The origin of the St. Mark’s parish dates back to 1990, when Rev. Mathew Varghese, who was then the vicar of the New Jersey Mar Thoma parish, came to Tampa on his way to Orlando. Until then, there was not a single congregation of Marthomites in the Tampa Bay area. The nearest congregation was in South Florida, about a four hour drive; the few Mar Thoma families who resided in the Carrollwood and Temple Terrace areas attended either the local churches or the Indian Orthodox Church, which was just taking shape then as well. On December 25, 1990, Rev. Mathew Varghese conducted the first ever Mar Thoma Holy Communion in the Tampa Bay area, at the Orange River Estates Recreation Center in Temple Terrace. Afterwards, a meeting was held to discuss the future of the possibilities of having regular services and Holy Communion, which resulted in the formation of an ad-hoc committee.
– Formation of the Mar Thoma Chapel
- Rev Varghese Thomas appointed Vicar
- Rev. T.C. George appointed Vicar
- Land purchased where new church building is now built
- Rev. Joseph Mathew appointed Vicar
– Diocesan Bishop laid foundation stone of the new church building
- Rev. T.Johnson was appointed as the first resident Vicar
MAR THOMA CHURCH USA - HISTORY
Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church (Malankara Mar Thoma Suriyani Sabha as it is called in native Malayalam) is one of the oldest groups of praticising Christians in the world. Believed to be followers of one of the original disciples of Jesus Christ - St. Thomas (also called Didymus or Thomas, the doubter). It is widely believed that the Apostle St. Thomas came to Muziris on the southwest coast of India in AD 52 and laid the foundations of Christianity in this part of the world.
The growth of Mar Thoma Church during the latter part of the 20th century was phenomenal. As early as 1972, there were efforts for worship and prayer meetings in the major cities of North America. Mar Thoma parishes in North America became a reality during the 1980's. Clergy were assigned to all parishes to further their growth. Several parishes bought or built church buildings of their own.
Representatives from all parishes met at Philadelphia in 1982 for the first Zonal Council meeting presided over by Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius. The North American Zone was under the Kottayam-Ranny Diocese.
HISTORY - 1980s
As new parishes and church buildings emerged at major cities across U.S.A. and Canada, the Metropolitan created the Diocese of North America and Europe in 1988. In 1993 Rt. Rev. Dr. Zacharias Mar Theophilus became the first resident bishop of the diocese. The events leading to the formation of a new diocese in North America and building of the Diocesan Center (Sinai Mar Thoma Center in New York) took place within a short span of 2 decades.
The annual youth conference started in 1980 and the first annual family conference was held at Toronto in 1983. Mar Thoma Messenger - a publication of the diocese - started in 1982.
There are now 51 parishes and 21 congregations in our diocese, of which 8 parishes and 2 congregations are in Canada.
Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius is currently leading the diocese as the Diocesan Bishop. Rev. Dr. K. A. Abraham is the present Diocesan Secretary and Mr. T. A. Mathew (Houston) is the Diocessan Treasurer.
OUR STATEMENT OF FAITH
The Constitution of the Mar Thoma church contains the following primary fundamentals under its declaration of faith
The Malankara Mar Thoma church founded by Saint Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ the Savior, is to be known by that name and it is a part of the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church.
The Mar Thoma church, in keeping with the faith of the Christian church believes in Jesus Christ as God incarnate fully human and fully divine for the redemption of mankind.
The Mar Thoma church accepts the 66 books of the Old and New testaments, as the basis of all Theological subjects and also the Nicene Creed formulated in accordance with the scriptures which are above alteration in any way by anyone. Similarly the threefold ministerial offices of the deacons, priest and bishop and the rights of the consecration of churches, Holy baptism, Holy Qurbana, Holy marriage, extreme unction and burial as well as the observance of Sunday, Lent and Marayana festivals relating to events in the life of Jesus Christ and of church should not be removed at any time.
The Mar Thoma church accepts the following as its goal and function: to nurture the spiritual life of its members by being a repository of the divine doctrines revealed by Jesus Christ and proclaimed by his Holy apostles by holding fast to these doctrines in their purity and by the Ministry of the word and sacraments and to make disciples of all nations by preaching the gospel throughout the world and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Mar Thoma church is a mixture of the Eastern church and the Protestant Church of the West due to its Ecumenical outlook, autonomy and zeal for mission work. It is also a member of the World Council of Churches and the National Council of churches in the USA.
- 1 Peter 2: 9-10