Church of Christ (Union Church), Bhubaneswar
The modern Bhubaneswar we see today was a large patch of forest when India won freedom in 1947. It was the then political leadership in Odisha which decided to set up a new capital city in Bhubaneswar which was limited to a small habitation at that time with the Howrah-Madras railway line passing by it.
The then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited the place on April 13, 1948 and laid the foundation of the new capital city at the very spot where the state Legislative Assembly stands today. The first move to build the new city began with the shifting of government employees in the 1940s from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar. The plan and design of the township was entrusted to the famous architect Le Corbusier. A few Christian believers working in the government shifted to the new location with their families. The town was divided into different Units with numbers.
Construction of new office buildings and quarters to house the employees began in right earnest and some employees were provided accommodation in those new buildings. Most others preferred to commute daily to the new emerging township from Cuttack, a distance of 25 km. It was a time when wild animals often roamed the under construction town forcing people to stay indoors after sundown.
The urge to have a worship of their own continued to grip the Christian population who decided to start a fellowship in the residential quarter of a believer, Mr. Suresh Chandra Behera on November 5, 1948. As some of the families chose to visit their native places on Saturdays and Sundays, the worship was held on Fridays. Subsequently, the place of weekly worship shifted to the quarter of Mr. Prasanna Kumar Padhi in Unit-2 area from July 2, 1950. A committee was formed to manage the affairs of the small congregation with Rev. E.R.Lazarus, Mr. E.L. Rout and Mr. Manmohan Jachuck being appointed as President, Secretary and Treasurer respectively. Mr. E.L.Rout was later appointed as President with Mr. Rasbihari Singh as the Secretary in 1951. The place of worship again was shifted to the residence of Mr. Bipin Chandra Sarangi with effect from July 18, 1952.
The number of Christians in the town rose after a number of government offices were shifted to Bhubaneswar in 1954. The general body of the fellowship then decided at its meeting held on September 24, 1954 to have the worship on Sundays instead of Friday. The Sunday School began to function in May 1954 because of the endeavour of Mr. Bishnu Charan Pattnaik, Mr. Daniel Carey Patra, Mr. Fanindra Kumar Behera, Ms. Sushila Singh, Ms. Urmila Pattnaik and Mr. Maniklal Jee Jachuck. Mr.Bishnu Charan Pattnaik became the first Superintendent of the Sunday School. The proposal to affiliate the Church either to Cuttack District Church Council or Puri District Church Council was discussed several times in the general body meetings but it was finally decided that the church should remain independent.
Rev. Simeon Sahu joined as the first honorary Pastor of the Church in 1955. The leadership also changed hands with Dr. David Rabindra Nath Sahu as President to interact with the government for the purpose of getting a piece of land to build the Church. Besides Dr. Sahu, the other members of the committee were Mr. Pradyot Kumar Mohapatra, Mr. Suryakanta Mohanty, Mr. Rasbihari Singh and Mr. Prasanna Kumar Padhi. The committee was subsequently reorganized with Rai Bahadur Samuel Das as its President, Mr. Pradyot Kumar Mahapatra as its Vice-President, Mr. Alin Kumar Rout as its Secretary, Mr. Sisir Kumar Pati as the Engineer-in-charge, Mr. Prasanna Kumar Padhi as Architect, Mr. Baranidhi Behera as Treasurer and Mr. Manoranjan Mohapatra as Auditor.
The other members of the broad-based committee were the Church secretary Mr. Bishnu Charan Pattnaik, Mr. Fanindra Kumar Behera, Mr. Nirmal Chandra Naik, Mr. Hruday Kumar Das, Mr. Paul Senapati, Mr. Parag Ranjan Rout, Mr. Abantika Prasad, Mr. Manmohan Jachuck, Mr. D.S.Mohanty and Mr. Rajendra Kumar Parida. There was a long debate as to what should be the name of the church and it was finally christened as Church of Christ (Union Church) in the general body meeting held in November 1960.
