We began today at Serampore College, which is for us the equivalent of our relationship with York St John University. Serampore It awards degrees and accredits the courses of many theological colleges and seminaries all over India – including Bishop’s College in Calcutta which we visited this evening. We had a fascinating meeting with members of the theological faculty – I was delighted to find that one of them had been involved in writing material for the Continuing Indaba Project in the Anglican Communion. We discussed the issues involved in providing theological education in a situation of such cultural diversity – and learned about how they manage their own diversity, given the range of denominational background from which they come. We shared a meal with them – people have been incredibly generous with their time and their hospitality.
The founder was William Carey – another of the heroic missionary figures of the past. He built the College. The cross by the bank of Ganges marks the place of the baptism of his first convert – seven years after he arrived. The painters who are defying both gravity and all Health and Safety rules were on bamboo scaffolding in the village church. William Carey’s grave carries the words, ‘A wretched poor and helpless worm – On thy kind arms I fall’
Then we returned to Calcutta for a meeting with Bishop Askoke and the clergy and we explored a little about how we might develop our link.
And finally to Bishop’s College – the Theological College for many churches of the CSI and beyond. We met some students and shared a meal with the staff. Students mostly do a four year residential course. We learned about how challenging it is for many of them to study theology in English when it is not their first language. The beautiful chapel was hosting an exhibition by the Indian artist, Madhvi Parekh. The painting is of the Last Supper. In India people seem just to wander up and talk to you – questions included, ‘Is this a Catholic Church?’ and ‘Why are the Zoroastrians dying out?’ The former took me straight back to Portadown. The latter – to be cricketing again – stumped me.