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October Edition 2015 Volume 2(3)

Table of Contents
Message from Diocesan Episcopa................................ 3
Editorial ........................................................................ 6
Baptism: Dying and Rising up with Christ .................... 8
A Spiritual Dialogue: Upon the Wings of Gods Image
on Earth ...................................................................... 10
Finding our identity in Christ amidst competing
cultures ...................................................................... 11

The COMPE Executive Committee


President: The Rt.Revd. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius
Vice President : Revd.Dr. Thomas Philips
Secretary: Mr.P.M.Mathew
Treasurer : Mr.Jaffey Chacko

Not Understanding the Other .................................... 12

Editorial Board of the Mar Thoma Echo

Conversation Corner .................................................. 15

Editorial Director : Dr. Zac Varghese


Chief Editor : Revd. Jose Punamadam
Mr. Sherry Mathews
Mr. Oommen Abraham
Mrs. Geena Ajay

News & Reports ......................................................... 16


Death, Renewal & Revival ...................................... 16
34th Mar Thoma Family conference-Europe .......... 22
1st Mar Thoma Youth Conference .......................... 23
Altar Boys & Covenant Girls: Preparing the Future
Leaders of the Church ............................................ 24
Connecting Church-Based Social Action and
Church Growth ....................................................... 26

Cover Design: Revd. Jose Punamadam


For private circulation only

Photo Gallery ............................................................. 27


Disclaimer: The views published in this journal are
those of its authors. Editors or the COMPE do not
endorse the contents or views expressed and they are
not liable for the contents or views in any form.
Send your articles- compe.echo@gmail.com

Message from Diocesan


Episcopa
Whose Image do we reflect?

This question was raised as the theme of the


Regional Family Conference that was held for the
Families of the Mar Thoma Parishes in the UK and
Europe in August 2015. St. John's Mar Thoma
Parish, the host of the conference, was studying
this Theme for about an year, and now this is
passed on for wider reflection through the 250
delegates who attended the conference. I am glad
that ECHO, the quarterly publication of the region,
is bringing this topic through digital and print
media.
Whose Image?
Book of Genesis in the Holy Bible is revealing the
truth that God created human beings, both male
and female, in His image and in His likeness,
creating us out of dust and breathing in the life
giving breath. Therefore, we belong to God and we
are created by the Creator God to reflect His image.
We believe that He is the Creator of all things,
visible and invisible.
No one has seen God. God can never be the object
of our study. He is the Almighty and invisible One,
and is not exhausted by our understanding. We
believe that He is the One True God. Then how do

we comprehend Him? We understand God


through His revelations. We identify the One God
through the doctrine of Trinity- One God
manifested in three persons as the Father, the Son
and the Holy Spirit. Human language has
limitations and therefore, we try to describe an
infinite, incomprehensible, God within the
limitations of our finite nature and intellect.
Seeking to articulate that which is beyond words
involves stretching of language almost to breaking
point. Martin Luther believed that man cannot
comprehend the meaning of image of God and he
wrote: when we speak of that image, we are
speaking of something unknown. But the
unknown becomes known in Jesus the Christ. It is
beautifully stated in the prologue to St. Johns
Gospel: No one has ever seen God, but God the
One and only, who is at the Fathers side, has made
him known (John 1:18). This is indeed seeing the
face of God in Christ, and we have the grace to see
the face of God in others and other events. The
knowledge of God emerges from our intimate
relationship with Him and we are created for this
relationship and no other. Karl Barths takes it to
another level by saying: Knowledge of God is
obedience to God.
The Nature of God.
Human beings have understood the presence of
God in several ways. The Holy Bible is emphatic in
saying that God is with mankind, starting with the
Garden of Eden where God comes down to share
the fellowship with the whole creation and
consummating with the new Heaven and New
Earth, and where God has His tent with humans
(Book of Revelation). The wrath of God is seen in
the Great Flood at the time of Noah, His mercy and
compassion is seen in the Exodus of the chosen
people under slavery in Egypt; His wisdom is
revealed through the Wisdom literature; His
judgements are revealed through the Kings and
Judges, and this Awesome God is understood
through His perseverance and understanding. The
list goes on and on as the Holy Scripture continues
to reveal the living and dynamic nature of God.
People of the Book felt the presence of God in their
lives, like Abraham and Moses. The Prophets
listened to the voice of God and became God's
mouth piece among the people. Noah and Enoch
walked with God. Isaiah saw the vision of God.
Elijah heard God passing by in a still small voice.
People understood the promises of God and
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believed in Him as trust worthy. God wanted


humans to be a worshipping community,
worshipping only Him and not any idols. God
wanted His people to be model people with
humanity intact and with ethical standards by
obeying and understanding the given Law with
infinite responsibility.
The Image reflected in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is God incarnate. We believe that He is fully
God and fully human (The Nicene Creed). Pilot, the
Roman Governor, said in judging Jesus of
Nazareth, 'Behold the Man; I see in him no guile.
The Centurion at the foot of the cross saw Him die
on the Cross and shouted, 'truly he is the Son of
God. Peter, among the disciples, said at Caesarea
Philippi that, 'you are the son of the living God.
Jesus lived in history, walked through the streets
of Galilee, cleansed the Jerusalem Temple, and
died on the outside the city wall as the
manifestation of God's love. He said in history: 'I
am the Way, the Truth and the Life.'... ..Those
who have seen me, have seen the Father....No one
comes to the Father, but by me.
Whose Image do we reflect?
Humans are created to reflect the image of the
invisible God. Our sinful nature distorts the image
of God. Turning to God in repentance is the way to
reinstate the image of God. The Merciful God
forgives and cleanses us from all stains. A good
example is the life of Jacob who ran away from his
brother Esau, lived in exile, decided to go back,
wrestled with God, became a new being as Israel
and reconciled with his brother. Esau gave him a
warm welcome. We read in Genesis 33:10, Truly
your face is like seeing the face of God ". Humans
are created to see in each other the hidden image
of God. I am reminded of the words of
Michelangelo who said, 'I saw the angel in the
marble and carved until I set him free.' Let us
remove the masks we have so that the world will
see the reflections of the image of God on this
beautiful world.
Incarnation of Jesus was to seek and save the lost
and to heal a fractured world. He preached and
taught the kingdom of God and exhorted everyone
to repent and believe in the Gospel. In Jesus, we
have redemption. We are redeemed to reflect the
image of God. He invited everyone to live in Him:

'Abide in me and I will abide in you. We can live a


life worthy of the glory of God only by living in
Christ. St Paul, who experienced this, went on
speaking endlessly on ' life in Christ. He says, 'for
me to live be Christ. Orthodox Theologian, John
Zizioulas, maintains that the being of God could
be known only through personal relationships and
personal love. Being means life, and life means
communion. The doctrine of Trinity offers a
radical rethinking of the concept of being; here we
see a reciprocity in which the personal identity of
the Godhead coexisting relationally within the
differentiated unity of a hospitable self. Therefore,
without the concept of this divine communion and
coexistence it would not be possible to think of
God.
Church is called to reflect the Image of God.
Psalmist says that the Heavens declare the glory of
God and the firmaments, His handiwork. Church
is a called out and sent out community . Church is
the body of Christ and an instrument in His hands
for the transformation of the whole creation.
Church life is for community living on her journey
to the establishment of the kingdom of God and to
reflect here and now the image of God. This is
challenging the church today; the church should
show gender equality, love all for people in the
world without discrimination of race, caste or
class. Community living is possible only by
accepting the other, caring the needy and sharing
the God-given resources. The parable of the Good
Samaritan is revealing. One can be merciful only
by identifying the need of the other, taking risks
and shouldering the responsibility to give life to the
dying and working hard from now on to create a
better living space for the other. Early Christianity
was a social movement known for its care for the
sick, widows, orphans, and poor, and its attention
to the needs of the stranger; the welcoming of the
stranger is what it means to be human and what it
means to be a Christian. This is the face of the
living God, which Jesus Christ has demonstrated
in His salvific acts.
For a child of God, Sunday worship is not enough!
He or she is called to be the salt of the earth and
light of the world in everyday living. Going to
church regularly and being the Church in the
market place are not the one and the same. They
can be complimentary. Do you shrink when
someone asks you: are you a black, Latino,
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Bangladeshi and the like? Whose image do we


