Thursday, April 26, 2018

Profile of FJK


Fr. Jerry Kurian is a priest of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church and an alumnus of the New Indian School, Kuwait, the Marthoma Residential School, Thiruvalla, S.B. College, Changanachery, UTC, Bangalore and GLTC, Chennai.  He is now the Vicar of the St. Basil Jacobite Church, Yelahanka, Director of Development projects and Vice President of the Youth of the Bangalore diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Church.

Jerry Kurian taught at the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Theological Seminary (MSOTS) for a period of five years before joining for his research and then taught in the United Theological College, Bangalore for six years.  He has many years of pastoral experience as well. He is a theological educator, public speaker, blogger, theatre enthusiast, preacher and leadership and life skills trainer.

His research interests include new media, the internet, public speaking, drama, film analysis, communication and mission, alternative media, alternative journalism, traditional media, social networking, blogs, communication and women's liberation and communication and climate change.

Fr. Jerry believes his calling is to teach and pastor towards an inclusive society where everyone will be a part of our spiritual expression and everyone will benefit from the liberative gospel of Jesus Christ. He believes Orthodox Christianity has many things to offer in the diverse ecumenical and religious environment of India. He affirms that proper Communication can lead to a just society.

He worked on the design and implementation of the UTC college web site @ http://utc.edu.in/  He also designed the UTC college blog @ http://www.utcbangalore.blogspot.in/ 


Publications, presentations and other work


Asia Communication Sunday worship order for the WACC Asia Communication Sunday booklet June, 2010
Presentation on ‘God’s providence and the youth in the church’ in Yercadu on July 24, 2010.
Meditations for Gurukul Daily Devotion 2011 submitted in October, 2010.
‘Rights of (Vulnerable) Children and the New Media: Challenges for the church in India’. Paper presented in the seminar on ‘Children and their rights: A Theological exploration’, Chennai on November 15-17, 2010.
‘Examining the claims of the Information Revolution: Social Revolution or Knowledge Capitalism’. Published in KCC magazine, November, 2010.
‘The woman and Jesus. A bible study on Luke 7: 36-50’. Presented for the NCCI workshop on ‘Daring to study scriptures publicly and sensually’ on 5-2-2011, Chennai. This was later published by NCCI.
‘The essence of Lent: Learning and struggling to bend our knees, mend our hearts, and lend our hands’. Published in CSI Life magazine, March, 2011.
 
Co-edited the WACC Asia Communication Sunday booklet June, 2011.
Poem/song on “Vulnerability in the midst of Climate Change”, p.8 in Asia Communication Sunday booklet, Communicating Climate Justice, WACC-AR, June 26, 2011.

Co-edited the Asia Communication Sunday booklet, 2011.
Bible study for the BTESSC-UTC workshop on “Online Training Techniques and Different Possibilities” on August 30, 2011.
“Media Ethics, the main line media and new (social) media: A case for alternative people’s journalism”- paper presented for the UTC alumni meeting in October, 2011.
Meditations for the Gurukul Daily Devotion, 2012, GLTC, Chennai, 2012, “Neighbourly Relations and Christian discipleship”, pp. 289-296.
Article on “Christ the Revolutionary” published in Assisi Magazine, February-March 2012, Vol.58, Issue 2, Assisi Ashram, Bharananganam, Kottayam, Kerala, pp. 20-22.
Presentation on “Bollywood and the Construction of Masculinities” in the WCC-SCMI gender training workshop on March 20, 2012 in UTC, Bangalore.

