It was in 1975 the first Marthomite George Varghese (Sunny Uncle) & family arrived in Adelaide. The Idea of a Christian Malayalam fellowship grew in strength with many arriving in early 80’s with the likes of Dr. T V Philip & family, Dr. P C Daniel & family, Abraham Mathew & family, Dr. A M Cherian & family and many other Christians of other denominations and non-Christian Malayalees. The idea of having a formal Malayalam Holy Qurbana service was put forward during the visit of Late Most Rev. Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan Bishop to Adelaide in 1982. Mr George Varghese along with the other Marthomites facilitated the first ever Malayalam Holy Qurbana Service (at St John’s Anglican Church 379 Halifax Street Adelaide) and was officiated by the visiting Bishop. The service was well participated and attended by Christian of other denominations and non-Christians.
The second Episcopal visit by Most Rev Dr Philipose Mar Crysostam Valia Metropolitan in 1983 was very successful and increased the popularity of Malayalee Marthoma fellowship. Bishop visited some of the prominent Christian groups and Member of Parliament in Adelaide and conducted press conferences resulting in wide press coverage and making many more people aware of a Malayalam fellowship in Adelaide.
The next nine years were dormant with no visits by Priests or Bishops. The Marthomites were scattered in and around Adelaide and started attending local churches and community gatherings to cater for their spiritual and social needs.
It was not until 1994 that the next Malayalam Holy Communion service was conducted. Rev. Dr. Abraham Kuruvilla Achen who was on a casual visit to Adelaide from Melbourne, happened to be a good friend of Mr George Varghese (Sunny uncle). During his visit a Malayalam Holy Communion was consecrated at Uniting Church in Athelstone and was well attended by Christian and non-Christians.
During 90’s more and more people started migrating to Adelaide and many more Marthomites like Mr Thomas George (Ranji Uncle) & family, Mr.Mathew Thomas (Monie) & family, Mr. Tom George & family, Mr. Manoj Kuruvilla & family and Mr. Alex Mathew & family arrived in Adelaide.
In September 1998, Adelaide was blessed with the visit of Rt. Rev. Gee Varghese Mar Athanasius Episcopa who conducted a Holy Communion Service. Mr Thomas George took the initiative in arranging and assisting the service which was held at St James Anglican Church (at 1B Falcon Ave Mile End). It was well attended and well participated by most Malayalees. Other Prominent dignitaries who attended this service were Father Chris McLeod (in charge of St James Anglican Church Mile End), Father Lyndon Sulzberger (assisting priest of St James Anglican Church) and Father Michael Hillier (Anglican Priest from Whyalla).
The episcopal visit in 1998 reinforced the idea of establishing a formal Malayalam worshiping community with an Ecumenical character. The Marthoma community took the lead in establishing a regular Malayalam service in Adelaide with Bishop helping in organizing a priest to travel from Melbourne to Adelaide every fifth Sunday to cater the needs of Marthomites in Adelaide. Since Adelaide was a small community, Bishop also suggested to the Melbourne congregation that they should contribute $100 towards flight expenses for the priest to travel to Adelaide. The cordial relations between the Mar Thoma church and the Anglican church worldwide helped Marthomites in Adelaide gaining access to the Anglican churches and parish halls in and around Adelaide. Thus Rev. Sabu Philip became the first priest visiting Adelaide on a regular basis from Mar Thoma Parish in Melbourne.
The Mar Thoma community with the initiatives of Mr. Thomas George organised the first four services at St James Anglican church followed by the next three at St Mary Magdalene’s church (at 26 Moore St, Adelaide). Thereafter, the initiatives of Mr. Mathew Thomas, along with Mr. Tom George and Mr. Manoj Kuruvilla enabled the Mar Thoma community in Adelaide to continue organising Malayalam services at St Peter’s Baptist Church (92 First Ave, St. Peters).
As the number of people grew it was then decided that the Malayalee worshipping community needs further recognition and growth It was decided to name the congregation as Adelaide Mar Thoma Ecumenical Congregation (AMTEC). The word 'Ecumenical' was included to reflect that fact that it was attended by other Christian denominations (like Catholics, Jacobite, Orthodox) and non-Christians.
For the 7 years from 2001, the Adelaide Mar Thoma Ecumenical Congregation, with the initiative of Mr. Mathew Thomas attended to the needs of visiting priests and other visitors attending the services at St Peter’s Baptist church (92 First Ave, St Peters). During this period the congregation was also blessed by the visit of Rt. Rev. Dr. Gee Varghese Mar Theodosius Episcopa and Rt. Rev Dr Isaac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa.
When the inflow of migrant to Adelaide increased various denominations started having their own worship services. So by early 2008 Marthomites decided to re-organise as Adelaide Mar Thoma Congregation with the initiatives of Rev. K.M Mathew and Mr. Jose George Joseph. The Adelaide Mar Thoma Congregation was established during the visit of Rt. rev. Dr. Gee Varghese Mar Theodosious and the official memorandum called 'Kalpana' was received in March 2008. The congregation started using the St. Margaret's Anglican Church, Woodville for the worship needs and benefited greatly from the support of the Woodville Anglican parish and especially the initiatives of Mrs. Pam Judge, warden of St. Margaret's Anglican Church. The congregation grew from strength to strength under the guidance of Rev. Boby Philip and active participation and dedication of the members.
In June 2010, the Synod of Mar Thoma church approved and constituted the Adelaide Mar Thoma congregation as a Parish. The parish has since then continued to grow and form the wings of a church like Sunday School, Sevika Sangham, Choir, Youth League, Edavaka Mission, house prayer meetings and so on. The parish has been incorporated on 18 January 2011. As a migrant community, we recognize the wholehearted support and care we have been enjoying from the people of this land. We are really indebted to the Churches, especially the Anglican Church and the St Margret’s Anglican Parish in Woodville (where we consecrate our communion and other services presently) who considers our small community as their co-believers and cater to our needs.
The Adelaide Marthoma Church consists of members from in and around Adelaide and have 40 families as registered members in the parish as of 2014.
This is an extract from Cornerstone the magazine of St. Margaret's Anglican Church Woodville of the Adelaide Mar Thoma Church Inauguration.