REPORT OF REGIONAL NCCI CENTENARY CELEBRATION PROGRAMME
September 12 – 14, 2014
The NCCI centenary celebration in Hyderabad region started with a grand Centenary Inaugural programme organized by Andhra Christian Theological College (ACTC) in its campus. The celebration began with an indigenous dance welcoming the dignitaries to the venue: the ACTC chapel.
The service in the chapel began at 9:30 am on September 12, 2014. Rev. Dr. Matthews Emmanuel Thathapudi, Principal of ACTC invited several dignitaries to the front, namely: Bishop Dr. Taranath S. Sagar (President of NCCI), Ms. Pearly Jos (Vice President of NCCI), Mr. Suman Biswas (Vice President of NCCI), Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad (General Secretary of NCCI), Bishop Mar Awgin Kuriakose (Chaldean Syrian Church), Bishop Nelson Lakra (Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church), Bishop P. C. Singh (Jabalpur Diocese, Church of North India), H.G. Geevarghese Mar Coorilos (Malankara Orthodox Church and Former President of NCCI), Most Rev. Dr. Dyvasirvadam (Moderator of Church of South India), Rev. Dr. I. P. Asheerwadam (Principal of Mennonite Brethren Centenary Bible College), Rev. Dr. Packiam Samuel (Director, Henry Martyn Institute), Mrs. Alpana Kumar (President of All India Council of Christian Women), Rev. Dr. Mrs. P. Syamala Sukumar (President of Association of Theologically Trained Women in India), Mr. Rajakara Rao (General Secretary of Convention of Baptist Churches of the Northern Circars), Rev. Dr. R.R. D. Sajeeva Raju (Samavesam of Telugu Baptist Churches) Lt. Col. Daniel Raju Dasari (National Secretary of The Salvation Army), Rev. Dr. Ipe Joseph (Director of All India Sunday School Association and Former General Secretary of NCCI), Rt. Rev. Naresh S. Ambala (President, All India Sunday School Association), Rev. Dr. Vincent Rajkumar (Director of Christian Institute of Study of Religion an Society), Dr. Deva Patta Raju (Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church, President of the ACTC Golden Jubilee Celebrations Committee), and Rev. Raj Bharat Patta (General Secretary of Student Christian Movement in India).
The worship service included invocation dance, special prayers, cultural elements and a homily delivered by Most Rev. Dr. G. Dyvasirvadam, Moderator of Church of South India (CSI). The address was thought-provoking and called on people to give expression to the transformative love of God in supporting the growth of the Church. He emphasized authentic Pentecostal unity which is more ‘horizontal’ than ‘vertical’ in its orientation. In congratulating the NCCI for all that has been accomplished so far, he expressed his wish and support for NCCI to continue being a common platform for service and united action in Church and society.
Honourable Bishop Dr. Taranath S. Sagar, President of NCCI brought greetings to the congregation on behalf of NCCI and delegates of the centenary programme. He explained that NCCI stands for fellowship, unity and service. He said “NCCI is a united body, but not a uniform body”, thereby acknowledging and emphasizing the beauty of the diverse traditions that are brought together for united Christian witness and service in the Society. He was concerned that Churches and Christian organizations must have Christian unity not only in educational, medical and other charitable expressions of service, but also identify with each other as people of God and strive to attain newer heights of ecumenical understanding and action. NCCI centenary mementos were presented to each of the Hyderabad area NCCI centenary celebrations organizing bodies. The service concluded with words of grateful felicitations by Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad. The service closed with a vote of thanks, prayer and benediction.
The afternoon programme, at 2:00 pm, after a delicious lunch hosted by ACTC, consisted of a presentation of the ministry of All India Council of Christian Women (AICCW). Dignitaries present at the occasion were Bishop Dr. Taranath S. Sagar, H.G. Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Ms. Pearly Jos, Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, Lt. Col. Daniel Raju Dasari, Rev. Dr. Ipe Joseph, Mar Awgin Kuriakose, Rt. Rev. Naresh S. Ambala, Sister Jessie Kurien and Ms. Alpana Kumar. There were over 150 women representing many denominations including the Methodist Church, The Church of North India, The Church of South India, The Marthoma Syrian Church, The Orthodox Church, Lutheran Churches, Baptist Churches, The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of the East.
