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During British rule in Ceylon, the spreading of the gospel according to the Church of England was undertaken by three church organizations. The Church Missionary Society (CMS) operated principally in the rural areas. The society for the propagation of the Gospel (SPG) covered the coastal areas with extensive networks. The Tamil Church Mission which operated under British tutelage catered for the plantation areas. Thus the rural base of the Diocese of Kurunagala was a historical factor stemming from the activities of the Church of England in the nineteenth century.

During the Episcopate of the Right Reverend Cecil Douglas Harsley, the seventh Bishop of Colombo (1939 to 1948), he perceived that Ceylon was ready for a second Diocese. In fact one of the significant features of the celebration of the centenary of the Diocese of Colombo in 1945, was the appointment of the first Ceylonese Bishop. The Right Reverend Lakdasa De Mel was consecrated as the Founder Bishop of Kurunagala.

The diocese of Kurunagala was duly established on February 2, 1950 with the Right Reverend Lakdasa De Mel enthroned at a service held at the Chapel of Trinity College, Kandy. An unprecedented feature at the enthronement was the presence of several members of the Maha Sangha and the leadership of Buddhist organizations. They were longstanding friends and great admirers of the new Bishop, who despite his elitist background, was well known as a radical on cultural issues in the context of his role as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

At its inception the Diocese of Kurunagala had distinct inherent assets and liabilities. Being a rural diocese it was sparsely populated accounting for some 10,000 members of the 50,000 Ceylonese who belonged to the Church of Ceylon. It resulted in the clergy consisting of twenty priests and one deacon, having to travel considerable distances, sometimes on foot, in the course of their pastoral work. Bishop Lakdasa De Mel, ever since his days at Royal College and Oxford University had espoused the cause of nationalism having imbibed this spirit from his famous father, Sir Henry De Mel. Ever since his ordination as a deacon in England, he pioneered the cause of indigenising the Church of England in Ceylon. His thinking was translated into action as superintending Missionary of the CMS Mission at Baddegama from 1929 to 1939. His zeal knew no bounds. That vision was part and parcel of the Diocese of Kurunagala. Indeed in his sermon at his enthronement he had exhorted,

"We are not only Ceylonese Christians, but we are also Christian Ceylonese. If Ceylon goes up, we go up with her. We will never desert Ceylon."

A relevant historical factor was that during British rule the patronage of the atste was given to Christianity. Therefore, after independence it was inevitable that such patronage must be given to Buddhism. A hard fact of life in the Diocese of Kurunagala was, it was acutely short of funds. That shortfall was made good by the Bishop Lakdasa Trust. Last but not least, the Church of Ceylon in general and the Diocese of Kurunagala in Particular, were the proud heirs of the superb infrastructure which the British had behind. The Church of England Zenana Missionary Society at Gampola was responsible for extensive Missionary work pertaining to women in that area. It grew from strength to strength from one generation to the next. For example the house of Joy at Talawa, was a model institution set up by the Miss Evelyn Karney in 1912 and diligently sustained over the year. The Training Colony at peradeniya set up in 1923 for Christian teachers, was amongst the very best in Ceylon by 1948.

Therefore in his wisdom, Bishop Lakdasa De Mel embarked on a Programme to consolidate rather than to expand. For example, new Churches were planned for Aragoda, Giritale, Hewadiwela, Kannadeniya and Watapuluwa. Sunday services were introduced to Arangala and Gurudeniya and held in school halls in lieu of churches. The Bishop was convinced that the secrets of success of Missionary work were small beginnings, carefully nurtured and steadily sustained. Accordingly publicity was shunned.

