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News from India & Bangladesh May - October 2006

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The Chairman Retires

We announce with regret the retirement of John Corrie as Chairman of the UK Committee of the Oxford Mission. He joined the Committee in 1970, and became Chairman in 1974.

Having reached his 80th birthday, he feels it is time for him to step down. John’s first contact with the Mission was when he was living and working in Bangalore, India. A keen amateur musician, he and another musical friend were anxious to find a cellist to join them. Father Theodore, of the Brotherhood of the Epiphany at Behala, happened to be staying with the Headmaster of Bishop Cotton’s School nearby. They were introduced, and “We played trios that morning,” says John, “and never looked back”.

Rt. Rev Bill Down, Mary Marsh John Corrie and Gillian Wilson. Photographed at John’s last committee meeting as Chairman

So when John was posted to Calcutta in 1964 he went often to Behala and got to know the Mission well. He and Father Theodore regularly played string quartets together, and were both in the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra. A particular delight was those Sunday nights when Theodore would take his boys from the Mission on a ‘bread run’, delivering bread baked on the compound to worthy causes such as Mother Teresa’s mission. On the way back they would all pile in to the Corries’flat, where the boys would be given a soft drink while John and Theodore listened to music.

Theodore christened John’s daughter Georgina in the Chapel at Behala, and when the family was back in England he would stay with them while on furlough.

One day he suggested that John should join the Committee in London. John remembers, “The Chairman at that time was Christopher Eastwood, an eminent Civil Servant....Suddenly after four years Christopher announced that he was going to retire, and asked me if I would take over. And that is how I found myself in the happy position of chairing this delightful Committee”.

John was an excellent Chairman, with a firm but friendly hold on discussions, and with the humour which so enlivened our meetings. Happily he has agreed to stay on the Committee, so we will still have the benefit of his wisdom and long knowledge of the Mission, both at Behala and in Bangladesh (he visited the compounds from England in later years, and for the last time in February 2005).

A new Chairman

In John’s place we welcome Simon Ling, who has been on the UK Committee since 1982 and Treasurer since 1983. He has known the Mission almost as long as John, having spent a year in 1966-7 as a teacher and general assistant on the compound at Behala. He visited again in 1994, and in 2005 he and Mary Marsh represented the Committee at the AGM of the OM Trust Association in Kolkata. On this occasion he went also for the first time to Barisal and Jobarpar in Bangladesh, and wrote an interesting account of his journey for the last issue (November 2005-April 2006) of the OM News.

In Simon’s place Robert Mathieson will take over as Treasurer. Robert joined the Committee in 1992, and though he lives and works in Geneva, modern communications mean that he can deal with the OM’s finances without difficulty from there. We are grateful to him for taking on this important task..

A new format for the OM News (note for the printed version!)

The format for the OM News has remained substantially the same since the beginning of the 20th century, soon after the Mission started. Colour photographs and the A5 size were introduced in January 1987 when the present Editor took over, and in 1994 with the deaths of the last of the old Fathers the Quarterly Paper changed to become twice-yearly.

Now as the 21st century gathers speed we need to attract younger friends and supporters, and to show that the Oxford Mission is not a moribund relic of the Victorian age but flourishing under Bengali and Bangladeshi leaders, and an integral part of the Dioceses of Kolkata (Calcutta) and Dhaka. The link with the past is strong, and the work of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Epiphany will never be forgotten: it is carried on by the successors whom in many cases they trained. But it is time for a new presentation of this work.

So a young graphic designer, Tim Elwood, has introduced a more up-to-date style, with increased use of colour photographs which can now be placed throughout the magazine and nearer to the articles they illustrate. The Editor will work closely with him, supplying the copy as before and remaining in overall control. The OMN will continue to be published on our website,, which will we hope give us access to younger people, while our old friends will still have the comfort of paper and ink!

Most of our present readers know the Mission already, and won’t need the explanations which we will have to put in from time to time for new readers. Bear with us on this! We hope you will all like our new look anyway, and support our efforts to expand our readership to a new generation.

Centenary of St. Mary’s Church, Jobarpar

5 February, 2006 the Church of Bangladesh celebrated one hundred years of blessing on St. Mary’s Church in Jobarpar. After the Centenary Eucharist, presided over by the Rt. Revd. Michael Baroi, Bishop of Dhaka and Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, a simple Bengali banquet was hosted on their compound by Mother Susila the Christa Sevika Sangha (Hand Maids of Christ). The word ‘Simple’ does not apply to the organisational effort involved! Mother gives us a vivid account.

Two members of the UK Committee attended this important event, and we include accounts of their visit by Denis Doble and Margaret How. Margaret knows Bangladesh well from her time as a nurse in St. Anne’s Medical Centre OM Barisal, and at Jobarpar, in the 1970s: Denis was Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata 1985-87 and knew Behala but had never been to Bangladesh. So they write from interestingly different standpoints.

As a result of the celebrations Bangladesh rather takes centre stage in this issue: but our friends in Kolkata are not forgotten. Both the visitors went there as well (one or two members of the UK Committee go out every year to see how the work is going, and to discuss particular projects), and were welcomed by Arijeet Roy, Administrator, with his usual cheerful friendliness. His report gives a happy picture of life on the compound at Behala, India.

News of Sister Gillian Rose

Sister Gillian has been training student nurses and midwives for many years at Bollobhpur Hospital, Bangladesh, and because she was partly funded by the OM, we received and have always featured her lively and interesting reports. Now she has reached the age of 65, and was planning to retire and live on in Bangladesh on her pension. However, “the Church of Bangladesh’s Moderator Bishop Michael refuses to hear about retirement. He asks me to continue, which I agreed to for as long as I am physically and mentally able”. We hope to hear a great deal more about the activities of this admirable lady in that beloved land.

Ruth Winter

We are sad to report the death last November of our long-time friend and supporter Ruth Winter, at the age of 90. Ruth was General Secretary of the Mission from 1972-1977, and on the UK Committee from 1977-1981. Retiring to Dorset, she continued to support the Mission to the last as OM Secretary for the Diocese of Winchester.

In November 1975 Ruth was sent out by the Committee to visit the Communities in India and Bangladesh, and wrote a delightful report in the then Quarterly Paper (April-June 1976). She was impressed, as visitors are, by the Behala children’s “natural grace and pleasant manner with visitors...I was specially moved”, she writes, “by the Sung Mass in Bengali on the Sunday, accompanied by the orchestra. The young people sang with great gusto, a sound which I shall long remember”.

Barisal and Jobarpar provided equally happy memories, and Ruth finishes, with gratitude for the wonderful reception she was given everywhere, “It has been a privilege to live and worship with the members of the Community and I have been enriched by it”.

Gladys Clayton

Another dear friend of the Mission, Gladys Clayton, died peacefully last December just after her 101st birthday. She worked in the OM Office in Westminster for 21 years: she loved the Mission and the old Fathers and Sisters and knew them well, often giving hospitality when they were on furlough. She was also Hon. Secretary 1958-1979 of the then flourishing Fellowship of the Epiphany (a lay community, in spiritual association with the Brotherhood and Sisterhood and in support of their worship and work), arranging the Annual Retreat and the Epiphany Service.

The Editor will miss her friendship, and being able to call on her for memories of the many whom she knew from her time in the Office, and after - she stayed in touch and attended our services and meetings for as long as she was able. Her daughter Ann Mitchell, who cared for her devotedly to the end, is also our good friend and supporter.

Best wishes as always from the Oxford Mission in the UK to all our supporters, at home and overseas, for a happy and productive summer.


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