“It was with great sadness that we received the news of the passing of Rev. Pablo Sosa, one of the grandfathers of global ecumenical spirituality,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The Argentinian Methodist pastor passed away on 11 January, in Buenos Aires, at the age of 85.
Born in December 1934, he studied theology at the Instituto Superior Evangélico de Estudios Teológicos; and ecclesiastical music at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, United States, at the Hochschule für Musik, in Berlin, Germany, and at the Sacred Music School of the Union Seminary in New York, USA.
Sosa was the author of countless songs from the Latin American Protestant repertoire. He served as a pastor of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina, and is recognized worldwide for his work as composer, teacher, choral director, and church musician. He also worked as professor of liturgy and hymnology at the Instituto Superior Evangélico de Estudios Teológicos.
Rev. Terry MacArthur, who retired from WCC, reflected on the meaning he found in working with Sosa. “For Sosa, the challenge of ecumenical worship did not end with adding some shakers and a drum; it entailed embodying the theology of another, and in the process understanding more clearly how we were shaped by our presumptions.”
Rev. Dr Mikie Roberts, WCC programme executive for Spiritual Life spoke of Sosa’s legacy: “The legacy of Sosa is tangible in that years later his songs continue to shape ecumenical spirituality and theology locally and globally. We pray that the next generation of emerging church musicians will be inspired to build upon his legacy.”
‘Your special gift is - make the community sing’
Throughout his work life, Sosa's social awareness broadened his vision to give new hope through songs. He often described worship as the feast of believers, where everyone is welcome.
He was acknowledged by many for his gift to make congregations sing. As a composer, in most of his songs, Sosa ventured into Latin American musical language, with hymns such as "Que esta Iglesia sea un àrbol" (May this church be like a tree) known globally during the WCC 11th Assembly, held in Busan, Republic of Korea, in 2013.
His hymns have been translated into various languages (English, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Finnish, Chinese and Japanese) and included in hymnals and songbooks around the world.
Sosa tirelessly promoted the inclusion of regional hymns in churches across the globe. In this sense, his contribution to the songbook for the 6th Assembly of the WCC, held in Vancouver, Canada, 1983, in which he was also one of the liturgical-musical animators, was very important.
The funeral service took place at the Methodist Church of Flores, Buenos Aires, on 12 January. Sosa left behind his two children David and Cecilia, as well as grandchildren and many beloved ones.