One of the few new features introduced in 1950 was the Missionary Training Centre known as St. Paul´s House. It was established in a bungalow adjoining the then official residence of the Bishop at Polathapitiya on Dambulla Road, Kurunegala. The Archdeacon of Kurunagala, the Venerable Ivor Dassenaike, was its first Principal and the Reverend Sydney Weragoda its first chaplain. Initially, there were four divinity students. According to Diocesan records of that year,

"One of the happiest signs of life in this Diocese is the quality of the candidates who seek ordination."
All those Divinity students were sent on scholarship to Bishop´s College, Calcutta. It was reported on one of them Subsequently that, "Oliver Kumarage continues to obtain excellent reports."

Some thirty years later, the Rev. Andrew Oliver Kumarage was consecrated as the third Bishop of the Kurunagala.

The slow and steady start made by Bishop Lakdasa De Mel in 1950 was against the background of the rapidly changing values with the advent of independence. By and large Christianity was looked upon as the religion of the conqueror. The establishment of the Roman Catholic Church in Ceylon had been very closely associated with British colonialism. Awkward but pertinent questions were already being asked about the preponderance of Christians and Tamils in the public service and the preponderance of Christians in the mercantile sector. The pendulum was clearly swinging the other way. Discrimination against the Christians had not yet commenced but the burning questions was when would it commence. It happened in a most unfortunate way in 1954 when the foreign nursing nuns in government hospitals were discontinued under the policy of ceylonisation which was then in vogue.It was a cruel blow to impecunious patients who were looked after so lovingly by these nuns. Besides, it was a supreme example of a short-term gain and a long-term loss, which has been a recurrent decimal in our national life since independence.

Notwithstanding these rumblings, the Diocese of Kurunegala made steady progress. The clergy increased from twenty one to twenty three in five years. (It stands at thirty-three today).Repeatedly the Bishop reported to the Diocesan Council that,

"Work undertaken this year was significantly not different from last year."
Alternatively the report on the charitable institutions contained a litany of woes such as,

"the work of this orphanage was severely handicapped due to lack of funds."
To enhance Christian influence within the Diocese of Kurunegala, the consensus of opinion was that a Cathedral had to be built compatible with architecture of ancient Ceylon.it was not deemed to be a prestige project but an edifice to the glory of God. However, it was so difficult to raise funds. The Diocese raised only Rs.84, 000 whereas the estimated cost was of the order of Rs.500, 000. Many were hoping for a miracle that the cathedral of Christ the King was consecrated in 1956, the year of the Buddha Jayanthi . It was built with generous contributions from wealthy family of Bishop Lakdasa De Mel.

The cathedral bore testimony to the vision and aspirations of the Bishop. Thw Architecture under the expert hand of Wilson Peiris reflected the splendour of the Anuradhapura, Kandy and Polonnaruwa periods in our history. The drum beats at the high altar echoed the music of Ceylon as apposed to that of England. The shabdha pooja, mal pooja and pahan pooja , the cultural practices of Ceylon were duly incorporated into Christian worship. The consecration ceremony of the Cathedral was presided over by the most Reverend Dr Arabindo Nath Mukerjee, Metropolitan of the Province of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. Among the distinguished invitees were so many members of the Maha Sanga. They were amazed by the similarities between what they saw in the Cathedral in Kurunegala and the rituals at the sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. That view was endorsed by the Hindu and Islamic clergy who were also distinguished invitees.

In the meantime the exodus of the nursing nuns commencing in 1954 was followed by the release of the Buddhist Commission Report in 1955, which bemoaned the travails of Buddhism during the four centuries of colonialism. It was indeed a clarion call for a Buddhist renaissance against the background of a Buddha Jayanthi. The Maha Sangha agitated for speedy reforms, It culminated with a General Election of 1956 held one year ahead of schedule, when not only the Government of the day but by and large the values that prevailed since Independence, being swept aside by the free and unfettered exercise of the franchise.

