The Chronicles of Christian Faith in Old Lucknow
In the centre of the rush and bustle of Ganeshganj market stands a quite place of worship distinct from any other there in more ways than one. Ganeshganj Methodist church situated on the west side of Aminabad road entails the close of Khurshed Bagh on its north. A small austere red structure of standard model it stands quietly amidst the traffic and activity, opening its gates to devotees only for sacred Sunday morning mass.
At other times one is bound to miss the many grave and significant markings on its visage and also the divinity and importance attached with it as vegetable vendors are to be seen monopolizing the entrance so conveniently available for them for the rest of the week.
The account of the year of establishment of this church could not be found, but the plaque written in Hebrew there mentions the year 1891. The plot on which it is constructed once belonged to the raja of Balrampur. At first, the land was lent on a rental basis but later it was usurped by the church authorities. This is the church of Methodist colesia and falls under the Lucknow conference of Methodist church in India.
Presently the church is presided over by father J. P.K. Joseph, the pastor while reeve McKnight a resident of haiderganj is also in charge. Father Cornelius is the bishop of the Methodist church and its headquarters are located in the compound of Lucknow Publishing House, 37, Cantonment road.
Many prominent and blessed bishops took service here among whom the name of father Jones carol prasad is notable for his inspiring guidance and support of thirty years’, from 1950 to 1979.
Remarkably, this church witnessed the first sermon of father Cyril Cornelius as the bishop of Lucknow conference in 2005, and the last endearing sermon of bishop Balaram. A solemn plate inside the church mentions the grave incident of his passing away due to a cardiac arrest after returning from the church, on 17th January 1968.
The unique thing about the Ganeshganj church is that at its eastern entrance, the Ten Commandments are inscribed in Urdu, which is a feat unparalleled anywhere in Lucknow.
The inside of the church itself is a serene white hall with a capacity of over 150, the raised pedestal holds the solemn cross of the Methodist faith adorned with flowers. An ornate vintage wall clock in the style of Kensington, London chimes church hours for the religious and well kept, well worn editions of the scripture punctuate the serenity. the entire compound occupies not more than a few adequate meters.
In a largely Hindu locality the Christian sanctuary holds sway in a special way. The compound attached to the rear of the church is home to its keeper Mr. Vicky Robert and his family under whose responsible and sincere custody the church survives and grows. For the children of the family it has been a blessed experience to have spent their childhood under the divine shade of the church ever present for them.
Oliver Singh, Vicky Robert’s close and dear friend gave over to him the charge of the church before passing away, entrusting him with the maintenance of its sanctity and he has fulfilled the charge wonderfully.
There are no other Christian families anywhere in the vicinity or farther. A dedicated membership of five hundred yet attends the service and looks up to the church for guidance coming from faraway places with possibly other churches available close to their homes. The contributions made by the members alone serve for its functioning. They aid the Methodist church of India, central body when required and are helped by them as well.
Sunil Emanuel who is a doctor at Noor Manzil and lives in lalbagh is one of them; Sandeep Messi, Mr. Dayal, Sunny Razaq are some other faithful attendants. Yavesh Singh,who reside in Christian colony, a non-Christian adheres to Christianity in deference of his grandparents who were converts and visits this church every Sunday. It is truly a place of worship open to any who wishes to find solace in the words of Christ and who believes in god.
People who may have retread a little return with abounding love. For a church it’s the pastor who binds the people together and father P K Joseph with his kindness, wisdom and guidance invites the many worshippers. The numbered meetings are a happy and friendly congregation. After the service the atmosphere of familiarity and ease, friendly exchanges keep the people going.
The church witnesses weddings and baptisms at intervals, while Christian festivities are observed regularly with full fervor.
Alishiba Robert, Mr. Robert’s daughter observes “our Christmas festivities are quite wonderful and different too. We enact various scenes from the bible, different each time, concluding with the manger’s scene along with Sunday school children. The Sunday school kids come from nearby areas and are non Christians too but they have faith in Christ and so they come to learn about him .it is our great experience to be together and learn like that form each other.”
The Sunday school is conducted by reeve McKnight’s sister in law Archana McKnight who is a teacher at Emma Thompson school, Lalbagh and Anshu McKnight who teaches at the centennial school. It imparts Christian education to children.
Reeve McKnight says “the church is run peacefully. The neighbourhood is completely cooperative and we have never encountered any problems here.” if more attention was deferred to this dedicated and divine body it would rise to a higher realm and bless the people with its gracious divinity.
Writer is a student and her passion is painting
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 14, Dated 05 May 2015)