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The Church of Bangladesh celebrates 50th and 200th anniversaries

Posted on: March 4, 2024 2:57 PM
Bishop Anthony Poggo (second from left), Secretary General of the Anglican Communion gathers with bishops from the Church of Bangladesh to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the church and 200th anniversary of St Thomas' Cathedral
Photo Credit: Anglican Communion
Related Categories: Asia, Bangladesh

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo, has been visiting and encouraging members of the Church of Bangladesh from 1-2 March as they celebrated their 50th anniversary and the 200th anniversary of St Thomas' Cathedral.  

The Church of Bangladesh is a united Protestant church formed by the union of various Protestant churches in Bangladesh, principally the Anglican and English Presbyterian denominations. It is a member of the Anglican Communion, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Christian Conference of Asia, Council for World Mission and World Council of Churches  

Celebrating 50 years of the Church of Bangladesh 

The theme of the celebrations was One Apostolic Church, One family & One Future, reflecting the ecumenical nature and history of the Church of BangladeshIn his greeting at the Thanksgiving service on 1 March, Bishop Anthony commended the community for their unity and ecumenism. He said,The unity of your church is an example to many, which is highlighted in the theme of this jubilee celebration. My colleagues and I will be meeting the World Communion of Reformed Churches in London and later this year for the trilateral consultation, alongside the Lutheran World Federation. We plan to attend the next WCRC General Council in 2025. Our commitment to this work fits with what Anglicans have long called ‘the ecumenical vocation of Anglicanism.’ Part of the mandate of the Anglican Communion office is taking forward ecumenical relationships on behalf of the Anglican Communion.” 

The Anniversary marked 50 years since the United Church of Bangladesh was declared a fully autonomous and independent Church within the land territory of Bangladesh on 30 April 1974. There are eight deaneries and 115 parishes under the three dioceses. The population is about 22,000. Membership is diverse, including many different cultures. About half of the total members are from the Garo, Santal, Marma and Chakma ethnic groups of Bangladesh. All dioceses of the Province were represented at the service. These include Dhaka Diocese (Bishop Samuel Sunil Mankhin); Kushtia Diocese (Bishop Hemen Halder) and Barisal Diocese (Bishop ShourabhPholia). 

The Church of Bangladesh vision statement says,We envision being the salt and light wherever we will be and expand our footprints and achieve financial stability through our love and deeds by 2030.” They are achieving this by establishing the following priorities: spiritual renewal; strengthening spiritual formation for youth and children, identifying opportunities to address the relevant issues and challenges; initiating inter-religious dialogue to build relationship and religious harmony to combat radicalism; contextualising the church’s action to present needs and challenges by grasping socioeconomic, political, environmental, technological and spiritual arenas – locally and globally. Bangladesh faces growing poverty which affects the Christian minority.

During his visit, bishop Anthony commended their vision saying, As a church you have placed emphasis on preaching the Word of God and meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the people. Your missional outlook, focusing on the issues you are facing such as combatting climate change are an example to many. As you celebrate fifty years of the existence of the Church of Bangladesh, and look forward to the next 50, my sincere hope and prayer is that the Church of Bangladesh continues to follow this call and act as light in the society in which God has placed you.” 

Celebrating 200 years of St Thomas’ Cathedral 

On Saturday 2 March, Bishop Anthony joined Anglican Consultative Council Standing Committee members, AishiDrong, and bishop of the Diocese of Barisal, ShourabhPholia, at the 200th Anniversary thanksgiving service of St Thomas’ Cathedral  

Construction of the church began in 1819 and was completed in 1821. It was inaugurated on 10 July 1824 by Bishop Reginald Heber of Kolkata and has served as a cathedral church since 1951  

In his sermon, Bishop Anthony referenced the importance of marking such significant milestones. He said, “It is very good to keep memorials of such historic events in our lives and lives of our church communities. Think of what God has done for you at St. Thomas’ Cathedral over the last 200 years. Thank God for this.” He continued to encourage the Cathedral congregation and leadership, “You have an important responsibility as a congregation as well as the leadership of this cathedral. You need to thank God for seeing you through and bringing you this far. Today not only are we celebrating 50 years of the Church of Bangladesh, but also 200 years of St. Thomas’ Cathedral. I am sure you will be reaching many lives every Sunday. Thank God that you can change the image of the place of worship as well as the image of Christianity, the image of Anglicanism.”

In a speech for the service Bishop Samuel Sunil Manhkin (Primate and Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh) said: "We are gathered not just in a building, but in a monument that has witnessed two centuries of history, endured through times of change and has been a steadfast symbol of our enduring faith. From its early days under the auspices of the Church of Pakistan to becoming a vibrant part of the Church of Bangladesh following our nation's independence, the cathedral has been a witness to our collective journey."