PRINCIPAL’S REPORT PRESENTED TO THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE BISHOP’S COLLEGE SOCIETY HELD ON 31st AUGUST 2016.
Introduction: It is my joy to welcome to the Annual General Meeting of the Bishop’s College Society all the Bishops present as well as all the lay and ordained members. It is a great encouragement for us at the college that you have taken time to attend this meeting and to perform your role of overseeing the affairs of the college. This report has to do with the period 1st April, 2015 until 31st March, 2016 which has been quite a busy time. The last Annual General Meeting of the Bishop’s College Society, was held on 8th September 2015.
Board of Management meetings: Board of Management meetings were held on the 26th of August 2015, 19th of November 2015 and on the 9th of March, 2016 under the Chairmanship of Bishop Ashoke Biswas, Bishop of Calcutta. Finance Committee and New Building Committee meetings were also held regularly.
Senate Exams 2015: Senate Exams began on the 24th of March, 2015 and continued until the 18th of April 2015, with a break in between for Passion Week and Easter.
Field Exposure & Practical Work: The Revd. Philip Vinod Peacock has been the Dean of Practical work during this year. During the summer break the BD II students went for One month’s internship to various locations, such as Christian Hospital Mungeli, Leprosy Mission, Kolkata, Swayam, Kolkata, Christian Hospital Tilda, Chattisgarh, Theeram, Kerala, Amritsar Diocese SEDP, Emmanuel Ministries, &c. Most of the other students had to do practical assignments in their home locations. From 15th November to 6th December 2015 all the BD students went for Field exposure all over the country. The different organizations were Cure International, New Delhi, Dalit Mahila Adhikari Manch, Delhi, NCCI, Nagpur, Maharashtra Village Ministries, Nagpur, Pradeepan Madhya Pradesh, IRMA, Manipur, Dalit Bahujan Resource Centre, Guntur, Fire Around the World, Arunachal Pradesh, Swayam, Kolkata, Theeram, Kerala, &c. The whole BD final year class went to Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu. During the semester, each student was attached to a Kolkata church which they attended on Sundays and sometimes on week days.
Faculty Retreat: The faculty retreat was held at the LWSI Urban Project at Ultadanga on 12th June 2015
Opening Service: The New Academic Session began with the College Opening Worship on Sunday, 14th June 2015.
New students: This year since Revd. Isaac Devadoss was on study leave, Mr. James Wesly S., has been the Acting Dean of Studies. This year in the BD course we took 28 new students, 22 BD I years (9 from CNI), 6 Upgraders, 2 joining the BD IInd year class and 4 the BD IIIrd year class. One Special student, who is a faculty member of St. John’s College, Agra has joined for a One Semester Special Course. Of the new NIIPGTS students we have now Three M.Th. students (all doing Religions M.Th.) and One D.Th. student who is, Revd. Bimal Barla, from Chotanagpur Diocese [CNI]. There were a total of 97 full-time students on the College rolls this year, though two special students left in October 2015 leaving 95 students. This year the One year Lay-people’s Course got a good response and we had some 10-15 students attending the class each Monday evening. One CNI D.Th. student, Revd. Satvasheela Pandhare, was added when she got married to Mr. Prashant Bhonsle, Leave Vacancy lecturer in History of Christianity on 30th January, 2016 and shifted from Serampore College where she was a direct SATHRI student under a NIIPGTS faculty (Fr. K. P. Aleaz). We have been able to give a small amount of scholarships to some of the needy students and thereby contributed to the furtherance of theological education. However, certain churches, especially St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kolkata, Cathedral Church of the Redemption, New Delhi, Robson Memorial Cathedral, Ajmer, St. James’ Church, Delhi, St. Andrew’s Church, Kolkata, Christ Church, NOIDA and Dimapur Ao Baptist Church, Dimapur, Nagaland have been very supportive.
