The St. George Malankara Orthodox Church of Vancouver, BC is a member parish of the South-West American Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The Supreme Head of the church is the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan enthroned on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas with headquarters at Devalokam, Kerala (India).
The Church has a regional Diocesan Metropolitan headquartered in Houston, TX, USA. Our Diocese Metropolitan is H.G. Dr. Zechariahs Mar Aprem.
The Church follows the traditional Oriental Orthodox faith and liturgy and our parish presently conducts services at the St Michael’s Anglican Church at 12996, 60 Ave, Surrey, BC V3X 2L5.
With the Intercession of our patron, St. George, we continue to grow in faith, and by the grace and blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ, our needs and requirements are being met. We invite everyone to come and worship with us.
The history of St. George Malankara Orthodox Church Vancouver BC, is inspirational and vibrant. The desire, focus and perseverance of the faithful worshippers are going to have their dreams come true - of having our own Church Building.
Let us take you through our journey…
1993 – 2003 – Genesis - divine guidance
We trace our recorded history to 1993: according to our senior member Mr. Philip Zachariah who had just arrived in Vancouver from Singapore, there were less than 40 Malayalee families in the entire Vancouver region. During this period there were no mainstream Kerala churches or a Malankara Orthodox Malayalam service in Vancouver. Malayalee immigrants attended the Anglican or Catholic Church to remain in faith and worship.
Although, in 1997 at the request of Mr. Samuel Mathunny, HG Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios had unofficially visited Vancouver and conducted an Orthodox Holy Qurbana at the St. Michael's Anglican Church Surrey. A formal Orthodox church could not formed.
During this period A Syro Malabar (reeth) Malayalee Priest Fr. Alphonse Powath conducted Malayalam service, which was also attended by the Orthodox believers. The service was disrupted when he was transferred to another province.
2003 – 2005 – Period of strengthening the faith
In late 2003 Mr. Sabin Alexo an orthodox believer had personally invited Rev. Ramban Lazarus to Vancouver for the baptism of his son which was solemnized at a rented church.
During this visit Lazarus Achen suggested, he would conduct one Holy Qurbana per month if people were interested to attend. This offer helped the orthodox believers to rebuild their congregation.
Lazarus Achen played a pivotal role in bringing all Orthodox believers together in Christ and form a strong congregation. He would personally contact the Malayalee families to attend the church. He offered Holy Qurbana once a month at the Ukrainian church Surrey, which was well attended by people in and around Vancouver. However, due to financial constraints Holy Qurbana could only be offered once a month.
In the early days Lazarus Achen paid for his travel, he would fly in on Friday evenings, hold a prayer meeting at one of the follower’s residence, and would conduct the Holy Qurbana on Saturday morning. He would then leave for Edmonton at the earliest available flight. Lazarus Achen was based in Edmonton and he continued this practice until 2005. With the passage of time, Lazarus Achen’s service was formalized by the Diocese Metropolitan HG Makarios Thirumeni.
We are indebted to Lazarus Achen for his selfless service and creating a strong Orthodox congregation in the Vancouver region. Here starts our humble beginning…..
A noticeable personality in the Vancouver region is Fr. Paul Illickal. He was the only Malayalee Anglican Priest in the entire BC region serving the Anglican Church. Fr. Paul has a passion to support the needy and has always helped every Malayalee newcomer to the region. In the early days, without receiving any monetary benefits Fr. Paul had opened his church to the Orthodox community to conduct the Holy Qurbana. To-date, he continues to be a big supporter and well-wisher of our church.
The benevolent Anglican Church in Surrey has been supportive of our needs, we shall remain thankful to their kind support.
2005 – 2007 – Period of overcoming challenges
In May 2005 Fr. Daniel Chacko arrived in Vancouver and as directed by the Diocese Metropolitan, took charge of the Vancouver congregation. Upon his arrival, Lazarus Achen was relieved from his duties. Although by now the congregation was growing, it was still a financial challenge to meet the expense of the Priest and other miscellaneous expenses.
Fr. Daniel conducted the Holy Qurbana at the Ukrainian Church Surrey, and finally at the Methodist church in Surrey.
In 2007 Fr. Daniel moved to Toronto and once again the Vancouver congregation was left with the challenge of finding a spiritual leader. The Holy Qurbana was disrupted however, prayer meetings continued to keep the faithful together in Christ and the search for a priest continued.
2007 – 2010 - Period of inspiration and strength
The elders of the Vancouver congregation contacted the North American Orthodox Metropolitans for help. HG Barnabas Thirumeni and HG Makarios Thirumeni came to our help and requested the Vicar of St. Thomas Orthodox Church Seattle, Rev Fr. T U Jacob Achen to help the Vancouver church.
Jacob Achen accepted the request and gracefully helped us with his bi weekly Holy Qurbana and spiritual leadership. Regardless of the weather conditions, Achen would drive the distance of 200+ KMs to conduct the Holy Qurbana. Achen was also instrumental in encouraging the parishner’s to look for a permanent priest and grow in size not only to meet the spiritual needs of the people, but to be able to meet the expenses of the church. His vision and persistence was a guiding light for us.
During Jacob Achen’s tenure the newly appointed Diocesan Metropolitan of NW region and Canada HG Eusebius Thirumeni gave us the permission to appoint a full time priest for the church. Thirumeni identified an Achen from India and the parishner’s supported the initiative, thus a new era in the history of the church was about to begin. A big thanks to our Eusebius Thirumeni and Jacob Achen, without their support we would not have reached this stage.
It was during Jacob Achen’s leadership in 2007 the church was established in the name of St. George (Gee Varghese Sahdo) and officially registered as charity under Revenue Canada and BC Charitable Corporation. The legal name of our church henceforth is St. George Malankara Orthodox Church Vancouver BC.