reflect? What is the meaning of the cry today,
'Black lives matter? What will the church do when
people of different orientations approach you for
sacraments? Can we join with Job? And say, 'for I
know that my redeemer lives (Job 19:25).
Risen Jesus, who is the Head of the Church, said to
His followers to "follow Him." I was fascinated
when I saw the 'Laughing Face of Christ' kept at the
Chapel of the Ecumenical Christian centre,
Whitfield, Bangalore, India. Since then I can see
the laughing face of Jesus in His public ministry
when He walked through the crowd when they
tried to kill Him (Luke 4), when He answered the
questions raised by the Pharisees and Scribes,
when He faced the storm in the sea with the cry of
the disciples, when He listened to the questions of
the Samaritan women, when everyone left the
stones and the woman before Jesus, when He saw
the helpless disciples at the valley of
transfiguration and other similar instances. St.
Paul found this joy in Christ and therefore he said,
while in prison in Rome and knowing that his end
is near, " Rejoice, again I say rejoice " ( Phil 4) .

vicarious suffering; but in Christ, we can always


say 'yes ' and join with St. Paul in affirming that we
are more than conquerors. Jesus Christ is the man
for all seasons of life.
Mar Theodosius+

Kabbala, a five-thousand year old


tradition, teaches that
transformation means becoming a
being of giving and sharing. This
refers to more than act of sharing. It
means connecting with the light,
becoming one with the creator, and
making your essence and the essence
of the creator one and the same.

We live in a cruel, wretched, bleeding and broken


world. In Genesis 6:11 we read: 'now the earth was
corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with
violence. The world today is not different. But can
we say "good bye to the cruel world? We see
slavery in the world in different forms. Slavery
should never become the human or social order.
The plight of the refugees to the countries in
Europe from Syria, Lebanon, Africa and the like
are not revealing the image of God! Denying a
person's hope for a decent, peaceful life with
dignity is a form of slavery. Liberation is the 'face
of God ', said the Asian theologian, Dr. M. M.
Thomas. The decision of the countries in European
Union to accept the refugees is revealing the face of
God. We follow a different drum!
The key to follow Jesus and to reflect the image of
God is to 'love as He loved us. Hence, the pertinent
question that comes to us is the same question
Jesus asked Peter after his resurrection, do you
love me more than these? (John 21: 15- 19). Our
love for Him reflects the grace of God. In every
desert, God has an oasis of grace. In an age of
vanishing grace, the faith community is called to be
the 'grace community, always giving Hope in
helpless and hopeless situations of life. It involves
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Editorial
Other gods become a barrier in our
relationship with God

The theme of a most enjoyable 33rd Mar Thoma


family conference of Europe in August 2015 was
Whose image do we reflect? and it also had a
related-theme Christ versus gods of our life. Let
us thank God for the members of the St. Johns Mar
Thoma Church, Hounslow, for carrying the burden
of hosting the conference and congratulate them
for organising a very good conference. We are
grateful to God for Rt. Revd Geevarghese Mar
Thedosius, Rt. Revd Dr. Thomas Mar Theethos
and Mr. Jose Philip for their leadership. We
particularly thank and congratulate Rev Jose
Punamadom, Mr. Isaac George and his team.
The camera never lies is a phrase we know to be
false. A photographer can place a filter over the
lens or adjust the angle of the lens with the result
that some features or the scene are highlighted
while others fade into insignificance. There is filter
over our minds when we read the Bible or venture
into a post- baptismal life from early childhood;
filter is formed by our faith formation from our
parents, church, our culture, and tradition. These
filters may have a possibility to direct us to
influences and spells of gods instead of Christ or
even restricting our freedom in Christ. These gods
of our life have the power to bring curse and
death, instead of blessings and eternal life.
God has blessed mankind by endowing him/her
with certain qualities that are intrinsic to His
nature. Many have contemplated, as we have
done at the conference, the meaning of the
phrase in Genesis, in the image and likeness of
God. The words, image and likeness have
created much theological debates for centuries
among the Orthodox, Catholic and protestant
theologians. The use of icons and the idea of God
impressing His image on man/woman are
central to Orthodox theology. Theethos Thirumeni
suggested that image indicates God-given

potential or capabilities inherent in all human


beings and that likeness means the realisation of
that God-given potential as a fulfilment of a
dynamic process between man and God.
Michelangelo famously said, I saw the angel in
the marble and carved until I set him free. This is
indeed being in the likeness of God of having the
creativity, freedom and responsibility. Searching
for a deeper distinction between these two words is
not very helpful for us here. We need to carve out
from the attachments of gods of our own creation
to get released and liberated into the freedom in
Christ and freedom from us. Seeking liberation
from ourselves is a very deep and interesting
thought; our spiritual growth is very much
influenced by this liberation through the grace of
God.
Gods of our creation such as self-centredness,
power mongering, wealth creation, consumerism,
self-projection, placing ourselves as the centre of
existence and pushing God out, creating a Godshaped hole in life and such are a barriers to be
in the image and likeness of God to realise Godgiven purpose for our existence in this world. We
have pushed God out of our lives and placed Him
in a pseudo-religious setup and frame work and
discovered too late we have imprisoned God to
make gods in our image and make them dance to
our own tunes. This search for an institutionalisedGod has led to spiritual paralysis. Putting down
institutional foundation is creating a barrier to
obedience to God and His purposes. This is why
Bonhoeffer
dreamt
of
a
religions-less
Christianity. Obedience means being ready to
move at a moments notice as Abraham moved and
Jesus confessed, but I have no fixed address.
Peter and Andrew, James and John left their
fishing nets and Mathew left his account books, but
some others found their possessions, gods, as a
barrier to obedience
to Jesus call to
discipleship.
There is hardly a
society anywhere in
the world where
properties
and
possessions,
both
material
and
intellectual, are not a
barrier
to
relationship
with
neighbours and to God. Our possessions define our
identity, where we live, which school our children
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attend, and strongly influence how we spend our


leisure and the membership of our social and
religious network. The fairy tale does not tell us if
Cinderella kept her old friends after she married
the Prince and moved to the palace. We should
never forget we were immigrants and strangers
once in this land; we should be mindful of the
needs of others around us to provide hospitality
and fellowship. Hospitality is part of our Diaspora
spirituality. We should be able to see the face of
God in the face of the other, as Jacob said to Esau
at Peniel: For to see your face is like seeing the
face of God (Genesis 33: 10). This is indeed
developing an I-Thou relationship with the
stranger. Today the unknown other is regarded as
the root of all violence, or a competitor to be
overcome for the limited resources (food, water,
shelter, clean air) of an overpopulated world. But
Jesus asked us to welcome strangers, to care for the
widow and the orphans and build relationship with
those distant from us. Hospitality and not hostility
is the prescription for the times. An Irish proverb
says: It is in the shelter of each other that people
live. Are we sensitive to the Syrian refugee crisis
at our door step?
These gods of our life are barrier to the kingdom of
God. In Luke chapter 14 we read of the kingdom of
the God is like a great feast. You are invited by the
king himself. But some of those invited refuse to
come and the reason is that they have a prior
invitation from their gods and they got their
twisted priorities wrong. They want to see and
enjoy what they have bought. Their possessions,
gods, are barriers to the royal banquet. Jesus
taught us that we cannot serve other gods, God and
Mammon. Where your treasure is there will be
your heart also. It is indeed the poor in spirit who
see God.
When Christians are tempted to adopt societys
scale of values to build cathedrals, follow popular
liberal and fashionable demands of the social
media, cherish investments and endowments as a
sign of its security, we should remember that in the
New Jerusalem there is no temple. We are temples
of God with Gods kingdom and values within us
with an indwelling Spirit because we are created in
the image and likeness of God; there is no room for
other gods. For in him we live and move and have
our being.' As some of your own poets have said,
'we are his offspring (Romans 17:28). We are the
children of God and we carry his image and
likeness and hence through the grace of God we are
duty and honour bound to produce the fruit of the

Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is by the fruit of the Spirit


that others would know that we are created in the
image and likeness of God to give Glory to Him
who created us.
It is important to remember that Christians have
not chosen the One and only God; He has chosen
us in Christ. Man has the freedom to choose gods
of this world, but not the Trinitarian God. The
Bible is a written history of Gods search for man
and recovers his humanity in its fullness. We are a
chosen people of God; it is God who is seeking us
to have a communion with us. This does not
suggest preference as a special group, people with
privileges at the exclusion of the other; it is all
about a relationship between people and God. In
absolute humility, we should open ourselves to
become agents for the flow of Gods grace through
us for becoming a blessing for others.
We congratulate our children who passed GCSE
and A Level examination and also those obtained
star grades of excellence.
Those going to
universities, should try to achieve the very best, it
is for this alone that God has placed you there; for
you are also His ambassadors and witnesses. We
wish our children all the blessings for a very
effective and meaningful school year and
University life.
The Editorial Board

Man, made in the image of Trinity,


can only realise the divine likeness if
he lives a common life such as the
blessed Trinity lives: as the three
persons of Godhead dwell in one
another, so a man must dwell in his
fellow men, living not for himself
alone, but in for others.
Timothy Ware

Baptism: Dying and Rising


up with Christ
(St.John.12:20-26Rev.)
Revd. Jameson. K, Switzerland MTC.
[The following is Jameson achens contribution to
the daily meditation, Word for the Day, under the
Christian Education Forum on Saturday, 29th
August, 2015. At the end of this meditation, we
have included a discussion with achen on the
importance of the post-baptismal faith formation.
Achen is doing his PhD studies on liturgy in
Belfast. These daily meditations are excellent
resources for the spiritual growth of the Diocese.
It is an initiative of Theodosius Thirumeni and let
us thank God for many young people of the
Diocese who are contributing to this. It is good to
start each day with this meditation and prayer.
The resource is there for us to use.]
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls
to the ground and dies, it remains only a single
seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (24)
As one of the dominical sacraments of the
Church, the holy baptism stands as a pillar of
Christian life, its identity and mission. The
baptismal liturgy of the Mar Thoma Church
affirms that, through the holy baptism a person
identifies with the death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ. Further, its emphasis as a sign of new life in
Jesus Christ and participation in the life giving
mission of Christ. The meaning of baptism
includes the invitation of God to share in His
divine life, union with Christ, the beginning of a
new life in Christ, the reception of the Spirit, and
admittance to the community of the faithful.
The selected passage draws our attention to
the importance of self-sacrifice and the willingness
of painstaking in Christian life. Through baptism,
one agrees to bear the cross of Christ. To carry the
cross of Christ is a unique way of life towards
eternity. The uniqueness of the cross rest in the life
saving plan of God. In this passage, Jesus uses a
metaphor kernel of wheat to teach the
significance of this new life. A kernel of wheat is
safe in the basket of the master. But it is not created
to remain in the safe zone. Rather, its purpose is to
be a plentiful harvest of new lives by its death. In
the same way, the holy baptism is an invitation to
come out from the safe side of life. This proposition
demands a willingness to participate in the pain of

Christ. As a baptised member of the Church, our


calling is dual in nature. That is willingness to die
and thereby to give life for others. A kernel of
wheat has no choice to have its own space to grow.
It is the choice of the master. It might fall in a
fertile land or a barren field. But its choice is to
grow and to be fruitful by giving up its own very
self. This passage reminds us that only through
death, life is possible and the ultimate call of the
Christian life is to be productive for Christ.

The holy baptism is an invitation to die the


carnal natures within us. There is a continuing
struggle between the carnal and spiritual elements
within each one of us. Baptism calls us to die in our
own selfishness and worldliness and to resurrect
towards holiness and goodness every day.
Through baptism the old habits and sinful ways of
life is dead and buried. That is why Paul, say
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal
body.(Rom.6: 12) Baptism represents the burial of
our sins and the resurrection of our new being. The
baptismal water is a symbol of death and life.
When the Israel crossed the red-sea, the water of
that sea became a source of death for the Egyptians
and the source of life for Israel. In the same way,
through baptism one enters into the source of
eternal life.
History is full of great people such as
Gandhiji, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King
Jr, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Albert
Schweitzer, Francis Xavier, Fr. Damian, who all
lived for others like a kernel of wheat still
continues to motivate and inspire us. They all came
out of their safer zone to give life to many. As a
Christian our baptismal calling is to die and to be
productive. Let us bury our carnal nature every day
and resurrect towards the holiness of God for His
mission. May God bless us for the same.

Thought for the day: Baptism is a


funeral service as well as a resurrection
service.
Prayer: Lord, help us to experience the
death and resurrection of Jesus everyday by letting
us to die our carnal nature and resurrect in your
holiness. Strengthen us to sacrifice our lives for the
blessing of others - Amen

An appreciation, questions, and response:


Appreciation and questions:
Good morning Achen! I very much enjoyed your
meditation on baptism this morning. This is a
beautiful exposition of the theology of baptism,
but how do infants undergoing baptism
understand this? What do we do about postbaptismal faith formation? Whose responsibility
is it? Is there any wonder why Pentecostalist
thrive and do their poaching?

I join with you to assert that post-baptismal faith


formation is an integral part of Christian
nurturing, but unfortunately, it seems to be a
neglected aspect in the life of the Church. I think
we need to have a serious, concrete, and systematic
action plan for the post baptismal faith formation
and assertion especially for teenagers and youth.
Whenever the Church seems silent, the counter
forces take the credit of it. The so- called
Pentecostals have their own systematic agenda of
faith propagation. We have to appreciate them for
their passion of faith and willingness to learn the
scripture. I strongly believe that proper teaching
and exhortation on the faith, practices and the
liturgy of the Church is the need of the time to
overcome the challenges of other privatized
communities. I believe, a clarity of what we
believe and the passion and willingness to live
with that will drive away the challenges of
external forces.

Response from Jameson Achen:


Thank you very much for your mail. I very much
value your comments and appreciate your words of
encouragement. You are very welcome to include
it in the ECHO.
The questions which you have raised is very
pertinent and need to ponder further for a
meaningful existence of our Church. As you
know, as far as the baptismal liturgy of the Church
concerned, baptism is not a personal affair of an
individual but a corporate act of the community.
It is the responsibility of the baptized community
to nurture a child in the faith and practices of the
Church. (The role of god-parents in the baptism
service emphasis this aspect). Faith is an ongoing
process and a baptized child imbibes it from the
Christian living of the parents and the witnessing
life of the Church. Very often we miserably fail to
do it!!!

I like your Christ, I do not like your


Christians. Your Christians are so
unlike your Christ"
Gandhiji.

