Wednesday, 22 February, 2012

Rev. Dr. Samson Prabhakar: A teacher, pastor and a gentleman

The UTC community was put into deep grief by the death of Rev. Dr. Samson Prabhakar who served the United Theological College for a very long time. He breathed his last in the early hours of Sunday, February 19. He is survived by his wife Mrs. Rosebel Prabhakar and son Oscar. His association with the UTC, Karnataka Central Diocese (KCD) of the CSI and South Asia Theological Research Institute (SATHRI) will be cherished and remembered by many students, laity, colleagues, pastors and researchers.

Rev. Dr. Jayakiran Sebastian says

"In the passing of Dr Samson Prabhakar, we have lost someone who was deeply concerned not only about theological education in India in the broadest sense, but also about theological education within the congregation, at the local level. This concern was manifest right through his teaching career, where he constantly reminded us of the need and necessity of teaching in the local context. As someone who belonged to his very first batch of students at the United Theological College in 1982 - 83, I tried to translate some of his insights into practice, especially during Confirmation classes. He wrote about this at various levels, including his doctoral dissertation at the University of Berne, Switzerland, where his underlying concern was working toward the revitalization of the church through education, especially through a contextually sensitive, biblically rooted confirmation curriculum. This concern also manifested itself through his work on contextual liturgies, where he firmly stated that "to be ecumenical, any Christian liturgy has to be authentically Christian and culturally relevant. Moreover, if our unity is to be visible, this is ultimately possible in and through fellowship at the Lord''s Table." (Samson Prabhakar, "The Church of South India Liturgy of the Eucharist: Authenticity and Relevance," in Thomas F. Best and Dagmar Heller, So We Believe, So We Pray: Towards Koinonia in Worship (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1995), p. 74.) In the broader sense, Dr Prabhakar worked hard at strengthening the doctoral programme of the Senate of Serampore College. Though one may quibble about details, one cannot doubt his sincerity in working towards making this broad-based and accessible to all those who wanted to pursue higher theological studies. I, personally, will miss a colleague in theological education, fellow pastor, and above all a sincere and committed teacher, who sowed the seeds of the "perfection of knowledge" (in St Basil's words) and took pleasure in seeing them grow in God's good garden."

Dr. Samson  Prabhakar was many things to many people. His mannerisms and approach to students is indeed worth emulating. Some of his students bear witness to that. Rev. Rohan says that "I am saddened by news of Prabhakar ayya's death. He was a friendly teacher and a good musician." Dr. Anderson sums it up by saying "He was a good pastor, teacher and a friend." 

The funeral held on Sunday evening brought together his family, friends, colleagues, church members and students. Everyone talked about how encouraging a person he was to his students and that theological education in India benefitted from him. Prof. Dr. Iris Devadason, a colleague of Dr. Prabhakar remembers how he was involved with music and acting in the UTC. His involvement extended to several spheres.

Bishop Coorilos, an alumnus and former faculty member of the UTC said that
" It was with great sense of shock and sadness that I received the news about the demise of Dr. Samson Prabhakar. Dr. Prabhakar was my teacher at the United Theological College, Bangalore when I was a B.D. Student in the 1980's. He taught me pastoral ministry and Christian Education. Dr. Prabhakar was an excellent communicator. He had a special God-given talent in organizing very meaningful inter-cultural worship resources. A gifted musician himself, his lectures too sounded musical. Years later,I have had the privilege of having worked together as colleagues on the faculty of UTC. When Dr. Prabhakar took up the the Directorship of SATHRI, I had several opportunities to work closely with him on several ventures. I still cherish the good memories that I have of jointly editing a book on HIV and AIDS: Theological Reflections. Although he has been ailing for quite some time, I never imagined that he would return to mother earth so soon. UTC and all his students and colleagues all over the world will miss him for a long long time. His legacy will remain for ever. As a  UTCian myself, I offer my prayerful condolences. May the comforting presence of God be with the bereaved family, especially his wife and children. Dr. Samson Prabhakar, Rest in Peace."  

The principal, faculty, staff and students of the UTC offer their condolences to the family of Rev. Dr. Samson Prabhakar. May his soul rest in peace. 

(Rev. Dr. Samson Prabhakar acting in one of the UTC drama productions. Picture courtesy Dr. Iris Devadason.)


LLoyd wild said...

A most considerate human being, to students and others alike.A good listener and some body i adored and loved.A truly fine gentleman a wonderful teacher and my pastor.

United Theological College said...

Thanks for your comment Lloyd.