Sunday 26th February: we were in Holy Trinity, Nuwara Eliya.
We accompanied our friend Fr. Keerthi Fernando who was the guest of honour at the celebration of the church’s founding, 165 years ago. Holy Trinity has a strong colonial past. Nuwara Eliya, known as “Little England,” is very high, 2,200m, with a gentle mild climate that made it a popular retreat for the British from the hot summers. Its most famous visitors include our current Queen who dedicated a window in the 1950’s. The church now hosts a vibrant mixed Tamil, Sinhalese and English-speaking congregation.
Before the formal church service, we took part in a celebratory procession that wound itself through the town. This was a surreal mixture of traditional Sinhalese dancers, Mothers Union, the “Gents group”, as the impatient traffic weaved past, accompanied by the odd fire cracker. We also had a couple of youth bands and lots of members of the congregation. At points along the way we stopped and prayed for the town and its institutions of government.
Once in church, the trilingual service began. Just imagine the logistics of making the mammoth service paper, and how you prepare a sermon that will need to be translated twice over – from English into Sinhala and Tamil. Things overran by quite a bit, with the service that was initially suggested to us finishing at about 11:30am, actually completed by 12:45pm, having started with the procession at 9am.
I think I contributed to part of the delay, being invited to do an individual children’s blessing during the final hymn. I don’t know how many children there were, except that they had to sing the final hymn twice, and then improvised an extra one to all me to get through the huge queue of children that snaked down the aisle to the altar rail.
Things didn’t finish there. There was the planting of 165 trees to form a new cypress hedge, and a rice and curry lunch, that consisted of a lentil dhal, green beans and onion, a fish sambol, and a chicken curry. We were grateful for the generous warm welcome.
A video clip is on the Facebook page.