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Christian Thanksgiving for a family of Hindu Background
BI is particularly indebted to South Asian Concern  for permission to re-publish this fascinating article from their April 2002 Publication and also for letting us have the text of the ceremony which has so much for us to think about in the context of our Thanksgiving Services.

Not Walking Away From Our Culture

Suneel and Susan held a Naamakarana (naming ceremony) for their newborn son, Amir. We asked Suneel about the ceremony.

 

What is a Naamakarana?
The Naamakarana is both a religious and social rite of passage in Hinduism. We used it as an opportunity for family members and close friends to share in Christian prayer and welcome for Amir.

Why did you have a naming ceremony?
We wanted to express our Christian faith in a way that Suneel’s Hindu family would understand, i.e. in a way that was consistent with their culture. Suneel comes from a Hindu Sindhi background but is very English. So we wrote a ceremony that was Hindu and English in culture but Christian in content.

What do you mean ‘Hindu and English’ in culture?
We are using the term ‘Hindu’ to refer to the cultural background and practices rather than religious content. As in Hindu culture (and Asian culture generally), the ceremony was performed at home; respect was given to the older generation, who were asked to announce the name to those present, and then give the name to the child; people sat on cloth on the floor, with their shoes outside the room. (The cloth was a traditional Sindhi design.) However the service was conducted in English, with English songs and readings. And so the culture of the ceremony was a mix of Hindu and English, or British and Asian.

How did you ensure the ceremony was Christian?
The name of the ceremony, Naamakarana, was no more Hindu than ‘Service’ or ‘Confirmation’ is ‘Christian’.

The content of the ceremony was Biblical. The readings were from the Bible only, and the focus of our prayers was the God of the Bible alone.

Can these principles be applied elsewhere?
Whatever our religious background, in Asian culture there are ceremonies for most life events. So there is scope for creating events to which family members would relate, but would be essentially Christian. They provide a God-given opportunity to express our faith sensitively to our family.

Coming from a Hindu background I knew that my family would attend a naming ceremony as it is a recognised Hindu ceremony. They may have come to a ‘dedication’ in church, but as they are not used to church culture we didn’t want to add unnecessary obstacles to their understanding of Christianity.

How did you produce it?
We did some research into the Hindu naming ceremony, but as we do not have the exact culture of our ancestors, we decided to create something to which we and those relations of our generation could relate.

The results: English family members preferred it to a ‘Christening’, and the Asian family members were also positive about it, finding it accessible.

A pack is available from South Asian Concern which includes the full text of the service and a 30 minute home video. For more information contact South Asian Concern at email 100126.3641@compuserve.com or telephone 020 8770 9717.

 For the text of the ceremony click here    

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