United Benefice of Leatherhead and Mickleham
Rev Dr Kuhan Satkunanayagam

Dr Kuhan Satkunanayagam
Assistant Curate

Kuhan writes in the July 2011 parish magazine

I am originally from Sri Lanka but came to the UK with my parents when I was five years old.

I grew up in Epsom and became a Christian when I was a teenager through the Christian Union at Epsom College.

My family are Hindus so it continues to be a struggle for them to accept my faith and call to ordained ministry.

After I left school I lived in New York City for nearly two years on an internship programme working for Asprey of London. I returned to the UK and read Natural Sciences at St John's College, University of Durham. Following a brief spell working for Harrods I decided to train in psychotherapy and did a masters and doctorate in Counselling Psychology at the University of East London. Following that I worked for the NHS in Hammersmith and Fulham as a Chartered Counselling Psychologist. I returned to Durham to do my ministerial training at Cranmer Hall. In April 2010 I married Christine who previously worked as a medical doctor in Sri Lanka. We had our wedding at my old school chapel in Epsom. Both Christine and I are really looking forward to moving to Leatherhead and continuing our journey of faith with you all. Kuhan
[Kuhan and Christine have been blessed by the arrival of their son, Theo Christian, on 31 May 2011, weighing in at 5 1b 11 oz. The Rector]

from the August 2011 Parish of Leatherhead magazine
Rev Kuhan Satkunanayagam writes

You will probably have read some of my life history in a previous issue of the parish magazine but I thought it might be good to share some of my journey of faith that has led me to ordained ministry.

I was born to into a Hindu family but we hardly ever used to go to the temple. I think while I was growing up I was looking for spirituality and did not find it the rituals of Hinduism. The school environment I was in was predominantly Christian and Anglican and I soon joined the Christian Union. There was a Canadian missionary group that had come to the local area on mission and came to our school. It was at a prayer meeting they held in Epsom that I prayed a prayer committing my life to Jesus. I was thirteen at the time.

Naturally my parents were concerned and resistant to my becoming a Christian, worried that I was being influenced and brainwashed. While at school my mother had also attended a Christian Union but for her it was a phase and she went back to Hinduism when she left school. I think for a long time she thought it would be a phase for me too. I followed confirmation classes at school but my parents refused to allow me to be baptised or confirmed. Going to church was difficult but with time this became less problematic.

My journey of faith did not have an easy start and for many, many years was quiet and hidden. Important steps have been during times of retreat. I was recommended an eight-day Ignatian guided retreat and remember being warned that it could change your life! I had a very powerful experience on my first Ignatian retreat and a real sense that my faith went up a level during that time.

Reflecting on God's love for me was an amazing experience and there was a growing sense during that retreat of what was my response to that love. For me I felt a calling to respond practically, making a public declaration of my love for God through baptism. A few weeks after my retreat I was baptised by full immersion at Holy Trinity Brompton Road and later that year confirmed by the Bishop of Guildford in Epsom.

Since my first retreat I became more involved in church activities both at St Barnabas and Holy Trinity. At St Barnabas I was a member of the PCC and a Communion Assistant, as well as being a member of a house group. My involvement at Holy Trinity was more limited but I regularly attended a pastorate of which I was on the leadership team. There was nobody in my generation at St Barnabas and I went to Holy Trinity to have fellowship with people my age. For a number of years I have also attended Home Focus, Holy Trinity's teaching week away in Suffolk.

For over six years I have had spiritual direction. I have met with my director on a monthly basis and found this to be a very rich and rewarding experience. It has been a wonderful opportunity to explore aspects of my life in relation to my faith and a space to talk openly about my journey with God. My directors have all had an interest in Ignatian spirituality and have helped me start my own spiritual discipline of doing an Ignatian Examen of Consciousness.

With time I have tailored this specifically to my own unique relationship with God. This process was helped by another retreat where my guide and I spent a lot of time on personal vocation. Dancing with God was the theme of the sermon preached at my baptism, which was on Trinity Sunday that year and that has always been a very powerful and useful image to meditate on.

The main impression I have is a sense of me dancing with the Trinity, joining in with the dynamic and flowing connection with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Through creative visualisation and meditation, I was encouraged to have conversations with God, and through this I felt a sense of calling which I recorded both through writing and painting. From this process of meditation and imaginative prayer I had a sense of my personal vocation being to dance with God, and from this a sense of calling to teach others to dance and have a personal relationship with God.