Bishop Dr. Taranath S. Sagar praised the initiative of women as expressed in the work of AICCW. He assured the gathering of his participation and accompaniment in the evolving concerns and work to promote gender sensitivity and participatory structures at all levels. In her address, AICCW President, Mrs. Alpana Kumar expressed her joy at congregating to share women concerns, celebrating the opportunity for solidarity and developing programmes to focus on women’s issues in the Church and Society. The Chief Guest was Adv. Sister Jessie Kurien from the Roman Catholic Church, who, with her vast knowledge and study of women’s issues in India encouraged the gathering to firstly affirm the importance of women. She challenged the women to understand their important role in Church, society and nation-building. She gave insights into women’s issues from the legal perspective as well as from the perspective of the value system that Church women are called to support and promote. The Chief Guest’s address was followed by three special performances including a beautiful choreographic presentation of the story of Moses’ birth and highlighting the integral role of women in God’s plan.
In his closing comments, Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad lauded the efforts being made by women to address issues in the Church and society. The AICCW having completed 40 years is now on the threshold for achieving greater things. He informed that the AICCW quadrennial assembly is scheduled to be held in Cochin at the end of January 2015, and expressed his best wishes for the activities of AICCW. Closing prayer and benediction was pronounced by H.G. Geevarghese Mar Coorilos.
The evening celebration consisted of a Public Meeting and Cultural Programme held at 6:00 pm at Ravindra Bharathi, Hyderabad. It was organized by Andhra Pradesh Christian Council (APCC) led by Secretary of APCC and Chairperson of the host committee, Dr. Jetti A. Oliver. The Cultural Evening started with a brief time of praise and worship followed by lighting of the lamp. In his introductory address, Dr. Arnold welcomed the gathering and wished the NCCI well in continuing its work especially in and beyond its centenary year.
Bishop Dr. Taranath S. Sagar, President of NCCI addressed the gathering of over 500 people. In his address, he recounted the accomplishments of the ecumenical movement in India, specially highlighting NCCI’s immense contribution to the cause of unity, equality, peace and justice in Church and society. He emphasized the role of Christians in nation-building in history and as a continuing facilitator of church unity and witness. Bishop Sagar expressed his disappointment that despite the undeniably great and continuing contribution of Christians to the development of the nation, there is under-representation of Christians in policy and governance matters of the country. He encouraged Churches to contribute to leadership formation, to have greater representation in secular, socio-political platforms such as in civil services and politics. He stressed the importance of relational and expressed unity that has become imperative in order to address some long-standing issues such as reservation for dalit Christians. He thanked the organizing committee and all present for the programme that was arranged, and wished that churches would continue to work together as a united Christian community for greater effectiveness, service, and meaningful Christian witness.
At this occasion Bishop Dr. Taranath Sagar gave away awards of honour to Shri P. P. William, Shri Stanley Babu and Shri Swaranjit Sen in recognition of their contribution to the society in dispensing their civil service responsibilities with Christian integrity and excellence. After the delegates were acknowledged and recognized with traditional presentations of shawls and gifts, there were cultural performances that included songs and traditional dances. Bishop Dr. Taranath Sagar congratulated and thanked Dr. J. A. Oliver for having arranged this excellent programme. The cultural evening concluded with prayer and benediction by H.G. Geevarghese Mar Coorilos. The gathering sang the National Anthem before dispersing. Dinner was organized and hosted by APCC at Bishop Chidambar Hall.
