Sunday, 23 September 2018

Rice Memorial Church, Bangalore - first to conduct sevices in Kannada Bangalore

The people of Bangalore, pre-occupied with traffic bottlenecks, are busy going  past the historical heritage site paying least attention to  it. The Rice Memorial Church on the Avenue road that celebrated its centenary last year on  27 January is a heritahe monument, second oldest church in Bangalore.  Built in 1917, it was the first first church in the city where 'services' was conducted in Kannada for the first time on 27 January 1917. Services began with Canarese devotional hymns!! The busy area where it stands now, was once called Bangalore petah, one part of the city and the other being the Cantonment where the British were living in big bungalows;  the Cubbon park formed the middle. 

Bangalore: Rice Memorial Church. mapio.net
Kannada scholar Rev. Benjamin Rice, Bangalore.en.wikipedia.org/
Above image:  Rev. Benjamin Holt Rice, a missionary of the London Missionary Society (LMS), a Canarese scholar and a pioneer of education in the Bangalore Petah region. He spent much of his life at this church and encourage services in Kannada language, spoken here. Heritage conservationists are urging authorities to include the church, along with other important landmarks on the heritage list, as these monuments are being increasingly threatened by the rapid development of Bangalore City, a major IT center in the world. ..
Rice along with his wife arrived at Madras on 29 December 1836 along with a batch of London Mission missionaries. They left for Bangalore on the night of 6 January 1837, accompanied by their fellow missionaries, travelling in five palanquins and accompanied by 70 bearers. The journey from Madras to Bangalore took a week’s time..........................

The church had a humble beginning in 1834, it was a small Chapel called Canarese Chapel which also served as a school and venue for religious discussions with the locals.   According to J M Richard, member of the church: “There was no Kannada church in the petah area in the 18th century. In 1834, Rev William Campbell built a Canarese (Kannada) Chapel on Avenue Road. In 1849, the building was demolished to construct a bigger chapel. The new chapel was built in 1851. On weekdays, there were English vernacular classes organised. A small house was also constructed next to the chapel for the teachers to stay.''

 Rev. Rice, son of a London merchant, had keen interest in matters  related to religion and read scriptures, religious magazines and poetry. As he was well trained in missionary work, he was sent as  a missionary to South India by the London Missionary Society (a missionary society in England by evangelical Anglicans and several nonconformists). In 1836, he left England along with his wife   and  came to the  city as postor  in 1837. He  played no less role in tranforming this one as a prominent protestant church. Rev MM George, Chairman of Pastorate Committee and Pastor-in- charge, said, “Rev Benjamin started learning Kannada while he was sailing. Within six months of his stay in Bengaluru, he learned Kannada and a few months later, he started preaching in Kannada.”

Rev Collin Campbell, Rev Benjamin Rice and Rev Sewell in 1851 reported the opening of the new Chapel in the  Missionary magazine (a magazine by London Missionary) and Chronicle of April 1852 (a publication in Bengaluru). It included a  sketch of the chapel, an impressive European edifice in the midst of  native mud houses.  The verandah outside was ideally used to address the natives the natives  during the week days, and a vestry was also built later.  The opening services of this new chapel was delivered by Rev Benjamin Rice and Rev Colin Campbell.

In 1840, Rev Rice  was appointed as the member of the Committee for the Revision of the Canarese Bible, which took 19 years to complete. In 1849 after several deliberations and meetings in Mysore and Ooty regarding revision or fresh original translation,  it was agreed upon  the New Testament was completed and a few further correction of the New Testament was done at a session held in Ooty in 1851. Rev Benjamin Rice, during his life time, had translated and composed many Canarese hymns which are still being used today in Kannada churches.

In 1887 he passed away, having put in 50 years of long an untiring  service  to the local society and the divinity here. As a member of the local Famine Committee, Benjamin also played a vital role during the Great Famine of 1876-78. As the old church became structurally weak in 1907, later decision was taken to have a new church built.  After delayed approval from the municipal authorities of Petah, a new church was built in a more spacious land close to the old site. Harold Douglas Rice, grandson of Rev Benjamin Rice, gave engineering assistance. Benjamin Rice's  daughter Jane Rice took the burden of building this church in honor of her father Benjamin Rice.

The church was formally opened by Eliza Blake, daughter of Rev Benjamin Rice, on January 27, 1917 and  silver key was presented to her on that occasion. The inaugural function went on for three days till January 29, 1917 and the first Holy Communion was held on February 4, 1917.  A Girls High School called now Mitralaya Girls  school that came up in 1842  is a living testimony to Rev. Rice' concern for women's education in India and their progress in society on par with men and his overall interest in the area of education.  
At present, the church is managed by Karnataka Central Diocese, Church of South India and efforts are underway to preserve this second oldest church in this city for our progeny. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rice_Memorial_Church,_Bangalore
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/centenary-of-rice-church-brings-special-visitors-to-city/articleshow/56861210.cms

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2017/jan/18/where-worship-began-with-canarese-hymns-1561037.html