Historical Old Mission Church (1774), Ft. William, Kolkata,- some facts

Founded  in 1770 by the Swedish Lutheran missionary Johann Zachariah Kiernander, the Mission Church is the oldest Protestant Church in Calcutta (Kolkata) and the second oldest one other than the  Armenian Church in the city.

Having spent about 18 years in missionary work  in South India, Rev. Kiernander arrived in Kolkata in 1740 at the invitation of Lord Robert Clive. The purpose of his visit to this place was to spread the gospel of Christ  and Christianity among the natives.  Based on a decision taken by the council in March 1760, a large room near the gateway of the old Fort became a make-shift Chapel and it was rent free offer from  the Governor. Kiernander in 1767 made a decision to have a church built on his own  because the European christian community had also begun to grow as the East India Company became a big employer. The Chapel was too small to handle a big gathering at the services.  He succeeded in  getting a suitable plot in 1767.  The church work was completed in 1770 after some early struggle  and  it was named Beth Tephillah (Hebrew: House of Prayer).

Old Mission Church (Kiernander's Mission), Kolkata. puronokolkata

Though mission Church was the popular name, it was known to many as Lal Girja, meaning Red Church.The church had red brick outer wall finish.  From 1758 till the consecration of St. John's church in 1787, Kiernander’s Mission was  quite popular and it was the city’s sole Protestant place of worship.  After St. John's church became a popular place of worship, the Mission Church came
 to be known as the Old Church but not Old Mission Church. Surprisingly, the name remains  unchanged  even today, as it is revealed by the  marble plaque and metallic lettering  displayed at the entrance of the church reads “Old Mission Church". Whereas,  St. John’s was often referred to as the New Church, or sometimes Pathure Girja, the Stone Church.

Interior, Old Mission church, Kolkata. Rangan Datta - WordPress.com
Interior, Old Mission church, Kolkata. puronokolkata

Mission church, as years went by, saw certain modifications and extensions to accommodate more people and offer of better church services in a sanctified  holy ambiance. The addition of stained glasses is worthy of mention and they were provided by
George Henry Kiernander, grand son of  Johann Zachariah Kiernander. He made generous donations to the church. Even to day, those stained class works look good. The other addition included the tall slender spire. Between 1880 and 1890, the spire was an important land mark in Calcutta  and in 1897, because of unexpected Assam earthquake, the spire was removed on safety considerations as the impressive spite was so damaged, it was beyond repair and redemption. With rapid urbanization, population growth and construction of additional buildings, the amazing sight of the reflection of the Red Church on the Lal Dighi was lost for ever.

The church still has  a beautiful marble bust of Bishop Thomas Dealtry. Though  the long colonnaded corridor, supported by lofty Doric pillars, remains the same and the interiors are as impressive as before,  one can not enjoy the the beauty and elegance of this historical church because of urban madness, haphazard parking of vehicles near the church  and encroachments.