Organized in 2000 and reorganized in 2006 and 2018, South Bengal Section is a part of Northern India Union Section of the Southern Asia Division of Seventh-day Adventists.
Territory: The districts of Bankura, Barddhaman, Birbhum, Haora, Hugli, Murshidabad, Nadia, North Twenty Four Parganas, Paschim Medinipur, Purba Medinipur, Puruliya, and South Twenty Four Parganas in the state of West Bengal.
Statistics (June 30, 2020), Churches, 96; membership, 14, 229; population, 76,392,603 (online statistics)
Address: South Bengal Section of SDA, Village Raghabpur, P.O. Simulpur, Maslandapur, Dist. North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, India.
The first recorded Adventist in the territory of the South Bengal Section (SBS) was Sital Chandra Modhu of Maslandapur (also spelled and pronounced Machalandapur), who came in contact with Adventists in 1917 while studying in Hooghly near Calcutta. Luther J. Burgess baptized him in 1919. Madhu later went to work as a pastor in Faridpur and other towns in Bangladesh, but returned in 1975 to retire in Maslandapur.1
The Maslandapur church was dedicated on January 11, 1979.2 Prior to that, the company of believers worshipped alternately in the home of Prabhod Chandra Haldar and on the verandah of Prosanto Gayen. Baptized in Faridpur in 1917, Haldar had migrated to Maslandapur in South Bengal in 1955. (His daughter later married the son of Provat Chandra Gayen, a pioneer leader of the Adventist Church in Bengal.) The congregation in Maslandapur was said to be the result of his faithful witness.3 Prosanto Gayen was another son of Provat Chandra and Sara Gayen, who had settled in Maslandapur.4
Ramchandrapur, home of another early congregation in SBS, appears for the first time in the 1970 Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook as the home of Pastor David Prafullo Kumar Haldar. In 1976 the Bengali VOP office moved from Karmatar to Ramchandrapur with Samar Boiragee as director.5
Between 1910-1919 Adventist activity in India operated under the umbrella of the India Union, which included present India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Before 1947 East and West Bengal were both in India. A fairly good road connected Maslandapur in India to Faridpur, now in Bangladesh. Early Adventists moved freely between Maslandapur and Faridpur. Portions of present day West Bengal were at one time in the East Bengal Mission.6
The Southern Asia Division organized in 1919-1920 the territory that is now South Bengal Section as part of the West Bengal Mission of the Northeast India Union Mission.7 In 1932 due to financial constraints as a result of the global depression, leadership reorganized the union as a mission and reduced all former missions to mission stations. When the church again reconstituted the Northeast India as a union mission in 1938, it merged all the mission stations of East and West Bengal into one unit.8 The following year administrators once more separated the East Bengal Mission and the West Bengal Mission.9 In 1952 the church combined the West Bengal Mission with Bihar and Orissa into the East India Mission.10 Two years later, leaders renamed all “missions” as “sections,” and so also the East India Section.11 In 1996, church administration removed South Bengal from the East India Section and joined it with North Bengal which had been previously removed in 1995, and now organized the territory as the West Bengal Section.12But the South Bengal Region was split off from it in 2000.13
South Bengal Region/Section
D. Ron Watts, elected president of the division in 1997, noted the relatively slow growth in the territory, and in an attempt to replicate the rapid development he had inspired in Andhra, he assigned a series of leaders from Andhra to South Bengal starting in the year 2000. Scores of volunteer pastors would assist them. The reports were dramatic. As evidenced by the statistics in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks, by 2005 the membership had grown from 6,796 in four churches to 21,066 in 13 churches. Then by 2010 the membership had increased to 40,756 in 65 churches. However, a church membership audit throughout the division begun in 2011 saw more than half the membership dropped in 2013.
