Seventy fifth anniversary celebrations | Daily News

Seventy fifth anniversary celebrations

In the early 40s, an Oxford educated young clergyman in his early 30s was appointed to one of the largest Anglican congregations in Sri Lanka. This church was special for him as this was a gift from his paternal great grand father to the people of Moratuwa.

This clergyman appointed as Incumbent of Holy Emmanuel Church, was Fr. Harald de Soysa, a great grandson of Joronis de Soysa the donor of this church.

After being exposed to young people from many countries at Oxford, Father de Soysa understood the necessity to bring young people together to enhance their skills, talents and energies in the context of the faith community.

Although Father de Soysa had a broader vision of starting the Church of Ceylon Youth Movement for the whole country first of all he ventured out into establishing the Holy Emmanuel Church Youth Fellowship as a pre-shadow of his vision. For his effort the parish became a fertile ground with young people from all spheres of life.

In 1941, the Youth Fellowship was born under the leadership of then Rev. Herald de Soysa (he later became the first Sri Lankan Bishop of Colombo) the Incumbent of Holy Emmanuel Church, Moratuwa. With the founding of the Youth Fellowship the parish had a revival with the revitalisation of the energies of young people.

Gradually the leadership of the parish which was very much confined to the older generation changed and the young people got involved in the activities of the parish with renewed vigour.

With the open economy in the late 1970s, Youth Fellowship was open to some young people of other faiths who received associate memberships. Although this became a controversial issue in the parish this step enabled the young people of the parish to develop an inclusive attitude towards the people of sister faiths.

In the early 80s with the advancement of the electronic communication and other modern facilitates the members of the Youth Fellowship gradually learnt how to think globally and act locally. A publication called Tharuna handa (The voice of the Youth) facilitated the young people to express their views to enrich the thinking of the parish.

This was a era where young people gathered daily at the parish hall to play games such as badminton and table tennis. Through games they enjoyed the fellowship and friendship by strengthening their relationships.

Today the Youth Fellowship functions in the context of the above realities. With the widening of horizons the young people have been making efforts to retain their identity in the parish while handling the drastic changes that they have been undergoing.

This rapid changing environment has made the members of the Youth Fellowship to contemplate on the importance of keeping the tension and balance between spiritual and empirical realities.

Today the Youth Fellowship of Holy Emmanuel Church exists as a live wire of the faith community and surrounding area. There are many couples in the parish and elsewhere who met each other as friends in the Youth Fellowship and later through marriage came together as husbands and wives. The Youth Fellowship has been able make its contribution to the parish and the society for 75 years by facilitating the formation of young people in a positive manner.

Today there are many past members of the Youth Fellowship in all spheres of life. It is encouraging to note that they have joined together to celebrate the 75th anniversary to encourage young people. We hope and pray that the Youth Fellowship will be able continue their process of education and formation for young people to transform their lives to make this word a better place for the future generations.

- Rev. Keerthisiri Fernando, Archdeacon of Nuwara Eliya, Diocese of Colombo

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