The church, like the English speaking elite, was quite obviously not ready for the social and cultural revolutions, which had engulfed the nation. However, Bishop Lakdasa De Mel had foreseen those changes. His words of wisdom at his enthronement were now pregnant with meaning even to his detractors. Now his plea to his flock was not to resist these changes and thereby be relegated to oblivion. Hence there was more emphasis on pastoral work and Sunday services in Sinhala and Tamil. The services in Tamil were held for people of Indian origin in Gampaha, Matale, Madulkelle, Nawalapitiya and Pussellawa. The who rendered yeomen service to the Tamil community were the late Rev.Canon John Isaac, the late Rev.Messiah Das, the late Rev.J.V. Devadoss, the late Rev.Samuel Pauliah and chatechists Mr.P.S.Arumugam, Mr. (later Rev.) D.G. Daniel, Mr. (later Rev.) A.H.J. David, amongst others. The format of the services and the oriental intonation were first indigenized in Baddegama by Deva Surya Sena, the well-known classical singer and cousin of Bishop Lakdasa De Mel, and Nelun Devi, the wife of Deva Surya Sena and in her own right a well-known classical singer. That format and intonations were popularised throughout the Diocese of Kurunegala. Priest and laymen were encouraged to compose lyrics and hymns. The Reverend Sydney Weragoda, the Bishop´s Chaplain and later the Archdeacon of Kurunegala, and school teachers such as Mr.D.S. Peter and Mr.M.B.A.Jayasekara, were particularly successful in that exercice. The Cambridge educated Rev.John Cooray who was ordained as a deacon in England and was then the priest-in-charge of Hevadiwela, was released to set up a monastery on an oriental basis which he had advocated. His Aramaya was set up in Ibbagamuwa and he was also allowed to fasion his attire as an oriental garb. He thereafter was known as the Sevaka Yohan Devananda. An indigenous Religious Order for women named Devasevikaramaya was subsequently incoparated. Onece these far reaching reforms were duly absorbed into the framework of the Diocese of Kurunegala, it was impossible even for a heretic or an apostate to ridicule Christianity as the religion of the conqureror!

The next upheaval to affect the Diocese of Kurunegala radically was the sudden nationalization of schools. Throughout the British rule the different Christian denominations had a special network od schools, which influenced the nation at large. They were the pride and joy of the Christian communities. With the advent of Indipendence and the introduction of free education the network of Government schools spread rapidly. To keep pace, the Church schools had to expand their network but lack of funds precluded that. Therefore, commencing 1951 three CMS schools in Kandy. Hillwood, Mowbray and Trinity College, opted to be private and fee levying. Whereas the majority, for example Christ Church College, Kurunegala (now Lakdasa Maha Vidyalaya) accepted Government subsides. In 1960 without warning the Government decided to nationalize the subsidized schools, in a calculated bloe at the power base of the Church, in the context of Ceylon. The Roman Catholic Church rose in defiance whereas the Church of Ceylon was sharply divided. The Diocese of Kurunegala just could not afford to meet their obligations in respect of the monthly pay roll, let alone operate their schools without the generous Government subsidies. In the absence of a viable alternative Bishop Lakdasa De Mel reluctantly agreed to hand over the schools in the Diocese of Kurunegala to the Government. He duly broadcast his decision to the nation over Radio Ceylon. It was perhaps the most controversial of the many controversial decisions he took as the Bishop of Kurunegala.

In 1962 after twelve turbulent years, he finally laid down his staff to take up the high office of Metropolitan of the Province of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. He was succeeded by the Reverend Lakshman Wickramasinghe, Chaplain at the University of Ceylon, who at the age of 35 years became the youngest Bishop in the Anglican Communion on a worldwide basis.

Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe was a distinguished product of Royal College, where he was Head Prefect in 1944, the best all-round student, the winner of several panel prizes and coloursman in three sports, and a distinguished product of the University of Ceylon, where he took a First in Economics and Political Science. Awarded a scholarship for post graduate work at Oxford University, many predicted that he would follow his famous father, Mr C.L Wickramasinghe, in to the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. Others predicted that with his natural charm he would opted to take the Holy orders and was ordained in England as a deacon in 1952, and a priest in 1953.