The continuous efforts of the committee paid off when the government provided the long awaited piece of land for construction of the church. It was decided to first construct the Pastor’s quarter as it would incur less expenditure and would temporarily be used as the place of worship and to conduct the Sunday School there till enough funds could be raised to construct the main Church building. The foundation stone of the Church was laid amidst prayers offered by the members of the congregation on December 17, 1960. Meanwhile, the Pastor’s quarter was completed and it was dedicated to the Lord on September 24, 1961.
As the construction of the Church building began, Christian families contributed one to two month’s income in instalments to speed up the work. The work was completed and the worshippers gathered together to thank and praise the Lord on March 8, 1964 at the dedication ceremony. The new church building was then used for the worship and two months later an English worship service in the morning was added to the schedule which is continuing today. The Pastor Rev. Simeon Sahu left in 1958 and the Church was without a Pastor for nine years subsequently. The eminent servant of the Lord, Rev. Subodh Sahu joined the Church as its honorary Pastor in January 1967 for four years.
During his tenure, Rev. Sahu took the leadership in organizing the first All Odisha Pastors’ Conference in January 1968. It was attended by over 700 delegates from different districts. Rev. Sahu also took the lead in organizing a fellowship in 1968 for the young people. It included Bible Study lessons to help them grow in their spiritual life. A youth fellowship under the banner of Christian Endeavour Union was launched in the Church in 1972 and it continued to grow under the leadership of Dr. Bidyut Kumar Pramanik, a senior government official who was the General Secretary of the India Christian Endeavour Union at that time. The Christian Endeavour turned out to be an asset for the Church with its members helping and participating in spiritual programs and excelling in social service as well. The decade of the 1970s was a golden period for the youth of the Church.
Subsequently, a worship centre was established in the Chandrasekharpur area in a rented house as the city began to expand in all directions. It is still being conducted there in a rented building where worship in Odia is held every Sunday morning preceded by Sunday School classes. The Pastors who served the Church included Rev. Simeon Sahu, Rev. Subodh Sahu, Rev. Sadananda Patra, Rev. Saroj Sahoo, Rev. Juria Bardhan, Rev. P.Niranjan James and Rev. David Rout.
Rev. Manmohan Das and Rev. Bibhuti Kumar Nayak also served the Church as Associate Pastors for short spells while Rev. Ayub Chhinchani, who joined the Church as Evangelist and later served as Assistant Pastor, is the only minister serving the congregation now as Associate Pastor. Two of the Church Elders, Rev. Alin Kumar Rout and Rev. Nithaniel Supakar, were ordained by the Church to assist in the Pastoral ministry. Rev. Rout passed away last year after which the congregation chose Mr. Stephen Behera to replace late Rout. Mr. Behera was subsequently ordained for the purpose.
Those who have served the Church as President since its inception included Mr. E.R.Lazarus, Mr. E.L.Rout, Mr. Bishnu Charan Pattnaik, Dr. David Rabindra Nath Sahu, Rev. Simeon Sahu, Mr. Pradyot Kumar Mahapatra, Mr. Jiban Ballav Singh, Mr. Nirmal Chandra Naik and Mr. Mihir Kumar Patra. The post of President was subsequently abolished following amendment to the constitution.
The Secretaries who have served the Church included late E.L.Rout, late Rasbihari Singh, late Bishnu Charan Pattnaik, late Alin Kumar Rout, late Prabhudatta Das, late Akshaya Kumar Mohapatra, Mr. Daniel Das, Dr. Bidyut Kumar Pramanik, Dr. Satyananda Patra, Mr. Fanindra Kumar Behera, late Dhirendra Kumar Samantaray, Mr. John Bunyan Das, Mr. Susanta Kumar Das, Mr. Binoy Kumar Muduli, Mr. Biswamohan Pradhan, late Sudhanshu Kumar Das, Mr. Pulak Kumar Pramanik, Mr. Sanjeeb Kumar Das and Mr. Paresh Kumar Das.
Many of these leaders, having diligently served the Lord, have passed on to Eternity while several others and still active in His Service, we praise God for each one of them. In 1998, the church was registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act.