Leadership had considered upgrading the region to section status in 2006, but considering the low tithe income despite the fast growing membership reported, the union hesitated to make the recommendation. Nevertheless, such an action became erroneously recorded in the division minutes,14 and the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks listed South Bengal as a section from the year 2008 onward. In 2014 the union finally took the action to raise South Bengal to section status.15
In 2018, administrators separated three churches in Kolkata with 276 members into a new Metro Region. As a result the headquarters for SBS shifted out from Kolkata to Boinchee, in the district of Hooghly. Administration chose Boinchee because it was situated at a central geographical location from where it could best supervise the rest of the 13 territories.16 However property proved beyond reach there, so in November 2020 the SBS headquarters shifted again to the present address in Raghabpur, Maslandapur, where a site was available.17
At the time of the formation of the South Bengal Section the following ordained ministers served the territory: Kodalia Victor Sam, Biswaranjan Mondal, Alexander Ekka, Gauranga Das, and Lukas Kujur. Presently, after the retirement and transfers, Gauranga Das, Lukas Kujur and Nirobindu Das are the ordained ministers remaining. Others who are serving full time in the section are Pabitra Bhunia, Nitai Chandra Biswas, Jayanta Mondal, Baidyanath Marandi and Icha (Andrews) Mondal.
South Bengal Region
Presidents: Ch. Victor Sam (2000-2004); Ch. John Victor (2005-2008); K. Victor Sam (2008-2014).
South Bengal Section
Presidents: K. Victor Sam (2014-2016); Nirobindu Das (2016 - ).
Secretary-treasurers: Henry Singh (2006); Harun Lakra (2006-2015); Cornelius Kisku (2016-2019); Peterson Bhengra (2019 - 2020); Abraham Kujur (Nov. 2020-)
Baroya, D. K. “Until Tomorrow.” Southern Asia Tidings, January 1, 1982.
“Biennial Conference Actions.” Eastern Tidings, January 1 and 15, 1920.
Northern India Union Executive Committee Minutes, January 24, 2000, August 1, 2014. Southern Asia Division Archives, Krishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu, India.
Minutes of the Southern Asia Division Committee #2006-99, November 13-15, 2006, 129, August 01, 2018, October 19, 2020. Southern Asia Division Archives, Krishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu, India.
“Obituaries.” Southern Tidings, March 1, 1985.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C./Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1939, 1940, 1946, 1953, and 1998.
Southern Asia Division Committee Minutes, December 8, 1954, November 13-15, 2006.
Southern Asia Tidings, April 1, 1976.
“Till He Comes.” Southern Asia Tidings, October 1, 1984, 15.
“Till He Comes,” Southern Asia Tidings, October 1, 1984, 15.↩
D. K. Baroya, “Untill Tomorrow,” Southern Asia Tidings January 1, 1982, 23.↩
“Obituaries,” Southern Tidings, March 1, 1985, 27.↩
Southern Asia Tidings, April 1, 1976, 8.↩
See “Jalpaiguri Mission Station,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946), 189↩
“Biennial Conference Actions,” Eastern Tidings, January 1 and 15, 1920, 23.↩
“Bengal Mission Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1939), 214.↩
See “East Bengal Mission Field,” and “West Bengal Mission Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1940), 219, 220.↩
“East India Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1953), 194.↩
“Mission,” Elimination from Organization Name, Southern Asia Division Committee Minutes # 54-560, December 8, 1954, 148.↩
See “West Bengal Section,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1998), 306.↩
“Renaming Calcutta Metro Region as South Bengal Region,” Minutes of the Northern India Union Committee # 2000-025, January 24, 2000.↩
“Formation of South Bengal Section,” Minutes of the Southern Asia Division Committee #2006-99, November 13-15, 2006, 129, records that this would take effect December 1, 2006.↩
“Formation of South Bengal Region into South Bengal Section,” Minutes of the Northern Union Executive Committee #2014-21, August 1, 2014.↩
“SBS headquarters shift to Boinchee,” NIUEXCOM # 2018-96, August 1, 2018.↩
“SBS headquarters shift to Raghabpur,” Maslandapur: NIUEXCOM #2020 – 145, October 19, 2020.↩