The CCGC entered its 6th year working to build and expand on the tremendous work of the previous years. The focus for this expansion was twofold: First, to integrate more explicitly and fully the center’s interests in global Christianities with the curricular goals of the Theological school defined and pursued in its Cross Cultural education. Second, to foster partnerships with institutions of Theological and religious education in the global South and East, that will serve as “hosts” for concrete discussions and collaborations towards the establishment of a program of global Theological Education that is attentive to contextual variety and global networking.
CCGC Hosts the Singing Priest of India
On Tuesday September 25, the Center for Christianities in Global Contexts (CCGC) hosted its first event of the year– a performance of Indian classical music – in Craig Chapel. The group of four performers was led by Fr. Paul Poovathingal who is known as the “Padum Pathiri,” meaning “The singing priest of India.”
The evening began with welcome remarks from the Director of the center, Dr. Kenneth Ngwa, followed by remarks from Dr. Wesley Ariarajah (Professor of Ecumenical Theology and World Christianity), and from Janessa Chastain (president of the Theological Students Association) who presented Fr. Paul with a bouquet of flowers in appreciation for the warm hospitality that Fr. Paul showed her and other Drew students during a Cross Cultural visit to India in January 2012. In his opening remarks, Fr. Paul introduced the group of performers, which included a Muslim Professor of Music, a Hindu Professor of Math, and an Artist; he then described their presence in Craig Chapel and performance as an opportunity to bring some of “the mystery of India” to Drew community.
All seated in a Lotus position (cross-legged) and dressed in colorful Indian attire reflecting their religious diversity, the performers used instruments (the violin, the Mridangam, the Ghatam) and the wide-ranging vocal cords of Fr Paul to perform a variety of themed-songs ranging from praise to interreligious dialogue to harmony and peace.
The CCGC’s interest in inviting Fr Paul and hosting the performance rested on several reasons that fit with the center’s goals of experiencing the rich diversities of global Christianities in their various cultural and multi-religious interactions. The vision, character, and quality of Fr Paul’s group and compositions provided just such an opportunity to experience the beauty and power of interreligious collaboration in the form of music. Indeed, it was an event that brought some of the mystery of India to the Drew community but also opened the door for potential future collaborative work. Fr Paul’s ministry through music has been at the center of indigenization and inculturation of Christian music in India. He runs a music and dance academy, Chetana Sangeeth Natya Academy, in India that seeks to popularize Indian classical music and dance among children from the poorer and under-privileged sections of society.
Fr. Paul has given Indian Classical Music concerts in many parts of the world. He began learning karnatic music at the age of 17, and eventually got his M.Phil. and Ph.D degrees in Indian classical music from the Madras University. He is the first Christian priest to get his doctorate in Indian Classical Music and the first Vocologist in India. He has composed over 1000 songs and has brought out over 35 music albums. He was invited to give a recital in front of the President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam, a rare invitation given only to outstanding artists of the country. The Roman Catholic Bishops Conference of Kerala gave him an award in recognition of his ministry.
Later this month (on October 24, 2012), the center will organize a lunch-time discussion on how Cross Cultural studies program here at Drew Theological Seminary helps the community of learners and teachers think about and prepare for the realities of global Christianities, cross-cultural competencies and conversations, and global partnerships. The event will be led by Prof Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre, who will speak on “Cross Cultural Travel and Global Christianities: Perspectives from Turkey.” The brief talk and discussion will be based on her trip to Turkey last year. The conversation fits into the center’s goal of integrating Cross Cultural experiences into the larger curricular and pedagogical goals of the Theological School.—Kenneth Ngwa, Director of the CCGC and Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible.