- Austin Mar Thoma Congregation formed – January 1, 2006
- Four Sunday Services Started – Feb 3, 2008
- Austin Mar Thoma Congregation became a Parish – April 15, 2010
- Place of worship acquired at 2222 Downing Lane, Leander, TX – May 14, 2015
- Church dedication service – October 18, 2015
- First Resident Vicar for Austin Mar Thoma Church- May 1st, 2017
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In the early 1990s, several Mar Thoma families lived in the Austin area and most of them were members of the Mar Thoma Church of Dallas or Trinity Mar Thoma Church of Houston. The first Mar Thoma Bishop to visit Austin and conduct a prayer meeting was the Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius in 1995. On May 1st, 1999, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Zacharias Mar Theophilus was the first bishop to conduct a Holy Communion Service at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Austin. In June 2002, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Euyakim Mar Coorilos accompanied by Rev. T. V. George conducted a Holy Communion Service at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Austin. During this period, vicars of Dallas Mar Thoma Church and Trinity Mar Thoma Church and youth chaplains from Houston conducted Prayer Meetings, Holy Communion Services and other functions in Austin.
In 2004, the members in Mar Thoma and CSI churches residing in Austin and San Antonio felt the need to have a prayer meeting or worship services on a regular basis. Rev. George Thomas, the vicar of Trinity Mar Thoma Church, Houston, celebrated Holy Communion on August 29, 2004 in Austin and he motivated the attendees of the service to have regular meetings at least once in a month. Thus, prayer meetings were held at residences of a few members. The progress and interest among the members were communicated to Rev. George Thomas. From January 2005, the Rev. George Thomas conducted a Holy Communion service once a month at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Austin with the approval of our Diocesan Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Euyakim Mar Coorilos Episcopa.
Our then Diocesan Bishop, Coorilos Thirumeni, visited Austin and celebrated Holy Communion on Saturday December 3, 2005 and encouraged us to become a Mar Thoma Congregation. An application to form an official congregation, with the signatures of all the potential members was sent to the Diocesan Bishop on December 5, 2005 along with a letter from the Rev. George Thomas. In response to our request, Austin Mar Thoma Congregation was officially approved through the Kalpana dated Dec 21, 2005 (No. DC/653/2005 dated 12/21/2005) and was effective from January 1, 2006. The Rev. Mathew Joseph was appointed as the first vicar.
The newly formed Austin Mar Thoma Congregation met regularly for worship at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Austin in the afternoons. There were two Holy Communion Services in a month, one in Malayalam and one in English. In 2006 the Congregation had 21 families with a total of 66 members. A website for the Austin Mar Thoma Congregation was set up in May 2006, URL: http://austinmtc.org.
The very first Executive Committee and General Body of Austin Mar Thoma Congregation initiated a Church Building Fund in 2006 for the purpose of funding the purchase of a future place of worship. Many members have consistently contributed to this fund from the very beginning to this date.
Also, a Charity Fund was started in 2006 to help the charity activities of the church. It has grown and continued all these years to help many in their need.
The State of Texas approved Austin Mar Thoma Congregation as a domestic non-profit corporation effective April 13, 2006. Tax exemption status was also granted by State Comptroller of Public Accounts for Texas state taxes. The Internal Revenue Service approved our application for tax exemption under section 501 (C) (3) of the internal revenue code and our congregation was exempted from federal income tax effective April 13, 2006.
Under Rev. Mathew Joseph’s guidance and leadership, vibrant parish ministries such as house prayer meetings, Sunday School, Choir, Sevika Sangham, Edavaka Mission and Yuvajana Sakhyam were started. From 2007, the Sunday school registered under Diocese Sunday School and started to follow the curriculum published by the Mar Thoma Sunday School Diocesan Council of the Diocese of North America.
As the members felt the need for regular services on all Sundays, from 2008 four services per month on every Sunday at 2:00 PM were started, Holy Communion Services in Malayalam on Second Sundays and in English on third and fourth Sundays of each month and English Divine Service on the first Sunday of each month. Special services were held on occasions such as Good Friday, Easter Sunday, World Sunday School Day, First Communicant Service and Christmas.
The 2008 Executive Committee formed a sub-committee of three members on April 13th, 2008 to study and make recommendations on two tasks (1) parish versus congregation based on current financial capability and (2) a roadmap of various phases of church development. The sub-committee submitted the report and recommended (1) transformation of congregation to parish and (2) acquiring a facility for worship within few years, which was approved by the Congregation Executive Committee and General Body and got ratified by the diocese.
At the General Body held on October 25, 2009, Diocesan Bishop the Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius Episcopa encouraged our congregation to become a parish within a year and also advised that a building committee should look into the possibility of purchasing a property/building for the church. As a follow up, a transition to parish request was submitted to the diocese. Our Metropolitan, the Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan accepted our application and the congregation became a parish named Austin Mar Thoma Church on April 15th, 2010.
The Rev. Mathew Joseph continued as vicar until April 2010 and the Rev Dr. Philip Varghese was appointed as vicar from May 1st, 2010.
The desire to have worship on Sunday mornings became strong among members. The Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest was kind enough to provide their Chapel, Christ Chapel, for our Sunday morning service, 10.30 AM from September 19, 2010. The Seminary of the Southwest also provided class rooms for Sunday School classes.
The Austin Mar Thoma Church hosted its first Convention on April 15th – 17th, 2011and continued without any interruptions in the following years.
Rev. Dr. Philip Varghese continued as Vicar till April 2011 and the Rev. John N Abraham appointed as Vicar from May 2011.
