City Monument – The New Church of Epiphany, Civil Lines, Gurgaon
A contemporary monument.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
So simple and yet so elegant and contemporary.
The Church of the Epiphany in Gurgaon’s Civil Lines truly resonates with the spirit of this so-called Millennium City in the National Capital Region. The vaulted ceiling of concrete soars upwards into a modernist arrangement of tilted planes and straight lines. The minimalist style is finely matched by the plain white of the walls. While the wooden pews offer a welcoming distraction with their red mats.
This weekend afternoon, the church is empty. Daylight is streaming in like an endless row of pilgrims, entering the hall through its wide glass door and its tall windows, including a moon-shaped glass panel near the roof.
The altar is presided over by a bare cross. A giant Bible nearby is opened to the Book of John. Each page is in English and Hindi. There is also a glass bowl filled with Melody chocolate toffees.
This, however, is not the original Epiphany. That building is smaller and just across the garden in the same compound. Consecrated in 1866 by the Bishop of Calcutta for a handful of British officers serving in the district at that time, it is a red brick edifice and looks like a church in an English village— it appeared a year ago on the pages of this blogsite headlined Just Like Aunt Jane’s church. That colonial-era edifice is exquisite but its sequel that came up some years ago to accommodate more people is equally beautiful with a profoundly different sort of aesthetics.
Despite being empty at this hour, the church feels full of life. You sense it in a rack stacked with the handwritten contribution forms of the church’s “provisional members”. In the scattered copies of the Morning and Evening Worship booklets. In an “Order of Service” flier to “celebrate and bless the joyous marriage of Rabia and Shail.”
You feel the Epiphany’s thriving hubbub even in the silent Yamaha synthesizer and the piano parked on facing sides.
After wandering about the aisle, make sure to touch the super-delicate onionskin pages of the Hindi Bibles piled up in a corner shelf. These beautifully produced handy volumes might make you pine for your favourite novels also to be published in exactly the same fashion.
The best time to visit the church is during any weekday afternoon. You’ll then have the solitary thrill of not only savoring the charm of its daylight-filled architecture but also to intimately experience the gentle harmony a finely composed building can strike with a human heart.