Senegal: A true spirit of partnership and generosity toward the church

The Lutheran Church of Senegal in the West African country is visible through various church programs. All Photos: UEPAL

UEPAL President Albecker shares his reflections on a recent visit to congrefgations in the capital Dakar and other parishes

(LWI) - The dynamic presence of The Lutheran Church of Senegal (ELS) in the West African country is visible through evangelism programs, diaconal initiatives, a vocational training center, student hostels and health clinics. “The generosity of these Christians toward their church is admirable,” says Christian Albecker, president of the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine (UEPAL) in France, reflecting on a recent visit to congregations in the capital Dakar and other parishes.

The two Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches also belong to the Evangelical Community of Apostolic Action (CEVAA), an association that links French-speaking churches from the global North and South. Invited by ELS President Rev. Pierre Adama Faye (third left), Albecker (second left) was accompanied by Rev. Marc-Frédéric Muller (far left), former executive secretary of the French Protestant mission organization DEFAP. On the far right is ELS treasurer Mr Auguste Manga.

Sunday worship at the church's headquarters in the western town of Fatick coincided with the harvest festival, a colorful celebration attended by 500 people from all ELS parishes. A special feature of the service accompanied by singing and drum beats from the church’s choir, was a long procession of offerings in cash, goats, chickens, rice and other food. Albecker presented a symbolic gift of a new liturgy for Sundays and church festivals.

Started by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) in 1974, the Senegalese church has 7,000 members. It is organized in 13 parishes, with a total of 49 congregations, served by 25 pastors. It joined the LWF in 1992. Exchange of pastors and young people between UEPAL and ELS takes place regularly. 

In Dakar, the church leaders visited two dormitories for university students, one for up to 20 young women, and the other, for 20 young men. “One can only admire the energy and will of these young people,” the UEPAL president noted.

Summing up the visit, Albecker said: “All in all, we had great personal and community encounters and felt how strong the desire was to open up to the practices and experiences of other churches. The true spirit of partnership was strong.” He added, “This small and young church is an encouragement for our ‘old’ churches of France and Europe.”

Muslims make up around 95 percent of Senegal’s population of 15 million people, and Christians represent around four percent. The Lutheran church collaborates with other Christian and faith groups in initiatives that foster community development. The ELS youth and women’s work includes assistance to orphans and other vulnerable members of society.

The Lutheran Church of Senegal (ELS) was established in 1974, and it currently has 7,000 members. Led by its president Rev. Pierre Adama Faye, ELS is organized in 13 parishes with a total of 49 congregations, served by 25 pastors. It joined the LWF in 1992.

The Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine (UEPAL) was formed in 2006, bringing together the Protestant Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine (EPCAAL), a founding member church of the LWF, and the Protestant Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine (EPRAL). UEPAL is not a united church but it provides a common decision-making structure and a single body of pastors. It has 250,000 members, and its president is Mr Christian Albecker.