On September 13, 2014 a half day symposium was organized by Mennonite Brethren Centenary Bible College (MBCBC), Shamshabad as part of NCCI Centenary Regional Celebration. The theme of the symposium was “Perspectives on Marginalized Community”. Rev. Dr. R. S. Lemuel, Vice President of the Governing Council of the Mennonite Brethren Church of India, chaired the programme. Rev. Dr. I. P. Asheervadam welcomed the speakers and audience that included NCCI Centenary Celebration delegates, students of MBCBC and other invitees. The devotion was led by Rev. Dr. Ipe Joseph, General Secretary of All India Sunday School Association (AISSA). Rev. Dr. P. B. Arnold, President of the Governing Council of the Mennonite Brethren Church of India greeted the gathering in which he briefly narrated the history of MBC, its growth, challenges and vision. Rev. Dr. T. M. Emmanuel, Principal of ACTC also brought greetings and best wishes. The symposium and plenary was moderated by Rev. Dr. Ch. Vasanth Rao, former principal of ACTC. Papers presented were: Devadasi System (Dr. David Selvaraj, Director, Visthar Academy for Justice and Peace, Bangalore), Assessing Silence: Feminist Perspectives (Rev. Dr. Prasuna, Professor MBCBC, Shamshabad), Health Care and Justice Perspectives (Dr. Allan Palanna, Associate Professor, Dept. of Theology and Ethics, United Theological College, Bangalore), The practice of Human Scavenging (Rev. Dr. Ephratha Sarathy, Professor, MBCBC), Perspectives on Marginalized Society: Re-listening and Re-affirming the Alternate Narratives (Dr. Israel David, faculty, Calvin Institute of Theology, Hyderabad), Struggles of Migrant Women (Rev. S. Vijaya Kumari, Professor, ACTC, Hyderabad), Cultural Resources for Reconciliation between Mala and Madiga Dalits (Rev. Dr. B. Sunil Vara Kumar, Professor, ACTC, Hyderabad), and “Continued Untouchability and Marginalization of Telugu Dalits” (Prof. Z. C. Devadanam, former Treasurer of NCCI). It was a very stimulating and exciting time of sharing and understanding various perspectives on ‘marginalized community’.
Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, Executive Secretary, NCCI, expressed the gratitude of NCCI and delegates of its regional celebration, and while wishing for a continuing and growing relationship with them, presented an NCCI Centenary memento to MBCBC. After the programme, lunch for the delegates was organized by MBCBC, sponsored by Bethany Mennonite Brethren Church, Shamshabad.
On 13th evening, an Interfaith Cultural Programme was organized by Henry Martyn Institute (HMI) in the campus of HMI. Rev. Dr. Packiam T. Samuel, Director of HMI, welcomed the gathering expressing his joy at being a host to NCCI’s Centenary Celebrations in Hyderabad area. Over 150 people of different faiths were present in this cultural evening programme. Guests of honour were Rt. Rev. Dr. Surya Prakash, Chairperson of HMI, Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of NCCI, and Mr. Jannat Hussain, IAS (Retd.), Chief Information Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh. Their speeches contained elements of history of HMI and its historical and conceptual connection with NCCI, principles of mutual understanding and acceptance, importance of interfaith dialogue for peace as exemplified in the ministry of HMI, and the continuing need to support and foster harmonious community relationships. Rev. Dr. T. Matthew Emmanuel, Principal of ACTC, and Rev. Dr. I. P. Asheervadam, Principal of MBCBC, were also present on the occasion and each brought greetings to the gathering.
The cultural programme included these performances: Classical dance (Natraj Puja), Gazals by Khan Athar Saheb, Songs by Calvin Students, Interfaith song by Syed Nuzhath and group, and classical dance (Shiva thandavam). It was an evening of celebrating cultural diversities as also affirming the uniting bond of common purposes.
On September 14, delegates of NCCI’s centenary celebration visited various local Churches in Hyderabad and Secunderabad to preach and/or bring greetings on behalf of NCCI. Some of the Churches visited by delegates were the Marthoma Church, The Orthodox Church, The Methodist Church, The Salvation Army Church and Church of South India.
NCCI’s Centenary Celebration in the Hyderabad region has been significant in building grassroots connections and inspiring great visions. The NCCI is grateful to Dr. Jetti Oliver (Secretary, APCC), Rev. Dr. Packiam T. Samuel (Director, HMI), Rev. Dr. I. P. Asheervadam (Principal, MBCBC) and Rev. Dr. T. Matthew Emmanuel (Principal, ACTC) for all their hard work in the programmes planned and wonderfully organized. All events and programmes were extremely well arranged and marked the period with unforgettable moments of celebratory joy and thanksgiving while also enthusing people for greater ecumenical impact ahead.
Rev. Caesar David,
NCCI Executive Secretary, Commission on Communications and Relations