“Glory to God in the highest”
It is indeed an honor and privilege for me to have served as the secretary of Ecumenical Fellowship of Indian Churches in Philadelphia for the year 2014. I am happy that I could complete this work with blessing from God Almighty and I praise Him for this.
The motto of our fellowship is to foster unity and understanding among the Churches of the episcopal tradition from Kerala, India, enriching our spiritual life in collaboration with the participating parishes in the greater Philadelphia area. Through our fellowship, we are able to work for reconciliation, healing and the unity of men and women with God and with one another, so that Jesus words that “they all maybe one” will be fulfilled.
Our Ecumenical work makes us the leaders in Philadelphia region and holds the community of Christians of all denominations. The representatives from 21 participating churches met on May 11th 2014 at St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church and elected the following office-bearers and bearers for the year. The former chairman Rev. Fr. K. K. John presided over the election and installed the following members into office:
Chairman Rev. Shaji M. Eappan
Co-Chair Rev. Fr. Shibu V Mathai
Religious Activity Coordinators Rev. Dennis Abraham
Rev. Fr. Gheevarghese John
Secretary Mrs. Annie P Mathew
Joint Secretary Mr. Santhosh Abraham
Treasurer Mr. Joby John
Souvenir & PRO Mr. Geemon George
Charity Mr. Daniel P. Thomas
Women’s Forum Convener Mrs. Suma Chacko
Women’s forum Co-Convener Mrs. Sallu Yohannan
Youth Activity Mr. Benjamin Mathew
Program Coordinator Mr. Benny Kottarathil
Choir Mr. Thomas Abraham
Auditors Mr. Vincent Emmanuel
Mr. John Daniel
Members: Currently 21 parishes hold the membership in EFICP. No new members were added during the year. The congregation of the 21 parishes adds up to approximately 3000 families, making the fellowship the largest and most popular one among the Indian immigrants in the USA. The names of all the parishes are given in the inside cover page of this report.
General Body Meetings: Six General Body meetings were held during the year. I gratefully place on record the gratitude of EFICP to the vicars and parish members of the churches who graciously hosted these meetings on their premises. They are as follows:
- St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church
- CSI Christ Church in Philadelphia
- St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church
- Christos Mar Thoma Church
- St. Gregorios Malankara Orthodox Church
Executive Committee Meetings: A total of seven Executive Committee meetings were held during the year. The Executive Committee always met before the General Body with an exception on December 7th, when the Committee gathered together for the raffle ticket drawing and for the final planning of Christmas celebration.
Activities and Events: We had a variety of activities and events during the year 2014-2015. During the first General Body meeting on June 15th, we planned and picked the dates for all events for the year.
Ecumenical Day: Ecumenical day was observed on August 24th and 31st of 2014. Representatives from ecumenical fellowship visited all 21 member churches and explained the purpose of the fellowship and the various activities conducted by the fellowship. The visiting representatives were well satisfied by the reception of the member churches. We express our extreme gratitude to the vicars of all the churches for allowing the representatives to talk about the Ecumenical Fellowship.
Clergy Meetings: Under the strong guidance of Religious Activity Chairperson Rev. Dennis Abraham, Mar Thoma Youth Chaplain several meeting were held at different churches. Clergy from different churches along with their families meet together once every two months for bible study, prayers and discussion. During the meeting a quality paper on pastoral issues which helps all the clergy in the ministry will be presented. These meetings help the clergy to get to know each other and understand different denominations.
Ecumenical Convention: On September 7th 2014, EFICP held the Annual Gospel Convention at CSI Christ Church in Pennsylvania. Rev. Fr. Paulose T. Peter, Vicar of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church White Plains, NY, was the keynote speaker for this event. He served UNO for 32 years. He spoke on the theme “Come and be blessed.”Almost 150 people from the member churches of EFICP attended the convention. Under the excellent leadership of Mr. Thomas Abraham, EFICP choir sang beautiful songs. The ecumenical fellowship would like to thank the Chairman Rev. Shaji M. Eappan and Religious Activity Chairperson Rev. Dennis Abraham for coordinating the convention. We also thank the vicar and members of CSI Christ Church for allowing us to use the facility for the convention.