Article on “Alternative Media and Journalism as a framework for Communicating Peace” published in the Clark Journal Of Theology (Theological Reflections on Peace building), Vol. II. No. 1, January- June, 2012.
Article titled “The Church, Human Sexuality and Challenging the Unchallenged” in the Gurukul Journal of Theological Studies (Human Sexuality: Theological and Biblical Reflections), Vol XXIII, No. 2, June, 2012. This was published in December, 2012.
Presentation on “Forms of spirituality” to 50 ordained pastors from CSI Rayalaseema and Nandyal Dioceses on July 3, 2012 at Vishranthi Nilayam, Bangalore.
Presented a bible study on Genesis 4:3-9 titled “Am I the reason for the divide” (A bible study on the digital divide) for the SCMI Centenary Bible Study workshop on September 6-8, 2012. This was later published by the SCMI and released during its centenary celebrations.
UTC alumni refresher course presentation on “Lord Renew the Church: Begin From Me. Empowered by the Spirit of Renewal: People of God as the True Agents of Change. Internet as a catalyst for building an alternative community for church renewal” in October, 2012.
Class for youth of Mumbai diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church on November 16, 17 and 18, 2012 on “Who and what am I for God”.
Took sessions on “Media and Leadership” and “Cyber ethos and internet de-addiction” for the Fest Zoe 2012 (Ecumenical Youth Leadership Training Camp) with the theme Beyond Globalization, Youth Culture, Mission and Leadership on November 14, 15, 2012. It was conducted by the The CSI Department of Pastoral Concerns and the Department of Ecumenical Relations & Ecological Concerns in the CSI Synod Centre, Royapettah, Chennai.
Presented a paper on “The Internet and Alternative Media for Communicating Peace” for the Faculty Research Seminar in the UTC on November 28, 2012.
Recorded a Jacobite Syrian Orthodox worship liturgy cd in English on November 29, 30, 2012. The CD was released on May 5, 2013.
Did a presentation on “Christian Communication, internet and alternative Communication” and helped in the sessions on “Reporting and Editing” in the workshop on “Communicating Ecological Justice”, held at CSI Synod Guest House, from 3rd to 5th Dec 2012. It was conducted by WACC and the CSI Synod.
Took a session on “Exodus: A journey to Togetherness” for the youth of the Bangalore diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church on January 26, 2013.
“Lord Renew the Church: Begin From Me. Empowered by the Spirit of Renewal: People of God as the True Agents of Change. Internet as a catalyst for building an alternative community for church renewal” done for the UTC alumni refresher course was published in the latest issue of the Masihi Sevak, UTC.
Initiated the discussion for Dr. Joseph George’s faculty research seminar paper on “Changing patterns of Relationships in the Cyberage: Challenges and Directions for Ministry in India” on February 27, 2013.
Attended the NCCI sub committee meetings on March 6, 7, 2013 in Gurukul, Chennai. Apart from the Commission on Communication, was also nominated to the Centenary Celebrations sub committee to prepare a documentary on the NCCI.

Paper presented on “An Ecumenical View on Churches View of the Eucharist. A Critical Discussion” for theologians across India in the Ecumenical Christian Centre (ECC), Bangalore on May 15, 2013.
Presentation on “Church: The Sacramental Sign of Hope. The church and internet: Hope in the New Age” for the CSI Central Kerala Youth Pre Assembly in May, 2013.
Presentation on “Media values in India” to a study group from Edinburgh University in June, 2013.
Retreat for teachers of the CSI Institute of Technology, Nagercoil on July 8, 2013.
Presentation on “Women and Migration” for a CSI Synod programme in Vishranthi Nilayam, Bangalore in July, 2013.
Article on “The Internet and Alternate Media as Christian Communication” published in the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) review in July, 2013.
Skit direction and presentation for the National Council of Churches in India- World Council of Churches pre assembly seminar in Bangalore in August, 2013.
Presentation on “Blogs and writing” and “The Spirituality of writing” in the Writers’ workshop for pastors conducted by the United Basel Mission and UTC in Mumbai YMCA on September 16, 2013.
Scripted, directed and edited a documentary on the United Theological College, Bangalore in October, 2013. This was screened in the World Council of Churches Assemby in Busan, South Korea.
Part of the NCCI centenary documentary team working on a documentary for the NCCI.
Presentation on “Living with God in the Contemporary World” for the Tangkhul Christian Fellowship, Bangalore on November 1, 2013.
“Media, Culture and Religion: Alternative Media as a New Religious Expression in India.” Paper presented to the St. Olaf College, U.S. students in the Ecumenical Christian Centre, Whitefield, Bangalore on November 5, 2013.
“Christian perspective on media and youth advocacy for social change.” Paper presented to college students from all over India at the Student Christian Movement India Centre in Bangalore on November 15, 2013.
Paper on “Orkut, Facebook, Tumblr: What next?” presented for the National Ecumenical Youth Pre-assembly of the NCCI in Goa via video conference on Nov 18, 2013.
Chapter on “Media Ethics” in December, 2013 for Sunday school students of the Kottayam diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in their book for senior Sunday school students.
Presentation on “Atrocities against Women” in ECC, Bangalore on Feb, 2014.
Article on the Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas titled “Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas: The Equinox on which the Church rode three decades” published in the Malankara World Journal in March, 2014.

