Who are the Baptists?
The history of the Baptist Mission in West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar begins with the mission of the Baptist Missionaries whose pioneers were William Carey and John Thomas. The Baptist Missionary Society (BMS, earlier known as Particular Baptist Society) agreed to send missionaries to India. Arriving in November 1793, during a five and half year stay at Madanabati, Carey translated the New Testament and major parts of the Old Testament into Bengali, and also bought a printing press.
In 1799 four families arrived at Hoogly and settled in Serampore (just north of Calcutta). Having heard of the arrival of the missionaries, Carey joined with them in 1800. Later the Serampore Mission was formed with Joshua Marshman, a school teacher, William Ward, a printer and William Carey. The first convert of the Mission, in 1800, was Krishna Pal, a Shudra; soon his family and neighborhood also accepted Christianity. The Bengali New Testament was printed in 1801 and Carey joined as Bengali Professor in Fort Williams College.
In America, the first Baptist Church was established in 1638 by Roger Williams at Rhode Island (Providence), and by 1700 there were about 24 Baptist churches in America. Over a century later, in 1814, the triennial convention (a General Convention of the Baptists in United States for the support of foreign Missionaries) was formed to support the missionary work of Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice. The General Baptist Convention of Baptists in America (later known as American Baptist Foreign Mission Society) was also formed in 1814.
Restrictions on missionary work in India were lifted in 1813. The first batch of Baptist missionaries arrived in Orissa on February 12, 1822 at Cuttack (about 200 miles SW of Calcutta in the upper delta of the Mahanadi) after having travelled through Calcutta spending time with Carey and his colleagues at Serampore. These pioneer missionaries to Orissa were William Bampton and James Peggs. They continued to work at Cuttack, then the capital of Orissa. Two years after their work at Cuttack Mr. Bampton moved to Puri (about 40 miles south, on the coast) , where he served till his death on 17 December 1830.
Mr. Charles Leacy, another missionary from England, reached Calcutta on Sept 26, 1823. After spending three months with the Serampore missionaries, Mr Charles Leacy traveled to Orissa to join with the Baptist missionaries at Cuttack. Later he too moved to Puri to continue the Missionary work there.
Mrs. and Rev. Amos Sutton joined in the missionary work in Orissa on 11th of March 1825 arriving at Cuttack. Shortly, Mrs. Sutton became sick and died at Puri. Later Rev. Sutton married Mrs. James Coleman. As the BMS was not able to support the missionary work in Orissa, Mrs. Sutton remembered a group called Free Will Baptists in America (formed 1727) and miraculously found their address. They contacted the Mission mentioning the great needs in Orissa and received an invitation from the Convention to visit America where they spent two years during 1833-1835 sharing about the mission field.
During their visit to the United States Rev. Sutton spoke in the Seventh General Conference of the Free Will Baptists in October 1833 before an audience of 3,000 people. In this conference a young man who travelled more than 150 miles on foot was present and he wrote on a slip of paper, "I give myself'. This young man was Rev. Eli Noyes. The Mission outreach work of the Free Will Baptists began in 1835 with their first missionaries sent to India. Rev. Eli Noyes with his wife, Rev. Jeremiah Phillip with his wife and sixteen other Missionaries sailed to India with the Suttons on September 22, 1835. After travelling 136 days (about four and half months) by sea they arrived at Calcutta. Later they travelled to Cuttack by land and joined with the British Baptist Missionaries already working there. Here they learned the Oriya language. Rev. Sutton became the Corresponding Secretary of the New Society.
Having worked with the British Missionaries for over a year and half, Mrs. and Rev. Noyes with Mrs. and Rev. Phillip travelled to Sambalpur in Orissa (140 miles NW of Cuttack) and arrived there on January 1837. At Sambalpur they started evangelistic work and educational ministry and received good response from the people. But while working at Sambalpur the Noyes lost their daughter and the Phillips their first born. Mrs. Phillip also died soon. The Noyes became seriously ill and were taken to Cuttack through the river Mahanadi After loosing his wife and daughter Rev. Phillip experienced loneliness and he also soon became seriously ill. One young boy sent a massage to Cuttack about Rev. Phillip on a palm leaf through the postal service and later in January 1838 Rev Phillip was carried to Cuttack in a semiconscious state.
After recovering from sickness the Noyes and Rev. Phillip accepted the offer of the English Baptists to work at Balasore (on the coast, about halfway between Calcutta and Cussack) in 1838 and in the same year the Balasore station was handed over to the new American Baptist missionaries. The Noyes and Rev. Phillip continued to serve with the American Baptist Mission. So the Bengal Orissa Mission was the first mission of the American Baptist Mission in India and began with Noyes and Rev. Phillip.
A church was established at Balasore consisting of the missionaries and their helpers in 1838. In 1839 the young boy from Sambalpur (who sent the message about Rev. Phillip to Cuttack) with his father Chakradhar arrived at Balasore after a long distance walk from Sambalpur. Later they were baptized as the first converts of the Bengal Orissa Mission. The young boy was named Sailas Cuirtice and became a preacher of the Mission.
In the year 1840 Dr Otis R Bachelor arrived at Balasore with
his son Harry and daughter Mary. As a family altogether they served
the Mission for a period of over 125 years in India. In 1840 Hanna
Cumings another missionary arrived in India and married Rev. Jeremiah
Phillip. In 1840 a church was established at Jaleswar and the
Phillips moved to Jaleswar in 1841. Later Dr Bachelor joined with
the Phillips at Jaleswar and concentrated their work among the
(This is an edited version of a "Turning the Pages of the Past" by Rev Samaresh Nayak in Punarjagaran: the Revival - a BOBBCA Publication, June 2005 - used with permission) - 0106
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