The formation of tiny congregation at Palayamkottai consisting of just 40 members, the first being Clarinda, was the humble beginning of the Diocese of Tirunelveli, the biggest in Asia now. The infant church was nursed and nourished by the foreign missionaries from Trustbuster like Schwartz and Jaenicke and a few indigenous stalwarts like Sathianathan, Royappan, Savarirayan, Savarimuthu and Anandapragasam. Good news was spread to many areas, and churches were established in different parts of Tirunelveli District. The establishment of a church at Mudalur the first Christian village in 1799 was momentous event in the annals of the history of the Tirunelveli Diocese. It paved way for the "en masse" conversion of Nadars thanks to the enthusiastic and indefatigable ministry among them by David Sundaranandam Gericke and Kohlhoff. James Hough oversaw the missionary work of the SPCK after Schwartz and Jaenicke.
The Church Missionary Society (CMS) and the Society for Propagation of Gospel (SPG) entered the Tirunelveli field and went on planting Churches besides looking after the existing churches for almost a hundred years till they merged into the Diocesan main stream in 1924. CTE Rhenius was head and shoulders above the rest in the CMS. Apart from building the Holy Trinity Cathedral at Palayamkottai, he planted 371 churches including Meignanapuram, Dohnavur, Pannaivilai and Nallur. No wonder, he is considered the greatest missionary after St. Paul and called â€œThe Apostle of Tirunelveli. Pettitt, John Thomas, Tucker, Schaffter, Hobbs, Barenbruck were the other important CMS Missionaries who laboured in the Tirunelveli Vineyard.Tab 2 content goes here.
Nazareth, Sawyerpuram and Idayangudi were the important fields nursed by the SPG missionaries. The Rev Caemmerer and the Rev Canon A Margoschis worked strenuously for the stabilization of the Churches around Nazareth. Schools and a hospital were established at Nazareth, a model Christian settlement. Sawyer, a layman working for the East India Company, formed a village exclusively for Christians and it is called Sawyerpuram after him. Dr. GU Pope and Rev. Huxtable developed it into a model village. Dr Robert Caldwell burnt himself for the establishment and development of many churches including Idaiyangudi, a village far away from Tirunelveli.
Ever since Tirunelveli was upgraded into a Diocese in 1896, it has been casting its net wide and deep. Many pastorates in the East and South have adopted a village in the northern part of the Diocese. This scheme has been paying rich dividends. Besides, Tirunelveli Diocese has introduced outreach ministry. Committed people, clergy and laity, go to other districts for gospel work during the first week of September every year. It established the first indigenous missionary organization called Indian Missionary Society (IMS) in 1903 to take the good news to the unreached areas in other states. The Rt. Rev. V. S. Azariah, the first Indian Bishop, is one of the fruits of Tirunelveli Diocese. Now, the Diocese has 185 thousand members spread over 107 Pastorates in 736 villages.
Apart from spiritual work, Tirunelveli Diocese has been striving hard to address to the economic, educational and social needs of the poor, the aged, the mentally retarded, the visually disabled etc. The fruits of this Diocese are in every nook and corner of globe bearing witness to the Good Shepherd.
1. Changing Society
3. Evagelization and Church-Planting
Medical Mission initiated by the S.P.G. at Nazareth, Sawyerpurm, ldaiyangudi and Nagalapuram has been found most rewarding. In the early years when medical facilities provided by the Government were meager and inadequate, these hospitals eminently served the community. St. Lukeâ€™s Hospital, Nazareth has kept on with the march of modern medicine. Its phenomenal growth was during the stewardship of Dr. R. Vedabodagam when several new wards â€“ mostly gifts of grateful patients â€“ were erected. In recent years a huge Extension Project was completed with the aid of the Protestant Central Agency for Development Aid, Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany. With several additional buildings, an air- conditioned operation theatre and intensive care unit, sophisticated equipment and highly qualified medical personnel, the hospital is much sought by the community several miles around. A significant development out of this hospital is St. Lukeâ€™s Leprosarium at Peikulam (Estd. 1956) which has grown to be one of the foremost of its kind in the whole of India.
Recent additions to the medical ministry are the Hospitals at Maruthakulam, Tuticorin and Melapalayam. All these hospitals are manned by competent and dedicated medical staff, with whom alone they can fulfil the purpose for which they were founded.
CSI Rhenius Community Health and Development Project Melapalayam, Tirunelveli:
The CSI Rhenius Community Health and Development Project at Melapalayam is a comprehensive health care and socio-economic programme of the CSI Tirunelveli Diocese, providing preventive and curative health care to the multi-faith community and marginalized people with the active participation of the local community, support of government agencies, voluntary organizations and the church.
Melapalayam is in the district of Tirunelveli and a suburban part of the Tirunelveli Town. 80% of the population are Muslims while the rest are Hindus. Christians form a very small minority. Majority of them are economically backward. Their general and hygienic conditions are not good and the standard of health is low. The project is also serving 2 small villages Omanallur and Sadaiammankulam 10 and 33 km away from the main clinic in Melapalayam respectively. These two villages are visited twice a week.
The project is run by a small team of 2 multipurpose health care workers, 1 social worker, 2 paramedical workers and a medical officer in charge.
Door to door survey is done. Children below 2 years are given free immunization. Pregnant mothers are given free antenatal care. Patients with diseases like tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension, etc. are followed up. Physically handicapped persons are given possible help through voluntary agencies. Periodical free medical and eye camps and once-a-month leprosy clinics are conducted. Health education is given. Necessary articles like quilts and blankets are distributed to the needy.
The project proposes to extend its service to 7 more villages by forming one more mobile medical team.
Hospitals in the Diocese:
81/1, CSI Church Street,
Pulavanur, Madhapuram,Keela Kadayam,
H - 91, Anbu Nagar, Maharaja Nagar, Tirunelveli,
17, Hari Raj Street, Perumalpuram, Palayamkottai, Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu- 627007
P.O. Box No:116,
No.5, Punithavathiyar Street, Palayamkottai, Tirunelveli-627002,