HISTORY OF KERALA BRETHREN
HISTORY OF KERALA BRETHREN CHURCH
Mathai, a CMS Evangelist from Thirunalveli came to Kerala with a novel message in 1872. Anthony Norris Groves, who was one of the founder leaders of Brethren Movement in England, was the first Brethren Missionary to arrive in India. John Arulappan was one of his disciples. Mathai who was a disciple of Arulappan spoke of the death of Jesus Christ, His second coming and millennium regime in his messages. This paved way for the commencement of Brethren movement in Kerala, the place being known as God's own country.
Yusthos Joseph alias Vidwankutty, a tamil Brahmin and CMS priest, along with his fellow brethren started preaching gospel in Kerala. But one his fellow brethren had a 'revelation' that on completing 6 years from the year 1875 Jesus would come. This had become their subject of preaching from then. Being terribly mistaken in this matter, the movement of Vidwankutty had weakened. But his hymns and sermons helped to reach gospel among the Christians in Kerala.
In December 1894, a well-known gospel preacher, Tamil David visited Kerala. He spoke of Assurance of Salvation very evidently in his messages. An eleven year old boy named KV Simon accepted the Lord during one of his meetings held at Puthencavu.
The Kerala visit of J Gelson Gregson, the famous Kesvik Convention Speaker, had become a cause for the start of Brethren Movement in Kerala. Gregson was a Baptist missionary. But he joined Kesvic team because of their swing to Modernism. It was CP Thomas of Iroor organised his Kerala visit. Gregson took various sessions among the priests and laymen within the Marthoma Church. Many were received assurance of salvation as a result of his preaching. Baptism was also brought in as a subject in his classes. Following these sessions, some of the priests and laymen had decided to receive baptism. This development attracted fury of the Church leaders against Gregson and they barred him from ministering in the Church. In the year 1897, PE Mammen (Kumbanattachen), vicar of Kumbanad and Eraviperoor parishes, received baptism from a Brethren missionary, Hardley Bird, at Kunnamkulam.
The first instance of the Holy Supper according to the New Testament pattern was conducted in Kunnamkulam under the leadership of V Nagal. But that was not a gathering resulted from complete separation from Nominal Christianity.
PE Mammen (Kumbanattachen) had learned the idea that redeemed children of God need to gather for Holy Supper on every Sunday from Hardley Bird. On 19th March 1899, a worship meeting with Holy Supper as per the New Testament pattern was conducted at the residence of Kuttiyil Mathai in Kumbanad. PE John, PC John, Kuttyil Mathai and PC Chacko participated in the Lords Table, following Songs, Prayers and Message. PC Cherian from Kallissery, PC Mammen, Cheruvallethu Koshy Mathunni, PN Ninan were also present in this meeting, though they were not partaken from the Lord's Table.
PC Mammen was baptised in the afternoon same day. Due to the protest of the parish and family members of PE Mammen, they were not able to continue the gathering in the following week in the same house. An attempt to conduct the meeting outside the house in the garden was also foiled. Many who believed were baptised in places like Kuriyannur and Nedumprayar and joined this new movement.
Following the worship meeting held at Kumbanad, meetings with Holy Supper were not held regularly. But believers from Kumbanad and neighboring places used to attend meetings organized by PE Mammen at different places. Offertory was not taken during these meetings.
Hardely Bird was a speaker in a meeting held at Kumbanad during July 1899. According to the guidance given by him, the practice of taking offertory after Lords Table was introduced. In the meeting held at Kavangumprayar on 3rd of September 1899, they have decided to have worship meetings with Holy Supper in their own villages. Subsequently worship meetings were commenced at places like Kallissery, Edasserymala, Kavangumprayar etc.
During the same period as a result of the ministry of V Nagal in the northern region of Kerala, local assemblies were formed in Kunnamkulam and Parur. Evangelists Lonappan, Nambi, Porinju, Paaru Ashan were some of the prominent co-workers of V Nagal in his ministry. Assembly testimonies were also planted at Trichur and Ankamali by the efforts of Mr. Thyne and Lonappan.
V Nagal moved to Trichur in the year 1906 and continued his ministry. He purchased 75 acres of land in Nellikkunnu and started a school and orphanage.
1919 Evangelist Lonappan was used by the Lord to establish an assembly in Ankamali. He had to experience severe opposition and persecution. On 5th on February 1919, a brutal incident took place. The buried dead body of one of his child was taken out from Cemetery and was placed near his house by his opponents. He had to bury the body in his own premises with the help of police.
MJ Davies moved to Trichur and started laboring there.
In November, Evangelist Lonappan and a believer Kidangoor Thaiparambil Joseph were very severely beaten up. Later the opponents continued to attack believers. They have looted their agricultural produces. Bibles were burnt. But the believers remained calm and they have even not made any formal complaint to the local authorities. But the authorities registered case by themselves.
1915 – 1929 “Viojethar” (Seperatist)
KV Simon, a profound scholar, was actively involved in the spiritual activities of Marthoma church. The leadership he provided to the youth movement (Yuvajana Samajam) was significant among them. During this time three members of Yuvajana Samajam received believer’s baptism. The vicar had reported to the Metropolitan that KV Simon himself had baptism and he preached baptism among the members of the church. Following this Simon was summoned and expelled from the Church. The Expulsion order issued on 25th December 1915 was a significant turning point in the history of Brethren movement in Kerala. This helped Simon to preach the doctrinal truths very strongly.
There were a number of believers separated from nominal Christian churches by the work of Simon Sir and his fellow workers in various parts of Kerala. Representatives of these brethren from Pennukkara, Mylapra, Manjanikara, Edasserimala, Puthenpeedika, Valanjavattam, Kadammanitta, Ranni, Prakkanam, Puvathur, Mallassery, Budhanur, Vazhupadi, Mazhukeer, Edayaranmula gathered on 22 June 1918 at Edasserimala assembly hall and decided to have fellowship between the local assemblies they represent and to stay united. This group was called “Viojethar” (separatists) and existed until 1929, when the number of assemblies were about 35.
On 20 January 1929, Viojetha assemblies of KV Simon joined with the movement of Mr Noel. Later the assemblies favouring PE Mammen (Kumbanattachen) also joined them resulting in the formation of a single Movement. Mr Nagel and his team had paved the foundation of Brethren assemblies in North Travancore, Cochin and Malabar.