The Church of England, like its offspring the Church of Ceylon, is fundamentally a conservative organization. Nevertheless, Bishop Lakdasa De Mel was a radical not on ecclesiastical issued but on cultural issues. By the same token, Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe was a radical on Political issues.

During his days at Oxford he was exposed to the socialism of labour Governments and after his return home to that kindred spirit in Ceylon in the context of our social revolution of 1956. He often articulated his views on socialism, while he was the much respected Chaplain at the University of Ceylon, at that time the only seat of higher learning in our nation. For example, he often stated that,

"The option we Christians have to make is the choice between capitalism and socialism. It has to be shaped by our Christian views. Jesus Christ as the friend of the sinners and the downtrodden, agitated to build a righteous society where there would be no exploitation of man by fellow man, nor exploitation of man by the state."

Sometimes he went a step further and said,
"My own conviction is that the Church must opt for the socialist, programme and strategy, covered by indigenous socialism."

As the years rolled by and he became more mature, he spoke of,
"Our people who face oppression and alleviation are not only the economically poor suffering unbearable burdens, but also racial and ethnic minorities, under-privileged women, unemployed youth, the disabled and the displaced."

Thus he began to clamour for social justice and his courageous voice was clearly heard. That was his mindset when he became the youngest Bishop of the Anglican Communion world wide in 1962.

By then the cultural reforms introduced by his famous predecessor were deeply rooted in the Diocese of Kurunegala. Those reforms were continued and expanded till the indigenization of the Church became a way of life.

On the other hand, the quest for social justice had become a burning issue. Christians who were an over privileged minority at the time of Independence had become an under privileged minority within ten years of Independence. That discrimination was rampant after the Official Language Act of 1956 in the recruitment to the public service, and after 1960 in the appointment of teachers to the nationalized schools. It became intolerable after the abortive coup d´etat of 1962 staged by senior Christian officers in the Armed forces and the Police. Discrimination against the minorities had become a way of life in Ceylon. And the moderating role of Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe was a silver lining in that dark cloud.

The Political turmoil in Ceylon was further accentuated in 1971 with the insurrection of the Marxist oriented Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) launched by the educated and unemployed youth, the unfortunate products of our free education system. Then, for the first time since Independence our Armed Forces were deployed on full-scale Military operations. The Human Rights record of the Government of Ceylon in that upheaval was disgraceful. For example, for the first time since Independence some suspects were even executed without trial in three of the District within the Diocese of Kurunegala and elsewhere in Ceylon. Once again, the courageous voice of Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe based on the imperishable teachings of Jesus Christ, was clearly heard.

With a shrewd understanding of human frailties he was deeply conscious that people had to mature facing harsh realities of man´s cruelty to fellow man, before society itself came up with remedial action. Therefore he was actively engaged in his own Diocese as well as in the nation at large, working tirelessly with the youth, in particular with the Church of Ceylon Youth Movement and with the Mother´s Union of the Church of Ceylon. He also set in motion other organizations to foster concepts of Human Rights based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. A realist, as opposed to being a theoretician, he gave highest priority to the alleviation of poverty, a cause so central to Christian concepts of social justice. Accordingly Christodaya was set up as a new experiment in training youth in Kurunegala. A vocational training centre for unemployed young girls, was set up in the premises of the Kandy Industrial Institute, Thalwatte. A rural credit scheme was established in Thalampitiya, a weaving centre at Hewadiwela and a basket weaving centre at Pussellawa. The Devasaranaramaya at Ibbagamuwa, conceived as a meditation centre, was also used to generate new thinking and fresh dialogue on rural development.

Thus the fame of Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe and his quest for social justice spread from the Diocese of Kurunegala to the nation at large. and thereafter beyond the shores of Srilanka. An orator in the English language since his days as head prefect at Royal College, he was frequently invited to address various Christian gatherings abroad.

