Day four in Kolkata and I’m in bed feeling a bit grim. I had way too much sun yesterday and got somewhat frazzled as we visited the village… However I still managed to take most of today to visit the place that William Carey established a college in 1818. I didn’t realise that Carey first tried to land on mainland India in Kolkata in 1793 but the British East India Company was on alert to arrest him. The Government of the time was afraid that he would demand dignity for all Indians, not just privileged forward casts. They were right. He really did live up to his motto:
“expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
Carey started the most phenomenal missionary movement right in Serampore College, about a two hours drive out of Kolkata, nestled on the banks of the river Ganges. It was part of the Danish settlement.
Today over 3000 students study at the college and the Theology department is one faculty out of many. Students throng everywhere on Campus and it feels mega crowded. I learnt that Theology isn’t just for ministerial training and the Vice Principle of the Theology department Rev. Dr. Pratap Gine explained that many people who wouldn’t consider themselves Christian also study alongside those who are training to become pastors. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this and kept thinking of some of our baptist colleges in the UK and how that couldn’t really happen.
I was also perplexed when I saw all the memorabilia to Carey. You don’t want to use words such as shrine but the whole building which his old stuff is stored in felt a bit like it… A far cry from the humble grave he is buried in.
Non the less, you can’t help feel humbled by Carey’s vision and quantity of achievement- to have translated 40 bibles into different Indian languages, to have set up a college and brought the christian faith to many millions, to be the founder of BMS and the modern missionary movement. What an achievement! But it wasn’t just the things you may associate with the christian message that Carey put his hand to: He published the first books on the science and natural history of India, introduced the first modern index of India’s plants. He introduced the first ever train to India. He introduced print technology to India, the first to make indigenous publishing paper. He campaigned against the killing of baby girls in sacrifice and demanded that Government halt sati. He was also a deep man of prayer:
“The most glorious works of grace that have ever took place, have been in answer to prayer; and it is in this way, we have the greatest reason to suppose, that the glorious out-pouring of the Spirit, which we expect at last, will be bestowed.”