Monday, March 6, 2023

Divided we stand!

Unity is a word used commonly and strongly. Unity of generations, family, community, society and churches. But unity is easier said than done. Diversity is God given and being different is not a sin. Which is why, forced unity can never work and should never be tried.

There are two things which quickly come to my mind. Unity between churches and groups and unity between various generations. There are several churches in India who are at loggerheads with each other and my church is also no stranger to this. Efforts for unity are always welcome and should also be explored whenever possible. But this cannot be forced.
Similarly, many youngsters are migrating from Kerala and India for better opportunities, jobs, life and security. We can force them to stay, but they will never be happy. One cannot always limit someone’s horizon and sacrifices also have their limits.
In both the above mentioned cases, unity is being forced. Might, power, money, emotional blackmail, are all used to force a forging and coming together. St. Mark 2: 21 says, “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.” Putting something together can work for a bit, till it is ruined even more than before.
Even though unity is a natural thing which is to be tried, sides different from one another cannot be sewed together. Churches who have grown apart and become different, cannot come together one fine day. Youngsters and elders who have different philosophies, view points and ways of life cannot come together for the sake of family, tradition and blood. Does this mean that this lenten season should be one of breaking than making? Yes and no.
Yes, that we should go our ways and live our life even as we witness to Christ. No, in the sense that this breaking away is not to disrespect the other person or side but to understand that everyone is different and yet can witness to the same Christ. May this lent make us realise that in diversity lies our unity. Respecting and loving one another is more important than unity. Love cannot be forced on anyone. It has to be felt and it has to be natural. Amen.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

My friend's healing is my responsibility

The story of the paralytic is common. We usually think of the paralytic and the bed. The roof and the four friends come in later. So much that we usually design sermons around the “your sins are forgiven” and “rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Yet, St. Mark 2:1-12 contains a very important Christian value called friendship.

The four friends in St. Mark 2:3-4 who carry the bed of their friend and who, when they realise the crowd is too much to enter via the door of the house, lower the bed through the roof and they are a prime example of Christian friendship. The friends expressed their deep friendship in being creative, ingenious, sincere and risk taking. They are not concerned about themselves but about the welfare of their friend.
How many times have we prevented ourselves from going to a hospital or visiting a doctor? The reasons may be many but reality is that we will postpone it as much as possible and even delay it till it is so serious. But when it comes to our family and friends, we become very interested in taking them to the hospital. Even though personal interest in our health would be desirable, we end up showing more interest in another person we value.
This is what happens in the miracle story. Even though the paralytic needed a cure and healing, that doesn’t mean that the four men were healthy beyond any need for cure. But they keep aside their needs and take a risk for a friend. This lent, we should think whether we can be one of those friends? Whether we can carry one of the legs of the bed? We should also think whether we have a friend who will take us to a hospital whenever the need arises. Friendship as a Christian value is to look after another before looking looking after oneself. May our lent offer us the opportunity to be a friend and to have friends. Amen.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Are you a Christian?

Have we ever wondered how people look at us? It is not that we should always be concerned about this, but rather, it is important and beneficial to know it. How do others see us and how do they see us as a Christian? Do they think that we are truthful, sincere, morally upright and good? Or are we perceived to be the opposite of all this?

It is one thing to have our own church members asking us to pray for them and another to have people from other religions, denominations and churches asking for our prayer. What is the feeling when a total stranger asks for a healing touch and and a comforting prayer? What on the other hand do we feel when people totally disrespect and show disinterest in us and our prayers and rituals?
There was a time when a cassock or priests attire would get respect from others. Now it depends on whether people know you and on how they perceive you. Wearing a religious attire, a cross, holding a bible, all bring with it a great responsibility. So much that our behaviour not only leads to people disrespecting us but disrespecting these symbols which mean something.
In St. Mark 1:27, the crowd is surprised after Jesus rebukes and casts out an unclean spirit. Verse 27 says, “They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even unclean spirits, and they obey him.” People were in awe of Jesus. They respected him and through him, the one who sent him.
All of us have a responsibility of witnessing to Christ. Even though we are in the habit of seeking things for ourselves and praying for our own needs, there will come times when others ask us for prayers. Priests and lay people will be asked for help and comfort. We can give someone a cross, another a bible, a few a prayer and others our presence and touch.
This lent, may people be amazed about us, for the right reasons. May our symbols, dresses and rituals offer happiness to others. And may we become a reminder of Christ Jesus himself. Amen.

