Church and the society. The reformation took place under the leadership of Abraham Malpan and Kaithayail Geevarghese Malpan. The reformed branch of the ancient Syrian Church is now known as the Mar Thoma Church. We are celebrating the175th Anniversary of our reformation in 2011.
The ministry of the Church has been blessed by the offices of the bishop, priest and the deacon. We have celibate bishops and married clergy. We have infant baptism and have all the seven sacraments; we accept a sacramental view of life by considering life as a whole is the ‘outward expression of an inward grace.’ The Church values highly the importance of its continuity through apostolic succession, links with Church Fathers, celibate episcopacy, St. James liturgy and other traditions which are of fundamental importance to its character and nature. The leadership of the laity always has been an asset of the Church. Administration of the Church has been guided by a democratic constitution. The supreme authority of the Church is vested in the Metropolitan and the Episcopal synod.
In 1936 the Mar Thoma Church and the Anglican Church of India had established a formal occasional intercommunion. Now the Church enjoys full intercommunion relationship with Church of England and the world-wide Anglican Communion. ‘Scatter my people’ was a prophetic prayer of Metropolitan Abraham Mar Thoma. Mar Thoma diaspora communities have contributed richly in elevating the status of a church confined within the boundaries of Kerala (India) to a world-wide church, which is indeed ‘the great new fact of our time.’ The church has a membership of about a million, 1, 200 parishes, 800 priests and 10 bishops. The Church is a missionary church and greatly involved in the indigenous mission and ministry in the Indian subcontinent, Mexico and amongst Native American Indians.
God had prepared the early Mar Thoma settlers in this country to welcome and give a helping hand to the new Mar Thoma families who arrived for settlement in this country. This is a unique form of travelling ministry, which is carried out by establishing prayer groups in various town and cities of this country. Now we have over 1100 families, eight parishes, a number of congregations and eight priests in this country; we are part of the diocese of North American and Europe.
Over the last fifty-three years our community grew and established in this country. A few of our members also give active leadership in their local Church of England and Methodist parishes. This is helping us to develop a very active ecumenical collaboration with other churches. Therefore, we as a community are very proud of our identity and heritage; this identity gives us the courage and stability to integrate with other communities in this country. Mar Thoma Church in the United Kingdom is a full member of CTE and CTBI and we are very happy with our association with CTinNH and very much looking forward in developing further relationship with all member parishes in North Harrow.