The start of the Sunday School can be traced back to 1780, when Mr. Robert Raikes began a Sunday School movement in Gloucester for the children of the Factories.

The Industrial Revolution which broke out in Great Britain in 1750, saw major changes in the areas of textiles, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and mining. This
gave way for the rise of a number of factories in and around Great Britain. Manual labour and animal based working yielded to machines that ran on steam and coal.

The machines saved time, replaced manual hard labour and gave quick profits to the owners. The predominant thinking during this age, was to accumulate profits, in some way or the other. Hence, the employers of these big factories began to rapidly employ children. The Industrial machines were new and needed no strength to operate it, thus, child labourers proved handy for the employers. The productivity of children was comparable to that of adults. The children were made to work in bad conditions and were paid much lower than the adults. Protesting children were beaten, whipped, chained and even sold to other Workhouses. Many children who worked tirelessly in these bad conditions either died of accidents or lost limbs, legs and eyes or developed diseases due to poisonous fumes. It was a mournful chapter in the history of the world.

Once out of the factories, the children engaged themselves in crime, robbery and mischief for quick money and fame. Robert Raikes watched children wasting themselves away in a slum in Gloucester. He was moved by the ‘sin and wretchedness’ (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘A good man’s miracle) that the children were easily falling into, and was convinced that schooling was the best intervention.

But the children worked 6 days a week and were only free on Sundays. He realized this was the best day for bringing them all together, and the first such meeting was organized in the home of a Ms. Meredith, which later grew extensively to churches and other public places. In the initial period, Raikes himself bore the expenses of running the movement. The teachers were lay people of the church, and the text book was the Bible.

The Sunday School movement proved to be a great blessing for the children and old alike, not only in the United Kingdom, but all over the world. In a few years, after its inception, thousands of children attended Sunday Schools regularly. The BBC in an article, ‘How Sunday School shaped Britain’, dated 2 July 2008, opines that Sunday Schools in Britain helped the nation regain lost values and had a great positive impact in society. In the early 19th century, parading Sunday School students could turn out in thousands, bringing city centres to an entire standstill. Famous football clubs in the United Kingdom like Everton, Fulham and Aston Villa owe their origins to their respective Sunday Schools.
The formal origin of the Mar Thoma Sunday School Samajam was in the year 1905. But before 1905, there were few churches who had Sunday Schools in their respective parishes in Kerala. An example would be the Church at Kandanad, where 50 elders gathered together and took a decision to promote Christian education to their children, uncompromisingly. Our forefathers and mothers realized this as a glaring need and began to engage the children by teaching them the life of Jesus Christ. Some of the English missionaries like Thomas Walker and Wordsworth inspired and energized people to promote this cause.

An advisory meeting was convened on 25 February, 1905, Saturday evening at the Maramon Convention tent (pandal) according to prior notice. The meeting was chaired by Rev. C.P Philipose. The main decision taken there was to bring all the different Sunday Schools functioning in the Marthoma community churches as an institution by the name, Malankara Marthoma Syrian Christian Sunday School Samajam.

Compiled by Rev. Prince Varghese Madathileth

The Genesis

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