Women’s Retreat: Under the capable leadership of Mrs. Suma Chacko and Mrs. Sallu Yohannan, the coordinators of Women’s Forum of EFIC, a half day retreat was arranged for the women of the fellowship at Ascension Mar Thoma Church on October 18th 2014 between 9 AM and 1 PM. Rev. Dr. Asha George – Guiser, D.Min LMFT & leadearship consultant and Rev. Sarah Anderson – Rajarigam, Pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Drexel Hill, PA spoke on the theme “Who moved my cheese” which is based on the psychological and biblical spirituality of change. The workshop style retreat helped the participants inter-generationally look at the change from God’s perspective and our life’s purpose and our legacy that we leave behind for generations to come. Around hundred and thirty women from different churches attended the retreat. EFICP expresses its special gratitude to the vicar and members of Ascension Mar Thoma Church for hosting the event. On behalf of EFICP we express our sincere gratitude to Mrs. Suma Chacko and Mrs. Sallu Yohannan who helped to make this event a success.
Youth Conference: Religious Activity Chairpersons Rev. Dennis Abraham and Rev. Fr. Geevarghese John, and Youth Activity Coordinator Mr. Benjamin Mathew of EFICP took the initiative to arrange the youth conference held on Friday, November 7, 2014 between 6 PM and 9 PM at St. George Malankara Orthodox Church, Fairless Hills. The main speaker Rev. Fr. Abraham Kuruvilla spoke on the theme “Life in Christ.” Philadelphia Music Ministry led the melodious songs for the retreat. Around seventy youth from various churches attended this conference. EFICP place on record its gratitude to the vicar and members of St. George Malankara Orthodox Church for conducting the retreat. We express our special gratitude to Rev. Dennis Abraham, Rev. Fr. Geevarghese John, Mr. Benjamin Mathew and Philadelphia Music Ministry for making this event a success.
Christmas Celebration: Best of all the event, the grand Christmas Celebration of EFICP was held on Saturday, December 13, 2014 at George Washington High School, Northeast Philadelphia. Through the joyful celebration, EFICP preserve the vibrant culture, rich heritage and belief of Indian community in Philadelphia region. It helps us to build a strong Indian Christian community rooted in faith in Christ, nourished by the Word of God and united in love. Over a thousand people from Philadelphia region attended the celebration. The solemn procession with Nativity Scene and chendamelam in the ceremonial mode led the procession and made its way to the front of the stage. During the public meeting, our chief guest His Eminence Archbishop Titus Mor Yeldho (Archbishop of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church in North America) was the keynote speaker. His Grace Dr. Yuhanon Mor Melitius Metropolitan (Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Trissur Diocese) also delivered the Christmas message. We had felicitations from Honorable Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick and Rev. Fr. Alexander James Kurian (Deputy Administrator of the office of the Govt Wide Policy-OGP). Rev. Fr. Geevarghese John led the worship service in which clergies from all churches participated. EFICP presented plaque to the transferring clergies and a special honor for Rev. Fr. Alexander James Kurian who serves in Obama Administration. The public meeting concluded with a vote of thanks by Joint Secretary Mr. Santhosh Abraham. Mr. Benny Kottarathil, the Chairperson of cultural program, coordinated the variety cultural programs from the participating churches. Sixteen churches participated in the cultural program celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Ecumenical choir added to the beauty of the event with its melodious songs. EFICP would like to place its gratitude to His Eminence Archbishop Titus Mor Yeldho, His Grace Dr. Yuhanon Mor Melitius, Rev. Fr. Alexander James Kurian and Honorable congressman Mike Fitzpatrick for accepting the invitation and taking time out of their busy schedules to attend the event. Once again, EFICP would like to thank all the clergy, executive committee members, general body members and all the coordinators for their hard work, dedication and support for making the Christmas celebration a grant success. The Ecumenical Fellowship is also indebted to newspapers and TV media for providing coverage for the event. We also recognize the professional art groups Anugraha Music Academy, Nrithasree Dance Academy, Noopura Dance Academy and Matha Dance Academy for their wonderful performances.
