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Asian Theological Academy Clergy Refresher Course held at Srilanka from 21st August to 4th September 2017 on the theme
Wednesday, Nov 29, 2017


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First day we had opening worship and fellowship. And introduction about the participants. All delegates were presented including the Bishop of Colombo who exhorted the participants with keynote and message. Total 15 participants were presented from different Asian countries like India, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Hongkong, Philippines and even African country Zambia.

Day two we had introduction about Asian Theological Academy. Keynote address on the theme creating communities of resistance and hope. On the same day a reflection about knowing Srilanka. Especially socio-political and religious life of Srilanka. At night again we had our self introduction, our pastoral experience and expectations about the course.

After the Bible study we had a discussion on Pastoral ministry, especially theological and biblical basis of pastoral ministry. Dean Gloria Mapangdol from Philippines explained the current challenges facing pastoral ministry from her own context. After that we had an valuable group discussion on understanding pastoral ministry and the problems confronting it. In groups we had shared our own pastoral experiences through our own context.

A day of exposure visits. Three groups were made to visit three different places. First group went to Killinochchi-North part of Srilanka. Issues there Families of the disappeared in the time of LTT war. Second group went to South part of Srilanka called Hambantota. Where we visited war widows, disabled soldiers due to the war with LTT. Thirsd group went to Colombo port city and urban evictions, especially reflection on how urban development made the people and nature insecure. This exposure visit practically enlightens thoughts and gave us vast experience.

Dr. Paulo from Brazil a New Testament scholar took Bible study on contextual reading of the bible. Really it was an enlighten study of the Bible. Text doesn’t speak itself but us. We are the instruments. We speak it in our own experience.  On the same day Prof. M.P Joseph took two sessions on understanding of the context.  Afternoon we had the group discussion on our exposure visits. Three groups shared their reflection on exposure visits. This exposure visit and the experience what we gained through it really useful to understand the practical situations of the people. (Going into the people’s context)

We had the discussion on important present issues like ecology, economics, politics and food. Dr. Shanthi Hettiarchchi and Dr. Paulo took sessions on these topics. Discussion on missionary movement was very challenging one. On the same day we had group discussion on global context with the experience of each participant. We shared our own problems, challenges which strongly exist in our countries.

Sunday. A day of free time and sightseeing. Attended Sunday service at St. Paul’s Miligiriya Colombo.  After the service we went for sightseeing around the srilanka. Visited National Museum and later we did shopping.  On the same day night watched a documentary on New Rules of the world.

We met one of the great theologian Scholar Rev. Aloysius Pieris at Kelaniya. We went to his place where he runs the institution and spent our whole day there. Rev. Aloysius Pieris took two sessions on Understanding the Ecclesia. It was like a theological analysis. He is having vast knowledge and wisdom and is a great theologian. His analysis and reflection on Ecclesia on the basis biblical understanding was very useful and helpful in our ministry. Afternoon he took a session on Church and the Oikos of God. Redefining the church and its mission. Church mission on protecting God’s nature.  Evening we returned back to our place Negombo.

Srilankan participants conducted Bible study. After the Bible study Prof. M.P Joseph conducted two very important subjects- Bible, theology and pastoral ministry. Re-approaching biblical tradition. Sociological analysis of the context of biblical text. Sociology enquiry of the church and bible. We discussed many issues on this day especially re-approaching the tradition and usuing biblical text to  analysis sociological issues. Afternoon Ven. Rienze Perera Director of ATA took a session on Religious Plurality and Pastoral Ministry. All participants shared their opinions on religious plurality especially the participant from India, Pakistan, Srilanka and Bangladesh shared their challenges in ministry in the context of religious plurality. Night we had an important discussion on Growth of charismatic movements and the challenges to pastoral practice.

Pakistani and Bangladesh participants conducted bible study. After the bible study Ve. Rienze Perera took a very important discussion on Church and Patriarchy and Gender violence. Really it was an eye opener discussion and from the context of many passages of bible put a light on patriarchy system of the church and how gender violence still alive in our traditions and practices. On the same time Sister. Rasik Pieris took a session on feminism. It was so touching and sparked our thoughts and challenged us towards a feminist reading of the bible. Discussion on women in Old Testament and women in New Testament. The challenge was re-reading the bible.  Don’t simply read the passage but see it critically. While reading the bible we need to ask 5 very important questions-

  1. Who wrote and why wrote
  2. How does it function
  3. Who gains and who loose
  4. Who holds power
  5. How is power used

On the same day afternoon Dr. Paulo took a session on Militarization and violence. We need to educate people in a non-violence choice. He shared many bible passages which seems like (especially in Old treatment) violent but today we should know how to use all these passages in our present situations. Because Jesus was completely non-violent.  Night we had documentary presentation The 11th hours.

