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Half yearly paper - May to October 2004

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Mother Winifred

Mother Winifred

Mother Winifred writes. ‘I received a New Year greeting from the Bishop of Kurunagala, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) who was present in Barisal for the Consecration of Bishop Paul, and this reminded me of my visit to Ceylon in 1955 to lecture to a Sunday School Teachers’ Course. After the Course, as the Bishop was going into Retreat he instructed his driver to take me on a tour of Ceylon as a reward for all my efforts on their behalf. This Report is a record of that time:’

The rain fell, the thunder grumbled and the dark sky was lit by frequent flashes of lightning, as at 3.30 a.m. on the 15th August 1955,I set out by taxi from Behala on the first stage of my journey to Ceylon. Dawn broke as I reached Dum Dum - the Calcutta Airport. The plane - a Dakota - left at about 6 a.m., and as we flew south over the city and its outskirts we caught a glimpse of the Oxford Mission church at Behala; the roof was glinting in a sudden patch of bright sunlight.

After a bumpy ride amongst the clouds, where I ate and lost my breakfast, we had a smooth journey on … to Trichinopoly… On landing I was met by the Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary of the Church of Ceylon Sunday School’s Committee, being the Ven. C.H.W. De Soysa, the Revd. C. Mutukisna and the Revd. D B. Bartholomeusz respectively…

A welcome change from the hot stickiness of Calcutta was the cool sea breeze of Colombo...I was struck too by the cleanliness, apparent newness and concern for health evident in Colombo. I was able to browse round the well-run Church ‘Corner Book Shop’. During the week I judged the Handwork at a Sunday School Exhibition at Kotte and came to know one of the difficulties of Sunday Schools here. As in Education, attention is being concentrated on the ‘Swabhasha’ or language of the Country; Sunday Schools have to be run in Sinhalese, Tamil and English. I was understood when I spoke in English but as more and more education is in ‘Swabhasha’ it will not be so easy for others in the future.

At the weekend I returned to Kotte to spend some time with the Headmistress of the Girls' High School, Miss R. Opie, The school was on holiday but on my previous visit I had seen the girls at work and had been present at their end-of-term concert held in their beautiful new school hall. On Sunday morning I was introduced to some indigenous - Sinhalese - music when I attended the Holy Communion Service at the Blind School. The Service has been set to Sinhalese folksong music. This has a flowing rhythm and a great feeling of joy. I had the pleasure of visiting two Sunday Schools, the first held in Sinhalese, the second at St. Paul’s Milagiriya held in English. This Sunday School is faced with the problem of having provided a Sinhalese section only to find that parents still wish to have their children taught in English in Sunday School.

The Summer School… was held at St Thomas's College, Mount Lavinia, close to the sea and began on Monday evening with an Opening Service at which the Bishop of Colombo preached. There were about fifty resident, and almost as many again, Day students, coming from both the Dioceses of Colombo and Kurunegala.

From Tuesday to Friday the daily programme comprised Mattins; Holy Communion; Breakfast; Conducted Meditation; Lectures on Bible Study and Teaching Methods; Intercessions; Lunch; Free Afternoon; Tea; Lectures; Dinner followed by either Film strips, Film or Concert and each day fittingly closed with Compline. Each morning one of the sessions was of a practical nature in which the teachers had an opportunity of putting into practice what they had learnt. Great was the surprise of many at their own hidden talents when they made what must have been for them their first chart. The standard of this practical work was very high.

On Friday evening the St. Christopher’s Guild for Sunday School Teachers met and a Service of Re-dedication and Admission was held. Thirteen new members were admitted… Then followed a Seminar when the following problems were discussed:

1.Should teachers use titles rather than names, e.g. Our Lord, St Peter etc.? 2.How to supply the present dearth of Sunday School Teachers? 3.From where should the money come for Sunday School equipment? 4.How best to conduct Sunday Schools where there are three language groups? 5.How best to work with a Vicar who dominates and is averse to the use of new methods? …

Sunday morning brought the last lectures, thankyous, presentations including a delightful brooch commemorating the School, and the closing service at which the Bishop of Kurunegala preached."

Touring Ceylon
After lunch, the Bishop of Kurunegala took me by car to Kandy, a delightfully hilly spot with its lovely lake, its rapidly growing University and its beautiful Garden. On the way we passed several elephants either bathing or working. Whilst staying with Dr. and Mrs. Frewin for this week-end we went out to a Tea Estate, and it was interesting to compare the processing of the tea with that of the method I had seen used in Darjeeling.

On Monday, the Bishop being in Retreat I was given the use of his car and the expert guidance of his driver. He has been driving for the Bishop for 16 years. He had instructions to show me the famous ruined cities of Ceylon and to return me safely. We set off on Monday afternoon to drive the 90 miles to Talawa. Here I stayed at the House of Joy, a mission station comprising a Girls’ Home and School and a Maternity Hospital. On the way I saw tea bushes, pepper creepers, cocoa trees, tall rubber trees and nutmeg trees, in addition to the familiar coconut palms and banana trees.

On Tuesday morning we set off for Anuradhapura, the most famous of the ruined cities, named after a Minister in the sixth century BC. In the third century B.C. Mahinda, a Buddhist monk, son of the Indian Emperor Asoka, a famous Buddhist, went to Ceylon, and many converts were made and many buildings constructed; particularly the dagabas, which are vast solid brick hemispherical structures surmounted by a square from which rises a conical spire, the whole enshrining Buddhist relics. Several of these were to be seen in various stages of decay. One vast perfect example was surrounded by the elephant wall, a wall in which there are elephants’ heads cut in the stone at regular intervals. Images of Buddha are frequently found, but in the Isurumuni temple I saw for the first time a huge sleeping Buddha. A feature of the ruins was the large erect stone pillars on which the roofs of the buildings had been supported. In the Archaeological Museum it was interesting to find amidst the Buddhist exhibits one stone bearing a Christian Nestorian cross.

We then went on to Mihintale where, climbing a thousand steps, we came to the base of a ruined dagaba and had a wonderful view in all directions. Coming down again we passed what had been a Buddhist monastery, and there saw the two stone troughs into which people used to put cooked rice and curry for the monks. On again to Sigiri. This is one huge rock with almost sheer rock faces down to the ground. The summit has an area of three acres on which Kasapa built a palace, water storage tanks and gardens. Other points of interest here are the frescoes, and the mirror wall which is covered with hard white plaster highly polished.

The day ended at the Bishop’s house in Kurunegala where I met the driver's wife and family. In the morning I went to see the progress of the Cathedral for the Kurunegala Diocese. The foundations are laid and the walls and tower are beginning to go up. Then back to Colombo where a welcome quiet awaited me with the Sisters at St. Margaret's Convent, Polwatti.

All day Friday and Saturday morning were spent in tape-recording ten of the lectures which I had given at the Summer School. It was something of a shock to hear my own voice as others hear it. The Chaplain of St. Thomas's College supervised the recordings. He was at one time Chaplain at King's College Cambridge, and whilst I rested in between my own recordings he played for me some of his recordings of the Carol Service at St Thomas's College, which comes near to rivalling in production that which is so familiar to British audiences relayed each Christmas from King's College, Cambridge.

Monday morning early Archdeacon De Soysa, showing as always the great hospitality I found in all my visits in Ceylon, took me to the airport, and there together with Father Mutukisna and Miss B. Janz, the Bursar at the Summer School, bade me farewell. How much I owe to the Archdeacon and to Father Mutukisna for all the excellent arrangements they had made and for their kindness!

As the plane f1ew north from Colombo I thought of the preparations being made for the events of next year. The great Buddhist Festival to Commemorate 2,500 years of Buddhism. The great occasion in the Christian Church in January 1956 when the General Council of the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon will meet there. Bishops and delegates from the whole Province will make 1956 a memorable year in the history of the Church in Ceylon.

The event which marked the journey back was the vast sheet of water with a few trees showing their heads above the surface which marked Orissa The devastation caused by these vast f1oods can be tremendous.

I arrived back in Calcutta, inspired by my visit to Ceylon, happy to be back again and ready to take my part the following day in lecturing at a Calcutta Clergy Summer School


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