150 years of a grassroots-based revival movement

“The righteous shall live by faith” is the theme of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Malagasy Lutheran Church, inaugurated at the Masombahoaka Lutheran parish in Fianaratsoa. Photo: MLC
“The righteous shall live by faith” is the theme of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Malagasy Lutheran Church, inaugurated at the Masombahoaka Lutheran parish in Fianaratsoa. Photo: MLC

Malagasy Lutheran Church starts year-long jubilee and Reformation anniversary

The Malagasy Lutheran church (MLC) has inaugurated round-the-year celebrations until May 2018 to mark the church’s 150th anniversary and commemorate 500 years of the Reformation.

“The righteous shall live by faith” is the theme around which the MLC is organizing different activities inspired by its grassroots-based revival movement. The church established as a mission center in 1866, has become one of the largest Protestant bodies in Madagascar, with more than 4 million members.

MLC President Rev. Dr David Rakotonirina explained why Lutherans in the country had decided to celebrate the jubilee alongside the Reformation anniversary. “Our church is inspired by and identifies itself as a church of the reformation movement. Our movement to continuously revive or renew the church from the grassroots has become one of the strongest forces of MLC’s growth and spiritual sustainability.”

On 29 May Rakotonirina led over 2,000 members of the church and invited ecumenical guests in marking the jubilee anniversary at Masombahoaka Lutheran parish in the southern town of Fianaratsoa, the church’s first mission center. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which the MLC joined in 1950, then with nearly 194,000 members, was represented by the area secretary for Africa, Rev. Dr Elieshi Mungure.  

Missionaries from the Norwegian Mission Society established the Lutheran church in Madagascar, setting up its first mission station in Fianarantsoa. Its spiritual revival movement, which started at the church’s founding, focuses to date on encouraging Christians to live out the faith as an integral part of their daily routines.

“I thank God for how the MLC has lived out its mission and sharing of the good news of the gospel with others,” said Rakotonirina. He was elected MLC president in September 2016, and is among newly elected members of the LWF Council at the Twelfth Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia.

Church sends medical doctors to Papua New Guinea

The inaugural jubilee celebrations were marked by the sending out of missionary doctors to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea. Sponsored through a partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, Germany, the specialists in tropical medicine are part of a south-to-south expertise exchange program of the MLC mission and development work.

“The Malagasy church like many others in the region puts emphasis on holistic mission encompassing proclamation, diakonia and advocacy. We give thanks to God that this focus has proved to be successful to the point where churches are ready for strategic south to south resource sharing with support from our partners in the north,” said Mungure.

The MLC president said the plan in the coming years is to reach out to more people through evangelism and diaconal work at home and beyond Madagascar. “We want to work harder to eradicate poverty, increase opportunities for education, economic activities and health delivery, and tackle climate change which remains a major challenge for our people,” he explained.

Freed by God’s grace

MLC coordinator of the South to South and Overseas Mission, Ms Holiharifentra Rakotondramiadana said the church’s jubilee was an opportunity “to celebrate the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ and share it further according to people’s needs including diaconal work.”

As the MLC specialists in surgery, obstetrics, orthopedics and general medicine embark on a four-year mission in Papua New Guinea, Rakotondramiadana said her “hope and vision is for the Malagasy church and other churches in the global south to become centers for mission and evangelism for the entire Lutheran communion in the future.”

MLC Deputy General Secretary Ms Toromare Mananato said she hopes the celebrations will open up opportunities for the church to embrace change “because we are all freed by God’s grace to contribute to the church.” Referring to the important contributions by youth and women in the church, she said, “As we start our church jubilee in this Reformation anniversary year, may the Holy Spirit guide the MLC to do God's work because we are created to do good work through Jesus Christ.”

The Jubilee anniversary was preceded by the MLC Council meeting, 23-28 May.

Photos: LWF/E. Mungure and MLC

“The righteous shall live by faith” is the theme of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Malagasy Lutheran Church, inaugurated at the Masombahoaka Lutheran parish in Fianaratsoa. MLC President Rev. Dr David Rakotonirina (fifth from the left) led more than 2,000 people including ecumenical guests in launching the jubilee and 500 years of the Reformation.

A procession of MLC pastors and other participants attending the jubilee anniversary in Fianaratsoa, where the church’s first mission was set up in 1866.

A festive mood in Fianaratsoa, Madagascar, to mark 150 years of the Lutheran church growth and spiritual sustainability.

A group of women participants at MLC’s jubilee.  

Ms Holiharifentra Rakotondramiadana, MLC coordinator of the South to South and Overseas Mission, was among church officials assisting in the worship service.

MLC Deputy General Secretary Ms Toromare Mananato addressing congregation members during the inaugural jubilee and Reformation anniversary worship service in Masombahoaka Lutheran parish in Fianaratsoa.  

From left: LWF area secretary for Africa, Rev. Dr Elieshi Mungure, MLC President Rev. Dr David Rakotonirina and the church’s General Secretary Rev. Dieu-Donné Randrianirina.