The Diocese of Kurunegala celebrated its Silver Jubilee in February 1975. Therefore at this juncture it will be appropriate to record the progress made in twenty five years both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Quantitatively the progress was marginal as reflected in the following statistics:
1950
Number of Priests-20
Number of deacons-1
1975v
Number of Priests- 24
Number of deacons -2

On the other hand, substantial improvement had been made qualitatively.

The indigenization of the Church was a labour of love for Bishop Lakdasa De Mel. In a time frame of twenty five years that was duly completed. In the Diocese of Kurunegala , Christians were accepted as part and parcel of the indigenous society. For example, the devout Church worker, Mr D.P. Wickramasinghe M.P (SLFP — Mawathagama) who served on the Standing Committee for years, encountered no problems in a predominantly Buddhist electorate. (In 1955, he was elevated to Cabinet rank, and is currently the Minister for Co-operative Development). Of the CMS schools, Trinity College, Kandy,continued to be one of the best schools in Sri Lanka and Hillwood One of the best girls school in Kandy and Mowbray, continued to serve the Tamil community admirably. Indeed, parents of all religions, clamoured to send their sons and daughters to these three splendid schools. Mixed marriages between Sinhalese Buddhists and Sinhalese Christians or Tamil Hindus and Tamil Christians were no longer rare. Discrimination against Christians in the recruitment to public service was either rare or altogether non-existent. Besides, Christianity was no longer equated to attending Church services on Sundays. For example, the concept of Christian responsibility on vital issues as human rights and social justice were given its rightful place and pursued with the utmost of vigour.

The second watershed in our evolution since Independence was the open economy ushered on 1977, through the free and unfettered exercise of the franchise.

Socialism had become a pathetic failure in Sri Lanka and a massive mandate was given to the new Government to uproot socialism from its very foundations However, that exercise was not implemented with the finesse it should been. Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe was more than perturbed by the exploitation of man by man, which he perceived was just as objectionable to the exploitation of man by the State, as clearly demonstrated during the disastrous experiment with socialism in the context of Sri Lanka. Therefore he advocated.

"the new wealth that is being visibly generated through the open economy must be so distributed that those who invest their labour must surely be entitled to share it as much those who have invested their capital"

He was unable to agree with the thinking at the Government of the day in Sri Lanka, which rode rough shod over the workers. He was exasperated when the government terminated the services of thousands of workers who took part in the General Strike of July 1980.

He preached not only from the pulpit but from every conceivable platform and said,
"There is this immediate struggle and we must take the side of those denied social justice, as preached by Jesus Christ himself. In celebrating this Mass, let us draw strength from our Christian values rather than our political predilections whatever they may be"

Commencing 1982, he led demonstration against the Government of the day, in which one member of his immediate family was Cabinet Minister. It culminated with his leading a hartal (stoppage of work as advocated by Mahathma Ghandhi), commencing at Bishop´´s House in Kurunegala. An embarrassed Government looked on helplessly. The police looked on nonplussed while a new dimension was being added, before their very eyes by Bishop Lashman Wickramasinghe replete in his clerical robes. He emphasized publicity.

"So we will go from strength to strength with this mass movement where we draw our strength not from what politicians and demagogues may prattle but what Jesus Christ him self preached".

(loud cheers)
Those lofty ideas expressed in such elegant English and the scene itself was telecast that day on the BBC TV news programmes at prime time. The TV footage added that Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe was a distinguished product of Oxford University. Ecomiums came from throughout the English speaking world. For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury, The most Reverend Robert Runcie, described Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe as "The Voice of Asia".

During the Diocese of the sixtieth and the seventies, Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe was deeply concerned that the relationship between the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples, two of the three major ethnic groups living in Sri Lanka was rapidly deteriorating.

