Hyderabad: Chirag Ali Lane is today known for its massive mobile phone market. However, in a quiet corner in the same lane is located one of Hyderabad’s most unique and important historical places as well. The St. Luke’s Hindustani Church gets easily overlooked due to bigger buildings around it, but what makes it special is not its architecture alone. It is the only place where the weekly service is held in Urdu.
The location of the church is such that most of us are bound to miss it while passing by. If not for its signboard outside, recognising it as a church will be nearly impossible unless you know what to look for. The St. Luke’s Hindustani church is also devoid of the typical classic-revival style (or gothic) form of architecture that adorn the Christian holy places.
Instead, it has a plain and simple rectangle construction. It was originally built as a chapel (small place of worship with an altar), which nonetheless makes it look beautiful. So how did Urdu come about as its medium of instruction of service? The answer to that is not complicated; the St. Luke’s church was constructed specifically by missionaries for local Muslim converts to Christianity, when it was founded more than 100 years ago.
Built in 1905, it is said that the founding missionaries even learnt Urdu for the purpose of spreading Christianity. While it may seem surprising, protestant and catholic churches have their services in local languages typically. For example, the Centenary Baptist Church in Secunderabad was built for the local Telugu masses back in 1875, while the St. Thomas’ Tamil Cathedral near the Secunderabad railway station was constructed for the local Tamil Christians back in 1852.
Today, the St. Luke’s Hindustani Church has a small number of members, but it still continues its age-old tradition of conducting its service in Urdu simply due to its history and uniqueness, which is best captured in the last picture. Reverend K. S. Herald Christian, who is its Presbyterian in-charge, said that the weekly service takes place at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.
“We have 35 members in our church, as it is a small church. At present we are conducting our service online due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. But otherwise, people can visit the church and attend the Sunday mass once things are back to normal,” said Rev. Christian. The church’s members includes retired IAS officer V.K. Bawa, who is well-known in Hyderabad for his efforts in conserving the city’s heritage and writing a book the Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan.
The writer is a Hyderabad-based journalist who has worked with The New Indian Express, The Hindu and Mint in the past.