A Powerful Gathering of Women

Fifteen thousand women attended the gathering in Antsirabe, Madagascar. © LWF/E. Neuenfeldt
Fifteen thousand women attended the gathering in Antsirabe, Madagascar. © LWF/E. Neuenfeldt

Thousands Attend National Church Gathering in Madagascar

(LWI) – Fifteen thousand women attended the 14th National Women’s Gathering of the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) at the end of August in the central highlands city of Antsirabe, with some travelling three days by bus in order to worship and study together.

The theme of the meeting was “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

The triennial gathering, 27 August to 1 September, included 112 women theologians, who led Bible study groups. While the FLM is currently not ordaining women, the women theologians have for a long time been instrumental in bringing the church’s attention to the issue.

During the national gathering, the women theologians reflected together on a number of critical issues and shared their strong commitment to build both an inclusive church and abundance for all God’s people.

“This was a powerful gathering of women,” said Rev. Dr Elaine Neuenfeldt, secretary for Women in Church and Society (WICAS) at The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for Theology and Public Witness (DTPW), who participated in the gathering.

“Feeling the energy and the movement of so many women during five days was an amazing experience. The multitude of women gave testimony of their motivation to share the good news of the Gospel,” Neuenfeldt added.

No church building was big enough for the worship services during the meeting, so the women gathered together in a field, sitting on the grass, some arriving at seven in the morning in order to get a good place.

“The biblical image of a multitude following Jesus and sitting on the grass came to mind while being there,” Neuenfeldt said.

“The women at this gathering were sitting outside in a camp, listening to the teaching and preaching, and confidently confirming their commitments and active participation in being a lively church in this context,” she noted.

Women form the backbone of the church and Malagasy society, and every congregation has a vital women’s group that meets weekly for Bible study and to share with one another. Two-thirds of the 3-million-member FLM consists of women.

At the national gathering, Ms Agatha Mukagacinya, women’s coordinator for the Lutheran Church of Rwanda and WICAS regional coordinator for the Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa, made a presentation on the Christian mission of reconciliation. Neuenfeldt spoke about Christian women responsibilities concerning climate change.

FLM general secretary, Rev. Georges Samoela opened the gathering, while the national church president, Rev. Dr Endor Modeste Rakoto led the closing service.

“Personally, it was an experience that warmed my heart,” Neuenfeldt said of the five-day gathering.

“Women around the world are sharing similar struggles and pains, joys and achievements, and it is a gift to be in a communion where these particular contextual issues are shared and become affirmations to our journey together,” she concluded.

The Malagasy Lutheran Church joined the LWF in 1950, and Rev. Rakoto is an adviser to the LWF Council.