In May 1976 the Tamil United Liberation front a conglomeration of all parties catering for Sri Lankan Tamils moved the Vaddukoddai Resolution whereby they wanted a separate sovereign State. During his numerous visits to the Jaffna peninsula, Bishop Lashman Wickramasinghe saw for himself that the Vaddukoddai Resolution accurately reflected the thinking of the Jaffna peninsula. The home of about fifty per cent of all Sri Lanka Tamils. He was away in the UK on his sabbatical leave for one year when the ugly racial riots broke out with savage fury in July 1983. He returned to Sri Lanka immediately, one month ahead of scheduled and was aghast by what he saw of the scence of death and destruction. Indeed he was the moving force behind the following resolution, which was adopted by the Diocese Council of Kurunegala in1983:

"While the conscience of this Council is outraged by the recent disturbances and the sufferings that have resulted, it re-affirms its total commitment to the principles of non-violence in the settlement of disputes between communal groups and its commitment to the Christians ideal of a united community of Sri Lanka living in equality and with justice as one united nation.

Consequently this Diocesan Council while condemning the activities of terrorist groups whether in the North or the South deeply regrets that innocent people here suffered loss of life and property as a result of brutal attacks on them.

Therefore it resolves to work effectively for the compensation and rehabilitation of those who have suffered, to engage in the work of reconciling Tamils and Sinhala in the midst of bitterness and hatred within and outside the church, and to support every effort to resume and sustain negotiations between the leaders of the Sinhala and Tamil parties for a just and mutually acceptable solution to outstanding issues between the ethnic groups within the united State of Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, while being thankful for the many Sinhala people who witnessed to our ancient religious and cultural heritage by protecting and saving their fellow Tamil brethren, we are conscious of the deep need to apologies to our Tamil brethren on behalf of Sinhala people who caused the untold suffering and loss of life and property.

Ever since his return to the Island he constantly visited refugee camps of Sinhalese, tamils or Muslims, and rendered whatever assistance he could. Quite often, he visited the North and the East against medical advice because by then he was seriously ill with diabetes. He was admitted to the General Hospital, Kurunegala in August 1983. As his condition deteriorated he was transferred to the General Hospital in Colombo. He returned to his maker in October 1983.

Every community in Sri Lanka mourned his death and looked upon him as a giant who had lived amongst them. In the Anglican Communion, in Sri Lanka and beyond her shores, many looked upon him as a giant as a Colossus.

The Reverend Andrew Kumarage, the Vicar of The Cathedral of Christ the king in Kurunegala from 1978-84, was unanimously elected to succeed Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe. His consecration took place at the Cathedral (vide cover page of this booklet) in May 1984. A distinguished product of St.Anne´s College, Kurunegala, and Bishop´s College, Calcutta, his social background was so different from those of his illustrious predecessors. So was his demeanour. He was anything but a radical and instead projected a saintly image. Indeed, the consensus of opinion is that the saintly image is part and parcel of his personality as a peoples Bishop and a son of the soil who was born and bread in the District of Kurunegala.

As a priest the perceived himself primarily as a pastor. As a Bishop he emphasized the importance of pastoral duties. With his vast experience as priest-in-charge in Hevadivela, Meewathura, Gampola and as a Vicar at the Cathedral in Kurunegala, he perceived pastoral duties as being concerned for people especially in their hour of need, during illness, bereavements in the family, personal problems, et cetera. That human touch was extended to all Christians whether or not they requested such assistance and to members of other faiths as and when they requested such assistance.

Organizationally such humanitarian assistance was built around individuals parishes. He emphasized on religious education for children. In theory, such teaching was part and parcel of our education system, in practice quite the teaching of Christianity was woefully neglected in Government schools due to the inadequacy of Christian teachers after the nationalization of schools. As such, the internal organization of all churches in the Diocese of Kurunegala included Sunday schools, Youth Fellowship and Mothers Unions/Womens´ Fellowships.

