Culturally Relevant Worship in 19th century India

Thanks to a co-worker, I’ve begun reading “This Day in Church History” nearly every day. I’m finding it an enriching experience. One of the most valuable parts is understanding that things I get excited about or fret over today are not new and have happened before.

One of today’s articles is about Norwegian missionary Lars Skrefsrud, an ex-con whose life God radically changed. He became a missionary to India in 1863. His story is interesting, but what stood out to me was his approach with the Santal people. He said, “‘It is the heathenism we want to get rid of, not the national character,'” and he made as few changes in Santal culture as he could and be still consistent with Christianity. He wrote down and preserved the Santal language, and “produced a hymnal using native tunes (Graves).” “His aim was an indigenous church, with its own language and clergy, retaining the native culture” (Kiefer). By the time of his death on this date in 1910, there were nearly 20,000 believers in the Santalese church.

His approach sounds very much like the kind of methodology the Ethnodoxology community encourages today (ethnos = peoples, doxology = praise). Sometimes I tend to think our approach is new, but it’s more that the principles we work so hard to encourage are taking root and becoming more widely used in missions. It’s gratifying to see that this fellow-worker in the gospel understood and implemented these same concepts over 130 years ago. God blessed the work of his hands and he saw much fruit.

To read the entire article, go here.

Works Cited
Graves, Dan. “Lars Skrefsrud, Norway’s Famous Missionary.” http://m.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/lars-skrefsrud-norways-famous-missionary-11630694.html. 28 April 2010.

Kiefer, James E, “Lars Olsen Skrefsrud, Missionary To India,” Biographical Sketches of Memorable Christians of the Past http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/16.html.

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