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The birth of the very first Sunday School

On a Sunday in 1780,Robert Raikes inaugurated the first ever “Sunday School” in the town of Glouster in the United Kingdom (UK). The benefits of this Sunday school were immense and experienced by many and as a result Sunday schools sprang up in many towns in the UK. Very soon Sunday schools were established in Europe and in the USA.

Sri Lanka prior to the establishment of Sunday schools

Sri Lanka is an Island in the Indian Ocean. When considering the history of “Sunday schools” in Sri Lanka within the Church of England, let us look back to the early years of British rule in Sri Lanka. The western coastal belt was conquered by the British in 1796 and before Sunday schools were inaugurated in Sri Lanka there were several ‘day schools’ established by the Government that taught religion as a part of the curriculum.

Inauguration of Sunday classes in Moratuwa

Moratuwa is a town on the western coastal belt and about 20 Km south of Colombo. It is reported that during 1815 to 1828 the time Rev: Andrew Armor was serving the Lord; the first church of England Sunday Class was started in Moratuwa. These classes continued to function in Moratuwa even during the time when Rev: Cannon, S.W. Dias, was Colonial Chaplain in1833, but unfortunately due the lack of proper organisation these classes died a natural death.

The first Sunday school in Moratuwa

In 1852 Rev: Cornnellius Senanayke was appointed Colonial Chaplain of Moratuwa. It is recorded in the ‘Lanka Litha’ of 1858, that during the time he served in Morauwa, the first three Sunday schools were inaugurated at Rawathawaththa in 1855, and at Egodauyana and Coralawella in 1856. It is also recorded that in 1858 there were 134 boys and 25 girls in these three Sunday schools.

Consecration of Holy Emmanuel Church Moratuwa

One of the most significant and important events in the history of the Church of England in Mortuwa was the consecration of the Holy Emmanuel Church on the 27th of December 1860. This magnificent edifice was constructed and donated by Gate Mudaliyar, Jerronis de Soysa.

Reorganisation of the Church England Sunday schools in Moratuwa

In 1861, during the time Rev:Abraham Mendis was appointed Colonial Chaplain, the Church of England Sunday schools in Moratuwa were re-organized. This was executed in 1864, under the patronage of Rev: S.Augustine Fernando, who was known as ‘the father of the Moratuwa Sunday schools.’ He inaugurated in 1864 a Sunday school at the Swabhasha School in Laxapathiya which was affiliated to Holy Emmanuel Church.

The Birth of Holy Emmanuel Sunday School

Since Laxapathiya was not centrally located, and on the instructions of Rev: Abraham Mendis it was decided to relocate the Sunday school at Laxapathiya to a more central location. Therefore in 1869, it was shifted to the School hall belonging to Holy Emmanuel Church, which is its present location. Augustine Fernando got the cooperation of other teachers and the number of children attending the Sunday school increased rapidly. Children from Laxapthiya, Coralawella and Moratumulla were among those attending Sunday school. The first superintendent of the Sunday school was Johanas Mendis Jayawardene, and the first Secretary was Francis Mendis. Augustine Fernando a dynamic worker yet humble was loved by all. He rendered yeoman service as Superintendent of the Sunday school from 1886 and continued as a teacher in the Sunday school until he was called to his eternal rest at the age of 85, on 7th April 1925.

Office Bearers 2023/24
Incumbent Rev. Malinda de Mel
Jt. Secretaries Mr. Dinka Peiris
Ms. Manuri Wickramathillaka
Asst. Secretary Ms. Chrisheni Fernando
Treasurer Ms. Nuwani Peiris
Asst. Treasurer Ms. Gashiya Senanayaka (29/1/2023 to 30/09/2023)


Sectional Heads

Sigithi Hamuwa Ms. Roshaini Goonesekera Withana
Lower KG Ms. Dilki Peiris
Upper KG Ms. Gashiya Senanayaka (29/1/2023 to 30/09/2023)
Ms. Sashini Fernando (01/10/2023 onwards)
Junior Section Mr. Nishchal Karunatilleke
Intermediate Section Ms. Mayuri Peiris
Snr & YF Section Ms. Nilmini Fernando