EFICP Souvenir: This is the main source of revenue for EFICP. Mr. Geemon George, the Public Relations Chairperson of EFICP, worked extremely hard to publish the souvenir. We place a special recognition to Mr. Geemon George for his leadership for a job well done.
EFICP Charity Fundraising: Thorough our generosity and support we were able to help those less fortunate. Mr. Daniel P Thomas did a superb job and surprisingly exceeded the expectation of the general body. This year we collected over $5000 with Syro Malabar Catholic Church being recognized as the winner of charity fund raising. Funds were donated to Red Cross, Phil abundance and the mission work of the Mar Thoma and Orthodox Churches in Attapadi, Kerala.
EFICP Choir: Music is an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony. Under the exceptional leadership of Mr. Thomas Abraham, EFICP choir made all the events alive and enjoyable.
EFICP Website: We have a website for EFICP under the domain www. Philadelphiaecumenical.org. EFICP recognizes Mr. Rajan Mathew’s dedication for his help with the website launching.
ICCCP: The Ecumenical Fellowship of Indian Churches in Philadelphia has long discussed the need for a community center for members of our community to congregate. A community center where our Indian values, beliefs and traditions are preserved and practiced has become the necessity for us. A community center where we can have culturally appropriate educational sections, counseling services, conference rooms, and facilities for gym, games and swimming pool which will benefit the community as a whole is being planned.
In the kick off Banquet on November 24, 2013 His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos was the chief guest. Important community leaders attended the function and gave their input. Several projects are in the planning. Rev. Fr. M. K. Kuriakose is the Project Coordinator. An informal counseling service is being planned for the benefit of our community as soon as possible. Mr. Paul Varki and team are working on it.
A set of bylaws were adopted and approved by the EFICP. The ICCCP will be incorporated as a tax exempt entity and our members will get the opportunity to share their talents and resources for the Center.
World Day of Prayer: World Day of Prayer was held on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at St. Thomas Indian Orthodox church between 9:30 AM and 12:30 PM. It was attended by 350 people from different participating member churches of EFICP. This year our celebration was focused on the issue of women of Bahamas and was based on Jesus’ words to the disciples after washing their feet. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” John 13: 12. Mrs. Seena Abraham Kochamma, Carmel MTC Boston delivered the keynote address and celebrated with dance, music, skit and monologue based on the tradition, culture and lifestyle of people of Bahamas. EFICP recognizes the service of US World Day of Prayer committee in composing the order of worship. Mrs. Suma Chacko, Mrs. Sallu Yohannan and Mrs. Nirmala Abraham led the ladies of EFICP in celebrating World Day Prayer in Philadelphia. Our special thanks are due to the St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church for all help extended in conducting this program.
I am pleased and extremely proud to have served as the Secretary of EFICP for the year 2014-2015. It was indeed a pleasure to meet everyone from all twenty one churches. I thoroughly enjoyed my duties as a secretary and am grateful for the cooperation, support and dedication that I have received from all of you. It is our unity that helps us to uphold our rich heritage, strong beliefs and vibrant culture. I am very grateful to all clergy for their tremendous work, prayerful leadership and valuable time that you have contributed to maintain the great legacy of EFICP. I would like to personally thank the Chairman Rev. Shaji M Eappan and Rev. Fr. Shibu V. Mathai and all clergy for their leadership and guidance from time to time. EFICP expresses its appreciation to Souvenir Coordinator Mr. Geemon George, Choir Coordinator Mr. Thomas Abraham, Treasurer Mr. Joby John, Program Coordinator Mr. Benny Kottarathil, Joint Secretary Mr. Santhosh Abraham, Youth Activity Coordinator Mr. Benjamin Mathew, Charity and fund rising Mr. Daniel P Thomas, and Women’s Coordinators Mrs. Suma Chacko and Mrs. Sallu Yohannan.Above all, standing together in prayer is surely a great strength for all of us. I hope that the future generations will see EFICP as a prestigious memoir to our honorable ancestors and their descendants. I pray to God the merciful to shower upon us His blessings in abundance now and forever.
Annies Mathew, Secretary, EFICP