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Old 18-02-21, 10:55 AM
sriyanj sriyanj is online now
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Default The STC chapel: A radiant gem of spiritual blessings

The STC chapel: A radiant gem of spiritual blessings
Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 01:00
Print Edition http://dailynews.lk/2021/02/18/featu...tual-blessings
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Dishan Joseph

The chapel of the Transfiguration at S.Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia
The Anglican Church in Sri Lanka (Church of Ceylon) has made an immense contribution to education. The great school by the sea has educated thousands of young men, imparting in them core values of Christianity. When we read the Bible we find that Jesus was taken to the synagogue by his parents and continued to learn the scriptures, which shows the importance of a holistic education. To all who have been associated with S. Thomas' College (STC), the magnificent College chapel has influenced their lives, touching them in significant ways. It is the vibrant heart of STC. This beautiful chapel and more importantly the good work done through it enriches the student mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

In the Old Testament, there is a story of young King Solomon, aspiring to build a sanctuary for the people of Israel, that they might ascribe glory to almighty God. Perhaps, it was this same divine passion that strongly inspired Warden Stone and Warden Mc Pherson, as they envisaged to build a house for God's children at S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia. When the school was originally built in Mutwal in 1851, the Christ Church Cathedral was the seat of the presiding Bishop of Colombo. In 1921, when Warden Stone left for England on holiday, Rev. G.M. Withers went to work organising a campaign to raise funds for the building of the College chapel at Mount Lavinia. He is said to have faithfully gone around many parts of Ceylon on his old motorcycle travelling through the cities and villages promoting this idea.



The project architect was P.A. Adams, who designed the chapel, 130 feet long and 39 feet high at the top of the walls, large enough to accommodate 500 boys. In 1923, the foundation stone was laid by Rt. Rev. Earnest Arthur Copleston, Bishop of Colombo. It took great effort to build this simple yet imposing chapel.

A fund created by Warden Mc Pherson and Rev. R.S. de Saram saw the boys giving 25 cents each week. On February 12, 1927, Bishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Mark Carpentier - Garnier blessed and consecrated the Chapel of the Transfiguration at S. Thomas' College amidst a large gathering of jubilant Anglicans. The Warden had read the Petition of Consecration.

The College accentuates the influence of the church in her crest - the black cross unites all Thomians and the yellow Bishops Mitre endorses the administration of the Anglican Church and the guidance of the blessed Holy Spirit. This glorious edifice has become the most iconic landmark of the entire school and one of the classic buildings in Mount Lavinia. Its bold Byzantine style exterior of solid stone resonates as a symbol of faith, which is a step-by-step process of the spiritual building leading to perfection that is often talked about in the Bible. The letters AMDG ? Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (Latin meaning - For the greater glory of God) are carved on the wall over the west door. The stone columns have intricate white designs at the top where they connect to the walls.

Behind the altar of Italian marble, one can witness the inspiring painting of the Transfiguration, painted in 1968 by David Paynter (the mural celebrated 50 years in 2018). It is believed that the prudent Warden at that time Rev. John Selvaratnam had proposed this idea to the artist who brought it to life with great enthusiasm and patience. The beautiful manifestation of Jesus Christ with Elijah and Moses is stunning. It reminds us that from the 'mountain top' experience, we have to go back to the valley to live with our fellow men, carrying within our soul the effective power of the transfiguration, which can impact and change other lives. The mural shows the mighty desert wind Ruah (from the Hebrew language) which also implies the invisible power of the Holy Spirit of God. On a personal note I must mention that the most unique feature of this amazing mural is that wherever you stand inside the chapel and gaze on the face of Christ, it seems that his caring eyes are looking at you with loving concern.

The baptismal font was secured from Pershore Abbey in England. The belfry is 60 feet high and the bell has the name J.S. Doyle engraved on it. It was obtained from St. Colombans College, Dublin.

The founder, Bishop James Chapman said in 1849, 'May it be our care to provide, under the guidance of God's Holy Spirit, that all that is taught here may rest upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.' A chapel is not complete without voices singing to venerate and glorify Almighty God: this is where the Thomian Choir had displayed its harmonious prowess for a century. The Thomian Choir sang for the first time on September 21, 1854 at the dedication of the Christ Church Cathedral in Mutwal.

Since 1927 from the time of Organist and Choirmaster Rev. Gilbert, the choral tradition was firmly established and sustained. The boys were trained and mentored by Rev. Roy Yin, Lucien Nethasinghe, Rev. Lucien Fernando and Russell Bartholomeusz. In 1938, the chapel was bestowed with a Hammond organ by the Sir Stewart Schneider Trust. We solemnly remember the late Vinodh Senadheera, the Choir Master of STC. He dedicated his life to this chapel and the choir.

The main event for the choir is the annual carol service styled after King's College, London, which continues to draw thousands of people. The Chapel of the Transfiguration has played a crucial role in the life of the College and in the lives of all Thomians. The style of worship which is liturgical and sacramental within the Anglo-Catholic tradition of Anglicanism places much emphasis on ritual and ceremony, surely enriching our worship. The Thomians believe that their worship is an offering of something beautiful and fragrant to God, who alone must be the focus of worship. The STC chapel has produced many Anglican clergymen including the present Bishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Dushantha Rodrigo and incumbent Warden Rev. Marc Billimoria. The beautiful Chapel of the Transfiguration will continue to impart faith, diligence and spiritual guidance to thousands in the future.

The chapel of the Transfiguration at S.Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia
S. Thomas' College Warden Rev. Marc Billimoria
The mural by David Paynter
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Last edited by sriyanj; 18-02-21 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 18-02-21, 11:48 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is online now
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Default Paynter?s Transfiguration of Christ

Paynter's Transfiguration of Christ


Chapel of the Transfiguration, S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia

By Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera (Anglican Bishop of Colombo)

One of the most life like & captivating murals ever painted, is that of the transfiguration, depicted in the Chapel of the Transfiguration at S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia, Sri Lanka. This painting of Christ in communion with Elijah & Moses brings deep insight to those who meditate on it.


