The Presbyterian Church of Rwanda (EPR) has just undergone a major restructuring of the organization of the church. This was approved at the General Synod meeting in April and has been ratified by all the new Presbyteries. So on Sunday, the presidents and vice presidents of the presbyteries were consecrated at a festive worship service that featured seven choirs, a brass band and a line of drummers.
The restructuring was carefully planned to decentralize the administration of the church. This involved reducing the 17 regions, all answerable to the general offices in Kigali, to seven presbyteries that would set their own plans for growth and management of resources, with assistance for the general office in Kigali. This makes the presbyteries much larger and gives them more resources to manage. New presidents were elected along with new vice presidents. In the last three months, each of the new presbyteries have met and adopted constitutions and elected administrative councils. Sunday was the culmination of the reorganization as the new officials were set apart for special service to God and to the church. This came at the end of four days of spiritual retreat and an evangelistic rally for the entire church.
|New officials being sworn in|
Because of duties at PIASS and filling in for colleagues of EPR who were needed at the retreat, I just went for Sunday’s worship service. A car load of us from PIASS left at 6:30 a.m. to join the EPR pastors and faithful at Rubengera, near Lake Kivu. The pastors met in a building to robe and process up the hill to the retreat center. A field area next to the retreat center had been set up for the gathering, with tents for seating and shade and a stage for the choirs. The center area was prepared like the chancel, with a communion table, a pulpit and a space with pillows for kneeling. As the pastors processed in, the band played a rousing hymn. After a number of choirs and the preaching, the new officers were called forward with their spouses to answer constitutional questions and then to be prayed for. It was a moving moment, to be a part of this historic event in this 107 year old church that is, as we might say in the States, “reformed and ever reforming.” This reforming is designed, not by European founding churches, but by the Rwandan church to meet the needs of the Rwandan culture, to reshape the church to make it more responsive to the needs of the local congregations.
|Drum line that lead praise|
A personal joy was that two for the new presidents are colleagues from PIASS with whom I have become very close. I delight in seeing their gifts used in such a significant way (not that teaching is not significant). Another two of the presidents are woman I have come to greatly admire for their gifts of leadership. A much smaller delight was the drum line that served to lead the applause and encouragement from the crowd of nearly 5,000 who had gathered for the celebration. It was a distinctively Rwandan touch, with the big drums sounding forth thanksgiving and appreciation.
The new presidents then ushered in the candidates from their presbytery for ordination. EPR now has 9 new pastors. Ordination is always a blessing and was particularly moving as it was the first official act of the new presidents. Again, there were choirs and drums and the band to help us celebrate. The service was a mere 5 hours of singing and praising and consecrating to God’s service. As the carload of PIASS folks left Rubangera, we sang “We are Marching the Light of God,” using 5 different languages, represented by folks in the car. It seems to fit the spirit of the day.