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Cathedral of St. Mary The Theotokos

Our Story

A Spiritual Journey That Began 90 Years Ago..

With the end of World War I at about 1918, new horizons opened for some of the English educated Syrian Christians of Travancore and Cochin. Young men fired by the call of adventure to look for greener pastures beyond the borders of their villages ventured forth to other parts of India, Africa, England and America.  Some of them crossed the Indian Ocean to Malaya and Singapore, which like India was then under British colonial rule.

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In this region they found employment in rubber estates, tin mines, private and public sector.  While some were clustered around the Klang Valley others were scattered in the plantations throughout the country.

By the late 1920s there were a substantial number of Orthodox Syrian Christian young men and women in and around Kuala Lumpur who gathered regularly on Sunday mornings at the YMCA, Kuala Lumpur. This eventually led to the formal registration of the group as the Jacobite Syrian Christian Union under the Registrar of Societies, Malaya in 1932.  By 1928 the community was sufficiently large to warrant a visit by Rev. Fr. Alexios O.I.C. from Kerala to conduct services in Malaya and Singapore.  Rev. Fr. Alexios also travelled from Kedah in the north to Singapore in the south to conduct services and other religious rites.

The end of World War II in 1945 saw the influx of more members to Malaya looking for new opportunities created by the revival of agriculture, mining and business activities in this region. In 1949, Rev. Fr. P K Abraham, was sent to take over the pastoral work of the community, which by then had grown considerably and with it came a more pressing need for a proper place of worship.  Submissions were made by the Syrian Christian Union to the Selangor State Government for a piece of land to erect a church building which resulted in HRH the Sultan of Selangor graciously granting a piece of land in Brickfields in perpetuity.

Subsequently other priests followed in the footsteps of Rev. Fr. P K Abraham who continued with the tireless efforts of their predecessor in raising funds for the setting up of the church building. The first service was conducted on 5 August 1956 and the consecration service of the church was conducted on 6 April 1958 by His Grace Mathews Mar Athanasius in the name of St Mary. The parish day is held on 15th August every year in remembrance of St. Mary. The church in Malaysia became the first Orthodox Syrian Church to be built outside India.

In 1984, Rev Fr Philip Thomas was ordained as the first Malaysian Orthodox priest and in 1987 Rev Fr Abraham Oommen was ordained as the second Malaysian Orthodox priest and later went on to become a bishop of the Malankara Orthodox Church.

Membership of the church was at its peak in the 1960s and the church was served by three priests.  With the separation of Singapore from Malaya in 1965, the churches of Malaya and Singapore became separate parishes. The 1980’s saw a redistribution of members with more concentration in the town and cities and in the Klang valley.  Two priests, Very Revd Philip Thomas, a Malaysian priest and Revd Fr. V M Jejis sent by the Bishop of Chennai now serve the church and cater to the needs of members in Kuala Lumpur and in major towns throughout the country.

In December 1959, the foundation stone for a parsonage and hostel building was laid and the building was completed in 1963 and blessed by His Grace Mathews Mar Coorilos in 1964. In 1987, an additional wing was added to the hostel.

In May 1968, His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and a member of the Orthodox Church, visited the Church in Malaysia.  A special service was arranged for the occasion and the Church Hall was named “Haile Selassie Hall” in his honour.

In August 2006, the Parish Church celebrated its 50th Golden Jubilee. Apart from weekly services held, many other activities are carried on by members of the church. Bible study classes are conducted for children on Sundays and the women and youth regularly meet in prayer and pursue social and other activities in support of the aspirations of the church.  The Youth Fellowship traditionally holds an Annual Orthodox Youth Camp in conjunction with its sister church in Singapore and the first camp was held in 1971.

At the present time, the Malaysian Church has a membership of about 200 families.  The mantle of lay leadership in the Church has gradually been passed on to a new generation of members who are essentially Malaysian in their outlook and upbringing, but who also carry some of the heritage of faith and traditions from their elders.  This generation serves as a vital bridge between the past and the future.  Our members face an important task — to make the faith which has sustained their forefathers throughout the centuries relevant to the challenges of their present social and cultural situation.  Despite being a minority community, we have participated and contributed towards an effective ecumenical witness within the country and region.  As Orthodox Christians, like St. Thomas the Apostle, we are called to give our lives and talents for continually uplifting and transforming the community in which God places us.  Only then can we say that we follow in the footsteps and tradition of that great Apostle.

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