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100 years of silent crusade

Shillong, Jan. 10: It has been a long walk for the Diocese of Northeast India of the Church of North India.

As it gears up for its centenary celebrations, its evangelical and social wings have spread across the region although the statistical figures of its faithful may not be a reflection of the silent and peaceful crusade it has been undertaking in the hills and valleys, rivers and plains.

Tomorrow, the diocese will kickstart its centenary celebrations here on the theme ‘Our 100 Years Journey with Christ’. The celebrations will culminate at Tezpur in Upper Assam next year.

It was on January 10, 1915, that the diocese of Assam (Northeastern region) was carved out of the diocese of Calcutta. Rev. Herbert Pakenham Walsh was consecrated as the first bishop of the Assam diocese and enthroned at All Saint’s Church, Shillong.

Rt. Rev. Walsh was also a proud recipient of the poem – To the Bishop in Assam – penned by Rabindranath Tagore. History has it that Rev. Walsh had wanted to meet Tagore in the 1920s. However, circumstances prevented the duo from meeting.

In Santiniketan, Tagore penned the poem on February 20, 1922, and had it delivered to Rev. Walsh through Rev. C.F. Andrews, another legend of his time.

When the original structure of the All Saint’s Church, Shillong (now known as the All Saint’s Cathedral), which was constructed in 1877, was destroyed by the massive earthquake of June 1897, the baptismal font and the Big Bible were left undestroyed. The church was rebuilt and opened in 1902.

The baptismal font and the Big Bible are still within the precincts of the cathedral.

The oldest church under the diocese is Christ Church in Guwahati, Assam. It has been standing tall since 1844.

According to Rev. Purely Lyngdoh, the present bishop of the Diocese of Northeast India, the diocese currently has a following of around 50,000.

“We do not like to compete with other churches. We are doing our work quietly to build up the people. However, gradual growth is there,” he pointed out.

He also said the diocese has been running schools and hospitals to serve the underprivileged.

Around 2,000 delegates from across the region are expected to converge here tomorrow and day after to witness the inaugural programme where, among others, Church of North India (CNI) moderator Most Rev. Philip P. Marandih will unveil the centenary monolith.