This meditation is on leadership. It begins on the mountaintop & travels to the reality of the plain.
The three imposing figures of Christ, Moses & Elijah are central. We focus on them.
Moses stands with confidence. He appears planted in, and part of the rock. He holds the 'Law' (two stone tablets) tucked into his side, as if part of himself. He is sure of what he is, what he knows, what he does, and what he wants. He is established.
Moses is fully clothed and behind him is the city, built, impressive and spreading. One can imagine the life in the city; orderly, organized, defined; a niche for everyone; checks and balances to safeguard rights an property, accountability, constitutions, hierarchy and so on. In short the city depicts contemporary powerful, bureaucratic, efficient and expansionist values. It is the epitome of all that is desired: the status quo.


Moses represents a leadership that easily accepts, and resolutely defends establishment. For him order matters most. He is the lawgiver. Elijah, on the other hand appears uncertain, he sways. It's almost as if he is about to lose his balance. He could be uprooted and tumble down at any moment. He holds a staff, useful for traveling long journeys. Elijah is unable to stay rooted, he is on the verge of moving. He must, for he is an adventurer. Unlike Moses, he is not fully clothed. His chest is bare, except for the fold of this garment. Behind him is the wilderness. This is the unknown, that which needs to be explored, the terrain for those who follow their curiosity, who dare to question and travel, trading risk for the anticipation of surprise and discovery. Here life is rugged, open to the elements, uncertain and dangerous. Little is defined and very few safeguards prevail. The wilderness depicts age-old universal values that explore investigate and challenge. Together these refuse to accept the status quo, for the only thing that must be preserved is movement. This is life, restlessness in a never-ending search.


Elijah represents a leadership that upholds movement. For him truth matters most. He is the prophet.
The garments, of the figures, caught by the wind, indicate the direction in which it is blowing. It blows from behind Elijah, from the wilderness to the city. And this is no ordinary wind. It is the mighty desert wind, Ruah (Heb). Ruah also refers to the Spirit of God. The Spirit is behind Elijah. Is it pushing him towards Moses and the city? Does the push suggest contact for communication or contact to challenge or contact to counter? In the mural at least, the wind, the spirit moves on ??? it never stops.


We turn to the Christ. He demands the last word. But here He speaks with His hands. They are in a most unnatural gesture. The two palms face different directions, suggesting deliberate positioning. Both hands have moved away from His body, the left towards Moses, and the right towards Elijah. The palm of the left hand cannot be seen. It is turned inwards in a sign of cautioning Moses. It seems to be saying ??? go-slow, pause, stay, stop. The palm of the right hand is turned the other way. It is opened but not fully, in a gesture of offering encouragement. It seems to be saying ?? proceed but carefully. It says it caringly, implying that the direction is not easy. It also seems to be saying it with dignity ? there is respect for those who travel the path of Elijah.
This mural, since the mid 1960's influenced generations of Thomian schoolboys in particular. It has correspondingly produced two types. In some, the path they would travel was discernible during their school days. For all that could be said in favour of those who pursued the Moses tradition, it is ones who walk with the prophet that makes the difference in communities like St. Thomas. For any community that fosters exploration and adventure is engaged in wholesome education.


The Mural speaks to others as well.
The choice of leadership in all other spheres also fundamentally between establishment and movement.
Those who opt for establishment are inevitably compelled to strengthen existing structures, expand existing boundaries, entrench ritual, tradition and law, and legitimize sacrosanct cliques, parties and communities. From here on no matter what the rhetoric may imply, consultation, commissions, decisions and promises effectually become means of manipulation and control. When the happen, truth suffers and life becomes a charade; and vision and values, peoples needs and aspirations, all become subject to the consolidation of power. And then ? history is repeated as the people are oppressed.


The choice for movement reverses this order. It begins, as all prophets do by challenging people's values that create and perpetuate oppressive establishment. Leadership for movement believes that the decline of oppressive establishment corresponds with the growth of universal salvific human values.

In this task truth and freedom are the dynamic that empowers. People must be set free with the truth and for the truth. This way the converted become the conveyors and momentum is assured. In this process, hypocrisy (righteous claims and unrighteous doings) is condemned more than ignorance and error. And since all are hypocrites, self-criticism becomes intrinsic.
Restless dissatisfaction and rejection of recognition further characterize this leadership. The former provokes search and prevents complacency, and the latter disregards crowns, for crowns are heavy and impede movement.


Caught up in structured society this kind of leadership acknowledges the need for organization in which community and change are twin pillars. Community ideally comprises people in equal participatory relationships, and change ideally requires the continuous pitching of differently designed tents. Since these ideals are never achieved even satisfactorily, leadership for movement engages in discourse. For that which is, can always be improved upon, but no improvement is possible till that which is, discussed continuously with integrity.


From the chancel the viewer of the mural sees Moses ion the right hand side of Christ. From Christ's position however Elijah is on His right hand side. The biblical metaphor of the 'right hand side' conveys harmony with the divine intention and authority to accomplish this intention. The disciples in the mural stand with the viewer in the chancel and opt to build tents ?? the foretaste of the city. For them too Moses is on the right side and establishment is right.


The request of the disciple was refuted by the Christ. David Paynter the imaginative creator of the mural does likewise. Together they suggest that movement rather than establishment is right, it provokes transfiguration.

- Description: Chapel of the Transfiguration, S. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia
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Last edited by sriyanj; 18-02-21 at 11:50 PM.
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