Duff Church

127, Manicktala Street, Kolkata – 700 006

The Duff Church was established in 1848 and named as Duff Church in 1910 in memory of Alexander Duff.

Alexander Duff was the first Scottish Missionary sent to India in 1830 by the Scotland’s General Assembly.  As a missionary his immense contribution for various social reforms is worth remembering.  The famous road in North Calcutta – ‘Duff Street’, the renowned Girls Higher Secondary School in North Calcutta –‘Duff School’ and the church on the Easter side of the famous swimming pool Hedua ‘Duff Church’ bears the name of Alexander Duff.

In those days there was only one church in Calcutta St. Andrews Church or Kirk for the Scottish Presbyterians (1815).  When the Church of Scotland was divided in 1848, a Free Church of Scotland was established.  Alexander Duff and some of his eminent co-workers joined the Free Church, for this they were ousted from St. Andrews Church.  The believers felt the need of establishing a new church, thus a new church was established on 76, Wellesley Square, though much later in 1942, the Wellesley Church was clubbed with St, Andrews Church.  Later the church handed over to the Catholics.  At present it is known as ‘Prabhu Jishu’ Girja of the Catholics.  Mostly English speaking crowd worshipped at this church.

Alexander Duff was missionary with very unique vision.  He believed in order to develop the people of the grassroots level one needs to mould the thoughts and actions of the cream of society.  As a result of this thought, he greatly influenced the middle and upper-middle class sections of our society.  He worked with highly intellectual, powerful and rich people, influenced them with his Christian ways and in turn worked magic with the Renascence and education boom in Bengal.  At the same time he also continued his direct ministry with the poor and marginalised sections of our society.

Alexander Duff lived in North Calcutta at no-2, Cornwallis Square and his work place was also there.  Many Bengali speaking Christian families lived around that area.  Duff felt the need for establishing a church in this part of North Calcutta, and by the grace of our Lord, a small church was established.  George Smith named the church as ‘Bengali Church’ also commonly known as Free Church of Cornwallis Street

This Native Church or Free Church or commonly also known as ‘Bengali Church’ was established in 1848.  Though there is a bit of controversy about the exact date and month.  According to Rev. Probodh Kumar Adhikary, who served the church as its pastor for a long 35 years at a stretch (1937 – 1972) – the church was established in November 1848 (though he did not mention any particular date).  Extracts from  ‘ The Life Of Alexander Duff 11- page 82 states, “The immediate result was the formal organising on 1st of October 1848, of the Bengali Church, the members of which from their familiarity with English has hither to worshipped along with the ordinary congregation of the Free Church in Wellesley Square.”

Alexander Duff was the chief planner, architect and executer of the church.  Being too busy with his other social activities his co-worker and close associate Sir. David Ewart (1805-1860) was appointed as the first full time pastor of Duff Church.  Rev. Ewart knew very good Bengali and used to preach in the language.  As from the accounts of Rev. Lalbehary Dey – “Ewart was the first pastor of the Bengali Church in connection with the Free Church of Scotland and he was well fitted for the post. He preached in fluent Bengali and his sermons always instructed and edified his flock.” (Recollections of Alexander Duff, page 233.)

Rev. Ewart’s contribution was great in the formative years of the church.  Many renowned personalities of high class rich Bengali families of Calcutta were converted to Christianity by Rev. Alexander Duff and his associates (1830-1900) some of the names are as follows:

Shyma Charan Mukhopadhya
Kailash Chandra Ghosh
Ramchandra Basu
Brojonath Mitra
Ishan Chandra Ghosh
Boroda Prasad Chakraborty
Rajendrachandra Chandra
Bishnucharan Chattopadhya
Ishan Chandra Singha
Kalipada Chattopadhya
Ishan Chandra Mukhopadhya
Kedar Nath Dey
Jogendra Nath Basu
Nabin Chandra Ghosh
Ishan Chandra Sarkar

Rev. Lal Behary Dey was ordained in this church in 1855Rev. David Ewart passed away in Calcutta on 9th of September 1860.  Rev. Lal Behary Dey (1824-1894) was one of the most loving students of Alexander Duff and after the demise of Rev. David Ewart he was appointed as the pastor of the Duff Church in 1861.  Later in 1867 Rev. Dey decided to quit active ministry and join a Government Service and gradually lost contact with the Duff Church. 

