02 January 2022

With the Saints through Christmas (8):
2 January 2022, Bishop Samuel Azariah

Bishop Samuel Azariah holding Dornakal Cathedral in one of the windows in the USPG chapel in Trinity Street, Southwark (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Christmas is a season that continues for 40 days until the Feast of the Presentation or Candlemas (2 February).

Today is the Second Sunday of Christmas, and later this morning I am presiding and preaching at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, and preaching at Morning Prayer in Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Kerry.

But, before this day gets busy, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

I have been continuing my Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflections on a saint remembered in the calendars of the Church during Christmas;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

This morning, the calendar of USPG and the church calendar in many parts of the Anglican Communion commemorate Bishop Samuel Azariah.

When the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) moved into new offices in Trinity Street, Southwark, in 2019, USPG’s unique stained-glass windows of four pioneering missionary bishops were put in place in the USPG chapel after a year in storage.

The chapel space was part of an office building in the past, and the windows, kept in storage for a year, now bring the chapel to life, with their bright colours and their sense of history.

They depict: Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (1809-1891), Bishop Vedanayakam Samuel Azariah (1874-1945), Bishop Tsae-seng Sing (1861-1940) of Chekiang (Zhejiang), and Bishop Joseph Sakunoshin Motoda (1862-1928), the first Japanese-born Anglican Bishop of Tokyo.

Bishop Samuel Azariah was an Indian evangelist and the first Indian bishop in the Anglican Communion, serving as the first Bishop of Dornakal. He was also a pioneer of Christian ecumenism in India.

His father, the Revd Thomas Vedanayagam, was an Anglican priest from a traditional Hindu family who converted to Christianity in 1839 while he was at a CMS-run school.

Bishop Azariah was an evangelist with the YMCA before he was ordained an Anglican priest at the age of 35 in 1909, and became a missionary in Dornakal. He spoke at the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910.

On 29 December 1912, three years after his ordination as priest, he was consecrated the first Bishop of Dornakal. He was consecrated in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Calcutta, with 11 bishops of the taking part.

Cambridge University awarded Bishop Azariah an honorary degree in 1920. In 1936, he built Epiphany Cathedral in Dornakal, which is depicted in his window in the stained-glass in the USPG chapel.

He died in Dornakal on 1 January 1945. At the time, the Diocese of Dornakal had 200,000 members. Two years after his death, the united Church of South India was formed, bring together the Anglican, Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

Bishop Samuel Azariah is commemorated in the Calendar of USPG and in the calendar of Common Worship in the Church of England on 2 January.

Four missionary bishops on four windows in the USPG chapel in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020; click on images for full-screen view)

John 1: [1-9] 10-18 (NRSVA):

[1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.]

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me”.’ 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The prayer in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) invites us to pray this morning (2 January 2022, Christmas II, Samuel Azariah):

Loving Father,
help us to weather earthly rejection,
and accept that we are
accepted by you.
Strengthen our convictions,
inspire hope in us.

Yesterday: The Naming of Jesus

Tomorrow: Saint Fintan of Doone

The windows in the USPG chapel date from the 250th anniversary of SPG in 1951, and were blessed again last year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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