VINTON, Va. — Two years ago, when Chris Monroe visited the Precious Children International Village near Kottayam, India, it was not with the intent of starting a school of music in cooperation with the India Baptist Theological Seminary there.
Nevertheless, as an outgrowth of that visit, Monroe, associate senior pastor for worship at Vinton (Va.) Baptist Church, returned in October to help dedicate the Asian Christian College of Music. Accompanying him were his wife, Mary Beth, and two other members of the Vinton church.
The school, in the south Indian state of Kerala, offers bachelor’s degrees and describes itself as the first college of western music in India. It started with three music majors and 27 seminary students taking classes.
In addition to its ties to the India Baptist Seminary, ACCM also benefits from links with Bluefield College, a Baptist-affiliated school in Bluefield, Va., and with the Centre for Development of Music Studies, based in Trivandrum, about 100 miles from Kottayam and Kerala’s capital.
It also is in a covenant relationship with the India Baptist Convention, one of more than 20 regional Baptist organizations in the vast country. The IBC counts about 100 churches with about 6,000 members, primarily in Kerala.
According to the ACCM’s executive director, Abraham Samuel George, 10,000 ministers of music will be required in India’s Christian churches by 2020. To meet that need, the seminary has provided a home for the school on its campus in a building formerly occupied by the Precious Children International Village.
For several years the Monroes have been frequent visitors to the children’s village, which was started on the seminary’s grounds and now cares for about 150 at-risk children on a three-and-a-half acre campus nearby.
Vinton Baptist Church has historic ties to the seminary and as the church’s worship pastor, Monroe’s visits have served the dual purpose of ministering to the children and serving as a music resource for theological students.
After recording a CD with the children, Monroe suggested to Kunjumon Chacko, an Indian Baptist leader whose vision led to the establishment of both the children’s village and the seminary, that some kind of basic training in music should be provided for seminary students. The idea took root in Chacko’s mind, and before much time had elapsed, he proposed that such an endeavor could be established for $50,000. He also suggested that the new school be named for Monroe.
Led by senior pastor Bill Booth, Vinton Baptist responded to a challenge they called “The Advent Conspiracy” and raised half of the money needed.
“I did not want to have the school named in my honor because it needed to be much larger than is implied by one individual’s name,” said Monroe modestly. “We decided on the Asian Christian College of Music because it needed to have a multi-national appeal. We decided to use ‘Christian’ rather than ‘Baptist’ because other Christian faith traditions in India will find it equally appealing. It is the kind of school that will offer excellence in both the academic and performance areas and will draw students preparing for music careers even in secular fields.”
Monroe did agree, however, to act as the school’s president with local operations in India being handled by George, who gained celebrity status when he appeared on national television in a program called Supertalent.
“I don’t think we understand how important he is in India,” Monroe said.
Through Monroe’s efforts, Bluefield College agreed to partner on some projects, including online coursework, and has plans to send one of its choirs to Kottayam in 2013.
“We are looking for qualified people to go to the school and teach courses” said Monroe. “For course work, teachers need the academic backgrounds necessary, but those who have skills in a particular instrument are welcome.”
He also stressed the need for volunteers who have expertise in theatrical fields. Interested parties may contact Monroe at 540.343.7685 or [email protected].
Jim White ([email protected]) is editor of the Religious Herald.