Paper presented on “Ecclesiology in the Cyber Age” in the NCCI seminar held in Bangalore on June 26, 2014.
Paper presented on “Informed Prodigy or Juvenile Criminal” in the National workshop on Crimes by Juveniles in India on July 30, 2014.
“Theatre as a pedagogical framework for theological education”. Faculty seminar presented on October 29, 2014.
"Media, Culture and Religion". Presentation in ECC for the St. Olaf Seminary students on November 6, 2014.
Main speaker for the District Youth Conference of the Marthoma Church in Bangalore on May 14-17, 2015.
Paper presented on “Media and Spirituality: A journey of the church into the lives of people”  on June 27, 2015 in the Marthoma Seminary, Kottayam, Kerala.
Paper presented on “Religion in the Market Place: The Changing environment of Women in the Church” in the National Seminar on Role of Women in the Christian Church: An ecumenical perspective, conducted by BTESSC and the MSOT seminary in the MSOTS, Ernakulam, Kerala on July 14, 2015.
Presentation made to St. Olaf students on "Media and Spirituality" on October 26, 2015 at the Ecumenical Christian Centre, Whitefield, Bangalore.

Main speaker for the Marthoma Church Regional Youth Conference, Delhi on November 10-13, 2015.

Produced and acted in the College play "The Nation of refugees" on December 3, 2015 in UTC.

Paper titled “Religion in the market place: The changing environment of women in the church” published in the Bangalore Theological Forum, Bangalore, Vol. XLVII, No.2, December, 2015.
Produced and acted in the play “The Nation of the Refugees” in an entire new location and format on March 4 and 5, 2016. 
Paper titled “Theatre as a pedagogical expression for theological education” published in the Hekamtho Theological Journal Vol 1, No. 2, MSOT Seminary, Ernakulam, Kerala in March, 2016.
Presented a paper on “The Theatrical expression of the Eucharist” in the National seminar for Theological Students in ECC, Whitefield, Bangalore on May 18, 2016.
Presented a paper on "Role of Media in Environmental Justice" in the National seminar on "Environmental Justice: Issues and Challenges." on July 6, 2016.
Took two sessions for the youth on the theme "Get up: Don't be afraid (Matthew 17:7)" at the International Youth Conference of the Assyrian Church of the East on July 22, 2016.
Presented a paper on "Maoists and Social Media" in the National seminar on "The Red Corridor and Maoism: Issues and Challenges" on August 19, 2016.
Took a session on "Women in the Church" for the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Bangalore diocese women's fellowship one day meeting on August 27, 2016.
Gave two talks on the theme "New Creation in Christ" for the first youth conference of the CSI Malabar diocese on September 12, 13, 2016 and took a session on Internet de-addiction on September 12, 2016.
Preached in the Naga Christian Fellowship Bangalore for their Power House service on September 25, 2016.
Presented a paper on "Transforming discipleship in a changing nation: Social media as a tool for ministering to the youth in church" for the UTC alumni refresher meeting on October 19, 2016.
Took a session on the Jacobite church, its faith and theology to a group from the University of Colombia, U.S. in January, 2017 at the St. Ignatius JSO Church, K.R. Puram, Bangalore.
Presentation on "Women in the Church" in the Jacobite Church Women's Conference held in May, 2017.
Conducting special youth worship in English  once every month from June, 2017 in St. Mary's JSO Cathedral Queen's Road, Bangalore. 

