- Date of Dedication
- Colombo Archdeaconry
- Revd. S. Johnson
- Postal Address
- St. Paul's Church, Hapugastenna, Sri Lanka
St. John the Baptist Church, Rakwana is situated about 137 km south west of Colombo, in an agriculturally rich area, surrounded with lushy green tea and rubber plantations, bordering the misty cloud clothed range of mountains in Sinharajah rain forest, facing a sliver ray of mini-water fall cascading down the hill, adding extravagant beauty of nature to this house of worship.
The church was founded in 1887 and thus celebrated her 125 anniversary on 24 June 2012 under the His Lordship Dhiloraj Ranjit Cangasabey the Bishop of Colombo as chief celebrant and preacher. Clergymen from adjoining churches, few of those had served the parish in the past along with present vicar Rev. T.O. Thirukumar, Assistant Curate with Rev. M.S. Praba were present at the celebration.
The anniversary celebrations commenced with a procession of witnessing from Rakwana town to the Church which consisted of parishioners and invitees and friends from the community.
The mission at Rakwana along with Balangoda, Ratnapura and Deniyaya was structured in to a pastorate under the guidance of Rev. P.A. Piakiam the first incumbent and has continued its spiritual journey witnessing the community around for the last 125 years.
The Church is blessed with a Sunday school hall and vicarage. The congregation consists of 60 families with 250 parishioners who are being spiritually fed through Holy Communion services and praise and worship on every Sunday together with spiritual and fellowship activities through their Sunday school, mothers union, youth fellowship, junior guild, cottage prayers, night vigil, gospel meetings and weekly bible study etc.
The Rev. S. Hobbs served here first. He was followed by Rev. P. Lawrence, who established the Tamil mission. Rev.W. Knight looked after the Sabaragamuwa Province.
Rev. P.Peter started his missionary work in Pelmadulla.( Tamil Church mission book, page 09, written by Rev. S.M. Thomas 15.07.1953)
Their mission was to spread the good news. This history is written according to the information gathered.
The early missionaries built this church in resemblance to the other churches.
In the early days, the service order was in the English language with western music. A lot of missionaries learnt Tamil and Sinhala languages to spread the word of God. They adapted themselves according to the local culture.
The CMS missionaries started schools in various places and not only educated the people, but involved all in worship. The missionaries came to Rakwana to establish schools in 1887.During this period the parsonage was also built for the missionaries. The evening worship was initially conducted in the parsonage.
Inspite of the worship conducted in the parsonage due to a lack of space they decided to build a church on the rightside of the parsonage. They made use of the soft clay found in the compound to build the walls and also putuo 16 pillars in 2 square feet in the front of the church. All the walls were painted with a substance made by mixing sand and lime.
It’s roof is in the shape of a triangle which is an attraction to all. The roof is supported with 4 pillars made of rock and covered with wood. The carvings add beauty to the church.
On 24 June 1887 with the permission of the then Bishop of England Rt. Rev. Reginald Stephen Copleston and under the guidance of Rev. Matthew Walter Edmund, the foundation stone was laid for St. John’s Church and dedicated on 14.10.1888. The carvings on the stone is evidence of the church being very ancient. The entrance of the church is also very beautiful with ancient carvings.
The verandah was built in 1902 with red bricks, the bell tower with stones. The parsonage also belongs to this time. The church administration was supervised by well wishes.
In 1899, the church obtained the rights to solemnize weddings. Since 1887, a lot of clergy has served in the church. This church was built by the British, now functions under the Diocese of Colombo.
The C.M.S started its mission when people were in trouble, and thereafter built this church. Inspite of the financial and transport difficulties it is great that this church was built in this area. The dedication and the contribution by the clergy and the missionaries is to be admired.
The foundation stone was laid on 10 December 1896 at a service conducted in English and Tamil by Rev. J.W. Fall. It was built by the CMS at a cost of Rs 2,884.84 plus material from the old Pelmadulla Church. This Church was consecrated on 30 May 1897 by Rev. J.D Simmons with a dedication and communion. At that time there was a small number of European and Tamil Christians. A school was built for the Tamil Cooly Mission. *(Later known as the Tamil Church Mission)
This church dedicated to and named after the great physician St, Luke, was consecrated on 25 October 1883, on the Octave of St. Luke’s feast, by His Lordship the Rt. Rev. Dr. Reginald Stephen Copleston with the Archdeacon the Ven. W.E. Matthew assisting. The priest in charge was the Rev. W. Herath.
There is evidence to show the existence of an Anglican congregation in Ratnapura even before the year 1883. This congregation which comprised of Dutch descendents and resident Sinhalese and Tamils has been ministered by colonial chaplains in English, Sinhalese and Tamil. There is also evidence to show that the Church was housed in the building now occupied by the Ratnapura Police before 1883.
The next priest in charge was the Rev. E.A. Copleston (1884-1889) later Bishop and then it was Rev. M.J Burrows (1889-1894). It was in his time, in the beginning of 1893 to be exact, that a night school was started to teach Sinhalese to English boys of the School and to teach English to the Sinhalese and Tamil adults of the area. Rev. F.W Mcdonnel (1894-1895) who came from Australia here succeeded Rev. Burrows. Rev W.S Riddlesdell took charge from 1895-1898. The 13 jubilee of the consecration of the Church was celebrated under his patronage on the 18 of October 1896 with a simple dedication service. It was on this day that the English boy’s school, the only one of its nature at the time in Sabaragamuwa Province, which was under the Government’s management, was handed over to the Church’s charge, only to be taken over by the Government again in 1961.
From 1927-1935, the Rev. Reginald Vincent Becketts De Silva was in charge of St. Luke’s Church. During his time the parish saw a vast building programme of Amazonian proportions in action. In 1931, he built St. Luke’s College hostel and the Burrows memorial Chapel of the Holy Wisdom attached. In 1933, a building housing a reading room and a kindergarten (now the College Office and classrooms) was built for St. Luke’s College and was blessed on 23 of October 1933. An extension to St. Luke’s hostel consisting of a dining hall for 60, and teachers quarters was built and blessed on the 1 April 1933.
The crowning glory of all these works was the extension of a mission Church in Hidellana. It was named the Church of the Epiphany and was consecrated on Epiphany Day in 1933, with a fitting ceremony including a service of consecration conducted by the Bishop of Colombo, a colourful procession of witness, a cultural show and a fireworks display, going into the night, before the Rev. Beckett De Silva left the parish to Christ Church Dehiwela. In August 1935, he saw the commissioning of a new dormitory of St. Luke’s hostel, which was blessed on the first of April of that year. He transformed a howling wilderness into what was known in the latter days as “St. Luke’s Hill,” a bungalow on top of which was used as a vicarage by succeeding clergy. This vicarage and the Church at Hidellana are no more the property of the Church.
The Rev. Felix A Dias Abeysinghe who was in charge of the Church from 1945-47 built the present Church Hall which he intended for and used as a mission house.
In 1970 St. Luke’s Hill was sold and a new place for the vicarage was purchased. It must be recorded with gratitude that late Mr. C Jayatilake generously gave his land at a concessionary rate, inspite of a greater offer from the Bank of Ceylon.
It was the Rev. E.J Gnanapragasam who built the new vicarage by the side of the Church which was blessed on the 30 November 1971. He also installed an illuminated cross on the Eastern Wall of the Church facing Ratnapura town
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