Mar Seraphim favors syllabus to train Orthodox women, sees huge scope in lay ministry

#Women’s role towards nurturing. and bonding children on the wane
#Bring back story telling sessions among children, keep away mobile phones for kids
#Calls for thinking in an Orthodox perspective, adopt holistic approach
#Leadership training programme and develop lay ministry for men, women in the Church

BENGALURU: HG Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim, Bengaluru Diocese Metropolitan, has suggested bringing in a syllabus to train committed Orthodox women in leadership training programs for a year or more and bring them into the mainstream.
The Metropolitan who completed a decade as Bishop of the Diocese has chalked out an ambitious programme for women of the church. His Grace wants women to develop leadership skills under a syllabus with evaluation and goals at the end of the training programme.
The Metropolitan also laments the lack of storytelling concepts among women for children and the failure of a proper holistic growth and their failure to rise to the occasion.
“Women must have the will to narrate stories to children as their role is important and not rely on substitutes like use of smart phones. The love and bonding between women and her child has decreased (though with exceptions) especially among working professionals. The quality of sharing of love and bonding has been lost in the process, the Metropolitan explains.
“Women must strive to provide quality time with children and communication gap is the main issue. Communication is not verbal alone but involves both emotional and physical.”
Mar Seraphim was sharing his thoughts about the role of women and the Church in an interview with Dn Job Sam Mathew recorded at the Bengaluru Diocese HQ during the lockdown period due to Covid19 pandemic.
“Women in the church must liberate their minds. Our church is very traditional, so some or many may oppose the idea. But for anything to happen will take time as change is a slow process,” he reasons. The first step required is to educate the women through teachings and interactions so they take the lead.
Mar Seraphim calls upon to develop and strengthen lay leadership or lay ministry and it is here the Bishop foresees vast scope for women in the church.
The Bishop says that in any church the clergymen alone cannot bear all the responsibility and so need to segregate his work to the laymen just like during earlier times.
In Bangalore Diocese alone, a church of 400 (ration of 1:400) houses at an average of 1:100, the priest is called upon to multi task with no effective results. “The priest cannot handle all duties but can work through chosen laymen who can perform tasks under the guidance of the priest.”
“This concept I am told has effectively worked best in Mavelikkara Diocese where a priest looks after a church group prayer meeting and devote his full time but segregates and plans the five other groups on a rotation basis among the lay men to lead.
“I have been emphasising that we ‘must’ go for lay leadership training among men and women in the church. They should strive to study and analyse Bible within the parameters of the church’s belief, liturgy, spirituality and its tradition. With these traits they should equip themselves to teach the children in Sunday School classes and lead them.
“I have noticed enthusiastic lady Sunday school teachers with no foundation and only taught Bible lessons but have no clue about church history. We need training and think in an Orthodox perspective and adopt a holistic approach to tackle this.”
“They need to inculcate Orthodox Church leadership qualities and elements which will help bring them into the mainstream. They have an interest so we to boost this with proper training and mold them up.”
Lamenting on the lack of projecting ecumenical leaders in the Indian Orthodox Syrian Church, His Grace said this was basically due to our ‘rigid’ approach and of being a very traditional church with long history and limitations.
But however, the Orthodox Church has underwent numerous changes in recent times.
“There has been a remarkable change with Orthodox women leading World Council of Churches (WCC) delegations and meetings in the recent past which is a good trend.” Mar Seraphim mentioned the pioneering role by late theologian and feminist Sarah Chakko (1905-1954), the first Orthodox woman elected co-chair of the WCC.
Mention was made also about Cincy and Mercy Kochamma, faculty members at St Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary (STOTS), Nagpur, who has been effectively used in the seminary. Two students from Bangalore Diocese have evinced interest in theology after their formal studies and it will be interesting to see how their services will be used by the church in future.
The full length interview in Malayalam can be viewed on YouTube at MOSC Bangalore Diocese.