The protestant missionaries who laboured in South Travancore were sponsored by the London Missionary Society founded in England in the year 1795.Mission steadily grew in places such as Nagercoil, Neyyoor, Parassala and Quilon . But Trivandrum, the state capital, remained out of bounds for them for a long time. Trivandrum , the capital of Travancore, was the seat of the State Government and also the headquarters of the British Resident. In those days it was a town of sixty thousand inhabitants and in the cantonment area of the city was stationed a contingent of British troops. Mission in Trivandrum made possible with the arrival of Four Missionaries along with Charles Mead. John Cox one among the four new missionaries was placed at Trivandrum, It was through the active support of General Fraser the British resident 'A haunted hill was given to the mission'. The site granted to the London Missionary Society was at Kannamoola and it was here that Cox constructed a bungalow and founded the City Mission. Rev. John Cox, who laboured in Trivandrum till 1861, was a man of courage and conviction and fought for the rights of a prominent class of the Kerala society. And among the London Missionary Society’ pioneers in India he holds a pre-eminent position.

After the departure of John Cox the pastoral care of the Trivandrum Mission was assumed by Rev. Samuel Mateer in whose memory our church was built. Mateer, who arrived in Travancore in 1859, was in charge of the Parassala Mission for a short period before he moved out to Trivandrum. For a quarter of a century he laboured in the Trivandrum area and under his inspiring leadership the Trivandrum Mission grew steadily and attained great progress. Mateer was a man of extraordinary charm indefatigable energy and varied talents. Moved by the plight of the oppressed and the down-trodden he took special interest in their welfare and up lift. Wherever he went, crowds of such people flocked to him earnestly seeking conversion. He formed them into small congregations and devoted a great deal of his time and energy for their advancement. In the midst of his incessant missionary labours, Mateer found time for his literary pursuites also. He became well known for his sound scholarship and literary gifts. He was the author “the Land of Charity” Native Life in Travancore” and ”Gospel in South India”widely used even to this day by students of Kerala History for study and reference and profusely quoted by research scholars. In 18th March, 1891 on account of ill health Mateer returned to England where he died in 1893. Hacker, in his book “K Hundred years in Travancore” Published in 1908 has paid glowing tribute to Rev. Samuel Mateer in the following words “Rev. Mateer’s thirty three years of strenuous labour will not soon be forgotten. Interested in everything connected with Travancore devoting his literary gift to the publication of works connected with the country of his adoption, incessant in his travels among the poor people of the congregations he was respected by all the classes in the state. The Mateer Memorial Church, lately erected in Trivandrum, is a fitting tribute to his devoted life.”

Another LMS Missionary from England who laboured for the Trivandrum City Mission was Harold Temple Wills who arrived here in December 1892 shortly after the departure of Samuel Mateer. He was fully supported by his family as a Honorary Lay Missionary. Wills was the founder of the L.M.S. Wills Hostel, one of the oldest of its kind in the city of Travandrum to provide boarding and lodging facilities for College students. The evangelistic work done by Wills among the various classes in the city was highly commendable. It was during the visit of then foreign secretary Joseph Mallins the L.M.S. missionaries in Travancore impressed him on the need of a campus in the city. As a result the present L.M.S. Compound of 16 acres of Land was purchased.

It was during the ministry of Samuel Mateer that this site consisting of sixteen acres of land was purchased. Mateer built two bungalows here to house the offices of the City Mission. It was his ardent desire to build a Central Church on this site. As he had to leave India due to ill health, his dream of building a new Church did not come true during his ministry. The project for the construction of the Church was launched by Rev. I.H. Hacker who took charge of Mateer’s work. A little later Rev. T.W. Bach took up the project and during his ministry the foundation stone for the Church was laid by Stephen Massey in December 1897. Work on the building could be started only in November 1902 and the construction of the Church was completed just in four years. It was by the strenuous effort of Arthur Parker the construction was completed in 1906. The generous grant given by the Home Board of the London Missionary Society, the patronage extended by the royal family of Travancore and Cochin and the great enthusiasm shown by the local congregation made it possible for the sponsors of the project to complete the construction in record time. The total cost of construction was Rs. 18700/- .

The Church was erected in the sacred memory of Rev. Samuel Mateer and was named Mateer Memorial Church. The dedication ceremony took place on the first day of December 1906. The Church was dedicated by Rev.R.W.Thompson and formally opened for worship by the Mrs. Thompson. Rev. R.W. Thompson, the Foreign Secretary of the London Missionary Society, was then on an official visit to India.

Before the construction of the M.M. Church L.M.S people of Trivandrum worshipped in a Church constructed by the protestant evangelical trust in the 1840's. Mr. Samuel Sumanam father of Mr. S.I. Sumanam was working in that Church as an Evangelist from 1878 onwards. The Trivandrum L.M.S. Church became a pastorate in 1895 and Mr. Mathew Kesari, father of Rev. John M. Kesari and grand-father of Rev. J. Eben Kesari was the first Indian to be ordained as the pastor of that Church. Rev. Mathew Kesari retired from service in 1904 when the new Church was still under construction. His illustrious son john M. Kesari was the first pastor of the newly constructed Mateer Memorial Church, his period of service being from Apirl 1905 to march, 1913. Ever since it became a Pastorate, our Church was served by a galaxy of eminent and highly devoted pastors, other Church workers and deacons . We place here on record our deep appreciation of the useful service rendered by them to our Church. But for their strenuous labours and their abiding faith in God our Church would not have attained the present state of its prosperity and usefulness.

From its very inception the growth of our Church has been steady and very encouraging. Begun with a small congregation consisting of a few families our Church has now grown into one of the largest of its kind in India. During the festival week in January 1973 we published a Souvenir and the statistics given in it show that at that time we had on our rolls 666 families. In this Centenary year we are proud to announce that the number of families having regular membership in the M.M. Church has exceeded 1500.

In addition to the regular members of the Church, a good number of Christian families employed in Trivandrum and staying in and around the city but belonging to the Churches situated in the mofusil area also attend the Sunday services conducted in the M.M.Church. By their involvement in all the major activities of the Church and also by their generous financial assistance they have contributed in no small share to the prosperity of our Church.

The phenomenal growth in numbers, has also created certain problems for the Church. The most pressing one is the problem of accommodation how to provide seating arrangements in the Church for the ever increasing number of people attending our Sunday service

Our achievements in that direction are worth mentioning. With the opening of the new Church in 1906 the old Church and the Church house were demolished and the site itself was disposed of. In the new campus a small house to accommodate the Evangelist was built on the site of the present parsonage. The pastors were then staying in rented houses. In 1927 it was decided build a parsonage for the pastor. Early in 1929 the newly erected parsonage was ready for occupation. Rev. J. Eben Kesari, who was then the pastor of the M.M.Church moved into the new Church House. It was then the turn of the evangelists to stay in rented houses outside the Mission Compound. A house adjoining to the parsonage was built for the evangelist in 1938 and Rev. A.S.Samuel, who was then the Evangelist of the M.M.Church was the first to occupy it. The sexton’s quarters were got ready in 1942 and Mr. J. Viswasam, the then sexton, occupied it. Taking into consideration the financial condition of the M.M.Church in those days, it was no small achievement on our part to provide accommodation for our Church workers in our own buildings.

The LMS U.P. School in its early stages was managed and financed by the M.M.Church. This institution is as old as the Church itself. For a long time it was only a primary school. It was only in May 1947 that it was raised to the Status of an English Middle School. Our Church contributed a sum of Rs. Three thousand towards the expenses incurred in connection with its upgradation. For many years the Church was paying regularly a share of the deficit borne by the LMS management in running the school.

The need for a spacious hall to hold public meetings and Sunday School classes and also to provide accommodation for other such activities connected with the Church was fulfilled in 1955 with the construction and dedication of the Triple Jubilee Memorial Hall. The construction of this hall was taken up as a joint project of the M.M.Church and the South Kerala Diocese and was built at a cost of forty thousand rupees. A committee consisting of three representatives of the Diocese and three members from the M.M.Church with the Bishop of the Diocese as chairman is entrusted with the management of the T.J.M. Hall.In its construction we remember with gratitude the devoted leadership by late Bishop A.H.Legg.

In the Church campus there is the Kingsley Justus Memorial Hall. It was constructed in 1970 at a cost of Rs. Thirty three thousand donated by Mrs. and Mr. M.E. Justus, members of our Church. It was their wish to name it Kingsley Justus who died while he was an Engineering student. This building provides accommodation for an office for our parish, a shelter for parking vehicles and a spacious hall 50 feet long and 20 feet wide for holding conferences and committee meetings of the various youth organizations of the Church. The parish office, the parish library and the parking space are on the ground floor. The conference hall is in the first floor.

The M.M. Church Cemetery situated in the north west corner of the LMS Compound comprises of an area of about two acres. At first it was only half of its present size. An area of about an acre was demarcated for the cemetery by the Mission Council and handed over to the Church. When this land was fully utilized additional space was provided by the Mission whenever we asked for it. A few years back an area of 75 cents on the eastern side was granted by the Diocese for the extension of the Church cemetery.
 The Rev. Samuel Mateer by Rev. Dr.J.W. Gladstone.

The Christmas Eve of 1893. The Church bells in Hastings, England, were chiming joyously proclaiming to the world the tiding of the birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world. But from one Church flowed the long tremulous note of intermittent bells announcing to the world the death of a child of God, who sacrificed his life for us, the people of Trivandurm. That was on 24th December 1893, exactly 88 years ago, and the child of God was the Rev. Samuel Mateer.