Friday, March 3, 2023

A lent to be persecuted

Christians in the early church were persecuted and instead of escaping it, they embraced it. Christians now for hundreds of years look for the opportunity to compromise and escape persecution. Adapting to a particular situation or culture and witnessing to Christ is one thing and wilting under the pressure of a particular culture or situation and compromising on witnessing to Christ is a totally different thing. This lent we need to think about how we have compromised instead of adapting.

In St. Matthew 16:21 Jesus revealed to his disciples that he would undergo great suffering, be killed and would rise on the third day. In verse 22 Peter tells Jesus that this must never happen. Jesus was in the prime of his ministry and his disciples were also confident on doing things alone. Yet Jesus is ready for persecution while Peter has not given it any thought. His “This must never happen to you” suggests that at any cost this must be prevented. Christ Jesus is ready for persecution but his disciple is ready for a compromise if it will save Jesus!
We do the same. Everything is a compromise and compromise is glorified. Women and girls are asked to compromise, children are told to compromise, the poor are reminded that compromising will benefit them. Compromise has become a trump card of the church and whenever any news of persecution is heard, the Christian community will huddle together and see how they can compromise with the powers that be and wriggle out of the threat of persecution. Very similar to what Peter and what any disciple of Jesus at the time would do.
Lent calls us to see this differently. Compromise is not a virtue but a sin when it asks us to compromise on witnessing to Christ and undergoing persecution. Compromise is not going to get the Christian community and us as Christian individuals anywhere. We can adapt to the needs of the congregation, of people and of a culture but it is not by compromising and escaping persecution. Amen.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Two’s company, three’s a crowd

We are obsessed with crowds. So much that we would do anything to bring in the crowds. Shops are inaugurated by celebrities to make people come, churches offer food and snacks to members who attend services, educational institutions offer fee discounts and perks to get more students and offers and discounts rule the day. All for the crowds to come.

A priest is measured in terms of the crowd he can get to church, teachers in government schools end up going to houses to canvas for children for their classes to maintain the minimum number nee
ded to keep the school afloat, and complimentary passes are given for programmes to ensure that a minimum number of people attend. Political parties also get people to attend their election rallies by offering food and a daily allowance. The crowd determines the success of a programme.
Are crowds so important? Is quantity more important than quality? Do thousands of Facebook friends translate to that many people responding if we have a crisis? For those who know, quality is better than quantity. St. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” The idiom “Two’s company, three’s a crowd” refers to the fact that two people enjoy each other’s company and a third will ruin it. But in the context of Jesus’ words, we can interpret it as three itself being a crowd. A crowd of quality instead of quantity.
During covid, churches conducted services with no people inside the church. With just two or three, there was breaking of bread and transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. There was a redefining of the word crowd. And there was assurance from the words of Jesus that he would be there whenever two or three gathered in his name. There is a call for two or three, a church of quality rather than a church of quantity.
Lent is a time to re look the word crowd. We usually feel assured with a crowd to the extend that we will even feel emboldened to do whatever. But we need to question ourselves whether the crowd emboldens us instead of Christ Jesus himself. The crowd consists of people like us. We need not under estimate them. But we needn’t over estimate them as well. Christ is in the midst of the few and not necessarily the many. Let us try to be one of the two or three, looking to be transformed while representing the crowd of believers. Amen.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Yes, my child

“Stop acting like a child”, “he is very childish”, “when are you going to grow up?”, are things one hears when one acts immature. The struggle to grow up, to act big, to take on responsibility, are things we strive for from a young age. So much that many grow up too soon.

But Jesus differs in St. Matthew 18:3 when he says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Children have many qualities which they lose upon becoming adults. Children are loving, sincere, trusting, risk taking and accepting. Adults who lose these qualities regain some of them on turning old.
Is Jesus taunting his disciples because they wanted to know who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Was he questioning their so called experience, calling and seniority? Or was he being blunt in saying that all of us and not just the disciples must become like children if we harbour any hopes of entering the kingdom of heaven?
This follows Jesus’ pattern of questioning the usual and questioning the pattern of conforming to certain societal norms. There is no seniority, experience and accomplishment in all of this world which can take us to heaven. Rather it is to keep away all that we have and hope that we gain entry. There is a shift from common sense to nonsense. Children don’t have a pattern in hugging each other, playing with each other and just being themselves unless they are trained in a certain way by adults.
Lent is difficult because it asks us to keep away all that we have accomplished and start from scratch. Children rely on someone for their daily needs, their purchases and food. But they trust their parents or family to provide. We are also asked to do the same. Trust that God will provide. Amen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

My rich soul

One of the biggest questions a person may have is, “Who does God bless, give to or help? The poor or the rich, the weak or the strong? Ideally we expect God to be on the side of the poor and the oppressed. But what does the gospel say and why?

St. Mark 4:25 says, “For the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” A simple interpretation would be to say that God blesses the rich, over and against the poor. But this does not make complete sense and such a God will confuse us.
Verse 24 gives more clarity. It says, “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.” This is a call to do good and to not worry about tomorrow. God will take care of each day, as the Lord’s Prayer reminds us. We keep things, thinking that, we ourselves will need them. But when we do that, our blessings will be limited. Our wealth is supplanted by God’s blessings when our wealth is used for the good of the world.
Chuck Feeney gave away his entire fortune of a billion dollars. By the time Yu Pengnian died in 2015, he had given away his entire fortune. There are so many billionaires in this world. The resources of the earth are in the hands of a wealthy few. And yet there are also those who give away everything, who empty themselves, so that their soul becomes rich.
This lent, we should also heed to the call to become rich. To become rich in our soul. Amen.

Monday, February 27, 2023

My enemy has my ticket to heaven!

Forgiving another person is difficult. We have to give up something, go against our ideals, let down others while forgiving one, and learn to handle the feeling of being defeated. Forgiving is also learning to handle our ego without feeling humiliated.

Now adding one’s enemy into the picture complicates things because without forgiving our enemy, we can’t think of loving them. Jesus is challenging us to find the real meaning of love. Love is unconditional and sacrificial. But for us, practising this with one’s enemy is next to impossible.
We live in a world where we will readily accept a disaster if the same has come upon a neighbour or enemy. It is also a fact that sun and rain come upon everyone and cannot be regulated for a few. Jesus is not only challenging us but being very matter of fact when in St. Luke 6:27-28, he says, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
Loving our enemy does not mean that our enemy, those who hate us, curse us, and abuse us, have become good or that we must see them as good. Rather, we are trying to love them despite knowing that they are intrinsically bad.
Lent is a time to challenge ourselves to do something which even challenges our very core. When we hate someone so much, we forget that they could be our neighbour in paradise. Imagine God telling us that we have been awarded a place in heaven. The only catch is that the ticket is with our enemy! Amen.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

How I wish!

Jesus’ ministry included reaching out to the unreached and those at the margins. Take the case of the leper in St. Luke 5:12-16. Lepers in those times did not have free movement and close interaction with others. Yet, the person is in close quarters with Jesus. This means that it is not that the person went to Jesus but Jesus perhaps went for ministry in places far from the popular and big towns and villages. This could have been due to the massive crowds too. The leper who would have otherwise been at the margins, gets into close interaction with Jesus because of Jesus’ proximity to the leper’s living space or because no one cared anymore about who was a leper and who was not because of the huge crowds that followed Jesus.

In verse 12 the leper says, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Stigma i
s one of the biggest curses of society. The stigma of something or the other puts people down and prevents them from coming out in the open. In this case it was the stigma faced due to leprosy. Whether it was leprosy in total or a serous skin ailment is another thing all together. But the person had definitely experienced stigma. Why or how then does he manage to get close to Jesus and ask what he did?
Did the faith in Jesus give strength to the person to overcome stigma or didn’t he care anymore? He either succeeded or he just had to continue living the life he had. There was nothing to lose. He chooses to engage in a conversation with Jesus. The conversation becomes a request. Interestingly, the request is not cure me or help me but “if you choose”. Is this the sign which tells us that the person was talking about the stigma he faced, the exclusion he experienced and the pain he underwent. So he tells Jesus, “…if you choose”. His existence thus far was not just because he had leprosy but because people and society chose to keep him away. Jesus is asked whether he would like to do something else.
During lent, one thing becomes clear. Society is not going to change and neither are people. No one is necessarily going to choose good over evil or justice over injustice. It is our fight. Jesus is willing to say yes and touch and accept us. But we have to break through the hurdles and lunge forward to Jesus. We have to ask him to support us and stand for us. Lent is not going to change stigma and exclusion in society. But lent can get us the support of the one who matters, Christ Jesus himself. Let us garner the courage to ask him and to lobby him into saying “Yes I choose/wish..” Amen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Wedding sermon for Tanya and Deepak's wedding

Tanya and Deepak's wedding sermon Sermon for Tanya and Deepak's wedding - YouTube
Above is the youtube link of the sermon for Tanya and Deepak's wedding conducted on December 27, 2021 at the Marth Mariam Church (Valiya Palli), Kothamangalam.
The three points of the sermon are
1. The tune/music of marriage.
2. Timing in marriage.
3. Jesus as a model for relationships/marriage.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Archcorepiscopa Dr. Kaniyamparambil achen: A spiritual father who overcame disabilities


Today is the 5th death anniversary of Archcorepiscopa Dr. Curien Kaniyamparambil achen, fondly known as Kaniyamparambil achen. The Simhasana Church in Thiruvalla, where I now serve, has a long and deep relationship with achen as he touched the lives of several generations of families here. He was a scholar without parallel in the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church and respected among people from all denominations and religions. He was known for his scholarship, humility and hospitality. But I would like to touch upon a topic seldom discussed with regard to achen. He was a priest who overcame disabilities, the lack of hearing being primary among them.

Looking back, I feel that we never discuss the struggles and hardships of our ancestors and straight away harp on their achievements as if no struggles were involved or that they were so talented that they did not have to try too much. But achen had to overcome his hearing disability which then expanded to tremor (uncontrollable shaking of hands) and later on to finding it difficult to walk. Our communities want us to believe that priests and ministerial candidates are perfect and should be perfect. Medical check ups before bishop elections are only one example of this. But the most perfect of ministries are done by imperfect men and women and achen is a prime example of that.

I have heard other priests and people making fun of achen’s hearing disability and calling him a mute (pottan in Malayalam, which also has a derogatory meaning of being an idiot). All because he could not hear properly and one had to strain their voice while speaking to him! But instead of being bogged down and faltering under the weight of ill timed and unjustified jokes, he wrote and spoke like a man guided by the Holy Spirit. Many of us learnt to speak for long by listening to him. Achen made his disability into his ability. While we were being influenced by the sounds and temptations of the world, he sat for hours to read and write.

His major achievement of translating the Peshitta Syriac bible into Malayalam was done with these disabilities. He found the strength to overcome his tremor when he wrote and it came back when he had to do something else. He offered hundreds of prayers and services by reading lips and the actions of those around him. For me he has shown that one does not have to be ashamed of their disability but can rather embrace it and make it their biggest ability and asset.

I am reminded of St. John 9:3 where Jesus answers his disciples and says that “neither the man nor his parents have sinned, he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” The St. George Simhasana Church in Thiruvalla is indebted to achen for showing us that we can overcome our disabilities and to know that our disabilities have opened our eyes to see our abilities. There are so many children and youngsters who think that they are not good enough and wont make the cut or mark in an examination or test and that they are not perfect enough as their family and society would want them to be. May God and achen be a source of inspiration so that we never feel bogged down and dejected. We thank God for his life and contributions and pray that several people will get the courage and strength to do their education through achen’s blessed intercession. Dear achen, pray for us, your beloved children.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Observations on the JSOC and OSC tensions prevailing in Kerala

Some observations on the escalation of tensions between the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Syrian Church. (I will be biased in my opinion but would prefer to position my bias/preferential option to those who are oppressed and afflicted at the moment. Whenever there is a change and if the oppressed becomes the oppressor, this opinion will also change accordingly.)  


1. The court has not ruled out reconciliatory talks and confidence building measures between the churches. The door to talks and settlements is not closed.

2. This is a jolt to the ecumenical relationships between churches. The OSC has bishops and priests in high ranking positions of ecumenical bodies. How then can the church not compromise for the larger good, as ecumenical acceptance is itself also a compromise?

3. A forced unity can never be Christian. It is a very imperialistic move from the OSC which does not bode well for churches in India.

4. The court has not suggested alienation of people/church members from their beliefs or spirituality. Such forced alienation, eviction and use of force is anti-democratic and un-Christian.

5. Jesus’ teaching that the first will be last and the last will be first should never be laughed off as an unrealistic and utopian dream (which is what an unbridled expansion will mean). If we do so we risk preaching a defeated Christ and a defeated cross, which goes against the theology and belief of all churches.

6. By being generous and compassionate the OSC will only gain a larger acceptance in society, among other churches and among their own church members.

7. The thought of the annihilation of a church, a people or a particular tradition is very dangerous and can lead to irreparable damage among all Christians.

8. The court cases also came about because of a deep-seated enmity among two churches. The aim was not just winning but showing the opposition to one another.

9. Tomorrow whoever else does something like this will also have to face the criticism of other churches and civil society. The opposition is not to the OSC as a church but to the thought of acquiring and amassing wealth and property which does not completely belong to someone.

10. Evil has to be opposed but it need not come at the expense of not having a relationship with one another. The wide ranging criticism of a church should change to the criticism of wrong policies.

11. People from both churches can join to oppose injustice in society and even in churches. There is already a natural association which is in relationship with common concerns and issues. This will be a healthy development.

12. How long can we accuse one another and try to do away with each other? Even as we worship the same God, it is necessary that we allow the continuing of several denominations as it helps us to witness to Christ Jesus in a better way.

13. Clergy and laity of both churches who should be contributing effectively to the Christian world are blinded by the faith to the denomination than true faith in God. This leads to the stunting of growth of very promising minds.

14. It is still not too late. We can stop throwing stones at one another and sit at a table and start talking. By hurling accusations at one another, we are rubbing salt on the wounds instead of working on the healing process.

15. Forceful occupation done by countries and powerful institutions has never worked anywhere. The enmity lasts for generations, leading to greater mistrust, hatred and unending conflict.

May God show a way for peace to prevail and for people to be given the churches that their ancestors or they themselves have built. Hope all of us can come together in prayer and wait for a great healing from God.

(Picture credit

Friday, March 27, 2020

The difference between faith and superstition in a time like this

It is important to sift through and differentiate between the grain and the husk at this critical time. More than ever we are faced with false prophets and prophecies which seek to benefit a particular speaker and is not the word of God. It is easy to get confused and misled and life can become very gloomy in the process. Without realising it, we tend to misunderstand many superstitions as faith. One has to talk of one's faith and there is no need to be ashamed by it. But there is no need to defend superstition, because it is not about faith but a corruption that has come in at some point of time. Below is a list of differences between faith and superstition.

1. Faith tells us that God’s mysterious intervention makes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. This body and blood will offer eternal life. It cannot be totally understood. Yet it should not blind us but should show us light. Superstition makes us think that when we can’t offer or be part of Holy Communion on a particular day, it is inauspicious, unlucky and will be a curse for us. Services have been cancelled in several parts of the world. There are many who believe that this is not good and one should worship in the church at any cost, because otherwise it would not bode well for the community. 

2. Faith makes us visit the sick, pray for them and give them strength and hope. We see doctors as instruments of God. What is around us and for us is seen as good and not as a challenge to God. God is above everything and everyone is placed by God. We do not see a doctor as God but as a person used by God to reveal God's mercy. Superstition forces us to stay away from the doctor’s advice or even from the doctor himself/herself saying that God will heal us and there is no need for doctors or their prescriptions. Here doctors are placed on the same measuring balance with God and this is not fair to the doctors. We must respect them but do not need to worship them and whenever we do that, it becomes a superstition. But ignoring them and not going to them does not make us more religious. 