A Spiritual Dialogue: Upon


the Wings of Gods Image
on Earth
Rev. Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam.
The pastor said on Sunday that I was created in
the image of God!
I was under the impression that I am the replica
of my father and mother.
I was taught that I carry their genetic codes.
My face is exactly like my mother where as my
nose is like my fathers.
How Can I be in the image of God?
Tell me, Adam, whether I was made in Gods or
human likeness.
I stood in front of a big mirror,
I could see my own image.
I did compare myself with my friend in the class
room;
My complexion is dark, where as his is white;
My grey matter is more powerful than my friends
My IQ is only 120, whereas the IQ of Stephen
Hawking is 160.
Should I think that the divine image in Hawking
and Einstein is superior to many?
Tell me, Adam, whether Hawking and Einstein
have different magnitudes of Gods image?
I searched the Bible for verses where the Image of
God is mentioned.
In Gen.1:26, I saw the self-will of God, the
Creator: Let us make humankind in our image.
Is there plurality in the god-head?
In Col.1:15, St. Paul writes that Christ is the image
of the invisible God.
Yes, he is truly the second Adam!
In 1Cor.11:7, St. Paul, the architect and builder of
the Church says:
man is the image and reflection of God; but
woman is the reflection of man.
Tell me, Adam, whether there is equality in
creation?
The image of God is shared by all of Gods
creation.
True, man is the crown and glory of all creation.
Lord, you have created the web of life for human
survival.

But the strength of the web comes from you, O


Lord.
The Psalmist recognises the solidarity of creation:
All the earth worship you,
They sing praise to you,
Sing praises to your name (Psalm 66:4).
In the new humanity of Christ, there is the
reflection of Gods nature everywhere.
The sandal wood smuggler in Karnataka,
Veerappan, too shared Gods image,
But frequency of its vibrations is low because of
our unrighteous deeds!
The image of God is present in all living creatures.
How can all that breathe praise God, if there is no
image in them?
The image of Christ in creation gets blurred or
defaced when sin creeps into our being;
No doubt pollution is sin and is the wilful
defacement of Christs image in creation.
If everything was created in and through Him,
how can we deny Christs presence in creation?
The whole creation is groaning to share the liberty
(image) of the children of God.
In the sacramentality of Creation, the image of
God in nature is the key to human wellness;
It is to be renewed daily through kenosis, love,
sharing, and above all the renewal of the mind.
In an I-Thou relationship, the image of God
makes a visible appearance.
In the very talk about satyam (truth), sivam
(order) and sundaram(beauty), the image comes
alive.
O Image of God, you are a revealed mystery in the
whole creation.
Conversations emerging from the above
spiritual dialogue:
Response-1: Editor: ZV
Thanks for the 'Spiritual Dialogue' Thanks for
immortalising 'X' through your poetical imagery. I
shall change this into friend for avoiding
problems.
"The image of God is shared by all of Gods
creation.........
The image of God is present in all living
creatures."
These lines may cause problem. Pope Francis,
recently, got into a problem for suggesting
'all of Gods creatures can make it to heaven or
paradise'. You and I may get into serious trouble
with theologians for publishing this. It is good that
10

we are both retired. It may be taking ecospirituality to another level!


Response from the Author: 1
Thanks. If you say that everything was created
"through the logos Christ", how can you deny the
fact that "creation belongs to the very being of
God". The sacramentality of creation should not
negate the very idea. In Ps.66:4, we read All the
earth worships thee; they sing praise to thee, sing
praises to thy name. How can the earth praise the
creator, if there is no sparks of divine image in it?
You may raise it for a debate!
You are free to change X to" Adam" under
inverted comas.
I am glad that you like my spontaneous writing!
Response-2, Editor: ZV
Yes, indeed: one cannot deny facts. But the
question is what is fact, what is truth? It is an age
old question. Religions have put words into God's
mouth and then wrote: 'God spoke to......' This has
been the problem from the beginning. God has
been saying, 'Not in My Name.' Do we hear this?
This word is not that Word that was there in the
beginning.......' And which is there now and for ever
and ever in the depth of our being.

Finding our identity in


Christ amidst competing
cultures
Mrs. Minu Sherry,
Midlands
'You are what you eat' is a
phrase popularised by the
television presenter and
writer, Gillian McKeith.
In many ways the same
principle applies to our thought process too, we are
who we think we are. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, apostle
Paul writes "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is
a new creation: the old has gone, the new has
come!"
Finding our worth in the midst of conflicting
cultures as a Diaspora community is a big deal for
most of us. It's no surprise that our identities or the
ideologies that define who we are evolve/change
during the course of one's life. This can be so
overwhelming for many, yet very crucial and
powerful process that brings transformation in us.
An interesting character in the Bible, Moses, is a
powerful example of an ordinary Jewish baby born
into the world of suffering, yet privileged to be
bought up in the luxury of Egyptian palace, facing
identity crisis and torn between his people and his
adopted people. Moses knew that the treasures of
Egypt awaited him, but the burden that 'I AM'
placed on his heart for his people was so great that
he chose to forsake them all to yield to the calling
of Jehovah. Its profound to step into Moses' shoes
for a moment to identify the intense struggle that
he underwent trying to 'fit in' with the Egyptian
culture and every mind set the big Empire had to
offer. Having been raised as a baby in the bosom of
his birth mother and cared by Miriam and Aaron,
Moses knew that his family belonged to the place
where his adopted parents despised. Despite all the
overwhelming experience, he pursued to obey his
calling. Trying to find his worth among his
brethren, he took matters to his own hands, ended
up killing an Egyptian, ran to the wilderness,
confused, afraid and angry that he messed up
everything in his life.
When Moses thought God had given up on him,
God steps in. God had to retrain Moses for 40 years
in the desert to undo the harm the Egyptian
11

philosophies had taught him. Moses had to accept


and confess that he is of slow speech and tongue.

Not Understanding the


Other
Dr. Zac Varghese, London

He had to know who the God of Abraham, the God


of Isaac and the God of Jacob is. When Moses
owned up his past failures and acknowledged the
God of his fathers, he found his true worth, true
identity hidden in 'I AM'. Moses was 80 years when
he got the courage to face up to his 'giant' and
realise how mighty his God is. The transformation
was profound in his life that ' The LORD would
speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a
friend'. There isn't a blessing beyond that, to be
called as the Lord's friend.
As children of God, who called us to be partakers
of His glory through Jesus Christ His son, we have
every right to live in the fullness of joy of our
salvation. Yet many time we succumb to the
pressures around us, weighed down by the
expectations our family, friends, community and
colleagues, trying to 'fit in' so we may be accepted
and happy. Our self-worth is based on the people
around us instead of the 'One' who called us. If only
we could realise the price God paid on the cross for
each one of our lives, we could look into the
situations around us and say 'I am worthy to
receive His love, not because of who I am, but
because of who He is'. Our life is hidden in Christ,
to bring glory to His name and we are precious and
valuable because the Blood of Christ is so worthy.
Finally, the Bible says In all thy ways
acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy
paths. Proverbs 3:6
Amen

I recently heard a theological professor saying that


it is a fundamental human right not to be
understood. This statement caused me concern, as
he was talking in the context of interfaith dialogue.
In a bestselling book, The Seven Habits of Highly
Effective People, Peter Covey states the fifth habit
as seek first to understand then to be understood.
Therefore, understanding the other or others is
fundamental to our communitarian living, and
following the kingdom values and concepts.

