History and functioning of Elders' Fellowship at the Madras Mar Thoma Church, Chetpet
By Mrs Mary Mathew
Dr M S Samuel, at the age of 86, organised the Elders' Fellowship in October 2000 at our church in response to a circular sent by the Metropolitan asking each Mar Thoma parish to start a Senior Citizens' Fellowship.
The first meeting was conducted by Dr Samuel on 24/10/2000 at 5 PM at the parish hall of our church. Ten elders attended the meeting. Dr Samuel functioned as the secretary of the fellowship for 3 years during which period he conducted not less than 120 meetings. The secretary ship was taken over by Mrs. Susan Abraham (Ammu) in 2003; after her, Mrs. Irene Ukkur, Mr. Jose Ukkur, and Dr. Minnie Mathan served as Secretaries for various subsequent terms. Mrs Mary Mathews took over the secretary ship from 2012. It is remarkable that Dr. Samuel kept on attending almost every meeting till a few months before he passed away in January 2013 at the age of 98.
Elections of the office bearers take place during annual meetings, held usually in the second week of April. Besides the Secretary, two others, namely Treasurer and Auditor, have also been elected at every annual meeting. Mr. V. C. John and Mr. Percy Mathew have served in these capacities ever since 2004. Their services are well appreciated. Our meeting and party to celebrate Christmas are usually held in the second week of December.
Currently, the Elders' Fellowship has 32 members belonging to the Mar Thoma, CSI, orthodox and Catholic denominations. Meetings are generally conducted on every Tuesday evenings at 5 PM at the church parish hall, till the hall was demolished. Since the demolition of the Parish hall the meetings are now held at the church. The Messages at most of the meetings cover topics on Spiritual weapons, God's grace, Faith and Hope, Abiding in Jesus and having an abundant life) based on biblical passages. We believe that the meaningful Christian messages that we have been listening to are helping us to realise our responsibilities as Christians and act on them. We have also been inviting experts on various topics of interest to the elders, like social problems facing the elderly, maintenance of good physical and mental health, managing finances, making a will, and so on.
At every meeting, an offertory box is kept, into which those present put their offerings. Last year (Dec. 2012) we donated money for a Christmas lunch and small gifts to poor children who are given lunch every day by the Indian Council of Social Work at their premises in Kilpauk. We also visited the Little Sisters of the Poor on Harrington Road and interacted with several of the inmates, and gave a donation towards the medical expenses of the inmates. In late 2012, the Elders' Fellowship received Endowments in memory of the late Mr. Jose Ukkur and Dr. M. S. Samuel. The interest on these amounts is to be used for some worthy causes.
Throughout the history of our Fellowship, we have received constant encouragement and support from our achens. As the Secretary at present, I have personal experience of the warmth with which such support has been extended by Thomas Mathew achen. I wish to express our gratitude to our achens on behalf of our Fellowship.