Lutherans in Rwanda celebrate Silver Jubilee

Lutherans in Rwanda sing and dance during celebrations at Kirehe parish to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of their church. All photos: Neng'ida Johaness-Lairumbe/ELCT

LWF General Secretary Junge joins inauguration of new churches and theological seminary

(LWI) – The Lutheran Church of Rwanda (LCR) recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding through the inauguration of a parish, worship services, diaconal activities and the blessing of a cornerstone for a new theological seminary. 

Banner at Kirehe parish marking the Silver Jubilee of Lutheran Church of Rwanda.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge took part in the celebrations. He was accompanied by LWF Council member Ms Faith Wambua from the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC) and the area secretary for Africa Rev. Dr Elieshi Mungure. Delegates from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Church of Sweden also attended the celebrations. 

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge cutting a ribbon to mark the inauguration of Kirehe Church, together with LCR Bishop Evalister Mugabo .

The theme for the Silver Jubilee was a verse from Psalm 126: “The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy." Celebrations began on 25 October with a service at Kirehe parish and the ordination of two pastors, Rev. Dusabilema Shantal and Rev. Mukama Eddy Santos. 

Two newly ordained pastors, Rev. Dusabilema Shantal and Rev. Mukama Eddy Santos during the inauguration service at Kirehe parish, marking the Silver Jubilee of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda.

The following day, delegates engaged in the ‘Umuganda’ community support activities, which take place throughout Rwanda on the last Saturday of each month. In the wake of the 1994 genocide, the government reintroduced this traditional practice as a way of bringing neighbors together to work on a common project and support those most in need. Alongside LCR Bishop Evalister Mugabo, the visitors helped in the building of eight houses for local families and planted trees to highlight the church’s commitment to care for God’s creation. 

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr. Martin Junge and LCR Bishop Evalister Mugabo planting trees together during the ‘Umuganda’ community support activities in Kayonza parish. 

Bishop Mugabo underlined the way the church in Rwanda has flourished over the past quarter of a century, growing to include some 60 congregations and 25 parishes, despite the legacy of the genocide, during which over 1,000,000 people died. “We remember the past,” he said, because we don’t want the past to come again in the future.” Together with the visiting delegates, he led a service of inauguration for a new church in Kayonza and blessed the cornerstone of a theological seminary and leadership college on new parish grounds. 

He expressed gratitude to the LWF for being “one of the first and leading organizations that significantly invested in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide,” with the goal “to achieve real socio-economic transformation.” Citing the work of the then World Service country program, he said initiatives such as building shelters, providing clean water, education, and training on peace unity and reconciliation helped “to accompany Rwandans in their painful journey of rebuilding their country” and gave “them hope for a better and more prosperous future.” 

From right, LWF Council member Ms Faith Wambua from KELC, Bishop Dr Abednego Keshomshahara of the ELCT North-Western Diocese, LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge, ELCA Executive Director for Global Mission Rev. Dr Rafael Malpica Padilla, and LCR Bishop Evalister Mugabo laying the cornerstone for a new theological seminary.

On Sunday, the LWF general secretary preached at a joyful Jubilee service in Kigali’s conference and exhibition village, thanking God for all those who have helped to establish and build up the church in Rwanda. This anniversary, he said, is a moment to offer thanksgiving for all the miracles that God has performed, “moving people, resources, good will, opening doors and opportunities so that you could become part of God’s works of transformation in Rwanda.” 

LCR Sunday School children dancing at the Jubilee Sunday service in Kigali on 27 October, 2019 .

Reflecting on the biblical text of the Transfiguration, Junge stressed the church must remember it is not an end in itself, but rather it must “always be busy in the world, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, serving those in need and marginalized, standing up for justice, peace and reconciliation. Just as Jesus descended to the plain from the mountain top, making “a strong statement about his own sense of mission,” so the church is invited to “become a healing presence in the world.”  


LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge, Rwanda’s Minister of Local Government Hon. Shyaka Anastase and LCR Bishop Evalister Mugabo during the Jubilee celebrations in Kigali on 27 October 2019.

Junge warmly encouraged the young church in its mission and assured it of continued support from the LWF global family. Recalling the 2017 Reformation anniversary themes of #Salvation not for Sale, #Human Beings not for Sale, and #Creation not for Sale, he concluded: “Because of who God is and what God does, we are freed to become compassionate neighbors of others, and caring stewards of God’s good creation.” 

LCR Bishop Evalister Mugabo presents LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge with a gift at the conclusion of the Silver Jubilee celebrations.  

LWF area secretary for Africa Rev. Dr Elieshi Mungure, who also participated in the celebrations, affirmed the potential of this growing African church. “There are so many gifts to be shared with other churches in the communion,” she said. 

The Lutheran Church of Rwanda (LCR) was established in late 1994 by returnees who had been living as refugees in Tanzania for more than 45 years. It joined the LWF in 2002 and now numbers around 8,000 members.