Communication is the most important skill in life;


we spend years learning how to read, write and
speak. But what about listening? What training do
we seek to listen carefully and respectfully with an
I-Thou attitude? Listening enables us to
understand the other person and build a
relationship. This listening is the first step in our
relationship with God and our spiritual journey
with Him. Listening is what we are expected to do
while walking with God. Psalmists advice is
significant in this context: be still, and know that I
am God.
If we are like most people, we probably seek first to
be heard and understood; we want to get our point
across first. And in doing so, we may ignore the
other person completely; we may pretend that we
are listening, but selectively hear only certain parts
of the conversation or attentively focus only on the
comfortable words that we are familiar with, but
miss the whole meaning entirely. We listen to what
we want to hear and blot out the rest. Why does
this happen? We listen to ourselves, an internal
conversation, as we prepare in our mind what we
are going to say, the questions we are going to ask,
etc. We check what we hear against our knowledge,
prejudice, background, and see how it measures
12

up. And consequently, we decide prematurely what


the other person thinks before s/he finishes
communicating. There is even a tendency to stop
the other person finishing a sentence by saying, I
know where you are coming from. This is a blunt
and arrogant conversation stopper.
Krishnamurti1 was a great communicator, when he
spoke people silently listened, he had an immense
presence; he suggested the need for creative
emptiness in listening to others. He wrote, When
the mind is creatively emptynot when it is
positively directing there is reality. All great
discoveries are born in this creative emptiness and
there can only be creative emptiness when selfcontradiction ceases. This creative emptiness is
the silence of the mind, and we need this silence to
listen to the still small voice of God. We need to
understand God first through Gods grace and
make others understand God through us, our
lifestyles with the kingdom values. We also have
opportunities to understand God through others
around us, nature and many other means. Not to
understand others is pride, arrogance and
believing in the self-sufficiency in one self; but
man is not an island. Humility and self-emptying
is part of understanding the other. How can one
understand the whole reality when one is only
concerned about oneself? Being confounded
within the negativity of self-centredness, how can
one reach out to that which is infinite? It is from
the known that the unknown is realised. In our
Christian understanding, it is by knowing Jesus the
Christ that we have glimpses of the infinite love
and glory of the creator God who is beyond all
human wisdom and understanding. He is indeed
the more, more than anything one can imagine.
This raises an interesting question, what is our
right relationship with the world, the world outside
ourselves? This relationship is entirely based on
loving our neighbours as ourselves. Then how do
we love our neighbour and strangers without living
within the lives of them? The otherness of the other
will be removed by our understanding of the other.
The minute, insignificant, part and personality of
the individual is not the whole reality, but to
understand the whole, the part or parts should
interact with the other parts; it is in understanding
others, the whole reality is comprehended.
Kirshnamurti1 said, We should not use the word
individual at all, or the word mine and yours they
have no meaning, fundamentally. I am the result of

my father and my mother and the environmental


influence of the country and society. This
interdependence is important in our everyday
living and understanding the other is part of our
identity. We should learn to move from selfcentredness to other-centeredness. It is in this
process, we will be understood in our
understanding of the other. What the Indian
mystic, Sri Aurobindo2, said is also relevant in this
context: A solitary salvation leaving the world to
its fate is almost distasteful.

To illustrate this further let me quote a story from


Jonathan Sacks recent book, Not in Gods Name.3
Two friends were walking in the jungle when they
hear the roar of a lion. The first start thinking of
places they can hide. The second puts on his
running shoes. The first says, what are you
thinking of? You cannot run faster than the lion.
The second replies, I dont need to run faster than
the lion, I just need to run faster than you. In this
story, the first man thinks of saving both him and
his friend. The second one is thinking of saving
himself at the expense of his friend. It is a question
of survival at the cost of the life of ones friend. The
reality is that nothing can be saved unless
everything is saved. Therefore, Sri Aurobindo is
right in thinking that A solitary salvation leaving
the world to its fate was almost distasteful. Hence,
is it a fundamental human right not to understand
the other?
Jonathan Sacks3, a great Jewish scholar of modern
times, says the central question of Genesis is: are
human beings friends or strangers, brothers or
others? It is the attitude of otherness which causes
most of the sibling rivalries in the Genesis
narratives. These narratives also demonstrate the
importance of listening and understanding the
other people. He concludes his analysis of Genesis
13

this way: It tells us that if only we were to listen


closely to the voice of the other, we would find
beneath the skin we are brothers and sisters,
members of the human family under the
parenthood of God. When, others become brothers
and conflict is transformed into conciliation, we
have begun the journey to the society-as-a-family,
and the redemptive drama can begin. We see this
recognition of the stranger as the brother in the
story of the Good Samaritan. Therefore, it is
fundamentally important to understand the other
and accept him/her as brother or sister for our
survival. In the context of an expanding human
population and shrinking resources, consideration
of the other and understanding the other is an
existential reality. We need to move from beingfor-it-self to being-for-others. It is not survival of
the fittest anymore and at any cost; it is the survival
of everyone as the children of one God through the
way of the Cross. Being-with-others is not enough
anymore for building a community. Human
solidarity, recovering humanity and hospitality is
at the centre of the attitude of being-for-others. It
is not just existential philosophy anymore; it
should become our everyday theology of liturgy
after the liturgy.
It is good to have a deeper understanding of the
theology of the other in the book of Genesis when
we prepare ourselves for expressing our gratitude
to God on the Diaspora Sunday in November. This
theme was greatly emphasised in the talks given by
both Theodosius Thirumeni and Theethos
Thirumeni during the 33rd Mar Thoma Family
conference in Europe at Yarnfiled. This theology is
so simple: faith is a God-given and God-guided
friendship, and friendship is living within the life
of the other as in the preichoresis, indwelling, and
differentiated unity of the Trinity. In the Gospel of
St. John, faith and indwelling are brought so close
together as to be virtually identical. When
Abraham was faced with the crisis of Sarahs death
and the need to find a burial place, he realised that
I am stranger and a temporary resident amongst
you (Genesis 23:4). Abraham and Moses knew
what it is to be a stranger in other peoples
territory. Moses even gives his son the name,
Gershom, meaning I was a stranger in the strange
land. Our Diaspora history and its memory is good
in recognising the importance of changing our
relationship with others and changing into
brotherhood and sisterhood. It is therapeutic to
realise in our current affluence to think that we

were once on the other side of the dividing line.


This would help us to appreciate those human
beings who are outside the Mar Thoma fraternity
are also children of God. Genesis teaches us that
people outside the Abrahamic covenantal
relationship (Hagar, Ishmael and Esau) are also
under Gods loving care and blessing. This
understanding is helpful in our appreciation and
dialogue with other faith communities. It is in
reaching out and understanding the other we
establish the kingdom values. It is for this God has
created us in His image and likeness.
References:
1. J. Krishnamurti, Ojai talks, 1947
2. Sri Aurobindo, Satperm, The Mothers Institute
of Research, Delhi and Mira Aditi, Mysore, 2003.
3. Jonathan Sacks, Not in Gods Name, Hodder
and Stoughton, 2015.

God became man that we might be made


god - Athanasius

14

Conversation Corner
This is a new feature of the Mar Thoma ECHO; it
emerged from the recent readers survey that our
readers would like to see an opportunity to raise
comments and questions relating to issues, which
are of concern to them. You have the freedom to
raise questions or make comments, which we shall
try to answer with the help of people who may like
to respond and help us. Communication is the
heart beat of the community and indeed this is a
way of making our views known to others and also
an opportunity to listen and feel the pulse. We do
hope that you will make use of this corner.
One of the issues bothering everyone in Europe is
the refugee crisis emerging form the violence in
Iraq and Syria. This kind of displacement of people
and creating refugee Diaspora is not new. We saw
this in India, immediately after the Indian
Independence in 1947; we had it in Europe in
nineteen thirties and forties; we saw it again
during the Communist expansion in the Eastern
Europe. These sorts of displacement have a very
long history and now it is our responsibility to
respond to this human predicament. God raised a
question to Cain in Genesis chapter 4: Where is
Abel, your brother? I do not know, he replied.
Am I my brothers keeper?

