Thursday, 12 January 2017

Fr. Reginald Heber, missionary and Scholar, Bishop of Calcutta

Bishop of Calcutta. Reginald Heber.jWikipedia
Bishop Reginald Heber (1783-1826), a well-known  English missionary (belonged to the Church of England) and a writer was born on 21 April 1783, in Cheshire, England. Son of a rich landlord and cleric, he had his education at  Oxford in 1823 and gained  a name as a poet. No doubt  he was a man of letters  and developed a flair for writing. Ordained in 1807, he took over his father's mantle as head of the parish of Hodnet in Shropshire where Heber served as rector from 1807 to 1823. Despite his preoccupation with his compelling pastoral duties and church work, he had set aside  his time for hymn-writing and other work in which he excelled. His church hymns are popular.  His work the critical study of the complete work of the 17th century Cleric Jeremy Taylor was well received and gave him recognition as a writer. 

Heber was formally consecrated on 1 June 1823 as Bishop of Calcutta at Lambeth Palace, by none other than  the Archbishop of Canterbury. Two weeks later he left  for India on missionary work with Amelia and his daughter Emily.  Bishop Heber and his family  arrived in Calcutta on 10 October 1823. After his  formal ceremonial installation by the then Governor General, Lord Amherst, Heber gave  his first sermon as bishop on Sunday 12 October, in St John's Cathedral Church, still a famous church even to day. Though an evangelist by calling, he was well remembered for his interesting and attention-grabbing travelogues related to India. He was very much impressed by the diversity of culture, languages, etc when he was on tour across India.

He undertook the tour of India during 1824 to 1826, visiting  churches  from Calcutta to the Deccan in the south within his Anglican Diocese of Calcutta).
The parish church at Hodneen.wikipedia.org/
 After his unfortunate death at too young an age at18, his travelogue  in two volumes was published from London  in
1827 They are:  Narrative of a Journey Through the Upper Provinces of India from Calcutta to Bombay, 1824-1825 (with notes upon Ceylon); An Account of a Journey to Madras and the Southern Provinces, 1826, and Letters Written in India. In the first volume,  he mentioned about his travel from  Dhaka to Faridpur and the socio-economic condition of Bengal. Besides, travelogues mostly covering India, his other works included: Palestine (1809), Europe (1809), Poems (1812), Hymns (1827); Bampton Lectures on the Personality and Office of the Christian Comforts (1816), The Omnipotence of God (1821). 

During his arduous journey through various parts of India, he almost recorded then and there, with meticulous care, the details of rural as well as the town life of the Indian natives, their daily work, etc. He wrote it in such a way a reader would feel as if he was  personally experiencing what had been written in the book. His writing skill was so superb that it had a lasting impact on the readers.
Heber started his journey in 1824. He first came to Dhaka from Calcutta. His book contained an excellent description of Dhaka of that time. He provided a detailed account of this meeting with the rich and the poor and the places he had visited in his travelogue.

Between travels, he  paid attention to the spread of  the Gospel of Christ. He founded 'Bishop's College' in Calcutta, a painstaking work in those days. It is a well-known college there. H
e died  in Tiruchirapally (then Madras Presidency), now a major city  in Tamil Nadu, South India when he was on tour as part of his missionary work. Bishop Reginald Heber gave his last sermon on the steps of the Mission House, just outside the C.S.I. Christ Church on Nandi Kovil Street, inside the Main Guard gate, near Teppakulam, Tiruchirapalli before his accidental death the same day on April 3, 1826. His death, it is believed, was brought about by his poor health, fatigue and hot, unfriendly weather conditions,  He was just 42. Fate had it that he had to die closer to the holy church. The Christ Church was built by German Lutheran missionary and educationist Rev. Christian Frederich Schwartz (1726-98), who served as the first military chaplain here which was once a contonment. He was also a mentor to the popular Maratha ruler of nearby Thanjavur Raja Serfoji who gave him lands to build churches, schools, etc. In the Church graveyard are twelve graves dating from 1766 to 1797. Rev. Heber, Bishop of Calcutta  was buried here. He left behind his spouse Ameila and two daughters.
Rev. Heger buried here. Christ Church, Tiruchirapalli, TN
In memory of him there is a  popular school and a well-
reputed college named after him and they are in the fort area of Tiruchirapalli city. Besides, there is an important road in the busy part of the city  named  after Bishop Heber.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reginald_Heber