When this programme of work was duly implemented by the end of the decade of the eighties, Bishop Andrew Kumarage expanded the scope of activities to the isolated parishes in the North-Western Province for example, Hiriliya, Kimbulwana Oya, Nagollagama and Rajangane in the North-Central Province. When these reformes took root, he moved in to another field, as reflected in the following resolution passed at the Diocesan Council sessions in 1990.

"This Council resolves that:
   a) All areas within the North Western Province and the North Central province where there are pockets of Christian be treated as Missionary Areas.
   b) Accredited resident workers be appointed to these areas.
   c) The establishment of "House Churches" in these areas be fostered.
   d) The Diocese assumes a more positive and meaningful attitude towards these areas, and the work being done therein."

Such work was consistently undertaken during the decade of the nineties and good progress is now evident.
In the meantime, Bishop Andrew Kumarage was indeed distressed that the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims communities, have become refugees within Sri Lanka as a result of our civil war, which has raged since 1983. During his Espiscopate the refugees in the Diocese of Kurunegala consist mainly of Sinhalese Buddhists and a few Muslims in the Districts of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. That was a direct result of being evicted from their traditional homes Padaviya and weli Oya in the District of Anuradhapura and Manampitiya and Welikanda in the District of Polonnaruwa following the periodic forays by the LTTE. Besides there were many Tamils from the war zone who had taken refuge in the homes of their relatives in the territory of the Diocese of Kurunegala. Though technically not refugees, they too needed assistance which the Bishop was ever willing to provide. The assistance rendered was purely on a humanitarian basis. The refugees, be they in camps or elsewhere, were provided with food, clothing and shelter and their children were provided with education as well. This represented a logistic exercise which encompassed the entire Diocese of Kurunegala which was also distressed by the unfortunate turn of events.

This programme has been further enlarged to encompass a rehabilitation programme for farmers who have suffered from the vagaries of the weather. Accordingly, the first Peasant Organization was set up with the active co-operative of the Talawa Mission and affiliated to The Church of the Living Christ in Talawa. It was financed by the Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe Memorial Fund.

The Diocese set up the Mahaweli Mission in the District of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa for the pastoral care of the scattered Christian communities in the new settlements. That has uplifted the spirituality of the people and led to the formation of a parish in Polonnaruwa with a place of worship and a Mission House. It is hoped that in the year 2000 or 2001, a church will be consecrated and named the Church of Christ the peace Giver, Polonnaruwa.

Yet another dimension of the expanded programme of work for the North Central Province was the awarded of scholarships to poor children. Miss Evelyn Karney scholarships were awarded since 1997 for students who displayed brilliance at the G.C.E.(Ordinary Level) and more recently, at the Grade V level as well. This has turned out to be a very popular programme and the Diocese of Kurunegala has attracted a large number of donors.

Bishop Andrew Kumarage was so different. He opted to lead through consensus. For example on the sensitive issue of ordination of women, he was personally in favour but observed that the clergy and laity were sharply divided. Thereafter, he allowed the highest common factor to prevail. It is likely that such consensus will be obtained in due course.

A supreme example of the acceptance of Bishop Andrew Kumarage as the Bishop of Kurunegala was shortly after his sixty fifth birthday last year. When he informed the Standing Committee of his decision to retire, they were dismayed. Therefore, they unanimously decided to recommend to the Archbishop of Canterbury that his Episcopate be extended by another four years. In his Wisdom His Grace the Archbishop readily agreed to that proposal. Nevertheless, Bishop Andrew Kumarage was firm in his decision to make way for a younger Bishop. The compromise reached was that he will lay down his staff, after the joyous golden jubilee celebrations.

Indeed the Diocese of Kurunegala has to thank God for having given them leaders of the high caliber of Bishop Lakdasa De Mel, Bishop Lakshman Wickramasinghe and Bishop Andrew Kumarage. It is now opportune that the Diocese prays for a successor of the same high caliber.
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