Legacy of London Missionary Society in Kerala: Pioneering Educational, Social, and Developmental Initiatives Over 211 Years

Featured & Cover Oldest Church bell at Kuravilangad

Macaulay gained recognition from the Travancore Government for the missionary endeavors of the London Mission, initially established in Travancore with the assistance of Col. Munroe, Macaulay’s successor. In 1817, Charles Meed, an LMS missionary, commenced operations from Munroe’s circuit bungalow in Nagercoil, and Rani Lekshmi Bai contributed Rs. 5,000 to the mission in 1818. Notably, a seminary was established in Nagercoil, and churches were constructed in Thanjavur, Thiruvananthapuram, and Kochi. The first girls’ school in Travancore was established by Mrs. Charles Meed.

The Maharaja of Travancore visited the Nagercoil seminary in 1831, inviting John Robert to establish a school in Thiruvananthapuram, which later evolved into the University College. Responding to the Maharaja’s request, a press in Nagercoil was relocated to Thiruvananthapuram, ultimately becoming the Government Press. Additionally, a Kunnil Mission Centre was founded on the northern side of the Fort in 1838.

Samuel Matteer, a Methodist Church member born in Ireland in 1835, played a crucial role in the growth of the Thiruvananthapuram Mission for 33 years. Upon returning to England in 1890 due to old age and ill-health, the Thiruvananthapuram Mission boasted 10,060 members. He passed away in 1893, and a church was constructed in Thiruvananthapuram in 1906 in his memory.

Matteer documented his Kerala experiences in two books, “The Land of Charity” and “Nature Life in Travancore,” with the latter translated into Malayalam as “Njan Kanda Keralam” in 2010. He also authored “The Gospel in South India.” The LMS has been operational in Kerala for 211 years, with Keralites assuming administrative control in 1921.

In 1939, the LMS underwent reorganization into southern, central, and northern regions, witnessing the ordination of 15 Archbishops. Concurrently, the Church Mission Society functioned in Central Kerala, aiding Syrian Christians in religious activities. In 1806, Claudius Buchanan’s arrival in Travancore led to the writing of “Asiayile Christava Geveshanam,” and missionaries collaborated with Syrian Christians. The CMS Press in Kottayam, established by Benjamin Bailey in 1821, printed the Malayalam translation of the Bible and an English-Malayalam Dictionary. CMS College, founded by Henry Baker in 1839, and Joseph Fen’s encouragement of Christian studies in seminaries marked pivotal contributions.

Protestant missionaries, facilitated by the Church Missionary Society, initiated educational activities in Travancore, sparking an intellectual renaissance. Discussion forums, clubs, and literary associations emerged, fostering interaction among educated youth. A series of lectures in Thiruvananthapuram from 1863 to 1867 covered literature, science, social issues, and ethics, leading to the formation of various student societies and clubs.

The efforts of CMS workers such as Charles Meed, James T., Ringeltaube, John Cox, Bailey, Charles Molt, Dr. J. C. Thomson, Dr. John Lowe, White House, Mrs. Dathy, Vedamanickam, and Maharajan resulted in the establishment of schools, seminaries, boarding schools, theatres, mission press, hospitals, dispensaries, and libraries in Travancore.

European involvement in plantation development for tea, coffee, cocoa, spices, and rubber, accompanied by the clearing of forests and infrastructure development, was attributed to missionary initiatives. The developmental activities spearheaded by missionaries significantly contributed to the State’s progress.

The Malpan residences in various locations were dissolved with the inception of seminaries. Fr. Carneiro’s account in 1557 mentioned a university in Angamaly for theology students, and seminaries for Syrian Christians were established at Varappuzha in 1682 and Alangad in 1766 under the guidance of Carmelite priests.

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