The Board of Mission Overseas of PCI launched its new website today. It gives a comprehensive picture of all the work undertaken by PCI around the world and it is full of information about our personnel and partners.
Irish Presbyterians have an impressive record in overseas mission and our own congregation of First Portadown has particularly strong links with the mission and evangelism of the wider church through one of its first ministers.
Reverend Alexander Kerr was ordained as minister of First Portadown on 21 June 1838. He had a short ministry in Portadown because the first General Assembly of the newly united Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1840 took the decision to commission Alexander Kerr along with Reverend James Glasgow of Castledawson as missionaries to India. They had been good friends in their student days and along with their wives they arrived in Bombay in February 1841.
In Presbyterians in Ireland, Professor Laurence Kirkpatrick records the development of the mission in Gujurat. Both families epitomised the high cost of missionary work in the 19th century. The Glasgows’ daughter, Margaret Jane, was born on 16 March, but died on 11 June, less than four months after arriving in India. The Kerrs’ son, Robert, was born on 15 April. But Alexander Kerr contracted fever a few weeks later and died on 16 August. In a letter James Glasgow wrote, “Thus has the Lord begun to try us! Who shall be next, we cannot say.”
In all, 22 Irish Presbyterian missionaries are buried in India, not counting spouses and children. By January 1843, four new missionaries had arrived, and mission stations were opened in Rajkot, Porbandar, and Gogha.
The Irish Presbyterian mission to India must be counted as a success. By the end of the 19th century, the Christian community associated with the mission amounted to over 4,300 people. Interestingly, the Irish Presbyterians working in Gujurat were known as the Presbytery of Kathiawar and Gujurat, and were considered a full presbytery of PCI. In 1900 an autonomous Presbytery of Gujurat and Kathiawar was finally formed.