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The Rev. Abidhananthar John

Rev. Father Abidhananthar John, Abi John, has been an ordained priest since 2004 under The Church of South India and currently serves at the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, New York at The Church of the Ascension. He has pastored to both rural and urban congregations in the Madras Diocese and served among the grassroots level for Dalit Christian Communities. For a decade, he has served as the Director of Dalit and Adivasi concerns in the Diocese of Madras for a four- year term. He writes sermons in Tamil to equip the lay leadership towards a bold theological vision. Abi served in nearly 78 parishes in 8 different Pastorates which gave him ample opportunities to have team time with leadership. As the associate director for the lay department in the diocese of Madras, Father served in Saint George’s Cathedral as its associate priest.    


Under the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, Abi was called as Rector at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church during 2017 – 2018.  Here, the issues of poverty, unemployment and drug addiction prevail. He was actively engaged with the local community and paved a way for building hopes to make the American Dream possible for his parishioners. His association with the fire department made some remarkable avenues in the growth of the church, also. Eventually, he was called to be the Priest-in-Charge at Saint James’ Episcopal Church, Watkins Glen and Saint John's Episcopal Church, Catharine, New York. He envisioned many programs during the covid pandemic, especially calling women from both churches to align together with the International Women’s Conference which has been continued since 2017. The last conference was held on Zoom.  Abi and Angeline coached the people of God for a meaningful ministry in Schuyler County… Christmas Caroling, Summer School of Love for all children, and sharing Pongal and the feast. Abi wrote the curriculum for the Summer School of Love, involving laity and the public to carry on the vision.  The Pongal Festival enhances the plural design of God. 


Barnie Parker Sharing Shed was begun allowing for food items for poor and needy people to be available, anytime.  The International Women's Forum Seminars led to “Women Helping Women” a training for unemployed women sponsored by a grant from the S E District. There have been rural migrant ministries at local dairy farms, Valentine’s Day programs with the elders and widows, a Children's Scripture Program, Portable Gardens for the young children in collaboration with Girl Scouts to bring awareness about our planet and its eco systems.  The Learning Pod Program sponsored by the Lions Club helped students during the worst of Covid-19. Community gardens, at both the churches, helped to stock the shed. Free coffee in the winter was handed out during February before school or work. These are some of his initiatives during Abi’s ministry at St. James’ and St. John’s. During his service at Watkins Glen, Abi also helped a youth to discern his calling to do ministry by enrolling at CRCDS. 


After a two-year contact at Watkins Glen, Abi had an invitation from the Church of the Ascension, and the vestry called him as a priest in-charge on September 13, 2021. Eventually he was installed as the Rector of the Parish on November 12, 2022 after being called in March. He is deeply engaged in the refugee ministry and joyfully works with the people of Ascension in doing effective ministries. Since 2019, Father Abi has been a member of COM and his passion for mission, prayerful and diligent ideas and his experience in the Church do complement the discernment engagement to COM towards a powerful ministerial engagement. He engages with a diocesan team in equipping young people to discern their ministerial call for a passionate ministry grounded with the philosophy of love.

He studied under the late Dr. James H Cone, the Father of Black theology, at Union Theological College (Sacred Theology-STM 2014-2016) New York, which envisaged him to do a comparative study between three religious philosophies grounding three great personalities, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Ambedkar. He also did his research on Dalit Christian Reservation, Dalit Politics in Tamil Nadu as well as about the Dalit Religion.


In India, he has organized many seminars, rallies, and workshops to educate and empower Dalits to assert their rights. He had his schooling at Dharma Murthy Rao Bahadur Kalevala Cunnane Chetty Hindu Higher Secondary School, Tiruvallur, TamilNadu, India. He is a political science graduate (B.A., M.A., M.Phil.,) from Madras Christian College, Chennai, and completed His Bachelor of Divinity (M.Div.,) at Gurukul Theological College, Chennai. He was an active member of the Student Christian Movement of India and represented it in a political camp held in Italy at Agape Ecumenical Center, Prelim, in the year 2002 as an exchange student. He was a resource person at New York SCM- WSCF team in March of 2014.  He achieved the highest level as resource person at the College in the year 2003 and was honored with eight awards in the class.


Father Abi John was also awarded the “Derick Prize for Regions” by the Senate of Seram pore in the year 2004. Currently, he is doing his part time doctoral program at CRCDS while Church of the Ascension continues to grow in numbers, programs, and spiritual services which are open to all people of all genders. Beyond his work in the church, he is pursuing a Doctorate at  Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, where he studies part-time on his day off. Church of the Ascension is proud to support his endeavors and leadership through loving team work.

To be in touch with Father Abi please email him at

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