Fellowship of St Thomas Summer Newsletter 2015


Embed or link this publication


Single publication for 2015

Popular Pages

p. 1


p. 2

Booking Form for the FOST Annual Celebration is on the inside page of the back cover of this magazine. Please tear-off the page and return it to the Treasurer as per the details. The Fellowship of St Thomas Annual Celebration On Saturday 26th September 2015 St Mary’s Scottish Episcopal Church, Dunblane Theme ‘People trafficking especially affecting women’ 10.00 am Arrivals and Registration . Tea and Coffee in Church Hall Communion Service: Liturgy of Church of Bangladesh Celebrant: Rev Matthew Bickett & Preacher: Dr Marion Carson The Annual General Meeting in Church Lunch India Gate Restaurant (across the road) Gathering in the Church Hall Speakers Rev Kathy Galloway, Christian Aid Scotland Stuart Somerville, Tearfund (Nepal and India) Gender based violence and people trafficking. Panel Rev Kathy Galloway, Dr Marion Carson, Stuart Somerville Tea and coffee before departure 10.45 am 12 noon 12.30 pm 2.00 pm 2.45 pm 3.45 pm The meetings are open to all, please register for the day to assist planning. You can come to just the morning or the afternoon if time is a constraint.


p. 3

From the President Dear Friends, I write in the middle of summer but still a cool rainy season here! Perhaps it will be summer when you receive this. I have written a short update on Sialkot Diocese, Church of Pakistan, and elsewhere in this edition of the Newsletter and hopefully there is an update on Nepal, so I have tried to garner news from elsewhere for this letter. I don’t know if you are all aware of the Communion of Churches in India which represents CSI, CNI, and Mar Thoma Churches. It’s Central Committee has met recently with the Prime Minister to discuss communal harmony after some violence against Christian Churches. It is sad so many Christians continue to live in fear, in so many places in the sub-continent. Trafficking and Violence against Women will be the focus of our Annual Celebration, so it is good to hear that the Diocese of Calcutta, as it continues its year-long bicentenary celebrations, will set up a rehabilitation centre in West Bengal's Howrah district for girls who are victims of human trafficking. Bishop Ashoke Biswas says, the residential establishment will equip the rescued minors in life skills and education to help them find a strong foothold in society. It is good to know that the little Church of Bangladesh undertakes so many Social Action Projects – it tackles issues like National Disaster Preparedness, HIV, Resilient Livelihoods and helps people with Financial Management. We know how much importance, education has had in Mission and it was cheering to read that through the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship Scheme, several teachers Neelam Chughtai, a senior science teacher in Pakistan, Dilanthi Manuel, a college principal in Sri Lanka, and Martin Odidi, a diocesan education secretary in Nigeria, have spent seven weeks learning about the education system in the UK and sharing their own professional experiences. Most of you are supporters of Christian Aid and many of you would like to interest young people in India and so I am happy to share the news


p. 4

that Christian Aid has assisted the Guide Association produce ‘I Love India Girl Guiding Challenge Badge’. Information on this is available at http://www.oneworldcentreiom.org/india-badge/. I look forward to seeing many of you at Dunblane for our Annual Celebration on 26th September. Yours sincerely, Margaret Nutter (President) July 2015 Kilmorich, Balloch Rd, Balloch G83 8SR maenutter@gmail.com Val reports on Moumita Biswas’ visit to Scotland Executive Secretary of the All India Council of Christian Women (AICCW) I write this article at the end of a very busy week of travelling around Scotland with Moumita Biswas, Executive Secretary of the All India Council of Christian Women (AICCW) and guest of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC). There was some doubt about whether Moumita would be able to come to Scotland at all, due to police harassment over the issuing of her passport. As a prominent Christian activist against gender based violence and human trafficking, Moumita had clearly provoked opposition among the lower ranking police officers in her local police station. However, through the intervention of a woman police officer she gained access to their senior officer, a Muslim man, and all was resolved; though the delay meant Moumita had to go for the more expensive fast track UK visa and late booking meant her airfares were higher too. For us that was a small cost to pay but it serves to raise awareness here about the difficulties faced by women in India when dealing with the police and others in authority.


