On January 26, while the country celebrated Republic Day, the small Christian community in Agripada did more than just that. It celebrated the foundation-stone-laying ceremony of the St Andrew’s Marathi Church by advancing the celebrations to January 26 from January 28 — the actual date of the church’s centenary.
A special mass in the morning, followed by breakfast, lunch, choir services and prayer songs comprised the day’s events. Formed for Gujarati and Marathi congregations that had moved to the area over 100 years ago, St Andrew’s Marathi Church continues to have a small parish.
“Back then, there were around 120 families; now, there are 70-75 associated with the church,” said Reverend Shekhar Jadhav, parish priest of the church.
Built using Porbandar stones, it has the Church of England-style architecture, with lancet windows in the front, a bell at the top and side aisles where the church services take place. The first Marathi and Gujarati priests who served have their tablets etched in the walls of the church.
“Though there is no record of the construction cost available, the land was leased in 1914 from the Bombay Improvement Trust after paying it Rs1,060. It was taken when the worshippers moved from Ahmednagar. It was the first church built by the Bombay Diocesan Council, an umbrella organisation formed to administer affairs of churches of various denominations,” said Cyril Dara, parish member and honorary treasurer of the pastorate community. The church is now part of the Church of North India.
Even now, the church pays Rs1,060 for the 21,000 sqft of land, on which, besides the church, stands a school and a welfare centre built in 1999. The fact that skilled labourers were its parishioners comes across when one looks at the altar. Crosses in 72 different shapes are carved out. “Each cross is different from the other and was carved by the carpenters and masons who were its members,” added Dara.