In the gospel of Matthew chapter 13 verse 31, Jesus Christ relates the parable of the mustard seed, which though the smallest of seeds, yet grows into one of the largest trees providing homes for the birds of the air. So was the beginning of Divya Shanthi Church in Lingarajapuram. It began in a humble little home in a rather underdeveloped section of the city. A home where all the light came from a small kerosene lamp only so much so that once a bible study meeting held in this home caused a member to remark that it brought memories of what Bethlehem must have looked like in those days. The growth of Divya Shanthi church is nothing short of a fairytale.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). It was certainly far beyond anyone’s imagination of what the lord had in mind, with the baby steps that began in this little home. Here lived an old lady called Alice Burrows who was seventy years old and God had a definite plan and purpose in the life of this dear old lady. Every Sunday she would gather the children from the neighbourhood, of whom many were hindus. She would teach them Christian choruses and tell them Bible stories and often out of her meager means gave them sweets and became aunty Burrows not only to the children but to many people living in the neighbourhood. Yes, many adults came to aunty Burrows for comfort, consolation and for solutions to their problems. She was the ray of hope that brightened their lives.
The neighbourhood was filled with gloom on December 24th 1973, when God called his faithful daughter to rest. The little children and adults were grief stricken and wept aloud. The children, with tear-stained faces sang those joyful choruses that aunty Burrows had taught them. When it was time to remove her body, some of the children and adults clung to the coffin, refusing to let their beloved her be taken away. Finally with much persuasion and a promise that aunty Burrows’ Sunday school would continue to be held in that very home, Rev. Mullins, the then Presbyter of St. John’s church , managed to complete the last rites.
The site, where Divya Shanthi church now stands, was purchased from Mr. E.W.Tim in 1967 for Rs. 31,432.50 and duly registered under CSITA by St. John’s Church, Bangalore, under the leadership of Rev. Joe Mullins. This sum of money was raised from the sale proceeds of a site on Milton Street, owned by St. John’s Church.
Mrs. Colleen Samuel nee Philpz used to come to Lingarajapuram as a member of the St. John’s church Youth Fellowship, very often. She would gather the children, conduct classes and teach them songs and stories from the Bible. They used to have the classes in the mangrove, where the present church building stands. The clergy of St. John’s church started conducting services in various individual homes in Lingarajapuram. The first Christmas service was held in the home of Mr. Cherian. Rev. Vinay Samuel, who succeeded Rev. Joe Mullins as the presbyter of St. Johns church, wanted to construct the Divya Shanthi church building in the plot purchased by Rev. Joe Mullins. Mrs. Edith Mullins, wife of Rev. Joe Mullins, laid the cornerstone on Sunday, 16th January, 1977.
On 26th August, 1978, Bishop Gill dedicated the building of Divya Shanthi church to the glory of God and to be a light to the surrounding community. The stone tablet which was unveiled on this special day, reads as follows: “To the glory of God , the Divya Shanthi Christian community hall was dedicated by the Rt Rev. K.E.Gill, Bishop of Karnataka Central Diocese, CSI and declared open by the Rev. Joe Mullins , MCMA, Presbyter of St. John’s church ( 1962-1974), on the 26th of August 1978.”
The congregation and the Sunday school moved into the building. The tuition students of Mrs. Cherian became the first batch of students of the Divya Shanthi primary school, which started functioning in the church by the tireless efforts of Mrs. Colleen Samuel. This school has now grown into a high school.
An advisory committee was set up to carry out the various activities of the Divya Shanthi church. Mr. Derrick Cunningham was the secretary and Mr. Cherian was the treasurer. Mr. Zachariah was put in charge of the Malayalam worship services and Mr. John Santhosh was in charge of the tamil worship services. Mr. Cunningham was in charge of the English services. Rev. Vinay Samuel, the then presbyter made it clear that there would be only one congregation known as the Divya Shanthi congregation. The first English service in the present building was held on 3rd September, 1978 with 50 adults and 16 children. It was a thanksgiving service (harvest festival), which was conducted by Rev. Vinay Samuel. The first Malayalam service was conducted by Rev. T.N Abraham (retd. pastor) on 24th September 1978 at 6:30 pm with 38 adults. He continued to conduct the Malayalam worship services till his death.
The first Tamil communion service was conducted by Rev. Jagannathan, a post graduate student of UTC, Bangalore and Mr. Manoharan, a lay preacher of the Wesley English church, delivered the sermon. This service was held on 8th October, 1978 with 16 adults attending.
Rev. Mike Butterworth was deputed from St. John’s church by Rev. Vinay Samuel to conduct the services in this church. Rev. Vinay Samuel used to chair the advisory committee meetings and conduct bible study groups in the church on all Saturday evenings. Rev. Mike Butterworth assisted Rev. Vinay Samuel in shepherding DSC from 10th December 1978. He was ably assisting for a year till he had to leave to the UK in December 1979. During his period, the various activities of the church blossomed. The Sunday school grew rapidly.
The passion play (story of the cross) was enacted in a unique way by the congregation members and clergy. The different scenes were performed in the open air at strategic points. Paul Stephen acted as Jesus and the scene in the garden of Gethsemane was enacted in the ambassadors for Christ compound. The scene where Pilate sentences Jesus, took place on the balcony of Mrs. Nero’s house. Jesus in the play, carried the cross through Hennur main road, followed by a large procession with police protection. The final scene at Golgotha was in the church compound itself. It created a greater awareness of the significance of the cross. This was indeed a bold venture by Rev. Mike Butterworth.
In the year 1981, the Divya Shanthi Church became a full-fledged pastorate. Mr. Zachariah was the first treasurer and Mr. John Santhosh, the first secretary of the church. Rev. Vinay Kumar Samuel was the presbyter of St. John’s church and Divya Shanthi church from 1978-1983. During these years, he was assisted by the following pastors, viz., Rev. Mike Butterworth, Rev Brian Smith, Rev. Thomas Davis, Rev Charles Irwin and ministerial assistants, viz., Mr. Jacob, Mr.Sathiaraj, Mr. George Kovoor and Mr. David Rajan. Rev. Vinay Samuel assumed charge as the presbyter of Divya Shanthi Church in 1983.
Mrs. Martha, who lived in the Bagalur layout slum used to attend the tamil services. Even though she was illiterate, she used to help in the evangelistic work and through her, many members joined Divya Shanthi Church.The first church sexton was Mr.Yesuraj.