(This article is excerpted from the 125th Anniversary souvenir of the church)
During the late 1860s, Bangalore was a haven for British troops and officers. To cater to the spiritual needs of the Christian community, particularly the Protestants, there was the St. Mark's Cathedral, the East Parade Church and St. Andrew's Church. But around Richmond Town, there was a small colony of European pensioners and other poor people. As St. Mark's Church was already crowded with troops and officers, there was little room for these poor people. Hence the necessity of erecting a church was felt and that is how the ball was set rolling for the establishment of the All Saints' Church.
A scheme had been devised four or five years previously, but had come to nothing. A few hundred rupees had been collected and placed in a bank, but all interest seemed to have died out.
The old records of the church reveal that a small site at the corner of a parade ground at the junction of the Richmond Road and Hosur Lashkar Road was allotted for the church by the then Maharaja of Mysore. This under two successive Generals of Division I, had got enlarged to such an extent as to accommodate an Orphanage building on one side with abundant space for the church in the center.
Rev. S.T. Pettigrew, the chaplain who conceived the idea, had a trying time getting men and material. He drew a plan for the church which was rejected by the Church Building Society of Madras as it was too small. Nevertheless, a plan devised by Mr. Chisholm, an accomplished Government architect, finally showed some signs of approval, so the scheme was stirred afresh.
At this juncture, Rev. S.T. Pettigrew had to leave on a tour of the hills, and the work of the church was left for his successor to continue.
On his return, he found that the work was still in abeyance because of divergent opinions of the building committee members. However, the Bishop came on visitation, bringing with him the last plan designed by the Government architect. The Church Building Committee was called together, and the plan was submitted. It seemed at one time that this plan too was likely to share the same fate as the three former plans which the committee in its collective wisdom had rejected. One member, an old general who had a mania for bungalow building and had created a small town, stoutly stood out for simply enclosing the ground with a wall and leaving the
church for a future generation. Another member thought that four walls of brick and mortar with a roof was sufficient to worship God. The good common sense of the Bishop came to the rescue. He thought the time had arrived when churches might be erected in his diocese with greater regard to ecclesiastical propriety. His Lordship thought the design a fitting one.
The committee, thus hard pushed, did not like to oppose the Diocesan; but a brilliant thought occurred to one of them. Who was to pay for the plan? Rev. Pettigrew accepted the responsibility of collecting the money, reassumed the secretary ship on the understanding that he be permitted to commence operations at once.
Then, with the help of a parishioner with experience in building, they commenced the construction by laying the foundation stone on November 27, 1869. The cost of the building, without any interior fitting was estimated at
Rs. 10,000/-. Lack of finance brought the work to a halt at various stages.
As and when funds came in, work was resumed. When the scaffolding of bamboos was raised and people perceived that the work was in earnest, funds began to pour in, but the amount to be raised was large. Finally, the shell of the church building was completed at a cost of Rs. 8,000/- a full of Rs. 2,000/- below the estimated cost.
And then came in some valuable gifts from well-wishers. Like, for instance, a beautiful western rose window from the Principal of Cooper's Hill Cottage. The altar and vestments for it, the pulpit, the font, the reading desk, the communion plate and the altar cross quickly followed.
When the time drew near for the consecration, the Bishop was in England on sick leave. Fortunately, Bishop Milman was on a tour of visitation at the time. He kindly agreed to consecrate the church building during his stay at Bangalore while on his way to the “Blue Mountains” (the Nilgiri Hills).
The church, which was consecrated on October 17, 1870, had its share of problems. As it had been erected by private enterprise to meet the spiritual needs of the district, the Government had given no aid whatsoever towards its erection, and so the Church Building Committee had the matter of finding a parson entirely on their own hands. For many months the services were celebrated purely for the love of the work. And after much dillydallying, the Government, shamed into action, gave a tardy annual honorarium to the priest in charge – Rev. Dr. G.U. Pope.
Daily services were instituted and the boarders of the Bishop Cotton School and College formed the choir. Rev. Pope was a scholar of Divinity.
As the congregation grew, some more valuable presentations were made to the church from time to time. Some of them were altar rails, church rails, the lectern, the pulpit, the remembrance vase, choir rail, alms dish and the wafer box. All of them exist to this day.