Whole-day Training Programs: A program on ‘Ecumenism and Youth’ was conducted by the Ms. Sweety Helen, Executive Secretary, Youth Commission of the NCCI on Saturday, 11th July 2015 and Gender Sensitivity program was conducted by SWAYAM a Kolkata-based NGO working on Gender equality issues on 7th December, 2015. The BD final years had training on Law given by Fr. Jose, Director of Udayan and a qualified Lawyer. Unfortunately, this year we were not able conduct the Accountancy course for the First years owing to scheduling problems. The BD Final year students were taught CNI History, Constitution (Part I- Faith & Order) and Liturgy by me.
North India Institute of Post Graduate Theological Studies (NIIPGTS): The Post-Graduate (Masters in Theology and Doctor of Theology) programs run by Bishop’s College are run in collaboration with Serampore College (Theology Department) to form the North India Institute of Post Graduate Theological Studies (NIIPGTS) which is run by a Management Committee whose co-chairmen are the Principal of Bishop’s College and the Principal of Serampore College. Currently, NIIPGTS is offering M.Th. in Religions, New Testament and Christian Theology and Doctorate in Religions and New Testament. An application to the Senate of Serampore College [University] has been made for M.Th. in Old Testament as Serampore College has two professors of Old Testament with D.Th. degrees. During this year a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed between Bishop’s College and NIIPGTS allowing NIIPGTS to locate its permanent office in Bishop’s College upon an annual contribution of Rs.25,000/-. The academic year 2015-2016 saw 23 Full-time students studying various courses, of whom 8 of them had accommodation in Bishop’s College. Some D.Th. students directly admitted by the South Asia Theological Research Institute (SATHRI) have also been attached to NIIPGTS faculty members and where possible have been given accommodation. Both Bishop’s College and Serampore College pay a sum of Rs. 25,000/- per annum as contribution to the running of the program which has now been running for more than 35 years. Regular meetings of the Management Committee of NNIPGTS were held as well as regular Seminars where Thesis proposals and chapters from Theses were presented and comments given.
North India Institute of Post-Graduate Theological Studies (NIIPGTS) organized a one-day Seminar on ‘Theological Response to Atrocities against Minorities’ on 27th February 2016 at Serampore College. Around 50 faculty and students from Bishop’s College, Serampore College, Calcutta Bible Seminary and Morning Star College participated. This program was partly funded by the Solidarity Fund of the Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College.
Bishop Sadiq Memorial Lectures 2015: The Bishop J.W. Sadiq Memorial lectures were delivered by Bishop Duleep de Chickera, former Bishop of Colombo on 19th and 20th of August, 2015 and were on the topic, “Witnessing in the midst of Conflict”.
Interfaith programs: I was privileged to represent the Christian community at the Inter-faith program organized by the Maha-Bodhi Society, 4A Bankim Chatterjee St., Kolkata-73 on the 4th of May, 2015 on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti.
On the 22nd of August 2015 a whole day’s program was organized in Bishop’s College along with the Diocese of Calcutta which was celebrating its bi-centenary. The theme of the Seminar was “Role of religions in promoting peace” The resource persons were, Bishop Duleep de Chickera, Fr. Dr. K.P. Aleaz from the Christian community and from other faith traditions, Swami Atmapriyananda (Ramakrishna Mission), Br. Achyutananda (Yogada Satsang Society of India), Sardar Prabhjot Singh, Advocate, Calcutta High Court anad Mr. Sohail Ahmed, Aman Foundation Kolkata.
I was able to speak as the Christian representative at the Annual Peace Symposium organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jammat, Kolkata at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Gol Park, Kolkata on 13th February, 2016 evening on the theme, “The Devastating Consequences of a Nuclear War and the Critical Need for Absolute Justice”.
First Semester Retreat: The Rt. Revd. Duleep de Chickera, former Bishop of Colombo of the Church of Ceylon [Anglican Communion], Sri Lanka, stayed at the College from the 17th of August to the 24th of August 2015. He led a Silent retreat for the faculty and students on the 18th and 19th of August 2015 which was much appreciated. The Faculty helped by arranging the cooking of the food and the serving of the food during meal-times which were eaten in silence with devotional readings being done.