Bible study conducted by Philippines participants. After that one of the resource person Rev. Marc Billimoria took a session on Church an inclusive community of God. God is inclusive God. Jesus included everyone men, women, children sick, sinners marginalized. Today we need to understand church is organism, communion with God.  Another session on Mission. Mission- a perspective from the global mission movements. Dr. Paulo explained the importance of mission and church. Jesus is not belonging to church but church belongs to Jesus. Dr. Paulo shared the mission and discipleship. Making discipleship is nothing but making people imitate Christ. Then discussion on Baptism and mission. Afternoon Dr, Shanthi H took a session on critique of inherited theology and mission. Juan Segundo- Suspect the text. Suspect but not reject. Suspecting in order to see new things. Content of theology to re-evaluate the content of theology.  Yes to proclamation but also Yes to dialogues.

Indian participants conducted Bible study. After that till afternoon Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe took two very important sessions Conflict within pastoral context and conflict management. Pastoral practices to address conflict. In these sessions all participants viewed their own experiences and challenges in the ministry. He put a light on communication in order to get rid of conflict. Many ideas are been shared on this session

On the same day we had presentation of research papers. The responsibility had been given to us to prepare a paper on any matter. All the participants prepared their papers and the same was presented. And discussion was there on each ones paper. 

Bishop Jason Selvaraj from Malaysia led the sessions and day on Church and politics. Plurality- inter religious dialogue. We had valid discussion on this topic; all the participants shared their own experiences, challenges in church ministry and in their own country.

Sunday we went to St. Stephen’s church Negombo and participated in the service. Afternoon a human activist Ruki Fernando led us in a practical session on Communities of resistance and hope in Srilanka and church role.  He put a light on the problems which Srilankan people facing. Discussed about govt. policies and church role. On the same day we had Evaluation of the course.

Final day. Morning we had session on Re-visioning mission and church. Dr. Paulo here took a passage of parable of sower, socio political economic discussion on the passage. Discussion on mission- God, church, and mission, re-reading the bible, re-reading the theology, re-reading church history, re-reading our history.  We have discussed about Five mark mission. The we had the session on church as communities of resistance and hope. Since this was the theme of the course the session encouraged us to create a community of resistance and hope in our churches.

Evening we had grand closing ceremony.  Bishop of Colombo, ATA Director and Secretary Staffs and members were presented to witness the closing day.  One representative from each country shared the experience of the refresh course. Graduation time certificate has been awarded to each participant. After that we had farewell party. With lots of experiences and memories we have been finished 15 days refresh course successfully and departed from srilanka on 5th September and reached India on the same day.

Conclusion:

When we heard about the refresh course we are really excited. Earlier we struggled with the theme because theme itself very challenging. Since we are in pastoral ministry this refresh course is really enlighten to our ministry. It was a new and awesome experience to us.  Whatever we learnt through this course will definitely try to apply in our ministry. In 15 days many subjects, talks, sessions are been discussed. Theological learning is a process. We must update our theological ideas and ministry. Our bible studies, talks, discussions, exposure visits, paper presentations, fellowship with different countries brothers and sisters reminded us that learning never ends.

This refresh course really has been given us a challenge to do our ministry in different and challenging way and most essential and vital challenge is to re-think about our sermons and re-readin the bible on the present context. Church is a place for creating community of resistance and hope.

All arrangements, food and accommodation, hospitality everything was well ordered and we really made use of our time in Srilanka. Re-think, re-read, see newthings from new eyes, hear new things with new ears.

We really thank for choosing us and for this great opportunity given us by our CSI Synod, Our sincere thanks to our dear Moderator Rev. K Thomas Oomen, our dear General Secretary Rev. Dr. Ratnakar Sadananda, dear Youth director Rev. Solomon Paul and our dear Bishops. We eagerly look forward this kind of opportunities in future to update our ministry. Many thanks to C.S.I Synod.



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