Chairman Peter Wilson opened the meeting with the news that Thomas Clayton had resigned his membership of the Forum because of his deteriorating health. He recalled that Thomas joined in 2013 and had interests that were never exploited by the Forum. He is an accomplished artist and also published a booklet of his poems which is available on Amazon.
Roger Bancroft distributed details of the Menu choices for the Christmas Lunch which is priced at £27 for 3-courses and £24 for just 2 courses. He advised a deadline for acceptance by the end of November.
Members gave a warm welcome to today’s speaker and President of the Forum, Rev Moses John. His appearance had been delayed for 2 years because of the pandemic so, for us, this was his debut. His opening remarks left us a bit confused when he announced that actually, his surname was Moses and his given name John. However, he preferred to be Moses in line with his biblical calling!
Moses introduced us to India as a sub-continent more diverse than Europe with so many different languages and cultures. His home state in South India is called Tamil Nada (Home of the Tamils) with its capital Chennai. (formerly Madras). He was born a few miles south of Chennai into a Hindu family of the untouchable caste. As a child, his lowly status was brought home to him when a school friend invited him back home to play. When the parents returned they began to seriously scold the boy and asked Moses to leave. Later he learned that the parents had scrubbed the house down from top to bottom because they were of a higher caste and considered that Moses’ visit had made the house dirty.
Thus, untouchables found Christianity quite appealing because, as Hindus, they were trapped into the hereditary caste system for life without a chance of promotion. Whereas, as Christians, in God’s eyes, they were all equal and in their own communities there would be opportunities to progress.
Moses’ father was the first in his village to convert to Christianity and in doing so descended below the level of untouchable giving up all the government benefits that were on offer to poor and needy Hindus. He worked as a military driver and was often struck by the number of children he saw sleeping on the streets. One day he picked up 5 of them and brought them back to the house where they happily settled in with Moses as part of the family. The village was on the coast south of Chennai and something of a tourist resort and provided them with an opportunity to seek sponsorship from visiting tourists. This encouraged his father to enlarge the community to more than 70 children and give them an education and a chance to progress up the ladder.
When he was 21 Moses felt the urge to follow his father’s example and help people through Christianity. His contact with visiting tourists proved invaluable because he was able to secure sponsorship from a Swedish gentleman to enter the Methodist Cliff College in Derby to study Theology. So began his journey to England, to marriage, to family and to the Nidd Valley Methodist Circuit where he is happily settled.
There were several questions from the Floor mainly to do with the operation of the caste system. after which the vote of thanks was given by Richard Brooks who congratulated Moses on his inspiring story of progress from adversity.
Recorded by: RICHARD WRIGHT