Although 125 years old, the All Saints' Church, which is known as a 'Garden Church of the Garden City' still maintains its original dignified appearance and rustic charm. Visitors are captivated by the unique architecture of the beautiful church and its serene environment. The inside of the church is still a joy to behold with its solemn, simple, but most impressive interior leading up to the lovely altar with a beautiful cross, candelabra and the elegant stained glass window acting as a shield and background to the altar. The picture depicted on the stained glass window is that of the Holy Family, which is especially beautiful when the rising sun's rays shine on the window from outside.
A MESSAGE – Rt. Rev. John Went, Bishop of Tewkesbury
It was a great joy for Rosemary and me to be with you at the 8:30 Holy Communion service on Sunday 5th November and for me to preside and preach. Rosemary's great grandparents were married in All Saints' in the late 19th century and the funeral of her great granny took place at All Saints in the late 1920s, so it was very special link with the past to join you for worship.
It was good to see the refurbishment that you had undertaken for your 135th anniversary. Church buildings well cared for are a helpful sign to the wider interest of a community of people committed to following Jesus Christ and serving Him in the world.
In the pages of the New Testament, one of the images of the church (so 1 Peter 2,5 and 1 Corinthians 3, 9) is that of a building, but the way it is used emphasizes as with all the different images of church in the New Testament, that the primary focus of the church is community. The church is a community of men and women of all ages and backgrounds committed to following Christ and sharing in His mission in the world. For the first 250 years of the church's existence it had no special building; Christians met in each other's homes and those early years were years of enormous numerical growth of the church.
An anniversary of a church is a time to reflect on what our priorities should be as the people of God. In Acts 2, as the day of Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit marks the Birthday of the Church, Luke offers a thumb-nail sketch of the early church. Their context was different from ours in England and different again from yours in Bangalore and yet there are underlying principles which transcend time and social text.
One hall-mark of those early Christian gatherings was joyful celebratory worship. It seems that the first Christians (all of whom were of course Jewish) continued to attend the Temple, but at the same time met in each other's homes. They met among other things to break bread. Luke speaks of them sharing their meals with unaffected joy. Until bad practices in the church in Corinth led St. Paul to recommend that people ate in their own homes before coming to share in the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist or Lord's Supper was simply incorporated into a normal meal. In 1 Corinthians 14 St. Paul envisages an outsider joining a Christian gathering for worship and being overwhelmed by a sense of the awe-inspiring presence of God in the midst of His people. There is a strong sense in Acts of the early Christians having a deep sense of God at work among them, providing for their needs, transforming them, guiding them. Their sense of God's work among them spilled over into spontaneous praise. Defining characteristics of the worship life of the early church are spontaneity, joy, formal and more informal times of worship, a sense of mystery, awe and wonder. It is worth asking how our Sunday services measure up to all that. How would a complete outsider coming in one Sunday to join us find us? Would he sense God's presence among us? Do we go out from a service on a Sunday with a renewed sense of God's presence in our own lives and a renewed determination to offer up ourselves in His service during the coming week?
In the early church the Jewishness of those first Christians will have influenced and shaped their evolving patterns of worship. Down the centuries Christian worship has found different expressions in response to different cultural contexts. In India Anglican missionaries introduced you to British customs, robed choirs, an organ, a particular form of liturgy. It would have been better to allow you to develop your own styles of worship suited to an India culture. That need still remains in India, though there will almost certainly be different responses to that according to whether you are a village or town congregation, whether you're an English speaking or local dialect church.
Another characteristic of the early church was that they took Christian education very seriously. Luke speaks of them meeting constantly to hear the Apostles teach. The teaching and preaching would have included reflection on Old Testament (OT) scripture especially as they were seen to prefigure Christ. At this stage of course the New Testament (NT) was not yet in written form, so the Apostles would have been reflecting on their experience of three years in the company of Jesus. Words and actions of Jesus would have been recalled and much of their teaching would have come to be included eventually in the New Testament as we now have it.
In the early Creeds, one of the statements of faith we make about the Church is that it is apostolic. In part that means that as Christians we take our stand on the teaching that has been incorporated in the New Testament, handed down to us from the first apostles. In our own Anglican tradition, we make a place for the tradition of the Church and for human reason or experience in coming to an ever fuller understanding of God's revelation. However, we have always been clear about the primary of scripture. Tradition and reason can help us interpret scripture in a relevant way for our own times, but there remains a vital call to the church to remain faithful to the scriptures that have been handed down.
