The New Church at Parel

“His Excellency, the Governor, Sir James Fergusson laid the foundation stone of the new Church at Parell on Saturday afternoon. A large company assembled in a handsomely disposed pavilion to witness the ceremonials connected with the event. His Excellency was received on his arrival with military honours by a detachment of the GIP Railway volunteers and the religious service appointed for the occasion was then proceeded with. It was conducted by the Ven. Archdeacon Stead and the musical portion was rendered by the Cathedral Choir.”

The Church was consecrated for worship on 4th December 1884 by Rev. Louis Mylenne the Bishop of Bombay and Rev. R. W. Evans was its first Chaplain.

The Times of India, Friday December 5th 1884 reported this event as follows:

“Yesterday afternoon, the Bishop of Bombay in the presence of a large congregation, amongst who was His Excellency the Governor, Sir James Fergusson, consecrated a new Church at Parell. The service was a choral one, the accompaniment being played on the new and beautifully turned organ which has been given by the Governor in memory of the late Lady Fergusson. The Bishop having performed the necessary ceremonies pointed out that the instinct to set a place for the worship of God was universal in its character; and that the meeting together in public worship was often the means of striking a chord deep down in our heart, which would not otherwise be affected, and causing it to vibrate with praise and glory to the Almighty God.”

Today we feel privileged honoured and blessed that God has given us this wonderful opportunity to celebrate 125 years of the Church. St. Mary’s has always been served by eminent and dedicated Bishops, Clergy, Deacons, Laiety and others. The Governor in his address while laying the foundation stone said “I hope my friends, that when this holy house becomes accomplished fact – you will use it regularly”.

St. Mary’s Church has always been used on a regular basis. As the years have gone by, the Church has witnessed many changes and with the turn of the Century, so did its congregation. As the city of Bombay developed, the Church began to be used not only by the restricted local Europeans, employees of the Bombay Baroda (BB) & Central India (CI) & Great Indian Peninsular (GIP) Railways but the congregation began to spread even further.

The Church is built in black stone. The high roof is of teak wood, tiled with Mangalore tiles. One enters the Church through massive wooden doors wherein is inscribed these words: “I was glad when they said unto me we will go into the house of the Lord”. The interior of the Church is spacious and well ventilated, with its high roof and on either sides of the aisle are rows of long impressive wooden benches which could seat a congregation of 200 people comfortably.

The Church can be proud of still possessing and maintaining the original beautiful decoratively designed wooden Altar Table, the Wooden Pulpit, the Bishop’s Chair, wooden pews, the Marble Baptism Font, the Lectern, the brass Communion rails and the Church Bells. The tablets on the walls, some in brass and others in marble throw light on an era long gone by.

From the Choir vestry one goes up narrow winding stone steps to the Tower room, which is used by the Youth Group at times for their meetings, and yet upwards to the Belfry Tower where are placed the two Church Bells of St. Mary pealing ever since they were installed.

What impresses one as one sits in meditation in the pews of this Church or walks in procession up for Holy Communion, is the grandeur of the Church brought out by its simplicity.

In the compound stands a Parsonage of more recent design, built in 1957 entirely by the efforts of the Congregation.

The elders of St. Mary some of whom are in their eighties and still worshipping here, remember this Church with nostalgic memories - the beautiful surroundings and how essential it was to be fully suited - ladies with Church hats, children with bonnets and the whole place flush with the aroma of flowers blooming in the Church garden.

We have come a long way from the horse carriage days at St. Mary’s. The Chaplains (as they were earlier called), the Pastorate Committees, the Women’s Fellowship, Youth Groups, the Sunday Schools, the Choirs, have continued to function with great zeal, dedication and devotion, maintaining our rich heritage and working in step with the changes of time, people and ecclesiastics.

With His Strength we have restored the Church to the best of its condition. We pray particularly at this time that we shall gain greater strength to follow in His footsteps and serve His flock with love.