“Despite all our differences we are one”

Beneficiaries of the GNC/LWF scholarship program: (from left) Daniel Jara (Ecuador), Elizabeth Silayo (Tanzania), Michelle Wong (Malaysia) and Sebastian Dallmann (Germany). Photo: LWF/A. Weyermüller
Beneficiaries of the GNC/LWF scholarship program: (from left) Daniel Jara (Ecuador), Elizabeth Silayo (Tanzania), Michelle Wong (Malaysia) and Sebastian Dallmann (Germany). Photo: LWF/A. Weyermüller

GNC/LWF scholarship-holders meet in Hanover

(LWI) “I am learning to engage in international dialogues and build up relations with different people,” says Elizabeth Silayo (38), summing up her experiences. “I understand the world as God´s garden, in which there are many gifted people.” The pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania goes on to say, “Despite all our differences we are one.”

These experiences are largely made possible thanks to scholarships from the German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation (GNC/LWF). At present it is funding 37 students – 24 from Germany and 13 international students. Elizabeth Silayo is using this opportunity to earn a doctorate in Religious Studies at Augustana Theological Seminary in Neuendettelsau, Germany.

I understand the world as God´s garden, in which there are many gifted people. Despite all our differences we are one.
Elizabeth Silayo, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania

Intercultural and ecumenical competence

Daniel Jara (29) from Ecuador has enrolled for a Master’s in Extended Ecumenical Studies at Bonn University. “Since I come from a tiny little Lutheran Church it is a great experience for me to be able to study in the country where Lutheranism originated. I can explore the wealth and diversity of Lutheran traditions and visions to be found in our world communion. I believe that ‘intra-ecumenism’ – my term for intercultural dialogue within global confessions – will play a major role in this century.”

The GNC/LWF also funds ecumenical capacity building with a specially designed scholarship: the Ecumenical Studies funding line. Two scholarships stand for a study year abroad at Centro Melantone in Rome, Italy, and an ecumenical semester at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Sibiu, Romania. While Centro Melantone focuses on dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, the emphasis in Sibiu is on contact to the Orthodox churches.

Theology student Sebastian Dallmann (31) from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany was in Sibiu recently. “I learned a lot through talking with Orthodox theologians, particularly about liturgy, iconography or church law,” he reports. “Engaging with Orthodoxy also taught me quite a bit about Lutheran thinking, and my interest in ecumenism has grown considerably.”

Experience with the LWF influences the choice of study program

Michelle Wong (32) is from the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia. Compared to the other students she is studying a completely different subject in Heidelberg – church music. She is convinced that “Luther was the Reformer with the greatest love of music.” She adds: “In subjects like hymnology, liturgy and theology I have learned a lot about the origins of the Reformation. It had a great influence on hymns and liturgy and also on the way in which Christians participate in worship.”

In the case of Michelle Wong, the wish to study music arose through her involvement in the LWF; she was a member of the Global Young Reformers Network and from 2015 to 2017 was on the International Worship Planning Committee. That involved helping to plan the Reformation service at the Twelfth LWF Assembly in Namibia. “I was very impressed to see the great importance attributed to worship services, celebrations of Holy Communion, Bible studies and daily prayers,” she reports. “As a professional musician, I would like to contribute to shaping the church at the local and global level.”

The GNC/LWF had invited the scholarship-holders to an informal gathering in Hanover on 12/13 April. Students from Ethiopia, Brazil, India, Madagascar, Malaysia, Ukraine, Hungary, USA and Germany accepted the invitation to this get together. Participants felt that it was extremely stimulating to meet the other scholarship-holders and also to experience the international Lutheran Communion. “It is a great experience to get to know people from other countries – their church history, their commitment, their personal faith,” one of them said.

The scholarship program of the German National Committee of the Lutheran National Committee (GNC/LWF) goes back 65 years. It has funded over 2000 students from Germany and LWF member churches in this period.

 

GNC/LWF Scholarship program