By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — Sudarshana Devadhar was studying economics with a concentration in banking and accounting when the Lord called him to serve him and his people.
He heeded to the call and for more than 30 years has served in India, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Devadhar, 61, is now in charge of the 630 churches that make up the New England conference of the United Methodist Church with headquarters in Lawrence.
“I’m deeply, deeply excited to be here and do the Lord’s work,” he said. “To be faithful to my calling, I can only do it with prayers from congregations and colleagues.”
Since coming to Lawrence, he has been visiting churches from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island.
“As I have said before, like Mother Teresa, I don’t want to promise you that I will be successful, but I will be faithful and I will try my level best to do that,” he said.
“To be in ministry to Christ our ultimate goal is to bring the kindness of God to people.”
Born in India to Christian parents, Devadhar has a bachelor’s in commerce from Vijaya College Mulkiin in India; United Theological College both in India; a master of theology from the Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, a master of philosophy from the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University in New Jersey and a doctorate degree also from Drew University.
In addition to his lengthy educational background, Devadhar brings a wealth of experience to the post both as a minister, teacher, lecturer and administrator.
He became a deacon in India in 1975 and named a presbyter in 1977. From 1982 to 1990, he was pastor in North Bangor, N.Y.; supervising pastor at St. Regis Falls and Canton, N.Y.; and pastor in Canton, N.Y. from 1990-1996.
From 1996 to 2004, he served as district superintendent of the Ontario District of the North Central New York Conference as well as dean of the cabinet from 2000-2001, was district superintendent for the Ontario District.
Before being named bishop of the New England Conference, Devadhar served as resident bishop of the New Jersey area from 2004 to 2012.
He has taught courses on the history of the United Methodist church, evangelism, philosophy, ethics, sociology and world religions at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Massena and St. Regis Mohawk Indian reservations and at the Gouverneur and Ogdensburg Correctional facilities.
He has also lead missions of peace to China, India and Taize, France.
Devadhar has been part of bi-annual retreats for the General board of discipleship, Bishop’s Covenantal Learning Group and the Episcopal Leadership Forum at Duke University since 2005.
India’s Christian population is only 2.6 percent, but Mother Teresa who worked with the poor and lepers in that country have become a worldwide symbol of humility and love of God.
Devadhar said he will never forget the first time he first met the nun in 1994.
“It was a true encounter with the power of God. It was like a holy moment,” he said admiring how Mother Teresa washed her sari and ate bread with the nuns. “No words can describe it. She was an agent of the church who cared for everyone.”
He returned in 1995 with a group of teenagers. Although they did not have an appointment with her, they waited in the chapel until the service was over and she received them warmly.
The teenagers sat in a circle and she sat among them as if no one else was there.
“The kids were blown away,” he said. “I think it really helped them because some of them came from backgrounds were hope was crashed. “
Devadhar said the passage in Roman 8:28 is one he lives by. It reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
“I truly believe God knows what’s best for us,” he said. “This has helped me a lot in my ministry; it has not gone wasted.”
Devadhar and his wife of 36 years, Premalatha have a daughter, Trina and her husband Gage and two granddaughters, Nyla Saritha and Laili Rose Hemmelgarn.
During his spare time, he enjoys reading spiritual books and listening to spiritual music.
Advent season leading to Christmas starts tomorrow
Christians will light a purple candle during services tomorrow as they begin the season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to the birth of Jesus on Christmas.
Each week, parishioners light a candle on the Advent wreath — three purple symbolizing the expectation of Jesus’ birth and a pink candle on Gaudette Sunday, a Latin word for rejoice. The wreath is set around the candles and there is also a white candle in the center of the greenery, called the Jesus candle which is lit on Christmas eve.
The candles symbolize Christ as the light of the world when he was born in Bethlehem.
Here’s a partial list of Advent services:
Faith Lutheran, 390 S. Main St., Andover: The church is presenting two Christmas pageants on Dec. 9 and 16 both at 4 p.m. A potluck dinner and talent show follows.
Hampstead Congregational, 61 Main St., Hampstead: Interfaith Choir Christmas concert is perform Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.
Londonderry United Methodist, 258 Mammoth Road, Londonderry: Interfaith Choir Christmas concert is perform Dec. 9 at 4 p.m.
Lyons Park, Pelham: Local church choir members join their voices for a community Christmas sing-a-long Dec. 8, 6-8 p.m. Free, but donations accepted for the Pelham Food Pantry.
Presentation of Mary Academy, 209 Lawrence St., Methuen: Renown PBS composer Tim Janis performs “The Christmas Rose” featuring Amy Petty, Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m. General admission is $15 or $30 for concert and after party. To reserve tickets, log on to www.pmamethuen.org.
St. Francis of Assisi, 9 St. Francis Way, Litchfield: Advent carols, a journey to Christmas in word and songs is performed Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.
St. James, 6 Cottage St., Haverhill: The Granite Statesmen a Capella choir performs in concert Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
St. Joseph Church of St. Mary and Joseph parish, 40 Main St., Salem: Service of lessons and carols is perform Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
St. Lucy, 254 Merrimack St., Methuen: The parish hosts an Advent mission Dec. 11 with holy hour and benediction; Dec. 12 with penance service and Dec. 13 Mass in honor of the feast of St. Lucy all at 6:30 p.m.
