- Where: Whitecourt/Mayerthorpe, Alberta
- Current ministry: Congregational
- Years in ministry: 26 years (22 years with the Church of South India, 4 years with The United Church of Canada)
How and when did you know you were called to ministry?
Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations—that’s what I had in mind for you (Jeremiah 1:5). This might sound like a tall claim, but I have no experience of a special call. From my childhood, I grew up with a desire to go into church ministry. My teachers would say, “He will become a pastor.” However, as I grew and began to understand the different levels of theological education, my desire was to attain the higher level of theological education (i.e., after undergrad studies). But there came a time, I doubted whether I would ever get into ministry. Loss of my parents in my teens and my economic situation deprived me of college education. I had to work in order to support myself. I worked during the day and went to college in the evening and earned my college degree in commerce with the hope of getting into a bank job. But the desire within me did not die as I kept myself engaged in church-centred activities. When I had my basic college degree, I applied for theological education in a foremost theological college in India (United Theological College, Bangalore) and was able study theology, with the help of a scholarship. When I finished, I was invited by the Board of Theological Education in India to do research in theological education. It took another four years for me to get into pastoral ministry, from which I never looked back, except to go for higher theological education in between.
Why did you pursue ministry in The United Church of Canada?
Honestly, I had no idea what the United Church stands for. Since our daughters were studying on the American continent, we as parents wanted to be close to them thinking that they may not return to India. It was during our conversation with our Canadian friend Dr. Christopher Lind that we expressed our desire to move to Canada. It was he who encouraged me to apply to The United Church of Canada, and later it was the late Rev. Roger Kett who not only invited us to his congregations but also introduced me to Coronation Presbytery, who then arranged for necessary interviews to get into the United Church. However, I must confess that it has been a very long process, and I had given up hope that I would ever get into United Church until Woodland Pastoral Charge extended a call in 2010. It was indeed a surprise for me. I’m glad that I am part of The United Church of Canada today, for I have found a home for my theological convictions.
What has been the greatest part of entering ministry?
After my theological education, I was actually more attracted to academics than pastoral ministry, but once I got into the pastoral ministry, I realized that’s where I belong. While it is difficult to please everybody, doing your best earnestly and being loved and appreciated for what you do. The greatest part of entering ministry has been for me as I look back, the revival of a local congregation, the doors of which were almost closed due to factional differences within that congregation. Neutrality and care for the congregation members, especially visitations, I reckon had a great part to play among other things in that revival. It is indeed a great joy to see a growing and flourishing congregation there today.
What has been your biggest challenge in ministry?
In India it has been corrupt authorities. In Canada it is dwindling numbers. How to help people grow with theological convictions when they still want to be milk fed seems to be the biggest challenge for me. Scriptural illiteracy and apathy for theological knowledge seems to be a great barrier. The challenge is not just to help people go to church but to be the Church. The church that is missional.
If someone said they wanted to be a minister, what would you tell them?
I will not hesitate to say as a church sign read, “The work is hard, the hours are long, and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world.” How far the second part is true, I do not know, but I’m sure there is the joy, peace, and satisfaction of work well done. I would be glad to encourage any person to go into ministry.
Any other comments about your ministry and vocation?
I believe in a prophetic ministry that is “forth telling” and not foretelling. It is, for me, growing in faith everyday along with others, ecumenically and in dialogue with other peoples of faith. It is to read and interpret scripture critically, making it relevant to the given context. Above all to be the voice of the voiceless, challenging and condemning any and all kinds of discrimination, promoting distributive justice and wholeness to the best of your ability without compromising values you stand for. And especially doing all this with a sense of humour.