Completed a relic room which has the relic of St. Ignatius Elias III and a building (G+3) of close to 20,000 sq ft which includes a hall, class rooms and two badminton courts in the St. Ignatius JSO Church, K. R. Puram, Bangalore.

Speaker for the Family Conference of the St. George Jacobite Church, Al Ain held in November, 2017

Spoke to the international group from the Union Biblical Seminary on the Jacobite church, its faith and practices, in January, 2018.

VBS director for the Vacation Bible School of the St. Ignatius Jacobite Church, Dubai held in March, 2018.

VBS director for the Vacation Bible School of the St. George Jacobite Church, Al Ain held in April, 2018.

Working on a book on daily prayers and a book on weekly meditations.
 
Has been writing quite regularly in a personal blog on social, religious and cultural affairs @ www.jerryachensworld.blogspot.in


Pastoral duties
He is the Director of Diocese Development and Vice President of the Youth of the Bangalore diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Church. It involves co-ordinating and giving leadership to the ministerial activities of 8 churches in Bangalore and working to bring new programmes for the youth in church. He has also been taking sessions on “Communication in the family” for the pre-marriage counselling courses held by the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church diocese in Bangalore”. He conducts weddings in English for interested couples.

Phone: +91-9483966951
E mail: jerryachen@gmail.com 







                                                                         The Nation of Refugees

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Partnering with children to witness the birth of Christ this Christmas




St. Luke 2:12- This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.

The Santa Claus is coming to town lyrics is known in bits and pieces to many. It goes like this

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleepin'
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake

He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town


The lyrics of this popular song and the baby Jesus wrapped in bands of cloth in St. Luke 2:12 offer a different picture altogether during Christmas. Many a time we sing Christmas songs without thinking much about it and in this particular song poor St. Nicholas (Christmas Father) is made to look as some disciplinarian who checks whether children are good or bad before dropping off gifts for them. It is also a reminder of our own childhood when parents would force feed us with stories of some villain, thief or even crow coming and abducting us if we wouldn’t eat properly! 

It is interesting that adults use Christmas as an opportunity to discipline children when it should be a time when we look at what the young ones offer us for our spiritual revival. Jesus constantly reminds his disciples that they should become like children to enter the kingdom of God and today we are faced with the story of the baby Jesus to make that clear. Whereas in the Santa Claus song the children are told to be prepared and well behaved, in the bible story the shepherds are told about the birth of the Messiah as a child. After the announcement the shepherds are given a clue and a sign and told “You will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth…” After the big declaration of the birth of the Messiah the sign given to the shepherds is of the child wrapped in clothes. For a first time reader this is a big shift in the story. A shift from hope to hopelessness. But the shepherds were experts at their job and God tells the angel to inform them about the Messiah born as a child because God expects something more from them.

The shepherds also perhaps had something special about them. Apart from the fact that they did not mingle with the main stream it could also be that the shepherds knew the value of a baby wrapped in bands of cloth. The reason here could be that the sacrificial lamb meant for sacrifice was also what the shepherds tended and they were given much care and even wrapped in clothes at birth. Jesus as a sacrificial lamb is also steeped in symbolism. So the shepherds know the value of a babe wrapped in clothes. It is something that makes no sense for a new reader though.

When we look more deeply this has a lot of meaning. On the one hand it means that we should value children so much and give them a stake in what we do because the Messiah or savior comes to the world as a child. Honoring children is honoring the Messiah and his birth on earth. This is where we are found wanting. Violence, abuse, wars and deceit is practiced in the world because we have grown up to the level of adults who don’t listen to God anymore. The birth of the Messiah has brought in an era of peace but we are not willing to listen to the Messiah because the Messiah is a child now. This Christmas we should start listening to and respecting children because it will lead to a safer and peaceful world. Instead children are most affected in wars and violence around the world. They suffer most in all forms as they are not valued by adults.

This has to change for us to have a better world. Christmas is a sign of the time that we have to become like children and we have to take care of children. Christmas thus has to become a child oriented festival rather than an adult oriented one. A child oriented festival won’t have power, money and authority as the main foundations of the festival celebration but will have innocence, trust and belief as the main foundations. Christmas is a great time to become small like a child so that we gain entry into the presence of the Messiah and also into the kingdom of God.