p. 5

This is a time when we are, yet again, needing to raise awareness of violence against and exploitation of the vulnerable; domestic violence, street violence, internet grooming, people trafficking, and the churches are not free of these things. However, the churches are aware and there is a global movement working with the secular authorities where possible in order to combat these abuses. In Scotland, the Church of Scotland has a newly formed task group and it is also part of the work of Action of Churches Together in Scotland. The leadership of the churches women's organisations are coming together on this and my own church is collaborating with Christian Aid to produce Bible study material based on a work book made for the Anglican Church in Brazil, also in partnership with Christian Aid. It therefore seemed the appropriate moment to bring someone to Scotland who could speak powerfully about these things from personal experience. I had met Moumita in Kolkata when she had charge of the Diocesan Women's Desk there and thought she would be just the speaker we needed. Last December I went to Kolkata to represent my own Diocese of St Andrews at the 200th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Diocese of Calcutta. I hoped to meet Moumita there but found she had just moved to her new post with the AICCW and was based in Nagpur. Nevertheless, after an exchange of emails we arranged that she should come to Edinburgh to participate in the Just Festival at St John's, Edinburgh and talk to as many people as possible around Scotland during the week that she would be here. Moumita arrived, in spite of the obstacles put in her path and we set off on our travels; to Aberdeen to meet with Bishop Robert and Canon Isaac Poobalan, as well as Abiola Crown, who ministers to the Nigerian community there and is engaged in women's aid work. Isaac took us to meet the Imam and his colleague in the Crown Terrace Mosque, both Bengali speakers much to Moumita's joy. The congregation of St John's shares it’s premises and celebrates hospitality with the mosque. We met ecumenical friends in the General Synod office in Edinburgh and in the Christian Aid office in Glasgow, the children's outreach worker with Women's Aid based in Glasgow, friends connected with the Calcutta link in Bridge of Allan and the Justice and Peace Network at the Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow. There was also a visit to the Parliament to discuss


p. 6

trafficking and prostitution. Moumita raised her concerns that laws enacted in Scotland impact the growth of sex tourism and trafficking in places like Thailand and Cambodia. The main event, the Conversation at the Just Festival, happened on the Wednesday evening of the visit. Attendance was good and there was a mixed gathering of people to hear Moumita and Valerie Allen, convener of the Church of Scotland task group in a conversation facilitated by Bishop John of Edinburgh, which was then opened up to an encouragingly engaged audience. Moumita spoke powerfully, throughout her visit, about the culture of violence that can make it impossible to enforce the laws that are in place to protect vulnerable adults and children; a culture that persists here in the UK, though not in the blatant forms that afflict India and other parts of the world. Men as well as women are captives of violent cultures. Expectations of ‘what a man should be’ and ‘how women and children should behave’ are difficult to change and yet it is these mind sets that have to be altered in order to bring peace and proper nurture to families and communities. Moumita exposed some dark truths and yet encouraged those who met her with the hope of transformation, redemption and new life in the presence of the risen Christ who knows our pain and the suffering of abandonment on the cross. This hope sustains Moumita and many others like her who refuse to accept the injustices in society and in the Church that prevent the flourishing of life in all its God given fulness. Val Nellist 18th August 2015 Obituaries & Memories Revd Murdoch MacKenzie (1938 – 2015) If I was asked to write one sentence about my friend Murdoch, I would say this. He was a follower of Christ, a man of prayer, a global citizen whose life of love touched many around the world. He was also prophetic, visionary, astute and wise. And through the years given to him, always aware of the deep underlying unity of all God’s people. And we cannot think of Murdoch’s global ministry without thinking of Anne, his companion through the decades who enabled and enhanced that vibrant


p. 7

ministry in countless ways. To Anne, Ruth, Catriona and Iain and the wider family, we send our love and sympathy at this time. Many others can speak of Murdoch in various ways, but here I would like to emphasise that central conviction which underlay all he did on this earth. It was the fundamental belief that God matters, that the world matters and that we matter to God. He was an evangelist, which means he was the bearer of “good news” about Jesus Christ. About the Christ who changes lives, who brings healing both to individuals and to the world, who suffers and rejoices with us, and who longs for the true unity of all God’s people. That longing that they “all may be one” was for a clear purpose. It was not to make Christians feel good about themselves. The unity of the church was so that the whole world may come to experience Christ’s truth. (John - chapter 17). Not just for an individual to believe, but for the world to believe - in all of its diversity, laughter and sorrow. And Murdoch passionately lived out this truth. In 1965, before leaving for India, Murdoch joined the ecumenical and international Iona Community which has its spiritual roots in Scotland. A core belief in that Community is that our worship and our work are always interconnected and that followers of Christ are always linked to human struggles. This led Murdoch to his life-long commitment to those who knew poverty and oppression, not just in South India, but everywhere. The poor of the world are never to be mere ‘objects of compassion’ but are our sisters and brothers, precious to God. And their very struggles can teach us all so much about living more fully and lovingly. To the very last hours of his life, Murdoch worshipped God with the same vigour and devotion as in the days of his youth, when he first came to


