Tradition, culture and the significance of the gospel was demonstrated in a lively opening procession of the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s (EFI) annual meeting in May 2006. There was singing (using Tamil Christian lyrics), dancing, music with the Raja melam team (a drum used for all auspicious occasions) and the use of Christian symbols like the cross, the word of God, light, a basin and towel and sheaves of harvest.
Dignitaries at the meeting were the Rt. Rev.Dr. S. Jayapaul David, bishop of Tirunelveli Diocese and president of National Council of Churches of India; Rt. Rev. Dr. Ezra Sargunam, president and bishop of the Evangelical Church of India; and Rt. Rev. Dr. Jude BalRaj, bishop of the Catholic Church and general secretary of EFI. Rev. Richard Howell lit the lamp and inaugurated the conference. The keynote address by Bishop David and the greetings and exhortation by the other dignitaries set the motion toward the theme “I know your deeds—you kept my word” (Revelation 3:8). Immediately after the inaugural meeting the youth forum held their sessions under the leadership of Pastor Shavez Williams, national coordinator of the EFI Youth Commission.
It is amazing that God enabled different denominational churches to come under one roof for this conference. There were more than ten denominational churches and more than thirteen missionary organizations that participated in this meeting. The churches included: Church of South India, Anglican Church of India, Evangelical Church of India, Tamil Baptist Church, Indian Pentecostal Church, Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mennonite Church, Bethany Fellowship, Maranatha Church, Christian Community Church, Salvation Army and several independent churches.
The missions representation were from: Indian Evangelical Mission, National Missionary Society, Tamil Village Gospel Mission, COME, Life in Christ Ministry, Nava Jeevan Ministry, Church Growth Missionary Movement, India Church Growth Mission, North East Vision, Jesus Mercy Home, Gospel Recordings, Word for All and others.
Pastor and Leader Workshops
In addition to general sessions focused on morning devotions and Bible exposition, a special seminar was held on evangelism and discipleship. Several issue-based workshops also allowed participants the opportunity to interact with one another. Workshop topics included:
- Christian Education
- Doubling the Congregation
- Expository Sermon Skills
- Pastors' Family
- Standing Strong through the Storm
- Women Ministries
- Legal Aid for Pastors
In all, about 450 participants, along with eighty youth leaders, attended the conference and considered it a great blessing that inspired and challenged them. Many participants also said they would pray for EFI and its ministry. The conference was sponsored by Light Foundation.