St. Matthew, 2 Searles Road, Windham: The church’s Celebration Choir performs a lessons and carols concert Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.
St. Michael, 196 Main St., North Andover: The Boston Children’s Chorus, made up of more than 100 boys and girls performs Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general seating and $35 for premium seating. Experience what life was like in Bethlehem at Night in Bethlehem, Dec. 7 and Dec. 8. Afternoon of reflection for seniors is Dec. 12 from noon to 2 p.m. in the parish hall.
St. Patrick, 118 S. Broadway, Lawrence: “Ten Things You Need to Do Before You Die, Part I” is the theme of the Advent evening of reflection Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. During the session, participants explore life and death medical choices.
St. Patrick, 12 Main St., Plaistow: The lighting of the creche will be held in front of the church, Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. Advent cluster penance service is held Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.
St. Thomas Aquinas, 26 Crystal Ave., Derry: Advent reconciliation will be available Dec. 11 from 7-8:30 p.m.
West Parish, 129 Reservation Road, Andover: Advent workshop is held Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. Live outdoor Christmas pageant is Dec. 22 at 5 p.m. at the arch of the cemetery.
Chabad Lubavitch, 310 N. Main St., Andover: “Kabbalah of You” A Guide to Unlocking Your Hidden Potential” Thursdays through Dec. 6, 7-8:30 p.m.
Church of the Transfiguration, 1 Hood Road, Derry: Members of the church and Etz Hayim Synagogue lead an interfaith discussion on the book, “Have a Little Faith,” Dec. 19 and Jan.16 at noon.
Corpus Christi parish at Holy Rosary, 35 Essex St., Lawrence: “Why Catholic” a course based on the Catechism, the Catholic church and scripture meets Mondays at 1 p.m. and Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Faith Lutheran, 360 S. Main St., Andover: The Rev. John Heydenreich leads a “Walk through the Bible” study focusing on key stories and what do they mean, Dec. 2 and 9, 5-6:30 p.m. Youth director Tom Schauer hosts “Tom’s Teen Time” for high school students to talk about topics and issues related to teens. The group is watch a film series on “The Hunter Games,” “The Avengers” and “The Way” for discussion and reflection on its Christian and social themes.
First Presbyterian, 346 Broadway, Haverhill: Book study is reading Rob Bell’s “Velvet Elvis” Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m.
Island Pond Baptist, 26 N. Salem Road, Hampstead: Women’s Bible study, a DVD series discussing the works of noted Christian writer and speaker, Elisabeth Elliot every Thursday from 9:15 to 11:30 a.m.
Londonderry United Methodist, 258 Mammoth Road, Londonderry: Adult Sunday School class titled, “What Does it mean to be United Methodist” is Sundays at 10 a.m. The video series focuses on the roots of the United Methodist church and the Wesleyan heritage.
New Creation Healing Center, 80 Route 125, Kingston: Service focusing on the healing of the Father image is Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. There will also be prayers for people with physical and emotional needs.
North Parish Unitarian Universalist, 190 Academy Road, North Andover: The parish is sponsoring a study group on immigration as a moral issue Thursdays from 7 to 8:30 pm. Contact Deb Olander at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, 22 Plymouth St., Methuen: An evening of live Irish music featuring Brian Kingsley and the Celtic Cross Band takes place tonight from 7-10 p.m. Tickets available at the door. Donations accepted to benefit the mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Natalie Slabcynski, Elizabeth Friedrich and Colleen Braga will go on Dec. 29 to Jan. 5.
St. Christopher Episcopal, 189 East Road, Hampstead: The church is hosting “Rhythms of Grace” a worship and faith formation program for children with autism-spectrum disorder and other special needs, Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. An informal study of the Bible for mothers will be held Tuesdays from 10-11 a.m.
St. John the Baptist, 120 Lincoln Ave., Haverhill: Members of the Marian Society devoted to Our Lady of Fatima pray the Rosary Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m.
Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish, 40 Main St., Salem: The program, “Exploring the Catholic Faith” where participants reflect on the Sunday gospel and discuss it, will be offered Sundays, 7-8:30 p.m. through Easter.
St. Patrick, 118 S. Broadway, Lawrence: “Life and Faith” adult faith formation series focusing on the sacraments will be held Thursdays from 7-8:30, through April. Bible study for people in their 20s and 30s meets weekly to discuss the Passion and Resurrection narratives of Jesus, Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.
St. Peter Episcopal, 3 Peabody Row, Londonderry: Centering prayer group meets Wednesdays at 7 p.m. for silent prayer and contemplation.
St. Thomas Aquinas, 26 Crystal Ave., Derry: Charismatic prayer group meets for praise, thanksgiving and love through the Holy Spirit, Mondays 7-8:30 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist, 15 Kenoza Ave., Haverhill: The Rev. Frank Clarkson and Kimberly Cloutier Green lead “Tending the Sacred: Holy Longing, Holy Listening” using contemplative prayer and spiritual direction Dec. 5 9:30-11:30 a.m. and Dec. 11, 7-9 p.m.