p. 8

know Christ’s presence. And to his last hours he was concerned about the world and the hopes and suffering of people everywhere. Murdoch’s was never some easy, comfortable Christianity which many people opt for in their lives. His faith was very different from that. It was the kind of faith in Jesus, which actually involves sacrificial living day by day. It was a costly faith. He spoke out against wrongs and fought for a more just world. He lived with integrity and questioned situations where truth was not found. He saw through much of the blandness and emptiness of modern living, and encouraged people to live more deeply in the knowledge that they were held in God’s hands. To see beyond their own needs to the needs of others. Today in many places in our world, Murdoch is mourned. A man of strong yet tender faith has moved from our midst into the wider possibilities of Christ’s grace, healing and light. As we think of his life – and I said this at his funeral service in Edinburgh – let us pause and pray and give thanks. But also let us rededicate ourselves to the living Christ, and to the poor of this world who were so loved by Him, and to the unity and reconciliation of all God's people. To do that would be to understand Murdoch’s own life-long commitments to Jesus and to God’s world. And it would also honour his memory in a way that would help others to live more fully. Revd Dr Peter Millar Edinburgh, Scotland. DR. M.M. THOMAS: PROPHET OF NEW HUMANITY IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY May 15, 2015 marked the birth centenary of Dr. M.M. Thomas, the renowned theologian, social thinker, prophet, and practitioner of new humanity. Dr. M.M. Thomas was India's precious gift to the world in the twentieth century. He presented varied and new visions in theology and was a strong spokesperson of the ecumenical movement and an exemplary humanitarian. As one whose life embodied his message, MMT began his church life as the first General Secretary of the Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam in the early 1930s. As a visionary par


p. 9

excellence, he was a true model for the youth. He gave Yuvajana Sakhyam a visionary working model, the basis of which was a theology with deep-rooted social commitment. In the 1940s, when interpretations of political and independence ideologies made an impact on college campuses, Dr. M.M. Thomas had a unique role in forming a distinctive stream of thought. It is worth noting the role of U.C. College, Aluva, in moulding great people with visionary background and presenting them to the society. It had its influence on Dr. M.M. Thomas as well. Born on May 15, 1916 as the son of Madathipparambil M.M. Mammen and Mariamma of Kozhencherry, and growing up in the spiritual, social, and educational milieu of Kerala, spreading wings across the large horizon of universal humanist philosophy, yet being an iconic figure of ideals and humble lifestyle, he could reflect the glorious light of social liberation thought that universally emerged within the Western-Eastern philosophies. In world history, the twentieth century is considered an era of change. National consciousnesses, progress of science, impact of education, commitment to value-based democracy, and new trends in communication, all have contributed to change in all aspects. In the early years of the last century, faith and hope in the imminent Kingdom of God was clear and active in the hearts of people. But the II World War shattered those dreams. Even though many nations became independent, they later fell prey to dictatorship and military rule. Despite the realization of Gandhiji's dream for an independent India, his dream of a new India where the oppressed, the exploited, the voiceless, and the marginalized will enter the mainstream of independent India and make a Ramarajya remained summarily elusive. Elsewhere in the world as well,


p. 10

there was a pervading feeling of hopelessness, frustration, and insecurity amid questions of what needs to be done. It is in this global context and especially from the ashes of the tragic events of the II World War there emerged a Theology of Resurrection like a Phoenix bird fluttering its wings of hope. The emergence of this stream of thought in theology provided a Christocentric Theology of Liberation to the Christian Church, with Dr. M.M. Thomas being its leading prophet, spokesperson, and practitioner. This thought pattern spread across the world in the form of Liberation Theology. In the words of a South American theologian, whose thought was captured when he read and reflected on Psalm 145: 9-10."The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you" (NRSV). This resulted in the development of a theology based on the Creator of a Created order. The influence of both Manganam Christhavashram and Students Christian Movement inspired Dr. M.M. Thomas to creatively respond to Liberation Theology. The words and deeds of Dr. M.M. Thomas were a reminder that it is the dharma of the church to stand in solidarity with those who suffer pain, are oppressed, exploited, and marginalized, and also to act responsibly taking the stance for righteousness in political and secular spheres. He was careful to form a model for Christian witness in India by bringing about the harmony of Christian dharma and Indian heritage. The Acknowledged Christ of Indian Renaissance (CLS Madras: 1970), The Secular Ideologies of India and Secular Meaning of Christ (CLS Madras: 1976), and Ahagavad Gita: A Christian Appreciation (Malayalam, CLS Madras: 1987), are his books that laid the foundations of Indian Christian Theology. With firm roots on Indian soil, Dr. M.M. Thomas was instrumental in sowing the seed for the emergence of a post-colonial theology by bringing the subaltern voices of the marginalized in society to the purview of philosophical discussion. The visions and actions of Dr. Thomas also had a great impact on the approach of the church towards providing space for those who lacked a living space. For example, South Travancore missionary Vedanthachari was a person who worked within a framework of his own. After his death his followers were stranded as


