Archive for the ‘The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995)’ Tag

Feast of Mary Ramabai (September 29)   Leave a comment

Mary Ramabai

Above:  The Pandita

Image in the Public Domain

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MARY RAMABAI (APRIL 23, 1858-APRIL 5, 1922)

Prophetic Witness and Evangelist in India

With this post I return to The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995), which lists the Pandita‘s feast day as September 29, the date of her baptism in 1883.  An alternative feast day is April 5, the date of her death in 1922.  That is the date The Episcopal Church celebrates her life.

Pandita is a title meaning “the learned one.”  Ramabai received this title from many of her fellow Indians.  She earned that title, to which her family background predisposed her.  Our saint’s father was a Brahman Hindu scholar who defied tradition and taught her well.  He taught her the Vedas and the Sanskrit language, specifically.  A famine left her an orphan in 1876 and her husband died of cholera six years later.  She experienced not only grief, but ostracism because of her changed status.  Our saint, a feminist, founded the Arya Mahila Sabha, a women’s rights organization, in 1881.  In a culture with forced marriages and a tradition of discouraging the education of girls and women standing up for human equality was a radical act.

Ramabai, drawn to social work, lived in England from 1883 to 1889.  She spent time with an Anglican order, the Wantage Sisters, through whom she became a Christian.  She worked with nuns to reform former prostitutes in London.  And she attended the Cheltenham Ladies College, which favored the then-radical ideas of women’s suffrage and identical college curricula for men and women.

Our saint returned to India in 1889 and performed many good works.  She helped to establish churches which blended Indian culture and the Christian gospel.  She also founded the Mukti Mission in Bombay in 1889.  At first it served just women and orphans from Brahman families.  In 1896, during a famine, our saint expanded the Mission’s purpose to help abused girls and women, regardless of caste.  In time she added a clinic and vocational training courses.  Generous donors–many of them Western–financed her work.

The Pandita, who was fluent in several languages, used her linguistic skills to spread the Gospel.  She translated the Bible into the West Indian language of Marathi, for example.

All of this was demanding work.  Of it she wrote:

What a blessing this burden does not fall on me.  But Christ bears it on his shoulders, and no one but He could transform and uplift the downtrodden womanhood of India and of every land.

The good work goes on.  The Mukti Mission, which has expanded its scope, continues to work with the poor, the blind, women, and orphans.  Some Western-based Christian jurisdictions merged into the Church of South India in 1947.  A different group of such jurisdictions united in 1970 to create the Church of North India.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PENNEFATHER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS WIFE, CATHERINE KING PENNEFATHER, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER

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Everliving God, you called the women at the tomb

to be witnesses to the resurrection of your Son:

We thank you for the courageous and independent spirit

of your servant Pandita Ramabai, the mother of modern India;

and we pray that we, like her, may embrace your gift of new life,

caring for the poor,

braving resentment to uphold the dignity of women,

and offering the riches of our culture to our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 10:1-4

Psalm 9:1-5, 9-12

1 John 3:16-24

Luke 18:1-8

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 309

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Feast of Narayan Seshadri of Jalna (September 13)   Leave a comment

Part of India, 1945

Above:  The Germane Part of a Map of India, 1945

Image Source = Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNA (DIED JULY 21, 1891)

Indian Presbyterian Evangelist and “Apostle to the Mangs”

This saint’s name came to my attention via The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995), which lists his feast day as September 13.

The Free Church of Scotland emerged from the Great Disruption in the Church of Scotland in 1843.  The new denomination’s first convert in India was Narayan Seshadri, a Brahmin, who became a Christian on September 13, 1843.  This happened despite strong opposition (including a court case) from his family.  Our saint, ordained in 1854, ministered in Bombay and Poona until 1862, when he departed for Jalna, in the Nizan territory of Hyderabad.  At Jalna he founded the Bethel Mission, through which he ministered to the poor, especially the Mangs, the outcaste poor of the region.  Our saint, who received a D.D. from the University of Montreal, traveled in Scotland and North America to raise funds for the Bethel Mission.  He died en route to Scotland on July 21, 1891.

