Guest / Limited Access /

Tucked into an auto-rickshaw, the three-wheeled open-air taxis that swarm Indian cities like a plague of beetles, I survey my Sunday morning Delhi surroundings. By Indian standards the traffic is light, but it would make Manhattan seem orderly. Cars, trucks, pushcarts, pedestrians, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, bicycle-rickshaws, and bullock-carts jostle for place. And the costumes! Business suits, sarongs, turbans, saris, burhkas, and many variations of dress I cannot name, all paying no attention to each other whatsoever. For stunning displays of diversity, an Indian city street beats any place I have ever seen.

I tell my driver "St. James Church, Kashmiri Gate," and he sets off without hesitation. It is not much direction in a sprawling city of 12 million, but he inquires of pedestrians along the way. Eventually someone lights up. "Church?" He points, and I am deposited at the front gate of a spacious, apparently deserted compound.

In the center sits a domed and columned church building. Inside, I find a small Indian congregation at worship. The sanctuary is high Anglican, with marble and mahogany memorials for British colonels. A sung-and-chanted liturgy begins when a robed priest and altar boys process, accompanied by organ.

Afterward the 100 or so worshipers gather outside for tea in a frigid fog. A friendly member explains a bit of church history: St. James is the oldest church in Delhi. James Skinner, an Anglo-Indian cavalry officer, built it in fulfillment of a battlefield vow. I cannot help thinking of this place as an alien survivor, a sleepy relic of British rule that can hardly relate to the dynamic, hustling world outside its compound.

Next morning I return for conversation with the Rev. Paul Swarup, who helps ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Controversial Cain
Warden Burl Cain has had a few tangles in the courts himself.
Current Issue5 Books to Read During an Internet Sabbatical
Subscriber Access Only 5 Books to Read During an Internet Sabbatical
Considering a break from the web? Let Esther Emery pick the right readings to keep you company.
RecommendedIncredible Indian Christianity: A Special Report on the World’s Most Vibrant Christward Movement
Subscriber Access Only Incredible Indian Christianity: A Special Report on the World’s Most Vibrant Christward Movement
Why it’s the best and worst of times for India’s burgeoning churches.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickWhen Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
When Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
If history is any guide, there’s no escaping the hostilities that erupt every December.
Christianity Today
India Undaunted
hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2004

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.