p. 11

sheep without a shepherd. Those churches and fellowships in the area were unwilling to receive them. Even though they approached the Mar Thoma priest in Trivandrum, it remains a fact that even the Mar Thoma Church turned a cold shoulder to their needs. However, in those days, Dr. M.M. Thomas, Dr. K.K. George and friends who were then students at the University College, Trivandrum, ventured to visit those flocks without a shepherd and catered to their spiritual growth. This is how the South Travancore mission fields of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association got established and later parishes formed. The theology of Dr. M.M. Thomas is that of a new humanity. The foundational principle of post-colonial philosophy which swept over Europe and third world nations was new humanity. In the discipline of theology, it assumed the form of Liberation Theology, Black Theology, Dalit Theology, or Feminist thought. Dr. Thomas played an important role in evolving this vision of new humanity as the form of witness for the Indian Church. Dr. Thomas sojourned through the path of Reformation in the Mar Thoma Church. Mar Thoma Church has a heritage of resistance against the Portuguese invasion and the influx of foreign liturgical disputes. The reformation ideals of the church influenced Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Dr. M.M. Thomas, Mr. T.M. Varghese, Adv. K.T. Thomas and others in taking a firm stance in the struggles against the move towards Independent Travancore at the time of independence and later against the state of Emergency in the seventies. Dr. Thomas's views about the church, and his creative criticisms gave a sense of consciousness to the Christian churches in India. His use of terms like Open Church, Secular Koinonia, gave more clarity and content to his ecclesiology. Dr. Thomas explains the plausibility of the witness of an open church in his book on the reformation of Abraham Malpan. in the contemporary social, economic, and political setting where the rights of the minorities are eclipsed and the process of marginalization of the weak accelerated, the ecclesial theology of Dr. M.M. Thomas becomes all the more pertinent.


p. 12

Dr. M.M. Thomas is the gift of the Mar Thoma Church to the world ecumenical movement. His election as Moderator at the Nairobi Assembly was a great endorsement for his vision and personality. The Christocentric theology of Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Hendrik Kraemer helped form his ecumenical social thinking and missionary outlook. Rirgen Moltmann was his contemporary and both of them benefited each other in streamlining their theological discourse. Memories and visions of Dr. Thomas who declared that the ecumenical vision of the Mar Thoma Church involves universal brotherhood and solidarity with the weak, will always remain a source of inspiration not only to the Mar Thoma Church but the global Christian Church as well. He could not serve as a priest in the church though he had wished to become one in yester years. However, he did more service than any priest by his active presence in the ecumenical endeavours of the church and by his lucid contributions to the understanding of theology. The priestly vision of the Mar Thoma Church is open, broad, and democratic. It is the tradition of the Mar Thoma Church to give ample role to the laity and to encourage their diversified ministries. Dr. Thomas's presence and suggestions in the committee for selecting ministerial candidates in the church were greatly honored. His contributions towards upholding the legacy of the Mar Thoma Church in the ecumenical realm will always be appreciated. His contributions in the ecumenical arena of CISRS and WCC were honored by all. Dr. Thomas' life partner Mrs. Pennamma, his sister Mrs. Sosamma, and her husband Mr. A.K. Thampy complemented and enriched his visions and actions, together holding to ethical integrity. Dr. Thomas had an impact on the perspectives of Dr. T.V. Philip and Dr. T. K. Thomas. Dr. Thomas passed away on December 3, 1996. His death is an irreparable loss to the church and society. Society must continue to discuss his thoughts and standpoint. Such continuing thought processes and discussions will make an appropriate tribute to his legacy during the birth centenary celebrations. As prophets of new humanity, let us march together in the divine plan to create a new church, a new humanity, and a new world.


