On Sunday April 6 the Tamil speaking Bethany Church in Tuckswood, Norwich celebrated its fifth anniversary with a festive service in which the congregation were encouraged to consider themselves as missionaries to Norwich. Jenny Seal reports for Network Norwich and Norfolk.
A lively, charismatic and colourful afternoon service was hosted by the Bethany Church in Norwich to celebrate its fifth anniversary on Sunday April 6. Many of the congregation and wider leadership took part in the Tamil service, which was translated into English, presenting dance, testimony and special songs by the choir.
Bethany Church, Norwich was planted by Pastor Thasan and his wife Balesh in 2007 to serve the growing Sri Lankan community moving to the city for the university and to start businesses.
The church is a branch of Bethany Faith Ministries founded by Rev T M I Sathiyaraj in Southall, London, which brought a coachload of enthusiastic worshippers to support the celebrations on Sunday afternoon.
Pastor Sathiyaraj’s wife Chrishanthy, a council member of the Evangelical Alliance, explained: “The Tamil community is close knit and like to meet together. We are not in competition with the English churches because they are doing a great job. But there are people who don’t speak English and need someone to speak in Tamil to share the Gospel in Tamil. That is the main reason we are here. We are not in competition. We want to do it in complement.”
In his sermon Pastor Sathiyaraj encouraged the congregation to consider themselves as missionaries within the city.
He said: “God has brought you to this city. We all come from different nations. You were not brought to destroy this nation. You were brought to bless this nation. I hope you will say that God has brought you as a missionary to this nation ... God has not brought us to do great ministry among only Tamil people.”
The growing church of around 50 people, meet in St Paul’s Tuckswood on Sunday afternoons where Rt Rev Peter Fox serves as Parish Priest. During the anniversary service Bishop Peter Fox was presented with a garland by Sister Balesh to thank him for his role in giving the church a venue.
Pastor Sathiyaraj said: “Without his help the church could not move forward in the last five years. Thank you so much reverend.”
Bishop Peter Fox remembering his time as a missionary in Papua New Guinea said: “I know what you feel like. I know it’s not easy to be in someone else’s place. And to speak a language that is not your first language.
"But my message to you is: do not be afraid because however far you go – north, east, south, west – you will find you have family. You’ve even got brothers and sisters who are missionaries as you are. Here in Tuckswood you have family, not just Tamil brothers and sisters, but you’ve got English and Scottish and Welsh family too.
“It is a real privilege for us here that you allow us to be your brothers and sisters. We thank God for you.”
Top photo (from left): Rev TMI Sathiyaraj, Chrishanthy Sathiyaraj, Bishop Peter Fox, Pastor Thasan and Sister Balesh
Below: Pastor Thasan leads worship and young people present a dance
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