Our Christmas services are far from child friendly and instead are complex rituals which have no space for children. They are expected to keep quiet and behave so that St. Nicholas will be good to them and so that they will get gifts from their family. More space can only be possible if we transform ourselves into children and witness the birth of Christ as a child. Maturity and experience will lead to us missing the event of the birth of Christ because it cannot be understood by us. This Christmas we can start first by treating our children at home properly. They need to be respected and valued so that we will see the birth of Christ through them. The partnership of the baby wrapped in clothes and the shepherds gave the world the news of the birth of Christ. This should now become the partnership between us and our children whereby we can again experience the birth of Christ in our midst. Amen.




Picture credit- www.yourhomechurch.org

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Gatecrashing Christmas




The Christmas season offers a variety of traditions for different churches like carols, songs, dinners, sending cards, lent, house visits, church services and fellowships. All traditions have a yearly plan for us and we know exactly what to do. So much so that Christ born is a definite event with no surprise and nothing new. People from other religions also join in to celebrate and it is a welcome sign that everyone is looking forward to Christmas every year.

But what if we had the opportunity to gatecrash Christmas this year? But why, one would ask? Let us take a look at two events which are associated with the advent and Christmas. The first one is in St. Luke 1:39-56 when Mary visits Elizabeth when she knows that Elizabeth is expecting a child. It is true that the baby inside Elizabeth leaps with joy but it is not said that Elizabeth was expecting Mary’s visit. Yet the two are so happy with each other’s presence and they express themselves fully in the happiness of the moment.

The second instance is in St. Luke 2:8-20 where we see the shepherds who are told by the angel that the Messiah is born. They have no idea who they are meeting other than what is said to them by the angel. They go and are in the presence of Mary and the baby. They then realise what they have witnessed and glorify God. In this case Mary had no idea who the shepherds were. The shepherds also had no idea who Mary and the baby Jesus were. Yet, they see each other and it goes off well. The gatecrashing moment led to great joy for Elizabeth and Mary and the shepherds and Mary and Jesus. It was not planned by all of them but they went along with it and it led to great and happy things.

Both the stories mentioned lead us to the concept of gatecrashing. Gatecrashing is when we go to a place uninvited. We usually won’t do it as we don’t know what the repercussions will be. And yet anyone who does it will feel so thrilled to do it. It can even sometimes be called unlawful depending on the type of programme. But nevertheless it will give us an emotion of great happiness and thrill, sometimes even better than other programmes that we attend on invitation.

This brings us to some things which we can look at during Christmas. Christmas is not an ‘upon invitation’ event which is open to a select few but it is what is open to anyone and if churches keep it as an “on invitation” event it is likely to be gatecrashed by the needy. This also teaches us that Christmas doesn’t belong only to Christians but to everyone because the salvation of Christ belongs to everyone. So there is no ‘one’ way or ‘the’ way to celebrate Christmas but several ways to celebrate it.  Christmas is open because Christ willed it so. The angel informing Mary and then informing the shepherds show a non-traditional way of messaging through which the angel chooses two sets of people who are insignificant to the traditional forms of celebrations in the society of their time. Christmas can be truly celebrated when we gatecrash, inspired by the Holy Spirit and led by angels into visiting houses where the elderly live, where we go places where forget cakes but even a meal is rare, where we go to where children are staring into the sky wondering why Christmas Father does not visit them when other apartment complexes and houses have loud music and celebration. 

Such gatecrashing also gives us the courage to do things we would otherwise not do. We simply would not pull ourselves up to do it. But gatecrashing Christmas means opening up the invitation for Christmas for everyone we know and being a part of the lives of others without them knowing before hand. This will make this season one heck of a gatecrash Christmas. We can definitely make it turn out as a time for us to gatecrash a house, a family, a church, or an individual just like Mary did to Elizabeth and just like the shepherds did to Mary and baby Jesus. May the bliss and grace of Christmas be upon us all. Amen. 




