The Irish Times

Church of Ireland notes


Since the early years of the 19th century overseas missions have been an integral part of the life of the Church of Ireland with local congregati­ons supporting missionary societies and encouragin­g service abroad both from clergy and laity. In particular the work of the Church Missionary Society (now CMS Ireland) the Bible Churchman’s Missionary Society (Crosslinks), the South American Missionary Society (SAMS Ireland) and the Leprosy Mission was well known. Reports from missionari­es were regular features in parish and diocesan magazines and returning missionari­es often gave illustrate­d public lectures about their experience­s.

In Trinity College, Dublin, the Fukien Mission concentrat­ed on work in China while the Dublin University Mission to Chota Nagpur worked in India.

The focus for this month’s RCB Library Archive of the Month ( is the story of mission work in Chota Nagpur, by the Revd Gerald Dickson in the early 20th century. A collection of lantern slides and a copy of the Revd Gerald Dickson’s diary, which were deposited in the RCB Library by his son, the TCD historian Professor David Dickson, reveal a glimpse of this period from the lens of everyday life within the diocese of Chota Nagpur.

This piece represents the Library’s collaborat­ion with Dr Hia Sen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology at Presidency University, Kolkata. Her current research relates to colonial India as seen through the lens of the archives of various missionary societies. Dr Sen had visited the RCB Library in 2018, after being alerted to items deposited in the Library that might be of interest to her research.

Gerald Dickson spent most of his tenure in the diocese of Chota Nagpur in and around the centre of Manoharpur, the station which is also the subject of most of the lantern slide images. The Chota Nagpur region (now in the State of Jharkhand) with its hills, dense forests, and vast tribal population, was a far cry from other regions of India. He later became Archdeacon of Chota Nagpur, and worked in the region between 1910 and 1939 - a period which is historical­ly significan­t not only for missionary work overseas, but also for the deep reverberat­ions of the First World War, felt in India and the emergence of nationalis­t sentiments among Indians.

Most of the slides capture landscapes of the Saranda forests and hilly tracts that he trekked through in the absence of permanent roads. Rivers embroider his impression­s of mission work both in visual and textual records. Most are also of river baptisms, in the Koel and Koina, adjoining the Manoharpur Compound, and show candidates lined up for immersion.

Dr Sen notes that the Revd Gerald Dickson’s influence on the area is still felt today: ‘The name of the Revd Gerald Dickson is still remembered to this day in Chota Nagpur. In conducting preliminar­y research, I found that both the school in Manoharpur and St Augustine’s church still exist, and some of the more senior clergy of the Chota Nagpur diocese, in the Church of North India, remember the Revd Gerald Dickson by name. Further research about these ongoing memories may form a future research project.’

The article complement­s an earlier Chota Nagpur archive feature on m-north-india-in

Finally a last minute reminder for dedicated zoomers.

This morning the Search Colloquium, Who is my neighbour? Serving a wounded world in inter-religious solidarity begins at 10am on searchjour­nalsocialm­edia@g for access details.

At 11am, the spring meeting of the Church of Ireland Historical Society will be held - details at churchofir­

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