3. Faith makes us kneel and pray wherever we are. We are the same everywhere and don’t have different characters in different places. We all see the church building as a place which is special, holy and filled with memories. But we don't have two characters or behaviour, one inside the church and another outside it.  
Superstition gives us a special character when we are in a church and a totally different and negative character when we are outside it. This makes us different people at church and at home. The unavailability of a church is an unavailability of a chance to be good. But associating goodness with a place is a superstition. 

4. Faith does not make us test God and we will be like Christ who tells the devil that we should never test/ tempt the Lord our God. God is always there for us. God's love for us is unconditional. Faith makes us believe this one hundred percent. So there is no question of wanting God to do something to prove God's love for us. Superstition makes us test God to see if God truly cares about us. We want to be convinced time and again that God is with us. So much, that we don’t mind ‘forcing’ God to perform miracles. 

5. Faith is not trying to prove God’s prominence over anything but rather saying that God is everything for us. It does not mean that we refuse or disobey worldly authorities. Jesus’ advise is to give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. When a government says something for our good, people of faith don't feel challenged, because their faith is not wavering. Superstition questions worldly authority to the extend that it is made fun of, openly challenged, sneered at and disobeyed. Disobeying rules which are supposed to be good for people, is seen as a prerogative and something done to show off our pride of being religious.
6. Faith encourages hope and a better future no matter what the present condition. Even in the worst of times, those with faith will never give up and will continue turning every obstacle into an opportunity. People of faith are a blessing to society, because we see a glow on their faces, which radiates onto us as well. Superstition concentrates on “I told you so” prophesies which tries to tell people that we saw it coming and foresaw this much earlier. Instead of hope, fear is spread and is used as a way to get followers and supporters. These followers then spread the messages of hate and fear which will further divide communities instead of uniting them.
7. Faith walks on water without talking about it. We meet people but don’t necessarily mention what struggles we went through to reach there. Every action and word is faith for such people but faith is never marketed. Faith is a matter of fact thing. Superstition creates miracles because it thrives on them. Miracles have to be talked about, blown out of proportion and packaged well when one is superstitious. So it is not whether one can walk on water but to make others believe that we can walk on water.
8. Faith is not overly ritualistic. It does not matter how many times you have knelt, prostrated and prayed but with what sincerity and truthfulness one has prayed. Fasting then should be a joyful exercise where no one gets to know that we are fasting. We are all ritualistic, but rituals cannot replace faith and belief. Superstition is overly ritualistic. Number of times and when and where matters rather than sincerity and truthfulness. Prayers can be rushed and mumbled as long as it is ‘completed’. The ritual then gets more importance than the act of faith.
9. Faith does not crumble when a church place or land is lost or becomes unavailable. It is in the heart and soul of a person. It cannot be taken away. Jesus said that one cannot destroy another's soul. Only the body can be destroyed. Faith is inside a person and cannot be snatched away no matter what. Superstition melts easily. When a physical space which is seen as important or a person who is seen as a powerful leader is lost, the superstitious crumble to pieces. It is like they have lost their way.

10. Faith does not automatically get handed over. Not everyone can get it because it is also an individual commitment to God. Just because a parent has faith, a child cannot automatically get it. One has to work hard for one's faith and it cannot be handed on a platter. Superstition passes on to the next generation very easily. It does not matter whether it is understood or not or whether it serves a good purpose. Continuity is wrongly associated with superstition and the acceptance and embracing of superstitions.

In a time like this, we need faith and have to sift through properly to find the grains we seek. Our faith is like the grain while superstition is the husk which has to be blown away and thrown in the fire.

Picture from

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some thoughts and questions on online churches

The discussion on online churches never gets anywhere because the physical existence of churches have always been taken for granted. But now we are faced with a situation where we are not sure how services can be conducted. Many restrictions are being brought in all around the world and this could continue for several weeks and even months. The thoughts and questions below can be used as a starting point for discussion and for the serious consideration of online churches.

1. Preachers/priests in church can preach from a church, room or studio and put it online or live stream it but they can’t offer (give) communion online? So the word of God can be given online but the body of God can’t?
2. People go near the T.V. and raise their hands praising God, touch the screen for healing and repeat prayers which have actually been recorded several days ago but online confession is not possible?
3. The congregation can sit and watch Holy Communion service via television or laptop, they can do other things during the recorded or live streamed service but nothing can be offered to them at home because it would be a disrespect to the church and the elements?
4. The internet and social media are used a lot for the benefit of the clergy but are they used for the benefit of the laity?
5. Modernity and technology has entered the altar in the form of electricity, machines, technology and gadgets. A dilution of the original has already taken place and homes have moved closer to the altar. But is that very technology used to take the altar to homes?