From what I have read, vocation and role are separate and vocation can be expressed through different roles and for me this included being a priest. My sense of calling to ordained ministry has grown over the past few years and been encouraged through my spiritual direction. I went to my parish priest a number of years ago and discussing priesthood I expected him to say the normal response to do everything rather than being a priest, however he said to me that he did not find himself saying that to me. I found that rather disturbing and it took me a good year to overcome that sense of fear, with the most frightening feeling of daring to believe that this is what God could want for my life. Again with encouragement from my spiritual director, I began to explore this vocation more actively.

The process of selection for training was rigorous and intense, but at the same time very affirming and in many ways my sense of vocation grew through the process. My two years at Cranmer Hall have been very challenging and stimulating, plunging straight into the second year of a degree programme with no prior formal theological education. One of my tutors told me that spiritually a year at theological college is like ten years in daily life and I do believe my faith has matured and grown rapidly in the hothouse environment of residential training. I am really excited to be serving my curacy with you all and I know that I will learn and develop much more in the next few years.

Christine, Theo and I are already feeling very welcomed and look forward to being part of the God's family here in Leatherhead. If I have not met you already, I look forward to meeting you in the days and weeks ahead.

Ordination as Priest, Guildford Cathedral, Saturday 30th June 2012

Kuhan was one of 13 candidates ordained as priest in the Cathedral by the Bishop. Graham Osborne and Gail Partridge took part. Back in Leatherhead the parish gave a lunch for Kuhan in the Parish Church Hall. A great day for Kuhan, Christine and Theo.


Kuhan and Bishop Christopher

Jill Goodchild - Molly Canning - Sheila Cole - Kuhan - Edith Wright

Kuhanís ordination Ė Saturday 30 June 2012 - from the August 2012 parish magazine

On June 30 Ė a bright and breezy day Ė a party set off from Leatherhead by minibus to join others from St Mary and St Nicholas congregation to support Kuhan upon his ordination as priest at Guildford Cathedral.

It was a very beautiful and moving service, which included the receiving of the Eucharist by all who wished to do so. The Bishops blessed each of the ordinands and received a blessing from each in return. After the service there was time for photographs of family, friends and members of the church with Kuhan. Then it was back for a sumptuous repast attended by approximately 60-70 comprising Kuhanís family, friends and congregation celebrating his priesting. A truly memorable and special occasion shared by all in growing together as Godís family on earth.
The Magazine Editor

A Recent Sermon - Kuhan - from the June 2015 magazine

There were so many requests for my notes after my sermon on 10th May based on John 15: 9-17 that I have followed up the suggestion to publish it in the parish magazine.

LOVE (III) by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning If I lack'd anything.
"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"
"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

In the breaking of bread and the outpouring of wine, we see the breadth and depth of God's love for us. In what we touch, taste and enact, we are given a model for how we are to love.
Here, is love: embodied, enacted, felt, tasted, heard and seen. Love is-: remembered in liberation, service and sacrifice. It is love that stills our fears and satisfies our longings, which bears sorrows and shares joys.

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.

Human beings are fragile. Our hearts are easily broken and our hopes frustrated. We also have a tremendous potential to act with compassion; yet become brittle and defensive. Our vulnerability is our greatest gift, with its capacity for empathy, and service of the other. It is also, apart from God's assurance, our greatest weakness.

We build walls of pride and selfishness, of certainty and prejudice. We slide into patterns of thought, speech and action which despise, mistrust and undermine. Then, in the presence of Love, our soul draws back; we see ourselves as unworthy or inadequate; guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

God knows us fully. He knows our capacity to wound and be wounded; to be self-reliant and self-serving. He knows our lack : of assurance, of trust, of faithfulness; he knows too our deepest desires, for healing, for hope, for purpose. We long for what we lack, to be fully who we are called to be. God reaches out to us and calls forth honesty about our human condition.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he.    "
I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on Thee."

Often our own self-perception creates a barrier. Our flaws re-direct our gaze away from love; we both long for and resist that refining, intense love. Pride gets in the way, frustrating our response to love poured out for us in humble service.

Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

We are welcomed, met with a tender touch and perceptive smile. We are reminded that we are made in the image of God and are full of potential.

"Truth Lord; but I have marr'd them; let my shame Go where it doth deserve.    "
"And know you not,"says Love, "Who bore the blame?"

We are reminded that our shame and blame are born for us by the servant king. The body of Christ is broken for the world. Today we touch, and taste and see what love looks like; how it transforms us and reverses the status quo.

When human weakness and vulnerability can lead us to be defensive, angry, selfish and arrogant, we see an alternative. God's love is the first and final word. Our capacity for generosity, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion is expanded as we receive those gifts of love.

"My dear, then I will serve.    "
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat.
So I did sit and eat.

Jesus does not only point us to actions - acts of peace, of shared food or acts of kindness. He embodies God's love and forgiveness in the midst of betrayal, humiliation, suffering and death. The cost of that love serves as a challenge to us - when we condemn, or judge or disappoint. The cost of that love stands in solidarity with us - when we are condemned, or judged or disappointed.

Love bade me welcome.
"And know you not," says Love "Who bore the blame?"
"Who made the eyes but I?"

There is nothing manipulative or coercive about such love. Its strength is in humility. When Jesus breaks bread and shares the cup of wine, he points to his own self-giving love. He enables our communion with God to be renewed as we become one body. He enacts generous, compassionate service. He restores human dignity.

Here is a place where we bring our whole selves; here is the place of acceptance, forgiveness and transformation; here we are commanded to remember and imitate that love.

Love bade me welcome...quick-eyed Love...Drew nearer to me

There is no place where God's love is not. Love is. The beginning; the end.

June 28 2015 - Goodbye to Kuhan [to be completed]

Following Kuhan's last Communion Service here at the Parish Church [insert 'resign' sermon] there was a Parish Lunch in the Parish Church Hall at we we said our farewells.

kuhan balloon
Kuhan restraining one of the prayer balloons released after the service

Rector to be (at St Mary's Long Ditton) and Rector

bead cross
Bead Cross made and presented by Lorraine Willmott

From the July 2015 Magazine

The Curate writes ...

For the priest, letting go is a challenge. The vocation of the priest to be (as the Ordinal puts it) "servant and shepherd among the people to whom he or she is sent", to preach, call to repentance, baptise, prepare for confirmation, preside at the eucharist, intercede, bless, encourage, teach, minister to the sick and prepare the dying for their deaths, can only be discharged through a degree of involvement with people which is always going to make letting go hard.

There is a privileged intimacy about priesthood. For some, this will include acting as confessor, and having penitents share their most private failures, anxieties and fears before seeking spiritual encouragement and the assurance of God's forgiveness.

For every priest it entails being privy to joys and sadnesses, family celebrations and personal tragedies. This is bound to forge a particular kind of relationship. Pastoral engagement with people creates personal bonds and makes it all the harder to "let go" when the time comes.

Then there is the priest as leader and a leader of a very particular kind. This "servant leadership" has various strands. Among them are encouragement and nurturing. The priest encourages through his or her teaching.

Nurturing has special reference to the priest as minister of the sacraments. It is a great privilege (as well as a great responsibility) for the priest to stand at the altar on behalf of the people of God, when, in the breaking and sharing of bread, the community becomes more visibly what it truly is: the body of Christ.
This is about a relationship with God. But it is also about the relationship between priest and people, Sunday by Sunday. And again, that extraordinary bond, "in Christ", makes letting go when the time comes very hard.

Finally, there is friendship. For the priest, the relationship with members of the congregation is complicated. With individuals, it will have all the hallmarks of friendship, including time spent together, shared interests, hospitality. But it is both more and less than that.

The priest as priest may be privy to things which, as a friend, he or she would not know; in order to minister effectively, there may need to be boundaries to friendship: a certain reticence or holding back.

None of this means that priests cannot enjoy warm friendships with their congregations, but they are never entirely straightforward. Again, letting go is hard when the time comes.

As I finish my curacy and move to be rector of St Mary's Long Ditton I face the challenge of letting go, moving on, and letting you move on, too.

Thank you and good bye.


[Kuhan's service of Induction at St Mary's Long Ditton was on Wednesday 12th August]

last updated 11 Aug 2015: 4 Dec 17
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