Friday, 21 March 2008

Ecumenism - Jesus style

Meet sister Shanti - one of our home-based care staff at Jeevan Sahara Kendra. No, she is not about to become a politician in real life. The photo was taken back stage just before Shanti and the others went out to preform a small play on looking after people with HIV. Shanti plays a local leader who comes and visits and HIV patient and makes big promises - and then exits quickly when she hears that the patient may be supporting another party.

The venue for the play was the Mulund Christian Ecumenical Fellowship meeting. An off-shoot of the Mulund Christian Cemetary Committee - we were part of a remarkable meeting of a good 400 plus folks from all flavours of Christendom - meeting in the main hall of the St. Pius X high school.

I have heard of Ecumenical gatherings before - but this was very different. It was totally focussed on Jesus. We started off with the local Bishop reading out a homily in Hindi welcoming us all and affirming all the churches that gathered together in the name of Christ (interestingly the good bishop did not use the term "ecclesial communities" which a recent communication from Rome uses). And then we had prayers, songs, worship, sharing from all comers - Catholic, Charismatic, Orthodox, Jacobite, Marthoma, Independent... The "prayer fellowship" of the local Parish could have easily been a New Life fellowship worship band - black t-shirts, rock-n-roll praise - the worship leader saying that "Jesus is the only way". It was an amazing and blessed experience. A small taste of heaven.

We were invited as JSK to do a small skit - which we did, sharing the life of a person with HIV - and his good neighbour. The staff did an excellent job, and Rahul followed it up with a great speech. Perhaps in keeping with the Ecumenical labels, the Jeevan Sahara name got lost in the shuffle. In the official programme we were listed as "Bro. Pravin Thomas' Pentecostal Group"

We ended off with a simple but touching display - different church leaders being asked to come up and make the above message - while the Marthoma choir led us in singing "Bind us together".


After the programme we met the remarkable principal of St. Pius X High School - Father Clifton (or was it Clinton??) - a lovely man who was born in Uganda and came to India during the Idi Amin era. He has been involved with HIV and life-skills education and has been working with the young people of his school and parish to make a difference. Who knows - we may even see this year's Youth Against AIDS Festival take place at St. Pius X!

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