Picture credit: www.irishtimes.com

Friday, December 22, 2017

A reminder for Christmas









St. Matthew 2:1-12

It is the season of the birth of Christ and as we get into the festive mood let us also read the word of God and try to understand what the Christmas season should be for all of us. St. Matthew 2:1-12 tells the story of the magi or the wise people visiting Christ the Messiah. The wise people hear about the birth of the Messiah and they are out to meet the baby. They come to the palace of Herod because they think that Herod will know about this. But Herod has no idea and he himself calls upon his advisors and asks them about this. Herod learns from them that the place of birth is likely to be Bethlehem. He then sends the Magi to search for the Messiah and inform him as soon as they see him. 

Christmas is a time when we all remember the birth of Christ Jesus in our midst. It is also a reminder of the profound way in which God loves humans and all of God’s creation. But we are far away from the reality of God and in ways more than one we are always confused about God’s presence in our lives.

In the story of the birth of Christ found in St. Matthew 2 we see two realities of life. On the one hand were the wise people. They had some possessions and yet found that this was not enough for them to gain the happiness they were seeking. They hear about the birth of the Messiah and then take all they have and start their journey to meet the Messiah. 

The other reality of the story is King Herod, a rule unto himself, seeped in corruption and drunk in power. He has no plans to reform himself and neither is he looking for anything else because he thinks he has everything. There was a change of heart later in his life but this was not the case at the time of the story. Herod is not looking for any Messiah. Instead he is on the lookout for various kinds of amusements to keep him busy.

The two sides of the reality meet during the birth of the Messiah, Christ Jesus. In the meeting we have the opportunity to decide what kind of a Christmas we want to celebrate. For this we have to dissect the passage and come to understand what we can learn from it. Firstly, the birth of Christ signifies the coming down of God into the midst of humanity. It is such a humbling and yet powerful act by which God says to humanity that God loves us and will not let go of us, come what may. We can decide what we want to do because we have the freedom for that. But it is humbling for us to note that God who is so powerful can come down to us and be with us to suffer like us. The birth of the Messiah is a reminder for us that God loves us so much that God has become us so that we may become like him. This Christmas we should be reminded in all our tensions and problems, that God loves us beyond measure. Christmas is joy because we are told that whoever tries to exploit and isolate us, God will remain by our side in all God’s magnanimity. 

Secondly, the travel of the Magi shows us that humans are ever behind God and behind peace and happiness. This will never end and everyone who finds God will find peace and happiness. The magi were misled into thinking that the Messiah will be in the palace because the palace was the center of the kingdom. But they soon realise their mistake and carry on their journey following the star which leads them to their goal. Once they reach and witness the baby and his mother, they give all they have because it is lesser than what they have witnessed. Christmas reminds us that we have to journey to find Christ the Messiah. We cannot decide before hand where we will witness Christ. We will be led and we will be taken to places we have never thought of. This could be a manger or a cave or a road side place. All we have to be thinking about is to witness and worship Christ. We will be taken there and Christmas will be fulfilled.

Thirdly, the role of Herod is striking here. He is the King and the ruler who has power to decide who will live and die. This is his prerogative, so he thinks. But he is reminded that it is not the case. He has no idea who the Messiah is and where the Messiah will be born. He is completely at a loss for words and ideas. He realizes that he is the king but he does not know what is happening in his kingdom. Perhaps if he was humble enough, he would have known why. Herod is a reminder for us that we do not own anything. God is the owner of everything and we are care takers of all that God gives to us. The moment we feel that we are owners, we lose everything and become irrelevant. There are many Herods in our society who think that they have created something and everyone else should be subservient to them. But the birth of the Messiah shows us that it is not the case.

May this Christmas be a time when we remember that God loves us so much that God has come down to us to be with us in all our good and bad times. Let us make use of Christmas to remember that we are all on a journey to discover God and God is never in places that are big and powerful but in the least expected places. This Christmas let us let go of power and those who are associated with power because if we don’t, our ignorance will only increase and make us arrogant and insane. Christ is born but Christ can never be born into confinement and slavery but only into freedom and independence. Amen.





Picture credit: www.ncronline.org