Results: We are grateful to God for the good result during the academic year declared in August 2015. The BD graduating batch of the academic year 2014-15 did exceptionally well. After many years one of our students (Paul Lawrence G.) secured an ‘A’ grade which is quite an achievement under the Senate of Serampore College. He won four Senate Prizes for his academic performance. Overall, five of our BD students got a First Division. Five students secured a B+ grade, Five students secured ‘B’ grade followed by three students securing B-grade. Thus no student got a IIIrd division. Only one of our students could not complete his BD studies as he has to re-take Preliminary Greek exam (he has since cleared that paper and got his degree).
The Post-graduate, NIIPGTS, results were also good with Revd. Rodinmawia Ralte clearing his viva voce during the year and received his Doctorate in Religions this year at the Serampore College Convocation held on 7th February, 2016 at the Andhra Christian Theological College, Hyderabad, Telangana.
Teaching Staff: There were no major changes in the full-time staff this year except that Revd. F.H. Liansangzuala (teaching OT and deputed by the Mizoram Presbyterian Synod of the Presbyterian Church of India) left for his Doctoral studies at Union Biblical Seminary Pune at the end of March 2016. He was replaced by Probationary Pastor Alfred Lalrautfela who is also assisting the local Mizoram Presbyterian Synod pastor. Mrs. Thangam Samuel who taught English on a part-time basis for many years and retired at the end of March 2016. Rev. Philip Philip, Vicar of the Mar Thoma Church taught Missiology subjects on a part-time basis before his transfer in May 2016. As Revd. Isaac Devadoss was on Study leave during this period at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, his classes were taken by Mr. Prashant Bhonsle. We thank the Council for World Mission for granting Revd. Isaac Devadoss a scholarship for his Ph.D. studies.
This year the Board of Management has agreed upon a new Service Rules for Faculty Members and a New Promotion Policy at its meeting held on 2nd August, 2016.
Examinations: The Bible Knowledge Examination was held on 8th of August 2015. First Semester Exams were held from the 30th of September 2015 until the 10th of October 2015.
Practical work: In April and May 2015 our BD IInd year students went to various social action organizations, NGOs and hospitals for their Internship. For the 20-day Field Exposure students began leaving from the 15th of November 2015 and were on Practical work until the 6th of December 2015. The students went to various NGOs and mission organisations. We thank God that all came home safely.
Chapel: This year the College Chaplain was Fr. Dr. V.J.John. Chapel services were held each day of the working week. On Monday a faculty member would lead the worship while on Wednesday there would be a Eucharist where a BD Final year student would preach a sermon and draw up a service of the Lord’s Supper. These were experimental worship services and in the afternoon the Sermon and Worship Order would be evaluated by the whole student body and all the faculty members. A Choir under the leadership of Mr. Alex Abraham, BD Final year was organized which performed in at various functions in the College, on Bishop’s College Sundays in various churches and at the Christian Music Festival.
Student Exchange program with Aizawl Theological College, Mizoram: Two of our BD III students, Vikrant William and P. Ebenezer went for one semester to Aizawl Theological College on an exchange program and two BD IInd year Mizo students came to Bishop’s College. They stayed for one semester and wrote their examinations in their respective colleges. We have received good reports about the stay of our students and we had a good impression of the students who came here.
Face to Face Program [CWM] 2015: This year 12 ordinands from 11 countries came to Bishop’s College for the Face to Face program. They arrived on the 3rd of October 2015 and stayed for 7 weeks, with a trip to Henry Martyn Institute, Hyderabad in between. The theme of the Program was “Many Poor and Many Faiths”. They had various kinds of lectures and field exposures. Revd. Dr. Dhyanchand Carr, former Principal & Professor of New Testament, Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, Madurai, gave them special Bible studies from the Gospel of Matthew and our BD Final Years were able to join. A special seminar on Inter-Faith Engagement was organized on the 6th, 7th and 8th of November 2015 which was addressed by various leaders of different faiths including Revd. Dr. Collin Cowan, General Secretary, CWM, Swami Agnivesh, Dr. David Emmanuel Singh, Dr. Yusuf Jha, Dr. Ramaninder Singh, Swami Sarvapriyananda &c. This Inter-Faith Engagement Seminar was organized in collaboration with HMI, Hyderabad and with the help of La Martiniere for Girls School.