During a lockdown and during social distancing it will be beneficial for us to think in depth about this. How can the transforming body and blood of Christ be offered without physical contact? (During an emergency/emergencies) Or is physical contact needed for being the one body of Christ? (When touch and contact is not possible due to certain circumstances?)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

We need an ecumenical response to Covid-19

If anything, the Covid-19 crisis has pointed to us a change in the usual patterns that we are used to. Restricted and cancelled religious services, lock downs, social distancing, empty streets, isolation and quarantines have brought us to a strange feeling. There is a heightened anxiety among people and rightly so. We find a breakdown of the usual, of traditions as old as we can remember and beyond, and of not being able to go to church as usual. Everyone has taken the work from home option seriously and churches aren’t far away.

Political parties are trying their best to stand together but can’t help criticizing each other as well. Perhaps this is to maintain a political relevance. One has to say something different whether there is a need or whether it is right or wrong. Otherwise there is a fear that one political dispensation may run off with the laurels. It is another thing that we are no where close to even saying whether we can successfully deal with the crisis. Even if one political party is ideologically opposed to another, they still believe that the crisis will be averted by the other. So even though their arguments challenge the various governments, they also show an underlying trust in them. The point is that a virus and a crisis cannot be averted by a few people but only by many coming together. It would be nice to see the political parties in India coming together and standing closely for the period of this crisis.

The same applies to Christian denominations. The example of politicians is important because there seems to be a high level of politicisation of churches and denominations. There is a politics in everything. Unfortunately, one wonders whether that is being expressed in the spiritual response to Covid-19! Live streaming of services, letters from bishops, priests leading prayers, are all from within denominations to their ‘own’ people. Even as a pandemic, challenges the entire world population, services and ministry are being offered based on caste, race, region and denomination. Repentance and the kingdom of God are still not being talked of with force and rather church buildings, clergy attire, liturgical uniqueness, language and denominational faith, and not faith in Christ Jesus is taking prominence.

Priests can’t hold a service properly because people can’t congregate. They have no control of anything and yet they try to live stream denominational worships and nothing beyond that. Covid-19 has hit at the root of worship and yet denominations can’t come together to chart out an ecumenical expression and response. We would instead like to leave that to ecumenical bodies and continue our spirited denominational services!

 A pandemic cannot be handled alone. A single country cannot control it because we are connected to other countries in several ways. It is not about us and them but about all of us. A country cannot depend on a single political party and government to fight this virus. The limitations are visible for everyone to see. Similarly, one denomination cannot pray and hope for the wiping out of the virus. We must pray together, and our worship places, crosses, priests, pastors, lay leaders and people must be available to one another. It is a time to work ecumenically and preach the Christ that we all know and have experienced, in various ways, to all who want peace and strength. The virus is leading us through unknown routes. Our spiritual response should also chart different routes, and yet have an affirmation as one people of God.

The concept of a physical church building has already been challenged by the Covid-19 virus. So much that many church leaders are openly telling people to congregate at home and even pray individually. But somehow the attachment to the physical church and denomination continues just like political parties who want every bit of work that they do to translate as votes later. Similarly, the live streaming of denominational services also looks like calling for a certain denominational faithfulness and not a Christ centered approach.

This certainly has to change to the point that the churches everywhere must have a more universal approach to what they are doing. This must make them available to people beyond their geographical area and denomination. We can have our arguments and assertions later, to well beyond the wiping out of the virus completely. For now, we don’t even know how soon we can afford to have a normal and peaceful church service, like we used to. I hope priests and pastors from all churches and denominations will accept this call to minister to a wider public and people, beyond denomination and even religion. Perhaps we can also come together as priests and pastors of various denominations and pray to God, for a blessed intervention. Such unity from below may indeed bring about a great and worthy response from God. Ordinary people are looking for hope and peace and not just at the colour of our cassock and the style of our prayer.

(Picture from