The fourteenth ‘Shepherd’ of Colombo diocese

by R. Linden Fernando
The Rt. Rev. Duleep Kamil de Chickera is the 14th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Colombo which dates back to 154 years ago and also the sixth Sri Lankan Bishop to hold the post behind Bishops Harold de Soysa (1964-1971), Cyril Linden Abeynaike (1971-1977), Swithin Fernando (1978-1987), Jabez J. Gnanapragasam (1987-1992) and Kenneth Fernando (1992-2001).

The word ‘Bishop’ according to the Holy Scriptures means a Shepherd and it takes us back to the time of Jesus Christ when he played the role of the Good Shepherd.(Psalm 23) Rt. Rev. de Chickera (53) this becomes the Good Shepherd of the flock of the Anglican Diocese of Colombo and also the youngest Bishop to hold the post.

The Episcopal Ordination and Installation ceremony of Bishop de Chickera which lasted almost 4 hours was held in the form of colourful pageant on May 23, 2001 (Thursday) at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour in Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7 and presided over by the Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Most Rt. Rev. George Carey; the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds Rt. Rev. John Packer and assisted by six other Bishops — Rt. Rev. Kenneth Fernando (Vicar General of Colombo), Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe (Bishop of Kurunegala), Rt. Rev. Swithin Fernando (a former Bishop of Colombo), Rt. Rev. Andrew Kumarage (a former Bishop of Kurunegala), Rt. Rev. Subramaniam Tebanesan (Bishop of the Church of South India in Jaffna) and Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Ma Irenaeus (Bishop of Mar Thorma Syrian Church of Malabar). The ceremony also coincided with the ‘Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ’ which according the Holy Scriptures tells us of Christ’s departure from this earth ‘Ride a large loud’ while preaching his last sermon on Mount Sinai.

The ceremony began at 8.30 a.m. with three processions making their way into the cathedral from the cathedral lawn. The first procession was headed by Tamil dancers (Nagasalam) and Kandyan dancers (which gave a blend of Tamil and Sinhala culture), bands from several Christian schools and followed by the clergy of the Anglican church and other Christian organisations. The second procession consisted of the Bishop Elect accompanied by the Hewisi Band of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. The third and final procession consisted of the Ordaining Overseer (the participating Bishops both foreign and local) and accompanied by a dance troupe from Bishop’s College, Colombo.

A congregation of about 10,000 witnessed the solemn trilingual ceremony with several housed in temporary sheds installed in the cathedral garden and viewing the proceedings on TV screens.

Among those present were 4 Roman Catholic Bishops — Archbishop the Most Rt. Rev. Dr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando, Chilaw Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus Fernando, Kurunegala Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Raymond Pieris and Galle Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Elmo Noel Perera. The Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) was represented by Rev. Charles Jansz, the Methodist Church by Rev. Noel Fernando and the Salvation Army by its Territorial Commander Col. Dr. Brian Tuck.

The four Buddhist clergy who added colour to the ceremony were Ven. Dr. Pallekande Rathanasara Thera, Ven. Panditha Madampagama Assaji Nayaka Thera, Ven. Mahagalkandawala Punnyasara Thera and Ven. Tissamaharamaye Dhammajothi Thera of Pabbatharamaya, Kotagala, Hatton.

Also among the distinguished guests were Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Speaker Anura Bandaranaike and Opposition Leader and UNP MP Ranil Wickremesinghe and several members of the diplomatic corp.

The two lessons were read in English and Sinhala while the sermon on the words taken from St. John’s Gospel Chapter 15 — Verse 16 (You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, the kind of fruit that endures) was preached in Sinhala by the Kurunegala Bishop Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe and followed by its Tamil translation by the Archdeacon of Jaffna Ven. Joseph Sarvananthan.

The three other Anglican Archdeacons who assisted in the ceremony were Colombo Archdeacon Ven. Godwin Weerasuriya, Nuwara Eliya Archdeacon Ven. Dilroy Kanagasabai and Galle Archdeacon Ven. Patrick Fernando. Also present were the Canons; Priests and Deacons.

Prior to the Episcopal Ordination the Bishop Elect laid prostrate which was a symbol of thanking God in advance for the vows he was destined to accept. Among the insignia of office the new Bishop received at the ordination were The Bible, The Pastoral Staff, The Ring, The Pectoral Cross and The Mitre.

The new Bishop in his initial act washed the feet of 12 persons representing the people of the diocese and then met the distinguished guests before celebrating the first Holy Eucharist in his new capacity.

The ceremony concluded with Bishop de Chickera (accompanied by the other Bishops) blessing the nation from the entrance to the Cathedral amidst the singing of the Hymn for Sri Lanka (Jehovah Thou hast promised) by the congregation.

Bishop de Chickera is a product of Royal College, Colombo and was one of the school’s top second row forwards in rugby together with his brother Lakshman. He later coached the school’s junior team in that sport before joining the Theological College in Pilimatalawa. Following the completion of his course in Theology he was appointed Assistant Chplain and later Chaplain and Sub Warden of S. Thomas’ College, MTL.

He later obtained his MSc in Education at Keble College in Oxford before taking up to parish work. After serving for 5 years as the vicar in charge of St. Michael’s and All Angels Church in Kollupitiya he was placed in charge of the parishes in Maharagama, Liyanawala and Molkawa in 1996. From 2000, he has been the Co-ordinator of Reconciliation and Peace of the Colombo Diocese.

He is married and has one daughter and two sons.