BURUNDI: Anglican church celebrates 75 years
Bishop Nathan Kamusiime Gasatura of the Diocese of Butare in the Anglican Church of Rwanda reminded the congregation in Buhiga that "there was cause for celebration because of the dedication, commitment, and witness based on the Word of God of the first Christians. They set an example for future generations to follow," according to a press release from the Anglican Church of Burundi.
During his sermon in Gitega, Bishop Geoffrey Rwubusisi of the Diocese of Cyangugu, Rwanda, asked the congregation to stand in silent prayer and thanksgiving for the early pioneers "who sacrificed much to bring the Gospel of God's saving and reconciling love to Burundi. Such love and unity should characterize the church of the future," the release said.
The first Anglican missionaries, under the auspices of the Rwanda Mission, crossed over from Rwanda into Burundi in 1935. Among them were two medical doctors, Len Sharp and Algie Stanley Smith, and an evangelist and church planter, the Rev. Kosiya Shalita.
Mission stations were set up at Matana and Buhiga initially, and then at Buye. "In each place a church, a hospital, and a school was built reflecting the three-fold vision of evangelism, ministry to the sick and needy, and provision of education," the release said. In 1936, the first Christians were baptized.
During the weekend, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi acknowledged the first missionaries' "call and vision as they crossed into Burundi looking for suitable mission sites with a longing in their hearts to see its people reached with the Gospel," the release said. He also called on the church to look to the future, saying that "there would be many challenges, not least in raising the next generation in God's ways."
The weekend's celebrations also marked the 25th anniversary of the Gitega diocese.
Bishop John Nduwayo of Gitega recalled the beginnings of the diocese, expressing gratitude to those who had worked hard over the years, especially in the areas of evangelism, health, and education, and to partners from around the world who had given their support. Gifts were presented to members of parishes in the diocese who were aged 75 years or more.
The ceremonies were attended by the Burundian Minister of Good Governance, representing the country's president; Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, accompanied by a delegation; and representatives from the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda, the National Council of Churches in Burundi, Christian Aid, Scripture Union, Church Mission Society (CMS) UK, CMS Africa, CMS Ireland, and Anglican churches in the U.K. and France.
In the coming months, several celebrations are planned in the six dioceses that make up the province.
Although the origins of the Anglican Church of Burundi date back to 1935, the province didn't become autonomous until 1992, following several decades as part of the Francophone Province of Rwanda, Burundi, and Boga-Zaire.
Today, the church's main concerns focus on conflict resolution, peace building and reconciliation, HIV/AIDS and malaria, conservation and care of the environment, gender issues, repatriation of refugees and displaced people, community development, literacy and education, the release said.