[Ceylon Churchman] The Diocese of Kuranagala celebrates its Golden Jubilee in 2000. The diocese, which is in central Sri Lanka, is entirely surrounded by the Diocese of Colombo, and about half its size. Kuranagala was originally formed as a missionary diocese of the Province of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon.
The first bishop, the Rt Revd Lakdasa De Mel, had been a pioneer of indigenisation in Ceylon - making sure that the church adapted to local needs and culture. The diocese covered an area that contained eight ancient kingdoms, with a rich historical and cultural heritage.
"The church in our land has been increasingly conscious that it was not enough to produce Ceylonese Christians," wrote the Bishop in 1955. "They also had to be Christian Ceylonese. The task of adaptation to environment demanded a waiting upon the Holy Spirit by the local Christians.... Now was the time for the growing Church to do its own expression work."
During the 1930s Bishop Lakdasa had done much work in helping to foster indigenous styles of Christian worship. In 1938 the "Ceylon Liturgy" was introduced, including Sinhalese musical settings based on traditional folk music that is still popular in rural areas of the diocese today.
In December 1950 the foundation stone of the Cathedral of Christ the King was laid, and the cathedral was consecrated just over five years later in January 1956. The building was designed in an indigenous style and built entirely with local resources, apart from the Chapter House, which was a gift from the Canadian Diocese of Nova Scotia.
Bishop Lakdasa De Mel became Metropolitan of the Province of India. Pakistan, Burma end Ceylon in 1962, and was succeeded by Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe. At 35, Bishop Lakshman was then the youngest bishop in the Anglican Communion, and was committed to the cause of justice for the poor and oppressed across the diocese. At a turbulent time in the history of Ceylon, the Bishop played a leading role in the civil rights movement, and was responsible for initiating many development projects in rural and plantation areas.
The third and current Bishop of Kuranagala is Andrew Kumarage, who was born and bred in the diocese, and consecrated as its bishop in 1984. The bishop is well known for his commitment to prayer and holistic spirituality, and has encouraged outreach in the northern part of the diocese. Several "house churches" have been established in special Missionary Areas.
"Our task for the future envisages the necessity to carry forward the indigenisation process and continuity of dialogue with adherents of other faiths," Bishop Andrew said in his Golden Jubilee sermon. We need to search for and engage in opportune service within the church and community.... It is important that we give thought to the development of a full humanity with the grace of God."