All by itself, true sharing can


transform the world. This refers not
only to the sharing of the physical
objects, but especially to the sharing
of the wisdom and the creators light.
(Kabbalah)

Question:
Does this story of Cain and Abel describe the
origin, development and consequence of human
violence? In the context of present crisis, what is
your answer to this question?
Please send your responses to the ECHO Editorial
Board(compe.echo@gmail.com)

15

News & Reports


Death, Renewal & Revival
The 33rd UK & Europe
Conference started on Friday the
21st of August at 2pm and closed
on Sunday the 23rd of August at
4:30. In those 50 and hours,
many lives were transformed
and touched by Gods Holy Spirit
and His presence being felt
among the adults, the youth and
the children

33, the year that our Lord was crucified. Theethos


Thirumeni challenged us with the opening words in
his session I want us to have a death experience to
give up the gods in our lives so that we may reflect
the image of the True God in our lives! What a
fantastic start to the theme Whose Image do we
reflect? Christ versus the gods of our life!

Our leaders were


Adult - The Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Theethos,
Diocesan Bishop for Mumbai.
Youth - Jose Philip, Regional Director for
RZIM (ages 16-25) supported by Isaac Samuel
(ages 13-15) from the St. Thomas MTC, Bristol.
Children -Shija Samuel (ages 8-12) & Neena
Abraham (ages 4-7) from the St. Thomas MTC,
Bristol.
All of this overseen by our Diocesan Bishop, The
Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius

Rev. Jose Punamadam welcomed


one and all to the Conference
reminding everyone to reflect,
study and be in fellowship and not
just look into the mirror to see
ourselves but check if we reflect
Gods image!

Our beloved Theodosius Thirumeni, presided the


blessed conference stating that it was the first time
that he has seen a conference theme with a
question mark. Thirumeni formally inaugurated
the conference challenging everyone to ask who
our gods were and do we really worship the true
& living God?

16

Summary of the Adult Sessions


Having opened with asking
all of us to go through a
death experience,
Theethos Thirumeni spoke
in the power of the Holy
Spirit, asking each of us to
open our hearts to the
transformation to receive
the one True God in whose
image we are all made. Our choices define who we
are.
So, he pointed us to three questions for realisation
Who am I, Where do I belong and what am I
living for? Once we start truly seeking the answers,
we will be led to repentance. We never leave space
for God, we are always trying to control Permit
God to edit life so that we are deconstructed for
transformation.
The Kingdom is the motive, Christ is the model and
the Cross is the way. He brought to life these three
key statements through the story of Zacchaeus. He
pointed out that Zacchaeus disability was not that
he was short, but that he did not have God in his
life. His life was filled with gods and in Zacchaeus
case it was power and money. Likewise, we are all
disabled because we do not have God in our life
because the gods of work, power, corruption,
money, etc. take over our lives.
There is a vast difference between look like and be
like. Our potential is to realise what our image is
in God. Daniel and his friends even had their
names changed to mean different things but the
image they reflected was that of the living God.
Our faith and lifestyle need to go hand in hand
because sin fascinates but finally assassinates.
Our faith and lifestyle need to go hand in
hand because sin fascinates but finally
assassinates.
The challenges of living a reflected image of God,
because of living in a hyper connected world, with
ideas, people, goods & services moving across the
world where information is easily available at the
touch of our finger tips, are many. We are selfish
with a culture of accumulation without
consideration for the many and culture of
elimination where we exclude the many. We are

exercising power over others. We are driving


towards a single, mono-culture.
We are
assimilating many cultures into one making it a
melting pot of values and morals while threatening
the diversity and uniqueness of humankind.
In this process we are distorting moral values.
Wealth is considered the supreme power versus an
Almighty God. Loving service to other is being

replaced with profit for oneself. Respect for all is


being replaced with respect for the wealthy &
powerful, instead of the liberation of captives, we
are creating debt slavery for the poor and the
sanctity of the unity of families is being replaced by
broken families.

Women today are a commodity and reduced to


objects. We have gone from being spiritual beings
to sensual beings. He gave the example of a
daughter who became a prostitute to pay for her
mothers hospital fees. Are we so uncaring that we
make our mothers & daughters prostitutes? We
forget that the body is the temple of the living God.
And today for us it is Prayer time in direct
competition with prime time!!
In treating the world as a machine, we have
exploited it for instrumental value versus realising
its intrinsic value. There we have the groaning of
the environment, groaning of people, groaning of
17

children, the groaning of the family and the


emptiness of life groaning in each of our hearts!
To fill this emptiness, we need to seek His
Kingdom first and His righteousness. Giving the
example of the creation story he asked where is
God in my life? But what exactly is the Kingdom of
God? Romans 14:17 says that the kingdom of God
is not eating and drinking but righteousness,
peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. He contrasted
between the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-26)
and the fruits of the flesh (Galatians 5: 19-21).
Righteousness is about having the right
relationship with each other, with our spouses,
with our children, with the people in the world,
with the world (including the environment) in the
complete understanding that God is the creator.
He concluded by saying that God will bring us to a
new heaven and a new earth. We are partners with
Christ and co-workers with Christ.

Question Time facilitated by our own John


Dimbleby Thomas had an able set of panellists
comprising of Theodosius Thirumeni, Theethos
Thirumeni, Rev. Dr. T.J. Thomas, Pushpa
Punamadam Kochamma, Dr. George Mathew and
Dr. Zac Varghese. There were some very deep
questions around liturgy and the identity of the
Mar Thoma church into the future.
The devotions for all the sessions were led by the
Achens and a tradition when St. Johns runs the
conference is to have one worship session led by
the Kochammas. What a blessing our Achens &
Kochammas are!!
The testimony session was an amazing and moving
experience which touched the lives of many people.
A number of people stood up and witnessed the
power of God in their lives. It was led by Alexander
Tharakan achen.

The above reduced synopsis will not do justice to


the Holy Spirit filled talks by Theethos Thirumeni,
so please visit the following You Tube links.
Talk 1 - https://youtu.be/bDrTZNYwSS0; Talk 2 https://youtu.be/BQuW_x3rRlo;
Talk 3 - https://youtu.be/8AgHJ2stvrY; Talk by
Jose Philip to Adults https://youtu.be/AJjtT3Z650M

18

Youth
The youth (there were a 100 of them) were blessed
to have 2 fantastic speakers to lead them for this
years Family Conference.
They were Jose Philip and
Isaac
Samuel.
The
speakers touched on a
number of key issues
related to the theme
during the 3 days and
these included messages
on a very personal level.
Topics were who are we &
how are we sure of this?,
Have we accepted Christs
invitation and The idols of our lives.
The core message was in recognising our value as
God's children and the challenges in living out this
identity in the real world. Through audio visual
presentations, scriptures and messages the youth
were alerted to the subtle traps in today's world
that can lure them away from serving God whole
heartedly.
The youth discussions revealed hearts that
acknowledge biblical values but also their own
struggles and dilemmas in living up to this. It was
evident that God was touching these young hearts
as some of the youth made commitments through
quiet reflections whereas others were able to make
a public stand by coming forward to receive prayer.
The youths were split up into small groups to
discuss these topics further. They were aided with
mentors for each group who provided support to
the youths in their groups for the 3 days. A panel
discussion was then conducted on the topic on how
to make faith personal to each of us in a changing
secular world. The panellists included the 2
speakers and Dr. Jansen Jacob, a scientist by
profession and a strong believer. Science and the
influence of other religions were discussed in this

among other things. This session proved highly


enlightening to many of the youths who stayed
back after the session ended, to ask further
questions to our panellists.
On the final day, a session titled Grill a Christian
was organised and during this session the youths
were asked to send in questions to an online portal
where others could like or dislike questions and
questions were answered by our 2 panellists based
on the popularity of each question. This again
proved to be a highly informative session as several
meaningful questions were asked and answered.
After the conference, the youth had an interesting
set of discussions and I am told that one poor soul

who picked up the thread the next day saw close


to 3000 messages which were Q&A between the
youth! Praise God!! The Q&A continues.

