You might recall from an earlier post the Bartholomaus faced opposition from the European colonists in the area. One form this opposition took was their refusal to attend worship services with the Tamil natives. The Tamil Christians were reluctant to attend services with the colonists, because their morals and behavior left much to be desired. Bartholomaus was never one to let something like that hinder the work he was doing for the Lord, so he came up with a very straightforward solution: he would see to it that they had their very own church.
That church eventually became known as the New Jerusalem Church. Initially they met in Bartholomaus' home, which served as a school on other days. This version of the church was simply known as the Jerusalem Church. Once they began to outgrow his home, it became obvious that a new building was needed. Oddly enough, the governor that was known to oppose Bartholomaus actually donated bricks for the church building and saw to it that land was allotted. Its foundation was laid in 1707.
The congregation began to outgrow the church within a year of its completion, and before long it was packed to capacity with new converts. A tsunami struck the area several years later, and even though the church was located close to the sea, it remained undamaged (unlike many neighboring buildings). After the tsunami, a new church was built. Again the governor cooperated, even appointing two skilled artisans to oversee the building of the church. This second version of the church was named the New Jerusalem Church -- and it still stands today.
A tsunami that hit in 2004 damaged the church, but it was restored and rededicated in 2006, almost 300 years after the first Protestant church was founded in Tranquebar. One of the dedication speakers made an excellent point about Bartholomaus:
Ziegenbalg did not come to make Tamil people Germans or Danes. He came not to teach European customs, but taught Tamil people to take pride in their own ways.
Tamil Lutherans Rededicate Tranquebar Mission Church in India, World Wide Faith News
New Jerusalem Church, Tranquebar, Wikipedia
New Jerusalem Church Rededicated, The Hindu
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.