The humble beginnings of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church UK dates back to 1957. In Bristol, during December 2000 a group of Christian families from Kerala had come as expatriates to National Health Service - from the Middle East. Few of the families met at Mr Zachariah Abraham’s residence during the Christmas eve of 2000 which was followed by an Ecumenical group gathering during June 2001 for a prayer meeting at the Baptist Church Hall in Eastville. As the group started to grow, Mr Abraham Niravathu took the initiative to organise a Mar Thoma prayer meeting under the leadership of Rev K V Cherian (Vicar of St John’s MTC, Hounslow 2001-2004) who then continued to give spiritual leadership and fellowship. On 24th August 2002, the first Holy Communion Service in Bristol, was held at the St Anne’s Church of England, in Eastville. Following a formal request, a prayer group was formed under the St John’s MTC during July 2003. and a monthly Holy Communion Service was initiated to cater to the Mar Thoma members in the South West Region. Rev John Thomas, Vicar of St John’s MTC, Hounslow (2004 – 2007) continued to provide us with the needed pastoral care.
Following a request by 39 families residing in and around the south west region under the leadership of Rev John Thomas, to the Diocesan Episcopa Rt Rev Dr Euyakim Mar Coorilos Suffragon Metropolitan, Bristol was given the status of an independent Congregation starting from the 1st April 2006, and Rev Benu John (2006-2007) was appointed its first Vicar. Mr Abraham Niravathu (Vice President), Mr Jaffey Chacko (Secretary), Mr Niana Panickar (Treasurer) and Mr Saji Mathew (Accountant) served alongside the Vicar.
Rev Dr Abraham Mathew was appointed Vicar starting from 1st May 2007 (1st May 2007 - 31st March 2012) provided the needed leadership and spiritual guidance. Along with his PhD studies, Achen had additional responsibility of St Peter’s MTC, East London for the first three years, and was appointed full time Vicar from 1st May 2010. During Achen’s tenure, Bristol Congregation, following the General Body’s decision in April 2007, made a formal request to the Diocesan Episcopa to elevate from Congregation to a full pledged Parish. The honourable Episcopal synod that met during August 2007 approved our request. Late Lamented Most Revd Dr Philipose Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan, via Kalpana declared the Parish to be known by the name St Thomas Mar Thoma Church, Bristol-UK effective from 1st October 2007. In addition, it was indeed a proud moment for the Parishioners when the formal announcement of our Parish was made in the year 2007, which was Golden Jubilee celebration year of the Mar Thoma presence in the United Kingdom. We had 56 families as registered members, during 2007-2008.
A special committee was formed to identify a suitable property for a Vicarage. After a lot of efforts, the Vicarage at 24 Millward Grove was procured and dedicated by His Lordship Most Rev Dr Theodosius Mar Thoma Metropolitan on the 13th September 2010. Mr Oommen Abraham (Vice President), Mr Saji John (Secretary), Mr Abraham Niravathu (Treasurer) and Mr P G Analyse (Accountant) were the officials during 2010-2011. With the blessings of our current Metropolitan (who was our Diocesan Episcopa), as part of His Grace’s vision to “Neighbourhood Mission” a building sharing agreement of the St Annes Church and Church Hall, Eastville was formally signed in His Grace’s presence during a special service held on the 8th March 2012. On behalf of our Parish, Rev Dr Abraham Mathew and Rev Jane Hayward on behalf of the Parochial Church Council of the Parish of Eastville St Anne with St Mark and St Thomas were signatories to the sharing agreement. Achen achieved his Doctorate in Mission Studies during this time.
Rev K P Johnson was appointed Vicar from 1st May 2012, and served the Parish for three years. During Achen’s tenure, the General Body had accepted a proposal and gave approval to identify and own a Church, that would meet the needs of the members residing in the South West Region. With Achen’s able leadership, on the 1st April 2015, our prayer group in Cardiff was elevated to an independent congregation status.