19

Children
Sessions
for
children
in the age
group 312 years
were
conducted
in parallel to those for the adults. The 3-7 year
olds were led by Neena Ann Jacob and that of the
8-12 year olds were led by Shija Isaac. We had 30
and 52 children in the respective age groups. The
children had fun singing action songs during the
common Praise and worship sessions after which
they were split up into the 2 separate age groups
to cater to their needs.
During the
group sessions
the 8-12 year
olds had
discussions on
the topic
Whose image
do we reflect
as well as being
shown thought
provoking
videos to make the topic relevant and real to
them. The younger children were given activities
like puzzles, craft and were shown videos to make
the topic relevant to their young minds.
We believe at
this conference
we were able to
challenge their
understanding
of the image
they reflect, as
well as having
some fun with
friends
and
family.
All the
children
were
involved
in
decorating and personalising a wooden cross that
they took away home with them to remind them
about this conference, and what they learnt here.

Fun & Games too!!


The first day had the traditional showcase of

talent from the various parishes and


congregations!! The talent show demanded that
the Mar Thoma Church either enter the X factor
or at least have one of its own! It was simply
amazing the efforts people took especially the
youth. Some parishes & congregations displayed
Mollywood skills with skits that struck home
with a balanced combination of humour and
serious messages. The youth put together dances
& choreographies
that obviously
made their
parents proud
and their churches
too!! What grace!!
Well, to say the
least we are a competitive bunch whether it was
for badminton, treasure hunt or musical chairs!!
Take a guess who won the musical chairs?
Hmm...

20

The last day came to a close with the Carmel


Marthoma Church, Liverpool winning the
bragging rights as champions of the Quiz
Competition in the
run up to the Family
Conference. And so
did two families
from the same
church who won the
individual prizes in
1st & 2nd place. Well
done, Carmel!

We as a church would like to thank all the


volunteers who gave all their time and effort to
minister to the needs of the 450+ delegates,
without whose dedication and commitment these

sessions would not have been possible. And all


the churches for the prayerful support and
enthusiasm in making this a blessed conference.
Overall, the conference was an uplifting spiritual
experience and everyone felt the presence of our
Lord felt their lives had been touched. The St.
Johns Mar Thoma church, who were the host,
had been praying for a year every Sunday and in
smaller groups that the Lord will bring those
whose lives He needed to touch to the conference
and that we will leave the conference in the
strength of the Holy Spirit. We believe the Lord
heard our prayers!

St. Johns as a church decided that the offertory


collected at the Sunday Service would be given to
the Navjeevan project which is primarily engaged
in rehabilitating the children of women working

in the red-light areas in Mumbai. Over the years


Navjeevan gradually stepped up its involvement
and today has assumed total responsibility for the
education and upkeep of a number of children in
the Navjeevan Village. This was announced the
previous day.
The cash machine onsite at Yarnfield ran out of
money and the offertory bags were heaving with
3041 (~Rs. 300,000)! A huge thank you to the
generosity of the UK Mar Thoma churches!!
The Conference core committee consisted of Jose
Punamadam Achen, Suresh Thalikallumkal, Saji
Varghese, Samuel Daniel, David Philip and the
convenor, Isaac George.

Here is
praying for a
death experience to the gods of our life, to fill the
void in our hearts that only the true God, our Lord
& Saviour Jesus Christ can fill.

Feedback from one of the youth


I truly felt the power of God through the sessions
as our youth speaker definitely made me have
a new perception on God and develop my faith.
Yesterday, I also felt the presence of the
Holy Spirit when I got home as all my family
was at my home and the Holy Spirit spoke to me
and asked me to pray. I felt the power of prayer
throughout the whole conference and praise God
for giving us such a blessed time!

21

Feedback from one of the adults


I thought I would write to give some feedback on
the Conference. Both my wife and I were really
blessed by this Family Conference, being our very
first. Thirumeni's talks were so inspiring; he
taught us how to make changes in our lives (to
reflect God's image). If there are any links to the
video-taped teachings at this Conference by
Thirumeni, please let us know. I thank you and
your committee for your excellent organisational
skills in bringing this large conference together so
successfully. We thoroughly enjoyed it and look
forward to next year.
Would it be possible for you to ask the relevant
person in your church to send us application
forms to join the Hounslow church as members?
Though we are Marthomites, we have yet to join
in UK.
Anyone wanting to join a Mar Thoma Parish
look for Mar Thoma church web sites or write to
ECHO <compe.echo@gmail.com>

34th Mar Thoma Family


conference-Europe
26th-28th August 2016
Hayes Conference Centre, Derbyshire, DE55 1AU
Preserving the Timeless While Adapting to
the Times.
The Sinai, MT Church, North London together
with All Saints MT Church Peterborough have
accepted the responsibility to host the 34th Mar
Thoma family conference.
The initial planning has started. By the grace of
God, we have a beautiful theme and very
competent speakers to enlighten us. The
preparation and nourishment for the conference is
entirely based on a staple diet of PASTA, which is
praying, assessing, supporting, thinking and
articulating. Under the theme of the conference we
will be exploring the timeless truth, our Mar
Thoma faith formulations, and the challenges
facing Mar Thoma Diaspora Christians in pluralist
societies and in various post-modern life
situations, and continuing the reformation under
the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Christian faith is timeless, God-given and


grace-driven, but its intellectual expressions must
change with the passage of time because our
thoughts forms change. The presuppositions and
suppositions of one age are different from those of
another. The practical aspect of Christian life is
not the same as that which was proposed and
practiced at the Pentecost, a thousand years ago
even before the Second World War or at the
beginning of the 21st century. Care must be taken
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to acculturate the essential Christian faith into the


language and thought forms of our present age and
younger generations without in anyway losing its
core beliefs and fundamental faith these contain.
In this effort, equally great care must be taken not
to dilute the Christian faith with the passing
fashions of a particular age, so that the cutting edge
the Christian faith is not lost. Is something true
because it is ancient and traditional? Without
doubt, great truths were enunciated in the Bible,
other Holy Scriptures, and in ancient times in
many places through many holy people and
traditions. But of course great truths can also be
revealed under the grace of God now and in the
future.
May the Holy Spirit help us to Preserve the
Timeless While Adapting to the Times.
Early registration from now on will help us to
organise this conference to bring out the maximum
possible effect and enjoyment. Please help us with
your prayers and advice.

1st Mar Thoma Youth


Conference
Rennie Philip, Carmel MTC, Liverpool
By the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
the 1st Mar Thoma Youth Conference of Europe was
conducted successfully. Carmel Mar Thoma Youth
Fellowship, Liverpool was the host to this blessed
event, and it took place at the Cefn Lea Conference
and Holiday Park in Newtown, Wales from the 26th
to 28th June 2015. The theme for the conference,
Soar on Wings like Eagles, was based on Isaiah
40:31: but those who hope in the Lord will renew
their strength. They will soar on wings like
eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they
will walk and not be faint. The subject matters
explored were very relevant for the youths of this
generation and was easy to relate to.
This 3 day conference had over 125 delegates
involving the participation of youths from 9
different Mar Thoma parishes and congregation
across Europe. The conference was blessed with
the presence of Rev Jameson K. from Dublin,
Ireland, as a speaker along with the well renowned
authors and missionaries Rod Gilbert and Ruthie
Gilbert. Rev Dr Thomas Philips and Family, Rev
Vinoj Varghese and Family, Rev Roney Cheriyan
and Family, Pushpa J Punamadam Kochamma,
along with several other adult members also
participated and supported the conference for its
smooth running.
The main talks for the conference were held on the

second day. Rev Jameson focused on the liturgical


aspects of the theme and provided an in-depth
biblical message. The messages given by Rod and
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Ruthie focused more on the social aspects faced by


todays youth and included stories and experiences
from their ministry in Asia. The Q&A sessions with
Rod and Ruthie were highly beneficial for the
youths as they had the opportunity to express their
doubts and ask questions which they have
encountered in their lives.
The worship sessions led by Mr Isaac George and
teams consisting of youths from St Johns MTC
Hounslow and Carmel MTC Liverpool, were
especially memorable and were most valued
amongst the youths. Their passion and enthusiasm
provided an energetic enthusiasm throughout the
conference.
Along with the main talks and singing sessions, the
other programmes consisted of worship sessions
led by various parishes, split- group sessions,
group activities, talent night programmes by
different churches, games sessions and a testimony
session. The testimony session proved to be one of
the most important sessions as it allowed the
personal dedication and commitment of over 30
young people to the Lord for the first time and
rededication of their lives by many in order to be in
a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus. The youth
members were able to enjoy, bonding, and take
away significant life lessons through the various
programmes that took place over the 3 days.

