178-year-old church for ‘blackpally’ faithful

March 2, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Karnataka, March 2, 2018: Located in a corner of Old Poor House Road, next to Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, St Paul’s Church sees people of all faiths, especially visitors to the hospital, coming to the church to pray or request to the pastor or an elder to pray for them. Once their prayers are answered, they make visit to the chapel to thank God for healing them, writes Rev D John Milton, a former Presbyter in-charge.St Paul’s church is known to be the very first Tamil Anglican Church in the erstwhile Mysore kingdom. The present Presbyter in-charge is Rev J Soundar Rajan.

History

After the capital of the state was shifted from Mysuru to Bengaluru in 1831, the British troops stationed its garrison in the Cantonment area. The establishment of the Cantonment led to an increase in the number of job opportunities.

Since the Cantonment was connected to Jolarpet (Madras) and areas such as Halasuru, Binnamangala and Blackpally were brought under the administration of the Madras Presidency, they drew many migrants, mostly from Senji near Madras. A large number of Indians who lived in the nearby areas such as Benson Town, Cox Town and Frazer Town served the British officers as cooks, butlers, drivers, launderers and even as sepoys in the army. Most of them spoke Tamil and many converted to Christianity.

According to a magazine published by the Protestant church on the occasion of its 175th anniversary, apart from administrative interests, the British set a mandate to worship God on Sundays and this became the ever reigning practice wherever they ruled. So, the Britishers used to travel all the way to Fort Church, near City Market, to conduct worship services.

There was only one Chaplain there to conduct the services. They felt travelling all the way to City Market from Cantonment to be tiresome and hence, they plotted an area midway and St Mark’s Church was born in 1808. The Church was meant only for the Britishers. “They had the rule because they did not want to pray with the Indian cooks, drivers and sepoys,” says John Christopher, secretary, St Paul’s Church.

There was no place for worship for the Tamil-speaking natives. The Chaplain and the members of the St Mark’s Church in association with the a British missionary society called the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG Mission Society) decided to build a separate church for the Tamil people residing in Black Pally and the adjoining areas. It is said that efforts to build the church were made in 1835 but they came to naught due to some reasons. However, the records of the church show that the area where the structure stands today, was chosen in 1838. The foundation stone was laid on August 5, 1839 and the construction of the building was completed within six months.But, according to some sources, the native Tamil congregation did start worshiping at the St Mark’s Church. The christening and the baptisms of the Tamil converts were recorded in the registers of St Mark’s.

Rev Trevor, took an active part in the missionary work despite his heavy civil and military duties as Chaplain of the East India Company. However, the Government of Madras raised objections because it gave the impression that the government was involved in converting the natives as the St Mark’s was then a Company church.Rev Trevor then contacted Sir Mark Cubbon and obtained a site in the Bangalore Civil and Military Station for a church and school for the Tamil congregation. It is also said that a St Paul’s Tamil Medium Primary School existed at the present site of the church since 1835. It was shut down in 1,900 due to low attendance and maintenance issues, says John. The school building has now been renovated and serves as the community parish hall.

Construction of church

The total cost for construction of the church was `1,250.14 and the room for a school in the church yard cost `89.8. Apart from these sums, `354 was still owing up on the day of consecration but Rev Trevor took the responsibility for the debt and got his friend to donate the money the very next day. The church was built in the English Baroque style of architecture.

It was consecrated by His Lordship on March 31, 1840 with the name ‘The Mission Church of St Paul’. The act of consecration particularly states that the service will be done in the native language only. The Tamil service accordingly began on the following Sunday, that is April 5, 1840, and has been continued without any interruption to date. There were around 132 Christian families attached to the Bangalore Mission.

Due to the expansion of the Cantonment, many Tamil Christians especially those who follow Anglican tradition, joined the church and hence the structure had to be extended to accommodate the members. The church building was extended thrice periodically in 1901, 1936 and 1947.

Act of Remembrance

In 1989, the church celebrated its 150th anniversary. M K Jayakumar, the then secretary, writes that when the members decided to repair a stone slab on the western facade(the outer wall of the choir room), they decided to place a polythene pouch consisting of Holy Bible, prayer book and a hymnal, between the stone and the building wall. They plastered with fervent prayers and hopes to excavate the same during the 175th anniversary. They called this an ‘Act of Remembrance’ to mark the anniversary celebrations and pay a tribute to all the people who contributed towards the development of the church.

In 1990, a cycle stand on the left of the church was converted to the church office building. The building was a gift by philanthropist K G Hanumanthaiah. The stone tablet was donated by Mizpha Telugu Church congregation.

The church celebrated its 175th anniversary from 2014 to 2015. “It was a year-long celebrations but we did not excavate it as we wanted to keep the memories intact,” John adds.Presently, the pastoral house behind the church is being expanded to a two-storey building with underground parking and a resource centre. A portico on the left side of the church is the most recent addition. “It was donated by one of the oldest member of the church S Richardson in memory of his wife Maragadham Richardson,” he says.

– new indian express

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