AS YOU move from Civil Lines metro station to Raj Niwas Marg in north Delhi, you would find nothing unusual except for the many Raj-era buildings reminding you of the bygone era. They have a stamp of British architecture. However, an eerie silence greets you when you reach the Brotherhood house, which was built in 1925.
The silence there amid old trees and manicured lawns is enchanting. The chirping of birds breaks the silence of the Brotherhood house though.
This is not just another building. It has a very rich past.
It has much to offer when Good Friday is around the corner. Brotherhood house is the only abode in India of unmarried Christian priests. There is no place for married priests with families here. Prior to here, it was located at Chandni Chowk. That was long time back.
Originally hailing from Tamil Nadu, Brother George Solomon has been living here since 1989.
He says, “Currently, only six unmarried priests live here at the Brotherhood house. The number is dwindling fast. There was a time when we had around ten or even a dozen priests staying here.”
According to him, “The Brotherhood of the Ascended Christ Society, which is also known as Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS), was started in 1877 based upon the vision of Bishop Westcott, initially under the title of the Cambridge Mission. Westcott’s vision was for an Anglican community of celibate brothers from Cambridge University to set down roots in India.”
The venerable St Stephen’s College that has produced former India president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad and ex-Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq among others was also established by the DBS. Even St Stephen’s Hospital was established by it. Both the institutions have been doing yeoman service for the society.
More often than not, all the brothers at DBS sit together during breakfast and discuss everything under the sun. Apart from serving as priests in different churches, they are associated with various DBS institutions. Today, DBS operates 19 projects for the betterment of society, and is involved in women’s empowerment, community development, education, abuse prevention, vocational training, scholarly work, interfaith dialogue, night shelters.
George Soloman is also a peace activist and a permanent face of all-religion prayer meet for the last two decades on Gandhi Jayanti on October 2 and on Martyr’s Day on January 30 at the Rajghat and later Tees January Marg respectively.
He recites verses from Bible during the all-religion prayer.
“Very honestly, it gives great joy and happiness when you take part in all-faith prayers. It gives a strong message that we all have to live together to make India a truly secular country. Gandhiji came to know about Christian religion while he was in South Africa. There he met Christian missionary Joseph Doke, who wrote his first biography, and CF Andrews, a teacher in Delhi’s St Stephen’s College,” informs Solomon, who is a priest in one of the churches of Delhi.
A veteran of Brotherhood house, Monodeep Daniel is a priest, theologian, educationalist and author of numerous books. When not lecturing, writing, or studying Biblical Greek, he can be found at the Brotherhood House or some school run by the Delhi Brotherhood Society.
Daniel says, “I hail from Lucknow and I have been part of DBS for over 30 years. We all live peacefully here and Brotherhood house is our world. We remain in touch with our families. We have given our lives to the cause of the Delhi Brotherhood Society. This is our chosen path.”
Well, all those who are associated with DBS are proud of the fact that Charles Freer Andrews (February 12, 1871 – April 5, 1940) was an Anglican priest and member of Brotherhood society.
He was an educator and an activist for Indian independence. He became a close friend with both Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi and identified with the Indian liberation struggle.
He was instrumental in convincing Gandhi to return to India from South Africa, where Gandhi had been a leading light in the Indian civil rights struggle. He also taught in St Stephen’s College. Well, there is an area in south Delhi named after him –Andrews Ganj.
Those associated with DBS, earlier known as Brotherhood of the Ascended Christ Society, are known as Brothers.
The unmarried priests of Brotherhood house get lunch and dinner apart from breakfast. They get some remuneration too for their day-to-day activities.
With smile on his face, George Soloman says that they too enjoy cricket and football matches together.
“We have a TV in our Brotherhood house. There we watch big sports events together. And we celebrate Indian teams’ victories in our own way.”
Thanks to the DBS, St Stephen’s College will soon enter Haryana after making a huge contribution in the field of education since 1881 in Delhi.
The DBS is opening a school in Sonepat (Haryana), which will operate from the next academic session i.e. 2023-24 and currently all the members of DBS are concentrating on this ambitious project. The school would be known as St Stephen’s School.
According to Brother George Solomon, “The construction work for the St Stephen’s School is going on at a very rapid pace. We hope that the school building would be ready before the start of the next academic session. It would be a state-of-the-art building with wonderful library and science laboratories. Of course, our school would have a big play ground.”
After spending around two hours at the Brotherhood house, you feel little surprised that in this world where money matters more than anything for most of the people, some people think and work for others selflessly.