Altar Boys & Covenant


Girls: Preparing the
Future Leaders of the
Church
Rev. Dennis Abraham, Convener*
The Altar Boys & Covenant Girls is a
ministry that has started in conjunction with the
Silver Jubilee of the Diocese of North America &
Europe of the Mar Thoma Church. The program is
a vision of our Diocesan Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr.
Geevarghese Mar Theodosius Episcopa. The goal
of this ministry is to encourage our children and
youths to (a) learn more about our church, faith,
heritage, tradition, (b) to grow spiritually, and (c)
to be well equipped to be a leader in the church.
Those who are interested in becoming an
Altar Boys or Covenant Girl should be above 12
years of age, and should be a full communicant
member of the church, and be committed to learn
and serve for at least 3 years. They should be
willing to attend the training programs, which take
place once a year. This is for a total of 3 years (a
total of 3 training programs according to the
required syllabus, over the period of 3 years). The
vicar serves as a mentor for them during the three
years, and helps train them on the local parish
level, so that they are ready to attend the next step
in training. They are expected to come to church at
least 30 minutes early, in order to attend the
training conducted regularly by the vicar. The
parish vicar delegates the responsibilities and can
decide on the dress code.
Once the Altar Boys & Covenant Girls have
gone through at least one training class, they are
able to participate in the Altar Boys & Covenant
Girls dedication service in their church (along with
signing pledge form). Once they are dedicated,
they are able to help out with the various needs of
the parish, in consultation with the parish vicar.
Completion of three years of training is required in
order for them to be officially recognized as an
Altar Boy or Covenant Girl of the Diocese (a
certificate will be issued by the Diocese after
successful completion).

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Altar Boys
Assist the Achens during the various
sacraments and services.
Greeting to Parishioners.
Help with the arrangements/preparations
on the Madbaha and the sanctuary.
Help
with
the
worship
service
arrangements as directed by the vicar.
Participation in the Thooyaba (preparatory
service).
Learn faith & practices of the church.
Lay Ministry.
Covenant Girls
Greeting to Parishioners.
Help with the arrangements in the
sanctuary, and for the worship service.
Participation in the Thooyaba (preparatory
service).
Learn faith & practices of the church.
Lay Ministry.

May this be a fruitful ministry, which further the


building up of the Holy Church and the extension
of Gods kingdom.
*Rev. Dennis Abraham is the Youth Chaplain
of the South East Region, of the Diocese.
Achen was born and brought up in New York,
and a member of St. John's MTC. He
completed his B.A.
in Psychology from Hofstra University in
2006, and completed his Bachelor's in Divinity
at the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary,
Kottayam, and was ordained in 2011. Achen
served in
Sehion MTC
& St. Peter's
MTC,
Venmony
(Kerala)
before
coming to
Philadelphia.

The Vision of this Ministry


The vision and goal of this ministry is to
encourage, build up and develop future leaders
and mentors in the church. This is also preparing
them for them to leading in bible studies in the
colleges where they attend (which can be done in
arrangement with the local parish vicar/Youth
Chaplain) Also, they are expected to go to attend at
least three Leadership Conferences (upon reaching
age 21), and attend the LEAD classes, and take
active leadership in the parish so that they can also
be recognized as an official leader and resource
person of the church.
This ministry involves much prayer and
commitment. The parents, family, friends, and
parishes are asked to encourage their youths for
this special ministry, and foster their leadership in
the parishes. It is the hope that their service to the
parish will lead to an orderly and meaningful
worship experience, and also strengthen the faith
community as a whole.
The Altar Boys & Covenant Girls
Subcommittee of the Diocesan Council plans and
organizes this ministry. This consists of the
Diocesan Bishop, Diocesan Office Bearers,
Convener, & Regional Clergy Conveners.
Questions and/or suggestions are welcome.

25

Connecting Church-Based
Social Action and
Church Growth
The following is a report published by CTE in their
August Newsletter.
The 2014, 2012 and 2010 National Church and
Social Action Survey Reports show that churches
in the UK have responded significantly to the social
challenges in their communities. In 2014, it is
estimated that 1.1-1.4 million volunteers
participated in church-based social action in the
UK, touching millions of people through various
initiatives. The number of volunteer hours on
social action increased to 114.8m per annum. This
is an increase of 16.8% compared with 2012 and
59.4% compared with 2010. Funds given by UK
Church members that were spent on social action
initiatives increased to 393m in 2014. This is an
increase of 14.9% in two years and 36.5% in four
years. The average number of social action
initiatives undertaken by individual churches has
risen to 8.9. This represents an increase of 20.3%
compared with 2012 and 81.6% compared with
2014.
However, is all this effort helping to grow the
Church or is this just social work?
The leading two encouragements in the 2014 and
2012 Surveys were Community Involvement and
Attendance at Events/Growth. This is exciting
news for the Church as it shows that social action
is helping it connect to local communities and has
resulted in Church growth. Social action seems to
enable connection to people who are not at a place
where they would be interested in Alpha or
equivalent courses.
All social action initiatives have an effect on
church growth
Looking at responses to the question in the 2014
and 2012 surveys, Thinking of organised
activities of your church in the local community in
the last 12 months, how do your rate their
effectiveness in seeing people added to the
church?. Answers to the question could be; Poor,
OK, Good, Excellent. If we look at the responses to

Ok, Good and Excellent, ALL initiatives have


some effect on church growth, some a lot more
than others.
Some initiatives seem to consistently result in
church growth; Parents and toddlers, Caring for
elderly (apart from church members), Special
needs adults, Cafe open to public, Children's club up to age 11 (apart from church children's
ministry), Bereavement counselling (apart from
church members), Youth work - 12-18 (apart from
church youth ministry). Others seem to be sample
dependent.
One might be tempted then as a church leader to
just pick the most fruitful on average, but is that
the whole story? No: some churches running the
same social initiative respond with Poor; some
respond with Good and Excellent. What could be
the reasons for this?

Relationships, prayer and invitations are


important
To help answer this, in the 2014 survey, we asked
the additional question, What made the
difference between activities rated as 'good' or
'excellent' in seeing people added to the church
versus those rated 'poor' or 'OK'?. We listed some
factors that could be reasons and asked
respondents to tick all that applied as well as giving
a text box for other reasons. The leading factors
mentioned by 50% or more of the sample are:

We were able to build a long-term


relationship with people
We were able to spend time with
individuals
The initiative is regularly prayed for
The volunteers are welcoming
We invited people to other events

This is very encouraging as these behaviours point


to building good relationships evangelistic
gifting was well down the list of factors.

26

Photo Gallery

Parsonage dedication service of St.Peters Mar Thoma Church, which was held on 14/08/2015 by our Bishop
Rt. Revd.Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius

27