The poor, as Narayan Seshadri of Jalna and St. Laurence of Rome understood, are the treasures of the Church.  The radical message to defend the poor from the onslaughts of exploitation and artificial scarcity is evident in the Law of Moses, the words of Hebrew prophets, and the ethics of the New Testament.  Yet it remains a radical message, one which some critics within the Church accuse readily and falsely of being dangerous, perhaps even communistic or (gasp!) socialistic.  Yet “Blessed are the poor,” Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke.  The poor will always be with us for a number of reasons, especially unjust socio-economic-political systems, but the proportion of economic justice to economic injustice can increase.

May no agent of the Church ever scorn the poor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may do justice,

love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Judge and Redeemer,

who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 736

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Feast of Sundar Singh (September 3)   Leave a comment

Punjab and Kashmir 1945

Above:  Punjab and Kashmir, 1945

Image Source:  Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SUNDAR SINGH (SEPTEMBER 3, 1889-1929)

Indian Christian Evangelist

Various books supply names for my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  With Sundar Singh I begin to draw names from The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995), which lists his feast day as September 3.

Punjabi native Sundar Singh (1889-1929) came from a wealthy Sikh family.  Young Sundar, who was familiar with Hindu and Muslim sacred texts, studied English and encountered the Bible at a Christian school in his hometown, Ludhiana.  He was also close to his mother, who encouraged him to become a sadhu, a traditional Indian ascetic holy man.  Her death when he was fourteen years old (1903) prompted an angry reaction against Christianity and set the stage for his conversion to it.

Sundar’s initial reaction was to strike out against Christianity.  He, for example, threw stones at preachers, encouraged others to do so, tore a Bible apart, and burned another copy.  The young man, in a suicidal mood, prayed for direction.  He reported a vision (just one of many during his lifetime) in which Jesus appeared to him and said:

How much longer are you going to search for me?  I have come to save you.  You prayed for the right path.  Why have you not followed it?

Our saint became a Christian.  In reaction to this his family renounced and ostracized him.  The date of Singh’s baptism at an Anglican church was his sixteenth birthday, September 3, 1905.  During the following year he became a Sadhu Christian, living as a traditional Indian ascetic and blending Indian cultural practices with the Christian Gospel, for he understood that doing so made him a more effective evangelist within his milieu.

Thus our saint set the pattern he followed for most of the rest of his life.  The period of December 1909-July 1910, when he studied at the St. John School of Theology, Lahore (an Anglican school), proved to be an exception to this rule.  Much of the curriculum, he concluded, was irrelevant to the cultural context of the Indian Subcontinent.  Singh traveled widely throughout India, preaching, suffering attacks, learning how many people God had put in place to deliver him, and reflecting Christ to those whom he met.

Our saint traveled beyond the subcontinent also.  From 1918 to 1922 he traveled in Ceylon, Malaysia, Japan, China, the United States, Western Europe, Australia, and Palestine.  Travels, both domestic and foreign, took a toll on his increasingly fragile health.  Concerns regarding Singh’s health led to his decision to cease his usual summertime trip to Tibet in 1922.  His final journey in Tibet began in April 1929.  The last date, as far as anyone knows, that people saw him alive was April 18, 1929.

Our saint wrote eight books from 1922 to 1929:

  1. At the Master’s Feet (1922);
  2. Reality and Religion:  Meditations on God, Man, and Nature (1924);
  3. The Search After Reality:  Thoughts on Hinduism, Buddhism, Muhammadanism, and Christianity (1925);
  4. Meditations on Various Aspects of Spiritual Life (1926);
  5. Visions of the Spiritual World (1926);
  6. With and Without Christ (1929);
  7. The Real Life (published in 1965); and
  8. The Real Pearl (published in 1965).

Sundar Singh glorified God in his cultural setting.  May each of us do the same in ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LEE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Raise up among us, O Lord, prophets and teachers;

and when the Holy Spirit shall command us to separate any to the work to which you call them,

so that the senders and the sent alike may do your will,

and bide your time, and see your glory;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:1-10

Psalm 96

Acts 13:1-3

Luke 10:1-20

–After The Book of Common Worship (1963, The Church of South India), page 66

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