Dubai: Throughout his life, Reverend John Weir has focused on helping the poor in his role as an Anglican pastor. Arriving in Dubai six years ago, he has led the Holy Trinity Church on Oud Metha Road, Bur Dubai, and overseen its expansion.
Now, with the generosity of the church and his congregation, Rev Weir is taking early retirement, and has joined the Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS), which is committed to the education of underprivileged children of the slums of Delhi. He will also be representing another charitable organisation.
For six months of the year he will represent the DBS in London and Europe and the other six months will be spent in India.
"This has been made possible by the generosity of the church here … and I'm extremely grateful to the Chaplaincy Council and Christians in Dubai for making this possible," Rev Weir told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.
"It's been a wonderful experience of rebuilding the church and the compound and finding a very lively Christian community who care about social issues and are now helping me to give my life totally to the poor — not to committees, not churches, not anything less than just working and supporting others," he said.
Rev Weir, 62, was previously a pastor at St Peter's Church in Bethnal Green, East London, England. The area is nicknamed "Banglatown" because of its large Bangladeshi population, and is one of the poorest areas in London and England.
The parish's famous Brick Lane is known for its good value curry houses and Asian markets, where bargains can be found.
The DBS currently has one English priest, Father Ian Weathrall, who has been there since 1951 and is 89 years old — Rev Weir will be replacing him.
"Eventually Father Ian will step down but the rule is that you give your whole life to the brotherhood," Rev Weir said. "My hope is that we will rebuild the house [DBS house] as a resource for Delhi and the church there," he said.
He continued that what encourages him about the two organisations he will be working for is that they're totally committed to poverty-related issues "regardless of creed or faith, and that's what I want to do and that is what I'm going to do".
Rev Weir was recently given a donation for the DBS. Any money will be used by the Brotherhood for the ideals of C.F. Andrews, a former associate of the DBS.
Andrews was a clergyman who became a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Andrews became known as ‘Deenbandhu' or ‘friend of the poor'. The DBS runs a school called the Deenbandhu school. Andrews is buried in a pauper's grave in Calcutta.
Packing his belongings
The reverend was packing his belongings when Gulf News caught up with him at his home in the church compound. The number of belongings he said, were a problem, as his room in Delhi is much smaller. So does his enthusiasm to declutter indicate a vow of poverty?
"Nothing so dramatic," he said, "but maybe I will lose some weight," he quipped.
His wife of 38 years, Hannele, is a teacher in social nursing and medicine. She will be joining her husband in India, lecturing in hospitals in and around Kerala.
On October 16 the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will formally swear Reverend Weir in at the DBS in Delhi.
Rev Weir said, laughing: "I'm going to be a slumdog, but I'm not a millionaire."
Delhi Brotherhood Society: Caring for others
The Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS) was formed in 1887 after a small number of English priests set out to Delhi to promote higher education. They established St Stephen's College in 1881, which became known as the ‘Star of the East'.
C.F. Andrews was a member and became a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi.
Since 1887, members of the Brotherhood have been involved in educational, vocational and health care programmes for the poor, marginalised and weaker segments of society.
In 1973, Cambridge Brotherhood was re-named the Delhi Brotherhood Society and was officially registered.
The DBS carried out two main projects this year: the establishment of a daycare centre for speech and hearing-impaired children and a community study centre for the children of sex workers.
A new van for the Night Shelter scheme was also procured. Night Shelter is a scheme that literally rescues children from the streets of Delhi, taking them immediately to a place of safety.
The DBS currently helps more than 500,000 people.
Make a donation
For more information or to make a donation, visit: www.delhibrotherhoodsociety.org