p. 13

May the birth centenary commemoration of Dr. M.M. Thomas make the dream of the Book of Revelation of the apostle St. John that 'I have seen the new heavens and the new earth,' a real experience giving us all a new vision and sense of direction. Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Rev. Dr. Somen Das (1939-2015) Obituary from the North India Church Review The Revd. Dr. Somen Das, former Principal and Professor of Theology and Christian Ethics at Bishop's College, Kolkata (1989-1999) passed away in the early hours of 5' of May, 2015, in Mumbai, where he and his wife were living along with their son Sanjoy and family. Dr. Somen Das did his schooling from Calcutta Boys' School, Calcutta, his B.A. (Hons) in English Literature from Serampore College and his BD from Serampore College (Theology Department 1961-1964). He worked as a pastor at Durgapur between 1964-1966 and was a member of the Industrial Team service with people like Revd. Subir Biswas and Revd. Kenyon Wright. He then went to Princeton Theological Seminary, USA for his M.Th. after which he taught at Serampore College for a year. In 1970 he and his family moved to The United Theological College in Bangalore where he taught until he was appointed Principal of Bishop's College, Calcutta, from January, 1989. While at UTC, Dr. Somen Das took study leave and did his Doctorate in Christian Ethics at Boston University Graduate School, USA. In 1989 he became the first Principal of Bishop's College who was not from an Anglican or Orthodox background (he came from a Bengali Baptist background). He was thus instrumental in bringing Bishop's College into the post- Anglican, CNI era. As Fr. Dr. K.P. Aleaz, his colleague from those days writes, "1989 99 can be considered as a period of reform and revival for Bishop's


p. 14

College academically and this was affected mainly through the efforts and presence of Dr. Somen Das as Principal. Because of his name and fame, Bishop's College started getting many more students than before every year for B.D. and M.Th. studies. In the area of writing theological books, he was an example for others to follow. A number of his books and articles especially in the area of ethics were published when he was Principal of the College. His mere presence in the campus elevated the spirit of the students and faculty for endeavors of creative theology. Doctoral programme of North India Institute of Post-Graduate Theological Studies (NIIPGTS) was initiated through his encouragement. He functioned as Chairperson of the Research Committee of the Senate, giving leadership to higher theological education. He took initiative in making chapel worship effective and creative, reducing the number of times we met for worship from four to two namely morning and noon, Monday to Friday. His skills of oratory were a model for the faculty and students to emulate." After leaving Bishop's College in November 1999, Dr. Somen Das resided in Serampore for the next fifteen years, teaching at his alma mater, Serampore College, and in the Christian Theology department of the M.Th. programme of NIIPGTS. He was often called upon to lead Bible studies and was a creative thinker and author of a number of wellreceived books and articles. He was a brilliant teacher and his passing has been accompanied by an outpouring of fond memories from his former students who were deeply influenced by his teaching. In his passing the CNI has lost one of its tallest theologians thus far. He is survived by his wife, June and his son Sanjoy who lives with his family in Mumbai. His wife can be contacted at the following address: Mrs. June Das, C/o. Mr. Sanjoy Das, 202/203, Green View Tower, Shantiniketan, Air India Colony, Yari Road, Versova Andheri West, Mumbai 400061. The email ID of his son, Sanjoy, is sanjoydazz@gmail.com Obituary: Mrs Marjorie McVicar Mrs Marjorie McVicar died on 14 December 2014. Marjorie and her husband Neil served in India from 1954-1970 and Bangladesh from


p. 15

1982-1989 when Neil served as Regional Secretary for Asia. Neil died in 2004. Marjorie was the daughter of Cecil and Violet Woodyatt, who served with BMS in Jamaica from 1947-1963. She was appointed in 1954 to work overseas with BMS, whilst engaged to Neil. They were married in July 1955 and then travelled to Calcutta, where Neil worked as Finance Secretary and Administration Secretary. During these years Iain was born in India and Fiona, in Scotland when on their first home assignment. The family returned to the UK in 1969 and Neil served as minister of Dronfield Baptist Church near Sheffield. In 1982 Neil was appointed as regional representative for Asia and he and Marjorie travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh where they worked until 1988 when they returned to the UK for their retirement. During the following years Marjorie worked with various BMS Women’s groups, Mission Matters Teams and Ministers’ Wives’ Fellowship, including being president of the Scottish Baptist Women’s Fellowship for a year. In 1991 Neil set up the Former Missionaries Association (FMA) and in 2008 Marjorie became correspondent to the FMA up until a couple of years ago when she became unwell. In late September this year Marjorie moved away from Lesmahagow to live in a care home near Iain and Helen in Nottingham. Although she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 18 months before, her sudden and rapid deterioration in health over the last couple of months was due to cancer. The cremation service was at the Newstead Chapel, Mansfield Crematorium, Derby Road, Mansfield on Monday 5th January 2015. A thanksgiving service was held at Auchlochan Garden Village, Lesmahagow on Friday 10 April 2015.



no comments yet