a gift of a chalice
by sister joy whitin
to the Fellowship of st thomas
A Talk by Murdoch MacKenzie
The Fellowship of St Thomas has received a gift of a chalice. It is presently being used by our President, Rev Eileen Thompson, in the Livingston Ecumenical Parish and will be used in the service of holy communion in Dunblane Cathedral on 24th September 2011. It originally came from Sister Joy Whitin a member of the Church of South India Sisterhood. She was also a member of the Fellowship of Prayer for Unity associated with Sister Carol Graham who founded the CSI Sisterhood. Sister Carol was also instrumental in founding the Farncombe Community which gave rise to the Ecumenical Spirituality Project now called the Living Spirituality network and based at The Well at Willen in Milton Keynes. Partly because of our Indian connections, recently the people in Milton Keynes have gifted the chalice to us.
In 1992 Sister Joy wrote as follows:
My father, Rev Thomas Whitin, joined the ministry of the Methodist Church in 1909 in Nagapattinam, South India, where the Methodist Church from the United Kingdom started work in the late 18th century. They also began working in Sri Lanka at that time.
My father was a convert to Christianity from his study at Madurai – Pasumalai, on the border with Kerala. He married my mother, daughter of the first Indian pastor in Menguapuram – Tinnevelly very close to where Bishop Azariah was born. My father and Bishop Azariah had joined with an evangelistic campaign with Mr Eddy from Britain in 1917 and they prayed together in Tranquebar that the churches should be united to evangelise India. Thus the Church of South India began in their time.
My brother, Ashbury Winton, my father and I had the chance to attend the service of inauguration of the Church of South India at St George’s Cathedral, Madras on September 27th 1947. After the service, at home, we were talking to others about the service in the Cathedral. My brother and I said that the gathering in the church reminded us of heaven for Christians of all different countries and different languages were there. Then my father remarked that we should not be content with this as the Roman Catholics should also be one with the Protestants and only then could the church be one. As a Protestant I could not imagine then that the Roman Catholics would join us. That seemed a dream to me and I thought that it could not happen.
Then in 1958 I passed through Oban on my way to Iona in Scotland. I had time to enter a Roman Catholic church where I used their books for worship, and I felt I could follow their worship. With that assurance I went to Iona with a friend and spent a week there. I believed in Ecumenism for the first time in my life – I was reminded of my father’s vision in 1947.
This Holy Communion cup for the wine is the one my father used in his ministry, mostly to take Holy Communion as he cycled to villages in his time in Trichy- Tanjore Diocese. When he died in 1951, my brothers and sisters passed it on to me. I now pass it on to be used in Milton Keynes where I know there is Christian unity such as my father predicted in Madras in 1947. It has come true in practice in an ecumenical centre like Milton Keynes which I visited in 1992 and thank God that Rev. Murdoch MacKenzie is there as the Ecumenical Moderator of Milton Keynes Christian Council.
I hope this cup will be of use to small groups who go there to remind them that we are all one in Christ.
Thus this cup has a story to tell from the lips of Indian villagers whose lives have been fed in the Holy Eucharist and it is a special privilege for us to be able to use it in Livingston and in our gatherings of the Fellowship of St Thomas. Thanks be to God.