It is significant to note that the word “Gurukul” is very much Indian which is derived from two Sanskrit words – ‘guru’ (teacher) and ‘kulam’ (family). That is, in the Vedic system of education, the students used to live with the teacher as a family to learn and seek knowledge from the Guru. This intimate relationship between the teacher and the student is a strong feature of Gurukul..
It was at the second meeting of the All India Lutheran Conference held in 1912 that efforts were initiated to establish a higher standard theological institution to train pastors and other Church workers for serving in all the Lutheran Churches in India. This initiative , however, could not be pursued due to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. In 1923, the then secretary of the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC) attended the first meeting of the Lutheran World Convocation held at Eisenach, and stressed the urgent need for establishing the proposed Lutheran Theological College in Madras (now Chennai). The same need was presented to the Mission Supporters in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the United States of America. In July 1927, the first step was taken to establish a Lutheran Theological College in Madras for the Tamil region. Meanwhile, , the Federation of Lutheran Churches in India (FELC – now known as the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India) was formed in 1925 and the Leipzig Mission offered its Kilpauk property in Madras to run a Seminary as a common Theological Schoolto serve all the Lutheran Churches in India. Accordingly, in July 1953, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute was established to impart higher theological education for the efficient training of ministers, teachers, and other leaders for the churches. It was registered under the Society Registration Act of 1860 on 18 June 1962 to function as a full-fledged theological institution, and thereafter affiliated with the Senate of Serampore College (University), Serampore, West Bengal.
Later, in response to strengthen ecumenical relations, and in order to make Gurukul a Centre for praxis-oriented continuing theological education programmes, the academic programmes of Gurukul were transferred to the United Theological College, Bangalore and Serampore College, Serampore, in the year 1971. However, later having felt the need for new directions to make theological education in India more relevant, Gurukul was revived in 1985. Realising the distinctive role Gurukul could play in this regard, Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.), Master of Theology (M.Th.) and Doctoral of Theology (D.Th.) programmes were initiated respectively in 1985, 1989 and 1998, with an overall thrust to impart “A Bold Theological Vision” in theological education in India.
Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute is an Organ of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (UELCI) and is governed by the Gurukul College Council (GCC), which consists of members from all the constituent churches of UELCI and three ecumenical churches –the Church of South India (CSI), the Church of North India (CNI) and the Marthoma Church. The Gurukul College Council meets annually to offer directions and to revise policies from time to time for the smooth functioning of the College. The Executive Committee of the Gurukul College Council, appointed by the Gurukul College Council, meets at regular intervals to take decisions that strengthen the day-to-day functioning of Gurukul. The Principal appointed by the Gurukul College Council looks into the academic and administrative matters of the College. The Treasurer appointed by the Gurukul College Council looks into the overall financial management of the College.
Gurukul offers Graduate, Postgraduate and Doctoral Research programmes recognised by the Senate of Serampore College (University). The Bachelor of Divinity (BD) degree course is of four years duration with courses stipulated by the Senate of Serampore College (University)as well as other special courses offered by Gurukul reflecting the nature of the ‘Bold Theological Vision’ and in order to make the theological education holistic and contextual. The Master of Theology (M.Th.) degree course is of two years duration, and in the current academic session Gurukul is offering M.Th. programmein the disciplines of Christian Theology, History of Christianity, Communication, and Missiology. The Doctor of Theology (D.Th.) which is a compulsory three year residential programme is oriented towards research. At present, the Doctoral candidates are pursuing their research in the Departments of Religion, Communication and Missiology.
Besides the regular residential academic programmes Gurukul is offering “Bachelor of Christian Studies” (BCS) and YMCA Training Programme for YMCA secretaries.
Spirituality is the central focus of Gurukul. It aims at genuine and authentic spiritual formation as much as personal, academic and ministerial formations. The chapel continues to be the centre of life in Gurukul. It is a place of personal meditation, daily morning worship, midweek community worship, Sunday evening Community Worship, evening prayers, children ministry, retreats – at the beginning of each semester, and on Ash Wednesday are times to strengthen our spiritual formation. Efforts are made to create awareness in the worshippers of the need to relate one’s faith to the socio-economic, political, and cultural realities of today.
Gurukul chapel is an outstanding example of indigenous architecture. It is built in the form of a Mandapam. The altar is constructed as a Sumaithangi to symbolise Christ’s call to all people to place their burden on Him. It is a memorial gift of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Toledo, Ohio in honour of Dr. C. D. Schwan, a pastor at the congregation in Toledo and later lifelong missionary in the South Andhra Lutheran Church.
The Martin Luther Library is the centre for academic excellence. It has more than 60,000 volumes. The “Online Library” has 12 work stations and space for another 8 persons to make use the available online facilities. With subscriptions to EBSCO/ATLA the staff, students and the patrons have access to browse more than 2,000 serial titles on microfilm and more than 30,000 monograph titles on microfiche or microfilm of 120 journals which are available online. Apart from these journals, National and International journals unavailable with the ATLA are procured and hard copies are stored for the use of the researchers. Students are given training on how to use and access the online resources for their class and research works. Scholars from other seminaries, secular colleges and universities and also pastors from Chennai city are the beneficiaries of the library resources.
Community life is the key for enhancing personal formation, ministerial formation, spiritual formation and academic formation. Students are encouraged to engage themselves to participate in the life of the community, making the college community as a base community for theological reflection. Student activities, such as, Student Christian Movement, Social and Theological Forum, Informal Discussion Groups, Fine-arts Society, Sports and Games, Celebrations of cultural and national festivals, etc., enhances the joy of the community and serves as a platform to exhibit and improve the talents and gifts of the students. Students take active part in organising various programmes under the guidance of a faculty in-charge.
The “Guru-Sishya Fellowship Groups” are small groups of students who meet regularly on the first Wednesday of the month for formal get-together, to get to know each other better, share their joys, sorrows and experiences and also spend time in prayer. In addition to that the students are attached to a Faculty member for a one-to-one sharing and interaction called “Tutorial Groups”. In the Tutorial Groups the faculty member serves as a mentor and a liaison between the students and the administration on matters pertaining to the students’ academic work and their other needs while in the college. The heads of the departments function as tutors for the M.Th. and D.Th. students.
Gurukul takes pride in the fact that it has a highly competent and ecumenical faculty, deeply committed to explore new dimensions of Christian faith and values. At present Gurukul has 17 full time and four part time faculty membersrepresenting Lutheran Churches, Church of South India, Church of North India, Baptist Church, Marthoma Church, Methodist Church in India and Evangelical Church of India (ECI) and Pentecostal Church.