First Baptist Church of Assam: Guwahati Baptist Church, Panbazar

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First Baptist Church of Assam: Guwahati Baptist Church, Panbazar

Barasha Das | August 09, 2020 13:06 hrs



Christmas has always been celebrated with much fun and gaiety in Guwahati. Come 25th December, the Panbazar area of the city gets completely transformed. Guwahatians, irrespective of religion, throng the churches of the area to join in the celebrations.

And why not? The area has the oldest churches in the city.

One of them is the Guwahati Baptist Church. Located at the Panbazar Mission Compound, near the Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital, Panbazar. It is the second oldest church of undivided Assam. 

It was established as Gauhati Baptist Church on 25th January 1845 and Rev. Cyrus Barker was appointed as the first pastor.

Prior to that, a Baptist Mission Centre by the British had been started in Gauhati by Serampore Mission under the leadership of James Rae on the request of David Scott, the then British Commissioner in Assam.  

James Rae started school and baptised six students. He also started a Baptist church at Gauhati with twelve members comprising of the six newly baptised students, his own family, and a few English officials.

Unfortunately, this church gradually diminished much to the disappointment of James Rae due to financial constraints and administrative inconvenience.  

Meanwhile, the American Baptist Missionaries, Reverend Dr. Nathan Brown, and Rev. Oliver Cutter arrived in Assam in 1836, at the invitation of Captain Francis Jenkins (1834-1861) who was the British Commissioner in Assam and the Agent to the British Governor-General at the time. They started a Mission Centre at Sadiya.

In 1836, the first American Baptist Missionary of Assam established its first centre in Gauhati. Rev. Dr. Nathan Brown, Rev. Miles Bronson, and the others travelled to Gauhati on foot and met Rev. Cyrus Barker, who was already establishing a Mission Centre in Gauhati. 

Seeing this initiative, James Rae came and offered his full cooperation towards the Gauhati Centre. The funds and other properties of the British Baptist Mission Centre were soon handed over to the American Baptist Mission. 

The original building of the Baptist church collapsed in the great earthquake of 1897. Reverend G.R. Campher was entrusted with the construction work of the new church building. Under his guidance and supervision, Anandi with the help of four Chinese carpenters completed the construction of the present church building in 1914 and named it "Ward Memorial Church " after Rev. William Ward, a pioneering American Baptist missionary. At the time of construction, it was the tallest building of Gauhati.

The Navagraha Cemetery and Nichols School are an integral part of this Baptist institution.  

(Credit: Mridul Das)

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