After which Rev. Gurudas Moitra was appointed as the church’s new pastor.  Before joining Duff Church he served the American Presbyterian Mission in Lahore (now in West Pakistan) for quite some time.  He served the Church diligently till his death in 1889.

After Rev. Moitra’s demise there was no regular residential pastor for Duff Church, during that period some one or the other from the European Missionaries or the Kirk moderators, would conduct Sunday services at the Church.  Alexander Tommery devoted much of his time for the church –“It has been the custom for many years to hold an English service every Sunday morning in the Bengali Church connected with the mission.  He gave us his best, and there are many sermons which will be remembered for their originality of thought and their spiritual intensity.  His eloquence was the admiration of his Bengali friends, and to their friends they would often speak almost with pride of the kind of preaching they listened to from him in church.” (Alexander Tomory: Indian Missionary, 1910, page 27)

Dr. James Watt, Principle of Scottish Church College, served the church for a long period of time.  In 1907 there were 150 members of Bengali Church mostly belonging to the aristocratic Bengali families of Calcutta.  Though the church was small but due to its various activities it had gained a lot of popularity.

A new name ‘Duff Church’ was honoured to the Bengali Church in memory of Alexander Duff in February 1910.  Alexander Duff’s contribution to the Bengali Christian Society through the Duff Church will always be cherished in the hearts of the people .

In 1929 Church of Scotland got united once again and the Duff Church of Calcutta got recognition as the main Presbyterian Church.  Rev. Lakhi Prasad  Chowdhury was permanently appointed as the pastor of the church in 1922“Rev. Lakhi Prasad Chowdhury has recently been appointed Pastor of the Duff Church.  Rev. Chowdhury has worked for several years in Beldanga.  He is the author of several translations of English work into Bengali.”  (Scottish Church College magazine, March 1912)

Rev. L.P. Chowdhury was the pastor of Duff Church till 1927.  There after Rev. Sourendra Kumar Ghosh (1927 to 1935) and later Rev. Probodh Kumar Adhikary from 1935 to 1972 served the glorious Duff Church as its presbyters.

The parsonage, adjacent to the church was built in 1848 at the same time of the construction of the church.  It is learnt that the huge parsonage was constructed from money donated by the queen of Scotland.  From time to time the renovation of the church was done by the Kirks.

The missionaries of the Scottish church college and also Indian Bengali Christian Professors were not only members of the church but also regularly held services in the church on Sundays.  They also took care and supervised in its functioning.  The Scottish Church College magazine would regularly print the names of the preachers for the knowledge of the magazine readers.  Renowned Professors, like Professor of Literature Prof. Scrimzar would regularly conduct Sunday services at the church.

The church vicarage was quite largely built, for at the formative years of the church, Scottish Missionaries would live there.  Sunday school was held in the adjacent chapel in the compound.  Free milk distribution to the poor children in the morning was also done from the chapel.

Many converts would take shelter at the adjacent building 18, Duff Street when ousted from their respective families for being converted into Christianity.  A road has been made in between Scottish Church College and the 18, Duff Street building for the convenience of the people.  Some missionaries also used to live at no. 2, Cornwallis Street.  Some meetings and sessions would also held in this place.

A lot of the above reference could be traced from the writings of Late Rev. Probodh Kumar Adhikary’s Autobiography ‘Palokiyo Jiboner Abhigota – Atmaskakho’.

Worship Service Timing : 8:30 am and 6:00 pm

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