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99-year-old documents found in church basement

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UNEXPECTED FIND: The 99-year-old documents discovered from the basement of the Immanuel CSI Church, Broadway, a week back. - Photo: VipinChandran
UNEXPECTED FIND: The 99-year-old documents discovered from the basement of the Immanuel CSI Church, Broadway, a week back. - Photo: VipinChandran

Staff Reporter

The then Madras Governor laid the foundation stone for the church; help sought to restore documents

KOCHI. Over a week back, workers engaged in pulling down the 99-year-old Immanuel CSI Church building in Broadway were surprised to find a container made of thick glass in the basement of the church.

On discovering that the container had sheets of paper, which had started to wither away, they informed the church authorities.

The Vicar T. I. James and others were astounded to find that the papers were, in fact, the order of worship that had been followed for laying the foundation stone of the church, on January 29, 1907.

A copy of the Madras Mail newspaper (dated January 26, 1907) was found along with the documents. Immanuel Church is the oldest Anglican Church in Ernakulam.

Coincidence

"The coincidence is that the relics were excavated on January 26 last week, exactly 99 years after they were buried in the basement. We are now trying to restore the documents to their original form with the help of experts," says Fr. James.

Both the order of worship and the newspaper are in a rather disintegrated form and many of the sheets are stuck together, perhaps owing to moisture seeping into the glass container. Among the few sentences that one can make out is, `The Russel-Sealy Memorial Church (the name by which it was known prior to 1907), Ernakulam, Cochin State, Malabar Coast, South India... . (a few sentences in between are undecipherable) by H.E. Sir Arthur Lawley, Governor of Madras, on Tuesday, January 29, 1907 at 8.15 am. The Bishop and clergy will meet his Excellency at the church compound gate and conduct him to the site.'

The other contents are `Hymn 285 - "The church's one foundation", Special Psalm 84, Apostles Creed, Special Lesson... .'

The `Report' speaks of the statement of accounts up to March 29, 1906, with the list of contributors (to probably the then new church), which were submitted to subscribers and friends of the late Rev. E. Bacheler Russel and late Rev. A. F. Sealy. `

The long delay in commissioning the building arose from the fact that it was generally considered by local friends, that so important a building as a memorial church should occupy a prominent position and should be in the main street of the town... .

The site first purchased, the best available at the time, was in the hinder part of the town and shut out by thick groves of coconut palms... .,' says another readable paragraph.

To ensure that the church's history does not fade away from the memory of future generations, plans are afoot to place a similar capsule in the new church's basement.

"It will have details of the church's history and copies of the 99-year-old relics which were discovered last week," says Rev. James. The new church is expected to be ready in a year.

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