Christian Music Festival 2015: This was held on Saturday, 14th November 2015 and was the 10th Anniversary of the festival which we began back in 2005. The main musician this time was the Musician and Evangelist, Mr. Benny Prasad K. from Bengaluru. Other artistes that were able to give of their time and talents were Mr. Shane Hyrapiet, Mr. Peter Gomes and the Messengers, Rev. Wangyal Lepcha and his band, Mr. Kevin and Ms. Shreya and the Bishop’s College Choir conducted by Mr. Alex Abraham. Apart from the music there were Regional Food Stalls run by our students.
Celebrations: Onam was celebrated with an Onam Service and Special Onam Lunch on 28th August. Teacher’s Day was observed on 5th September. SCM Sunday was observed on 20th September while CSI day was celebrated on Sunday, 27th September 2015 with a Community Worship followed by a Community dinner of Biryani prepared by the faculty and students. Unfortunately, CNI Day could not be observed as our students were away on Field Exposure at that time. Pongal was celebrated in January 2016.
Ash Wednesday Retreat: The Ash Wednesday Retreat on 10th February, 2016 was led by Revd. Dr. Albert S. Walters, Principal of St. Andrew’s Theological College, Dhaka and a former student of Bishop’s College.
Foundation Day Celebration & Christmas Carol Service: The 185th Foundation day celebration of Bishop’s College was held on 15th December 2015 with a Eucharist service followed by Community breakfast. The Guest preacher at the Eucharist was the Revd. Andrew Simick, a senior presbyter of the Diocese of Calcutta and an Alumnus of Bishop’s College.
The Christmas Carol service was held on Saturday, 15th December, 2015 evening to which friends and well wishers of the college were also invited. The Carol Service was followed by the Gift-Exchange and the Christmas Dinner.
The Middleton Society, SCMI and Nightingale programs: The Middleton Society and the SCMI [Bishop’s College Unit] had one program in each semester. The Nightingale program to welcome the new students was held on 3rd July 2015 and the farewell for the outgoing students was held in March 2016.
Library: The new Library Cataloguing software called KOHA was installed as the previous soft ware was giving problems and was not being properly serviced. A large number of books were purchased worth around Rs. 1,50,00/=. The College received free books and journals from ‘Feed the Minds’ and the Langham Trust apart from a grant from the Methodist Church in Britain. The Library now has around 30,000 + volumes. The College Archives are also being used by scholars from time to time. In the evenings the Library is kept open by a team of students who receive a small honorarium for their efforts.
Sports: After a long period of competitions in many sports among the 4 houses, the Annual College Sports Day Prize Distribution was held on 5th of March 2016.
Board meeting and Senate Convocation 2015: The Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College and Senate of Serampore College meetings were held at the Andhra Christian Theological College, Hyderabad, Telangana between the 3rd and the 5th of February 2016 and the Convocation was held on the 6th of February 2016 at ACTC. Many graduated BD students came for the Senate Convocation including one NIIPGTS student, Revd. Dr. Rodinmawia Ralte who received his D.Th.
College Picnic: The College Picnic was held on Saturday, 23rd. January 2016 at Eco Park, New Town, Kolkata. The whole community joined and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
New Admissions: The entrance exam for the new first year BD students was held on the 02nd and 03rd of March 2016. This year too we have found that many of the CNI dioceses choose their candidates very late making it difficult to make a decision about how many non-CNI candidates to take. Also since the candidates do not come for entrance test and interview, we find it difficult to assess the suitability of the candidates for studies in Bishop’s College.
International Women’s Day: International Women’s Day was observed on the 8th of March 2016 with tea and a short service which was attended by all the Community including the Office and Maintenance Staff. The women of the campus collected money and gave gifts to some of the women employees of the College.
Valedictory Service: The annual Valedictory Service was held on Saturday 12th of March 2016. The Revd. Dr.Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of the NCCI was the Valedictory Speaker and Chief Guest. The Chairperson of the Board of Management, the Rt. Revd. Ashoke Biswas, Bishop of Calcutta gave away the College Diplomas and NIIPGTS certificates.
