Making New Wine Skins in Chennai

The phone rang it was 6.30 am , a little earlier than I had expected.  My taxi had arrived at the central hall in the hotel. I was up anyway, I had  showered, my linen suit was pressed, and my shoes polished. I going to see the Bishop this morning. Dr V Devasahayam is the Bishop of Medras. He is the first Dalit to ever be put in such a position of power and influence.  Dalits  I believe are  outwith the Indian cast system and as such are not seen as a cast. They are often known as the untouchables. In todays India,the government are seeking to find ways  to support and compensate this group. csi-V.Devasahayam2V Devasahayam is a scholarly person, quite famous for his writings on the parallels he sees in the Bible and the situation of his people in India. Dalits have been an oppressed minority in India yet they are a sizable group over 200 million of them. Theologians like Dr V Devasahayam, have traced the roots of this tribe of people back almost 4000 years. They see their people as being proud and significant. He is seeking to engender in this cast a sense of pride and dignity. The Dalit theology is rooted in the thinking of  Liberation Theology that came from South America in the late 50s and 60s in the last century. It was this theology that inspired a Tutu and also brought about the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador. It seeks to highlight the place of justice and equality and also the judgement of God Today it is still seeking to inspire hope in the lives of millions through priests and cleric who believe that God has a bias towards the poor and the oppressed. The Bishop of Chennai would stand in the same proud tradition of these great activists , thinkers and reformers. csi-church13We  make our  way down from the room, we are met by Alfred our ever attentive co-ordinator and fixer. We drop him off at a Gideons prayer meeting and make our way across town to the Cathedral. The Bishop welcomes us into his office. He is wearing his  well worn white surplus, with a simple purple cord around his waist and a small wooden cross around his neck.  He takes time to ask about our trip to date then suggests we go for breakfast. Over the next three hours we were greatly encouraged to hear all that is going on in the Church of South India. We learn that last year 5000 souls willingly and without any kind of inducement declared their faith in Jesus and were baptised. Time seemed to be flying by, I  feel a bit under pressure to try and keep to time. I know i have Alfred waiting to be picked up. We thought we'd be with the bishop for just over an hour.  Stay with us a while longer he pleads. This is our evangelism weekend. He explains that this is a busy weekend.  He has an appointment to address the conference at 11.00am and he'd like us to go along with him. After a few phone calls to Alfred we're crossing the city again to another venue. csi-church5We're taken by the Bishop to the new Convention and Training Centre that has just been built. We are ushered into a conference of over 500 lay evangelist and church planters. These folks have been trained by the Diocese to take the gospel out round the villages and plant new churches. Today the Bishop tells me he is excited because he will be baptising another 300 new Christians. His senior lay evangelist comes into the room and he explains that to date there has been over 2,700 baptisms. He feels they are on target to see another 5000 souls come to Christ this year. My heart sinks as I think of Scotland, and the news in the Scotsman this week that more and more people are opting for the services of the Humanist Society. I've often thought we should have a national advertising  campaign inviting people to consider claims of  Christ and get baptised. I think we could run a really effective campaign with the slogan " Get Baptised". Well we end up on the main stage being honoured by the Bishop receiving our welcome shawls and bringing the greetings of the Church of Scotland to the conference. A few minutes later we're ushered out and in taxi on our way to meet up with Tucker. As we go we reflect on all that is happening in India. I know we are so culturally different and there are aspects of all this that could never work in Scotland. Yet one can't help but notice the dedication and commitment of these Christians. What an example to all of us.  I was glad when the taxi pulled up outside our  hotel. It was time for lunch then a siesta. [gallery columns="5"]
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