Rev Abraham P Mathew was appointed Vicar from 1st May 2015, and served the Parish for three years. During Achen’s leadership following a lot of hard work and efforts of our Office Bearers and Executive Committee and the support of our esteemed members, God almighty enabled us to buy the Southville Methodist Church and we received the keys to the Church property in October 2016. After almost 15 years of our Worship at St Anne’s CoE in Eastville, St Thomas Mar Thoma Church, Bristol’s own place of worship was dedicated for His Glory by our current Diocesan Bishop Rt Rev Dr Isaac Mar Philoxenos on the 1st April 2017. The first Holy Communion Service was held on the 2nd April 2017. Mr Oommen Abraham (Vice President), Mr Saji John (Secretary), Mr Moncy Mathew (Treasurer) and Mr Samuel Sammoni (Accountant) were the officials during 2016-2017.
Rev Abraham C Tharian was appointed on the 1st May 2018, and served the Parish for a year.
Very Rev P T Thomas was appointed as our Vicar from the 5th July 2019 and being the senior most clergy in the region had the additional responsibilities, as the Vice President of the UK & Europe Zone. Whilst the Parish was undergoing a challenging period, Very Rev P T Thomas a senior retired clergy and a former Sabha Secretary, with nearly five decades of experience was appointed to cater to the needs of our parish. Achen’s vibrant leadership during his retired years and the pandemic has been commendable. Diocesan Bishop during February 2019, entrusted the additional responsibility of pastoring to the needs of the Cardiff Mar Thoma Congregation. With God’s grace and our Achen’s able guidance and support, St Thomas Mar Thoma Church, Bristol was honoured to see its first child, Immanuel Mar Thoma Church, Cardiff born on the 15th September 2021.
During Achen’s tenure, AGAPE Project was approved unanimously by the General Body on the 29th August 2021. The project decision was to sell the existing Vicarage, settle the outstanding mortgage on the Church building, and buy a new Vicarage with enhanced facilities to meet the ever-increasing pastoral needs of our growing Church community.
General Body authorised the Executive Committee to take necessary actions to accomplish the stated objectives of the project.
A Project Committee, reporting to the Executive Committee, under the leadership of Very Rev P T Thomas Achen comprising of the Office Bearers of the Church namely Mr. Johnson Chacko (Vice President), Mr. Jaffey Chacko (Secretary), Mr. Saji John (Treasurer) Mr. Sunil K Daniel (Accountant), Mr. Sam K Varughese (Lay Leader) Mr. Chacko Mathew (Lay Leader), Mr Zachariah Abraham, Mr Abraham Niravathu, along with the three nominees by the Vicar Mr. Oommen Abraham, Mr Saji Mathew and Mr Sanu Samuel was formed. The Project Committee were authorised to carry out all the practical steps needed and work with the Executive Committee to execute the Agape Project.
Four appointed teams namely, Project Finance team (Convenor Mr Saji John), Existing Vicarage Sale team, (Convenor Mr Sunil K Daniel), New Vicarage Search team (Convenor Mr Sanu Samuel) and the Legal team (Convenor Mr Zachariah Abraham) worked simultaneously for the success of the project. Mr Jaffey Chacko served as the General Convenor.
On the 1st of July 2022, by His grace and mercy, the AGAPE project was executed in its fulness. We successfully completed the sale of 24 Millward Grove in Fishponds and purchased 24 Sherbourne Avenue in Bradley Stoke with a new mortgage, and settled in full the outstanding mortgage on the Church. We praise God for all our members who have prayerfully and financially supported to the success of the AGAPE project. On the 4th July 2022, Diocesan Bishop Rt Rev Dr Isaac Mar Philoxenos visited and blessed our newly brought Vicarage. On the 9th July 2022, the new Vicarage was dedicated for the Glory of God by our current Vicar Rev Sanoj Babu Mathew in the presence of Rev M M Thomas and members of our Parish, followed by a brief reception thereafter.
Rev Sanoj Babu Mathew Achen was appointed from the 1st May 2022. Sanoj Achen, with Gincy Kochamma, along with their daughters Juvana and Jesna, continue to provide dedicated service and leadership. We thank Sanoj Achen and his family for their valuable services to our parish.
We also acknowledge and thank our former Vicars, our founding members and laymen for all their invaluable guidance and support.