Revd. Dr. Donald Schweitzer: Revd. Dr. Donald Schweitzer, from St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, Canada made another of his biennial visits (he has come at least 5 times before) to Bishop’s College between the 8th of August and the 16th of August 2015. During this period he taught an intensive Christology Class to the M.Th. Christian Theology students of NIIPGTS. He also presented a paper entitled, “Justification by Grace and Shared Identity Space” to the Faculty, M.Th., D.Th. and BD Final year students. He also gave a short theological reflection and raised the National Flag at the Independence Day 2015 celebrations.
Revd. Dr. John C.B. Webster, former Professor of History of Christianity at United Theological College, Bangalore and author of many books, stayed at the college between the 25th of October and the 31st of October 2015. During this time he gave a daily session in the morning to the whole community on Preaching while in the afternoons the BD Final years were divided into small groups and given special coaching on Preaching matters. The expanded version of his lectures has recently been published by ISPCK, Delhi under the title, ‘Hearing, Preaching and the Indian Congregation.’ On 31st October 2015, Dr. Webster gave a special lecture to the Joint Faculty Seminar (of Serampore College, Calcutta Bible Seminary, Morning Star College and Bishop’s College) at Bishop’s College on the topic of ‘Historiography of Christianity’ which generated a good discussion.
Revd. Abir Adhikari, Hony Secretary Diocese of Calcutta was the Chief Guest at the Republic Day flag hoisting on 26th January, 2016.
Repair and Renovation: With the assistance of the new Estate Manager, considerable repair work was carried out during the Summer vacation of 2015. A new Godown and room was created near the College Gate. Toilets were made in Room 15 in the Barracks (first Floor). The Barracks staircase was renovated as it had become unstable and almost dangerous. The roof of MQ-16 was repaired and the toilet repaired too. We have bought a Petrol-run lawn mower which has helped keep the grass in control in spite of the heavy monsoon rain last year.
Donations: We have received a good number of donations this year, from churches, institutions and individuals. Many CNI churches have come forward to support students from dioceses which have financial problems.
New Building Plans: Some progress, albeit slow, was made in the plans to construct the new facilities in Bishop’s College. The year was basically taken up in choosing the Architect to prepare the Master Plan and finally the Board of management has decided to invite M/s. Agarwal & Agarwal to prepare the design of the Master Plan to put into place the Vision 2025 agreed upon at the last AGM of the Bishop’s College Society. However, since the entire project will also involve a commercial element we are at the moment looking for a Developer who would be willing to partner with Bishop’s College and ICT in this endeavour. The property market being down, especially in Kolkata, has made this search a little difficult. Hopefully, we will be ready to begin demolishing some buildings and beginning construction by June 2017 and our target is to finish at least the First building in time for our College Bi-Centenary in December 2020. The beginning of construction will mean that our student intake would have to drastically be reduced and I will be writing to many of the non-CNI dioceses and churches that for some years we will not be able to take their candidates. However, we will try to continue to take as many CNI candidates as possible.
Conclusion: I would like to praise and thank our Loving God for all the needed grace that has been given to me to carry out my responsibilities. I would like to thank our Moderator and President of the Society, Most Revd. Pradip Kumar Samantaroy for his help and co-operation. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Bishop Ashoke Biswas, Chairperson of the Board of Management, and the members of the Board of Management for all their support. I would especially also like to thank Bishop Ashoke Biswas, Chairperson, Indian Church Trustees for his support to the College as the College has been greatly blessed by the Co-operation and financial support of the Indian Church Trustees who are the Trustees of the land on which the college stands. I would like to thank Mr. Ritesh Sarkar, Hony. Treasurer of the College for his help and guidance. I would like to thank all my Faculty Colleagues and the Estate Manager for all the whole-hearted cooperation I receive from them. I would also like to thank the Library, Office and Mess and maintenance staff for their help. The College students too have co-operated whole-heartedly in helping maintain healthy community life on the campus. I would like to thank my wife, daughters and wider family for their love and support. And above my grateful thanks to God Almighty for the guidance and grace needed to do what we have been called to do.
Rev. Dr. Sunil M. Caleb