A healthy church today whether in England or India or Africa or South America will be a church that takes biblical preaching and teaching seriously. Christians will want to give quality time to engaging with scripture and seeking to bring our lives under the authority of God's Word, allowing biblical values to shape our values, our priorities, and our life-style.
Nothing encourages a preacher more than a congregation that takes preaching seriously and seeks to respond positively to the week-in, week-out preaching of the Pastor. The pulpit still has an important place in the life of the 21st century church, but we recognize increasingly the value of interactive engagement with the scriptures. In the UK most churches that are growing and flourishing organize the congregation into small groups where they can study the scriptures together, pray for each other, hold each other accountable before God for the living out of their Christian discipleship.
Worship and teaching were two keys priorities; another was fellowship. Luke speaks of them meeting constantly to share the common life. The word in the Greek is Koinonia; it speaks of the share that Christians have in the life of God Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit [see 1 John 1]; it then refers to the shared life Christians participate in because they share together in the life of God. That great theological truth is then worked out at a very practical level. In Acts it is through sharing possessions materially to ensure that no one in the community goes in need. In a world where there is a growing gulf between the very rich and the desperately poor (and that is increasingly true of a city such as Bangalore) there is a great need for the Christian church to be seen as a community that addresses human need at every level, challenges every form of injustice, works for justice for all. Again, that fellowship was expressed practically in the early church through the breaking down of barriers that humanly speaking at the time divided human beings from one another; so as St Paul rejoices to proclaim in Galatians 3, in Christ there is no longer Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female; for you are all one person in Christ Jesus. The gospel had power to break down barriers that divide socially and culturally. Of course, there were problems arising out of our innate human sinfulness (1 Corinthians bear witness to that), but the early Christians were clear about the ideal: a new community based on shared relationship with Jesus Christ, where all were equally and unconditionally loved and accepted. That's a great challenge for the church in the UK and for the church in India with all its history of the caste system. The good news of the gospel is hidden from view where we fail to break down and challenge to the core the divisions that human beings and society erect.
Another characteristic of the early church was its prayer life. One of the things we value about the link as a diocese with two dioceses in India is that deep sense of the presence of God, a deep spiritual awareness among Indians. In our own Western culture, we have become secularized and people do not instinctively think in terms of God at work in human lives and through the events of everyday life. We have found in many places we have visited in India an expectation of seeing God at work in the everyday and especially in answer to people's prayers. Prayer is one of the special emphasis of Luke's gospel, especially the prayer life of Jesus. Similarly, prayer, for St Luke in his account of the early church is a clear priority. God's people pray; God acts in response to the prayers of His people, sometimes to renew their zeal and courage in proclaiming the good news of Jesus, sometimes to release an apostle from prison, sometimes to heal a sick man, sometimes to embark on a new mission venture. The life of the church is rooted in prayer as an expression of the first Christians' dependence on God and their expectation that God will be at work in answer to His people's prayers. Of course, there are no easy answers when it comes to prayer; there is mystery about why God sometimes acts but on other occasions remains totally silent in the face of the prayers of His people; yet we do well to cultivate that deep spirituality of prayerfulness that we find in the Acts of the Apostles and the emerging life of the new-born church.
The early church was a church that had confidence in the gospel and was committed to proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ on every possible occasion and in every conceivable situation; the church had confidence in the power of the gospel to turn lives upside down and transform them. The church was equally committed to sharing in God's mission in the world. Theirs was a holistic approach, combining action and proclamation. That same powerful combination of Word and Deed needs to be a characteristic of today's church. Acts also mentions portents and signs. There was a great sense of God at work transforming broken and damaged lives; as word got about of what God was doing through this very ordinary group of followers of Jesus Christ, people had a sense of awe in the presence of God's activity. Again, that is something so worthwhile for the contemporary church to re-capture. As William Carey, an early Baptist missionary to India said: "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God". That isn't a bad motto for any congregation seeking to be faithful to God and faithful in their sharing in His mission in the 21st century.
We congratulate you on a distinguished history of 135 years and rejoice in our fellowship with you and our partnership in the gospel. We pray for God's continued rich blessing on your life together as His people as you seek to be faithful to Him and seek to be the church He is calling you to be today and for the years that lie ahead.