56, S. N. Banerjee Road, Taltola
(British Methodist Background)
Osmond Memorial Church, formerly known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church, was founded in 1868. Walter Osmond, a Methodist minister came to Kolkata in 1864 at the age of twenty three as a missionary evangelist and a social worker, to serve the poor and needy. For nearly thirty years he worked in Kolkata and after his death this Church was dedicated to his memory as Osmond memorial Church. This Church consists of four congregations comprising the Bengali congregation at Taltola, Kamardanga Chapel and Ballygunge Church at Bondle Road and the Santhali congregation at Taltola.
The Santhali congregation of Osmond Memorial Church has a very wonderful and unique history. Kolkata being the state capital of West Bengal, has many Santhal people from different parts of West Bengal as well as from other parts of the country, who have come here to earn a livelihood or to seek an education. Most of them are Christians. The concept of the Santhali Church was conceived over a cup of tea in front of a spectacle shop near Prachi cinema in Sealdah, which was owned by one Mr. Hembrom from North Bengal. Mr. Hembrom, his youngest brother Mr. Koomar Hembrom along with Sri Barnabas Murmu and Sri Dinesh Murmu, decided on 21st December, 1958 that there should be Christmas celebrations here in Kolkata also, as the Santhal Christians usually observed festivities only in their native place. It was resolved on that day that on the morning of 24th December, 1958 they would take out a ‘Jale’ party (move in a group singing and dancing) from the residence of Mr. Hembrom and Mr. Koomar Hembrom at Park Court.
The plan took shape. In the morning all of them, comprising the residents of Beniapukur, Ismail Street and Ripon Street came out on the streets with cymbals, violins, drums, flutes and other musical instruments and boarded the first tram car from Park Circus. In a group they entered the tram car and started singing “Sohrae Seren” in Santhali glorifying the auspicious day of Christ’s birth and praising the Lord. When they alighted from the tram car, the passengers were so delighted and the conductor so moved that he did not take the fare for the tram ride. After getting down from the car they visited all the Santhali Christian families in Entally Street, Ismail Street and Ripon Street one by one and praised the Lord in each of the houses. They ultimately finished their ‘Jale’ at night in the house of the Hembroms.
On the day of Christmas they went to Emmanuel Chapel on C. I. T. Road where they attended Church. Later it was mutually fixed that Santhali Church service would be held in Emmanuel Chapel and some of the Santhali Pastors who would be present on those days would conduct the service of this Snthali congregation. Up to 1961 this service continued. In 1966 February, it was the determined resolve of Rev. C. C. Pandey, Bishop Gorai and Bishop Santosh Kisku that a regular Santhali service should be established in the Osmond Memorial Church at 56A, S. N. Banerjee Road, Kolkata. Sri. T. K. Rapaz, Sri. Ezechaeln Hembrom, Sri. Barnabas Murmu and Sri. Dinesh Murmu were greatly instrumental in making this vision a reality. It is a matter of great blessing of the Almighty that since then it has got Santhali pastors to carry on the service: Sermons are in the Santhali language, which is a great blessing to the Santhali congregation.
Interestingly, before the starting of this Santhali Service it was believed that some Santhali hymn books were found in the church. On enquiring it came to light that these books were used by the Santhal soldiers of World War II, who used to come to worship here and had left these books before going back home.
Since February 1966 the Santhali Congregation of this Osmond Memorial Church is growing, with eighty one members presently worshipping along with their children.
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