Archbishop’s Visit to India Concludes – Day 6
Archbishop Michael Jackson is currently visiting the Indian state of Kerala. During his trip he has spent time with representatives of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (also known as the Indian Orthodox Church), the Church of South India and the Mar Thoma Church. During his visit the Archbishop has worshiped in a number of parishes and attended a number of presentations and talks.
On the sixth day of his visit to Kerala, Archbishop Jackson travelled to meet the Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church. The Mar Thoma Church embraced a Reformed version of Indian Orthodox Christianity and is in communion with the Church of Ireland through our being members of the Anglican Communion. The three traditions visited by the Archbishop work together around theological education and research while they have their own distinct styles of worship and their distinct outreach programmes to the dispossessed and the marginalised.
The Metropolitan and the Archbishop had already met in St Maelruain’s Church, Tallaght, where Canon William Deverell is Rector when the Metropolitan visited Ireland. They spoke of the worldwide character of the Mar Thoma Church, its having communities in almost every country and churches similarly except in South America.
Once a year representatives from the churches and parishes across the world come to the Headquarters for the Meeting of the Synod, akin to our General Synod. The bishops had just completed a meeting of their own synod (gathering) and they, together with the Archbishop, members of staff and Father Ashwin who has been the Archbishop’s host throughout his visit, had breakfast with the Metropolitan who is a hearty 89 years old. The Archbishop was shown the media centre and the museum both of which are located in the original house built for the Metropolitan. The Archbishop then made a very special visit to pray with the Metropolitan Emeritus who is 102 years old and in the last few months has moved into hospital on a full time basis. Reflecting on the visit, a number of interesting issues come to the fore. The first is the ways in which all three traditions – Indian Orthodox, Mar Thoma and CSI – are integrated into the society of contemporary India. This is reflected strongly in the programmes of outreach to the poor, the marginalised and the dispossessed. It is reflected also in the different styles of worship that may be found in each of the churches which cater for a range of expectations.
Another important facet of the life of the churches is that mission is part of their DNA. The work of God marches hand in hand with the word of God. The third aspect is that, as India is a country of so many cultures and regions and languages, Inter Faith engagements simply are part of everyday life. Faith traditions are and remain distinct. However, the Christ–inspired instinct to find your neighbour in the person right in front of you, irrespective of faith or social standing, is a lasting memory and inspiration to go and do likewise.