The C.N.I Gwaltoli Church Kanpur

The C.N.I Gwaltoli Church situated about 3 Kms to the North West of Christ Church, in one of the most thickly populated areas of Kanpur stands as a living testimony to the missionaries of the erstwhile Presbyterian Church who labored to bring the word of our Lord to the growing industrial town of U.P. towards the end of nineteenth century.

A brief account of the history of the Presbyterian Church would not be out of place here. Presbyterianism originated in Scotland in 1560. It was a reformed Church among the the Protestants. Though the new Church did not find the wide following even in the neighbouring country of Ireland. It received a warm welcome in North America. From 1789, when the Presbyterian Church in U.S.A held its first General Assembly in 1831, the new Church carried on much of its activities through the inter-denominational American Board of Foreign Missions. In 1831, the Western Missionary Society was created as the main agency of the Presbyterian Church in U.S.A. to look after their missionary work in foreign fields. In 1837, the General missionary work started it work by establishing its own Board of Foreign Missions. It was during the time of Western Missionary Society that the first two Presbyterian missionaries, John C. Lowrie and William Reed arrived in Calcutta in 1833, and set up their first station in Ludhiana in the state of Punjab.Thus Ludhiana had the distinction of being the first centre of the American Presbyterian Church ( A.P. Mission) in India. Gradually the work of mission spread in U.P. and other parts of Punjab. In subsequent years, Allahabad developed into the biggest station of the American Presbyterian Church in U.P. and indeed in the whole of post partition India.

John Webster in his book ‘ The Christian Community and Change in Nineteenth Centry North India’ states ‘ the work of the American Presbyterian Church started in Kanpur in 1901. The reason for choosing the place as a mission station was help the converts get jobs in mills. The industrial development of Kanpur in the latter part of the nineteenth century meant an opportunity of permanent employment for the Christian community and a self supporting Church as a result.

Though the official date of the beginning of Presbyterian Church in Kanpur is given in 1901, it was reported by some of the oldest members of the Church that the work of mission was actually started in 1893 by the Rev. S.M.Gillam. The book of records of the American Presbyterian Church in Kanpur shows that there were only three families living in Colonelganj who professed the Presbyterian faith at that time. Soon after the official inauguration of the American Presbyterian Church in Kanpur, the land where the Government Intermediate College is now situated was purchased and the first Indian Pastor, Charan Das Wishard was appointed. The bungalow later occupied by the Principal of the Government Intermediate College was built and served as the house of worship for the small congregation of about fifty persons ( the building has been demolished ). Later due to what is alleged as internal rivalry between the Presbyterian Missionaries, the property so far developed was sold and another piece of land was purchased in Macrobertganj area. However there seems to have been another change of plan on the part of authorities of the Presbyterian Church and this piece of land too, situated to the South-West of the present Gwaltoli Church was sold. The present property on which the Gwaltoli Church is built was obtained on lease.

The newly acquired property of the Presbyterians extended almost from Gwaltoli crossing to Vivek cinema crossing. A bungalow for the missionaries with servant quarters to the South of the present Church and a barrack to the North, formed the boundaries. In 1972, the major part to the South was sold and barrack was acquired by Kanpur Development Authority by paying a small compensation. Thus much reduced in size the property now stands with the Church in the centre. The foundation stone of the main Church building of the C.N.I Gwaltoli Church states that it was installed on 8th January 1934 though the Church building was erected in 1917 by the Rev. S.M.Gillam. The American Presbyterian Church, later known as the United Church of Northern India ( UCNI), merged with five other Churches in 1970, to form the Church of North India, C.N.I.

The Church history reveals that the following Pastors have served the Church in the mention tenure-

The Revd. S.L. Titus Upto 1974
The Revd. H.B.Singh Rahi 1974 to 1976
The Revd. S.M.Ghulam Masih 1976 to 1980
The Revd. Prem Kumar Lazarus 1980 to 1984
The Revd. Paul Clement Judah 1984 to 1985
The Revd. Talib Nisar 1985 to 1992
The Revd. J.B.Shepherd 1992 to 1994
The Revd. Fazal Masih 1994 to till date.

For many years, the property lay much reduced in size, the parsonage fallen into ruins and the Church building in a dilapidated state. The condition began to change with the arrival of Rev. Talib Nisar in 1985 as Presbyter In-Charge . A new wing to the South of the Church was added, donated by Mr P.K.Shukla in memory of his wife. Extensive repairs were carried out to the building .

The pace of growth and progress of the Church accelerated after the joining of Rev. Fazal Masih, as the Presbyter In-Charge of the Church in the year 1994. The present parsonage, a spacious building near the main gate of the Church, stands as a tribute to the hard work of Rev. Fazal Masih. The success of Rev. Fazal Masih as a Pastor can be gauged from the substantial amount collected by him for the construction on new Parsonage, which was supplemented by a grant of Rs 3 Lacs from the Diocese of Agra.

This was just the beginning of laying the milestones of success in and by Gwaltoli Church. The passion and a burning desire with dedication and commitment towards the service of our God Almighty, enabled Rev.Fazal Masih and the much revived congregation to undertake bigger projects for the upliftment of the Church including the construction of tarcole road from the gate of the Church with proper alignment and spacious parking area at it’s side. The 30X60 ft big Sunday School Hall was constructed,finished with an excellent interiors and blessed by the then Bishop of Agra, Rt.Revd. S.R.Cutting in the year 2011

Soon after the successful completion of this work, it was realized that due to continous increase in members and worshippers in the Church, the building should be extended so as to accommodate more number of persons. This herculious task was initiated by Rev.Fazal Masih with a challenge and complete faith in God who is a provider of all good things. The extension work was successfully completed without demolishing the old building and the main hall of the Church was extended by 25X40 ft thus accommodating more benches enabling more worshippers to sit and worship in the Church. This extension was just one part of the project and it was clubbed with the work of new marble flooring and complete stoning being done at the outward part of the Church building covering it from all sides thus giving a totally new look to the Church from outside and within. Again this work was blessed by the then Bishop of Agra, Rt. Revd. S.R.Cutting in the year 2012.

The most recent and highly significant accomplishment of the Church under the able leadership of Rev. Fazal Masih is the construction of new Altar of the Church. The new Altar being blessed by the Rt. Revd. Dr. P.P.Habil, Bishop of Agra on 21st Sep 2014 is quite spacious and beautifully prepared with high quality white marble stones giving a deep and strong sense of sanctity of the place.

There has been phenomenal progress not only in the Church building and property but also in the life of the Church leading to high level of interest being taken by the Church members including youth, women fellowship and children in Church activities. Thus the history of C.N.I. Gwaltoli Church certifies that the Church with a dedicated Pastor and true worshippers under the fear of God can set an example irrespective of the challenges and hardships.

Humbly submitted by

Rev. Fazal Masih
( Presbyter In-Charge)
CNI Gwaltoli Church, Kanpur
Dr. C. Daniel
( Secretary)
CNI Gwaltoli Church, Kanpur