Songs As Locus for a Lay Theology

Moshe Walsalam Sastriyar and Sadhu Kochukunju Upadeshi

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Philip K. Mathai
  • Eugene, OR: 
    Pickwick Publications
    , February
     202 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Hymns and songs have long been the most frequent and characteristic expression of communal beliefs, particularly among faith traditions that lack authoritarian or rigidly codified doctrinal statements. Even among Christian traditions that do include a strong focus on creeds, catechism and liturgy, it is hymnody, more than anything else, that sustains their lay theology. 

The hymns of Moshe Walsalam Sastriyar (1847–1916) and Sadhu Kochukunju Upadeshi (1883–1945)—both from the Kingdom of Travancore in southwest India—transcend denominational boundaries and have been embraced far beyond their historical communities of origin as a means of articulating faith and spirituality.

Against a missionizing backdrop of western-dominated hymnody and theology, these songs and writings from the fringes of colonialism were embraced by local communities and became their chosen expression of faith. As such, they evoked a lay consciousness quite distinct from official theologies of the church.

In Walsalam and Kochukunju, along with other Christian writers of their period and culture, we see a unique inter-weaving of local traditions and the global Christian message—one that transformed social and spiritual relationships for individuals and their communities alike.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Philip K. Mathai is Pastor of Mount Zion, Waterloo, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and is Adjunct Faculty at Martin Luther University College.


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