The church was formally registered under the leadership of Babychen Mattammel.
2010-2014 – Period of growth and prosperity
On September 28, 2010 a young and energetic priest from India Rev Fr. P.C. George arrived in Vancouver. It was a moment of joy and achievement for the Vancouver church members. George Achen is a gifted person with great oratory and interpersonal skills. His first Holy Qurbana was conducted on October 1, 2010. Ever since the church has been spiritually growing. We started weekly Holy Qurbana at the St. Michael’s Anglican Church Surrey, where we still continue.
George Achen arrived and revitalized The Sunday school, Martha Mariam Samajam, Youth Movement, Prayer meetings, Family conference, Church Picnic, Onam and cultural programs, Carol singing, Christmas functions etc. He provided leadership in all spiritual areas and had a knack of keeping people together under challenging circumstances.
The parishner’s wanted a church of their own but were weary of the challenges. This is when George Achen had convinced the congregation that ‘nothing is impossible when God is with you’. He formed a church building committee led by Mr. Cherry Itty and let the ball rolling to find a suitable place to build a church and raise funds for the building.
Our Metropolitan HG Eusebius Thirumeni donated $5000 towards the Church building fund setting an example for others to follow. Ever since, the parishner’s have been generously contributing towards the cause and still continue to do so.
During George Achen’s tenure we managed to identify a land for the church, raised adequate funds to pay the down payment, and signed the purchase contract with the bank and the seller. Achen had to leave for US before the final purchase transactions could be completed. Without George Achen’s vision, encouragement and initiative this would not have been possible, the Vancouver Church shall remain indebted to him forever.
George Achen’s biggest contribution to the Vancouver Church was starting a ‘Church building fund’ drive and ‘Agape’ – a fund raising event contributing towards the church building fund.
The first Agape was organized and managed under the leadership of Babychen Mattamel and his team. It was a huge success and continues to be the same, year after year the Malayalee community of Vancouver looks forward to Agape. These initiatives are still progressing and will continue until the church is built.
In 2014, George Achen moved to a US church handing over the baton to Fr. Dr. Paul T Varghese.
2014 – Marching towards the goal
Our Diocese Metropolitan HG Eusebius Thirumeni appointed Fr. Dr. Paul T Varghese as our Vicar. Fr. Dr. Paul T Varghese is a Canadian Citizen who moved from Edmonton to BC in December 2013. It is never easy to fill the shoes of the predecessor if the bar is set too high. Paul Achen and George Achen worked together from December 2013 until June 2014 serving the Vancouver church, which helped in a seamless transition.
Paul Achen is also young and energetic and has been working tirelessly towards transforming the church into a disciplined, forthcoming and visionary community. Achen has conducted a highly successful family Conference in the region. Achen had the opportunity to take possession of the first property which was later sold for a better price and the proceeds were used for buying a larger plot to build a church. We have received the zoning approval for the property and plans are being drawn to start the construction of our church. Achen is now working with the Church Building Committee to raise funds for building the church. The building committee is doing an exemplary job in this area.
Paul Achen took the initiative to support the under privileged people of Vancouver by graciously contributing to local charities for the needy. His act of ‘sharing and supporting’ the community has put the Church at good standing in the society. Charity has begun at home: the humble donations from this small parish is shared with the larger community in need.
Paul Achen is also working to modernize the church by introducing occasional English Qurbana and introducing automation of the account management process. Once completed this will be the first in the region.
Paul Achen has stood up to the challenges and the work goes on…. Achen is marching the beat and adjusting the course as needed to achieve the end goal, miles to go before we sleep, Achen’s determination and parishner’s support will meet the goal sooner than later..
July 1997: HG Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios had an unofficial visit to Vancouver and a Holy Qurbana was conducted.
October 1998: first non-denominational Malayalam service was conducted by Fr. Alphonse at the St. Joseph’s Church Langley.
October 2003: Holy Qurbana conducted by Rev. Ramban Lazarus, the beginning of regular Orthodox service in Vancouver.
May 2005: Holy Qurbana conducted by HG Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios at the St. Mary Ukrainian Church Surrey. This was Thirumeni’s unofficial visit.
August 13, 2005: The Vancouver congregation was declared as a parish to be known as St. George Malankara Orthodox Church Vancouver BC under the Malankara Orthodox Church of the East with HH Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thomas Mathew II as the present Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan. It was introduced as a new parish under the Canada, UK, and Europe Diocese.
The first official committee consisted of;
President: Fr. Daniel Chacko, Trustee: Santosh Philip, Secretary: Dr. Abraham Punnen, Committee Members: Santosh Koruthu, Sunil Mathunny, Sabin Alexo Auditor: Babychen Diocesan representative: Philip Zachariah
August 2007: The parish was officially established in the name of St. George (Gee Varghese Sahdo) and officially registered as charity under Revenue Canada and BC Charitable Corporation. The legal name of our church henceforth is St. George Malankara Orthodox Church Vancouver BC.
Mr. Babychen Mattamel took the leadership to register the church in Vancouver BC. The first official office bearers after the registration were;
President: Fr. T U Jacob, Trustee: Babychen Mattamel, Secretary: Santosh Phillip, Committee members: Jacob Mathew, Santosh Koruthu, Sunil Scaria. Auditor: Shaji Mathew
March 21, 2010: North American Diocese Metropolitan HG Alexios Mar Eusebius approved the appointment of a full time priest. He personally selected a priest to lead the church.
September 28, 2010: Fr. P.C. George arrived in Vancouver and his first Holy Qurbana was held on October 1, 2010.
June 2014: Fr. Dr. Paul T Varghese took charge of the church and is our present Vicar.