The Brotherhood of the Ascended Christ
The Brotherhood of the Ascended Christ was started in 1877 based upon the vision of Bishop Westcott, initially under the title of the Cambridge Mission. Westcott's vision was for an Anglican community of celibate brothers from Cambridge University to set down roots along the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi, and there to build up the native Indian church, until such a time that the Indian church could take over leadership of the Brotherhood itself. Within this vision was a special emphasis on educating India's Christian community, and fostering theological exchange between East and West as the church developed. The initial mission was radical in two primary senses: first, in advocating for the development of a distinctly Indian indigenous church; secondly, in setting down roots in Delhi, a city with very few Christians, which had only 20 years prior seen a massacre of all its Christians. Under the motto of “For My Sake and the Gospel's,” the work of the Brotherhood began.
From these bold beginnings, the members of the Brotherhood worked tirelessly in Delhi. Several brothers met untimely deaths from the harsh conditions that they encountered; still more spent the greater portion of their lives in full service of the Brotherhood. The sacrifice of these Brothers has proven profoundly fruitful. Together, they established St. Stephen's College, now one of India's preeminent undergraduate colleges. They were instrumental in establishing St. Stephen's Hospital, one of Delhi's most respected medical institutions. The Brothers were also key figures in pioneering the unification of several churches (Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc.) into the Church of North India, the denomination to which the Brotherhood now belongs. C.F. Andrews, the famous Indian Independence Activist and close friend of Gandhi, came to India to serve the Brotherhood, and remained a lifelong friend of the Brotherhood even after he left to pursue India's independence full time. In 1988, the Brotherhood achieved its goal of Indian leadership, with the election of the first Indian head of the Brotherhood. Now, all of its members are Indian in origin. Today, the Brotherhood continues to take a leading role in the Church of North India, education, and most of all, service.
Delhi Brotherhood Society
The Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS) arose from the rich history of the Brotherhood of the Ascended Christ, with no less unique a story. One Sunday morning in 1957, a beggar asked a Brother, Fr Weathrall, if he could take a funeral of a Christian that had just died in a beggar settlement. Though the Brotherhood previously had no interaction with the settlement, Weathrall agreed, and ended up operating a small church in a shack for the Christians of the settlement. In 1961, an Act designed to eliminate begging dispersed the settlement, but many of the settlement who were leprosy patients were resettled in a leprosy colony named Anandgram (“Village of Joy”). There, Weathrall and other Brothers began to help with a variety of challenges facing the community, particularly in the area of education. This transition marked the first foray of the Brotherhood into the field of general social work, from work that had hitherto been restricted to the Church. Thus, in 1973 the Delhi Brotherhood Society was formally established as a charitable society to “help without distinction of nationality, caste, creed or religion, persons who stand in need of aid.” Critical in the ethos of DBS from the beginning was (1) the primacy of helping those in need to stand up for themselves sustainably, and (2) identifying fully with those being served by living among them within their life conditions. Still today one Brother will live in the heart of DBS's slum works.
Since its formal establishment, DBS has continued in its quest to uplift the downtrodden and oppressed under these principles, and has expanded to neighbouring slums and beyond. Today, DBS operates 19 projects for the betterment of society, and is involved in women's empowerment, community development, education, abuse prevention, vocational training, scholarly work, interfaith dialogue, night shelters, and beyond. We encourage you to explore these projects more thoroughly on our projects page.
For more on the history of the Brotherhood or DBS, see Whether We Be Many or Few: A History of the Cambridge/Delhi Brotherhood, by C. M. Millington.