We know the Mateer Memorial Church and some of us have read the books Rev. Mateer has written. But who is this Samuel Mateer? Samuel Mateer, the great scholar, historian, visionary and missionary who died 88 years ago, was responsible for the establishment of the Trivandrum Mission which has now grown and flourished into the South Kerala Diocese of the Church of South India.

Samuel Mateer was born in Belfast, on 24th August 1835. Being a member of the Methodist Church, he got the occasion to pursue his theological studies at the Bedford Theological College. Mateer always had the desire to became a missionary. The London Missionary Society with which he established contact, directed him to South Travancore. Thus, on the 15th of October 1858, he left for India with his wife and three children.

The Mateer family reached Bombay, after a long voyage of 107 days, on January 30, 1859. There he was received by Rev. Dr. Wilson who was a great educationist and the founder of Wilson College, Bombay. After a week’s stay at Bombay, Mateer and his family started their sea voyage to Cochin. From Cochin, they had a thrilling boat journey through the palm-fringed backwater canals upto Trivandurm. From Trivandrum they were taken by Palanquin to Parassala. This Palanquin ride was a unique experience to the missionary and his family. On 4th February 1859, Rev. Samuel Mateer assumed charge of the Parassala Mission. Mrs. Mateer was placed in charge of the Boarding Home.
In 1861, Rev. Mateer had to shoulder the additional burden of Trivandrum and Quilon Missions. When Rev. John Cox resigned from the LMS., Rev. Mateer had to shift his residence to Trivandrum from Parassala. He had to be in full charge of all the three stations till 1863. His arrival in Trivandrum marked the beginning of the growth and development of the Trivandrum city mission and the mission centre. Unfortunately he had to be away to Kodaikkanal and England on several occasions after 1866 owing to the ill-health of his wife. But he always looked after with concern, the development of the Mission fields under his charge.

In those days the centre of the Trivandrum Mission was Kannanmoola, where the present United Theological Seminary stands. Rev. Mateer felt it necessary that the Centre be shifted to some other suitable location for its proper development. Rev. Mateer found a suitable opportunity for this during the visit of Dr. Millins, who was then Foreign Secretary of the London Missionary Society. Rev. Mateer succeeded in convincing Dr. Millins the necessity for a new location and in making arrangements with him for the purchase of land in the Cantonment area and for the construction of necessary buildings. Thus, 16 acres of land, which was known as “Captain Davidson’s Compound” was purchased at a price of Rs. 9000/-. This is the present L.M.S. or C.S.I. South Kerala Diocesan Head station Compound.

The Scholarly speeches Rev. Mateer delivered on various subjects including the history of the earth, biographies, etc, won the acclaim of many who used to attend the series of meetings organized at the Trivandrum ‘Reading Room’ for the benefit of people from all religions and different walks of life.
The greatest and at the same time unique service Rev. Mateer had rendered was for the uplift of the poor and oppressed section of the society. His concern for such suffering people was so great that he toiled untiringly till the end for their social and spiritual liberation; finally giving occasion to be contemptuously called “Pulaya Padri”. But he bore all contempt for the sake of Him who called him to serve among those poor people.

Some of the books written by Rev. Samuel Mateer give us a vivid and historically true picture of the people among whom he worked and their life, culture, customs and history. His important works considered to be very valuable are “The Land of Charity,” “Native Life in Travancore” and the “Gospel in South India.”

Rev. Samuel Mateer was the first missionary who endeavored for the growth of an indigenous Church. He prepared local people for Church ministry and tried to transfer administrative responsibilities to them. It was during his tenure that a number of local people were ordained as ministers.

As far as our diocese is concerned, Rev. Samuel Mateer can be rightly designated as the pioneer of indigenization of the Church. The statistics of the 33 years service of this noble missionary will stand witness to his sincere efforts to develop the Church in South Travancore. When he arrived there were 25 congregations, 3000 Christians and an annual income of Rs. 800/-. But when he took leave after 33 years, there was a spectacular difference. The number of Congregations increased to 56, Christians to 10,060 and annual income to Rs. 3000/-

In 1890, Mrs. Mateer had to return to England owing to ill health. Rev. Samuel Mateer who went to England in 1891 on leave was called to eternal rest on the 24th of December 1893. It was in the same year that the Trivandrum Church was elevated to the position of a pastorate. The Church building constructed in the LMS Compound and dedicated to the loving memory of Rev. Samuel Mateer was opened for divine worship on 1st December 1906, along with the Centenary Celebrations of the London Missionary Society.

(Let us bow our heads in profound gratitude before the memory of that humble man who laboured in love for his Master among the poor people of Travancore and was instrumental for the establishment and growth of the Church.)

(Translation of an article by Rt.Rev.Dr. J.W.Gladstone (Bishop - South Kerala Diocese)published in the 1973 December (Christmas) issue of “Christava Deepika’)


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