Under the leadership of Rev. John N Abraham, in 2011, a prayer group was started for the San Antonio area members. Rev. John N Abraham also initiated publishing of a Church Newsletter/Bulletin every quarter. The bulletin contained Vicar’s message, news and programs/events of the quarter, birthdays and wedding anniversaries of members for the quarter and an editorial message. We are continuing this practice.
The Rev. M. P. Yohannan and Kochamma (Mrs. Saramma Yohannan) became members of Austin Mar Thoma Church in 2011. Achen continued to provide leadership in worship and guidance in the spiritual growth of the church. The Rev. P.M. Thomas and Kochamma (Mrs. Annamma Thomas) were also part of our church for a few years and led worship services and guided our spiritual needs.
In the last quarter of 2011, the General Body formed a Church Building Search Team of four members. The goal of the team was to raise the funds and to find an existing church or property in the Austin area that could be converted to a church for worship. To make the goal a reality, the Team concentrated on fund raising by starting a pledge drive. As part of the fund-raising activities, a Parish Day Souvenir was published in 2013 and visits to sister churches in South West Region were arranged.
The building search team researched various properties in Austin and surrounding areas that were on the market and could be easily zoned for religious use. In October 2013 the General Body added two more members to the building search team.
Rev. John N Abraham initiated the Seniors Citizens Fellowship program at our parish in 2013 and this has continued in the following years.
Rev. John N. Abraham continued as vicar until April 2014 and from May 2014 the Rev. Aji Varghese took charge as the vicar.
The Youth Group has been leading the English Praise and Worship services on the fourth Sundays from September 2014.
The building search team was further expanded to 8 members. The team met several times and considered various options for acquiring a place of worship, including new construction. In 2014, an offer was made for a property at 2222 Downing Lane, Leander consisting of 4.2 acres of land, a 5000-sq. ft. building, 2 portable buildings but could not be acquired at that time due to a higher counter offer. But by God’s grace this property came back on market again and our original offer was accepted. With about 50% of down payment and mortgage with two volunteer member loan guarantors, we were able to close on the property on May 14th, 2015.
As the acquisition of the church building was completed, the Church Building Search Team was dissolved by the General Body on November 1, 2015.
To continue the tasks to renovate the purchased building, convert it to a church sanctuary and other related modifications, the General body constituted a Construction Subcommittee. The Construction committee with many volunteers spent many hours in planning, design and execution of various projects including construction of the Madhbaha (curtains, railings, carpeting, table, celebrant chairs, podiums), outside cross, dedication marker, light and sound system, projector, screen, kitchen cabinets and appliances etc. Majority of the work was completed by the construction committee and volunteers. All these efforts resulted in a beautiful Sanctuary and worship place for Austin Mar Thoma Church.
On Sunday, Oct 18, 2015, with the permission and blessings of the Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church, His Grace, The Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma, our Diocesan Bishop the Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius dedicated the new place of worship for Austin Mar Thoma Church. Former vicars Rev. Mathew Joseph and Rev. Dr. Philip Varghese were also present for the service. The Dedication and Holy Communion services were attended by guests from Mar Thoma churches in Texas, Austin -San Antonio area Malayalee churches and other distinguished guests apart from members of Austin Mar Thoma Church.
Rev. Aji Varghese was instrumental in providing leadership and guidance in various activities such as property acquisition, building renovation and church dedication resulting in having the new place of worship.
The church has grown from 21 family members in 2006 to 67 families by 2016. However, we did not have resident vicar yet and the members felt the need for a resident vicar. The Executive Committee formed a sub-committee to study the feasibility of having a resident vicar for the parish. The sub-committee recommended to have a resident vicar for Austin Mar Thoma church conducting three Sunday Holy Communion Services per month. This recommendation was unanimously approved by the Executive Committee and the General Body Meeting convened on November 19th, 2016. A request was made to the Diocesan Episcopa to consider a resident vicar for Austin Mar Thoma Church. As per the Kalpana DC/679/16 dated December 7, 2016 our request was acknowledged and approved by the diocese.
The Rev. Aji Varghese continued until April 2017. Austin Mar Thoma church was blessed with the appointment of our first resident vicar, the Rev. Biju P Simon from May 1st, 2017.
The construction sub-committee continued their effort and spent numerous hours in coordinating and executing various activities to complete all the necessary work to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy from the City of Cedar Park. With their tireless effort, the City of Cedar Park granted the Certificate of Occupancy for our church on October 19th, 2017.
Austin Mar Thoma Church has been the recipient of the best parish award, every year since the inception of the parish.
Our church organizations play a vital role in the spiritual growth of this parish. Organizations include Sunday School, Edavaka Mission, Sevika Sangham, Youth Fellowsip, Yuvajana Sakhyam, Senior Citizens Forum and Choir. Our Sunday school secured overall championship in the South West Regional Sunday School competition in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Youth Fellowship and Yuvajana Sakhyam lead Church Services on the last Sundays of every month. Men’s Fellowship and Sevika Sangam conduct regular weekly Bible studies on Fridays. Our church continues supporting missions especially the Mexico Mission work. Charity is a very important priority of our church and the church has been supporting local and other charities.
In 2017, the San Antonio Prayer Group requested Thirumeni to have a congregation status which was approved in December 2017 and became effective from January 1, 2018.
By the grace and mercy of our God and the committed work of our members led by dedicated vicars and Achens, our Church has flourished as a spiritual enriching house which was built by none other than the Lord. As we continue our journey in faith, it is our ardent hope and prayer that this parish remains as a Christian model to shine light in this world.
May God continue to bless us, and may we become a blessing to others.