UEM News


German Churches host the ecumenical Co-workers from Africa and Asia

A witness of internationalisation of the UEM and a true exchange in the communion: Baptism and confirmation in Schüren; Photo: UEM picture archive

UEM German member churches in collaboration with the UEM German, Africa and Asian regions recruit a number of ecumenical Co-workers who spend 3 to 6 years in the German congregations, working hand in hand and on a daily basis with their colleagues German Pastors. This placement enables a perfect theological and intercultural exchange by bringing together people from different denominational backgrounds. It becomes clear that a parish jointly served by two colleagues’ pastors is an enriching experience and provides some learning opportunities, support congregants and provides a closer cooperation between German and foreign theologians. Friendly intercultural discussions may be experienced.   

UEM Ecumenical Co-workers are very active in their parishes: living in Germany, they are greatly participating to worship and fellowship needs of their sisters and brothers in the congregations. Some of the ways of doing it is the participation to weekly church services, partnership Sundays, choir practices, bible groups, baptism/confirmation services and participation to the social projects initiated by parishes and the German society at large. Co-workers use their talents for the benefits of the hosting churches.

There is a social interaction between co-workers and congregants: Co-workers’ families keep contact among themselves and with other congregants. It is witnessed the UEM internationalization and a true exchange in the communion.  For example at the Sunday worship on 29th April in Dortmund-Schüren, there was a Baptism and confirmation of Christophore Niwemahoro, the son of Esperance and Rev. Karangwa Valens, from the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda.  Other 2 South-North Coworkers and their families worshipped with German parishioners in Dortmund and afterwards met together for a meal and sharing thoughts. Pastor Elizabeth von Francois from the member church ELCRN from Namibia works as exchange minister in Tecklenburg working for the Evangelical Church of Westphalia. Pastor Robert Byamungu from the Baptist Church (CBCA) from the Democratic Republic of Congo is working in Castrop-Rauxel.

I learnt that African Co-workers contribute successfully to the church work. As people speaking other languages from their different countries, they make an effort to learn German to be able to communicate in their daily lives. They also like to discuss politics with their colleagues. They want to know more about church and German customs – what people eat for supper, for example, or the tradition of taking a walk on Sunday.  This is what integration is all about for ecumenical Co-workers in German Churches. Not only they take a challenge of learning German or improve their German; but also they learn about Germany and its citizens, traditions, history and much more. In addition they are able to make new friends of all ages: children, youth and adults. This was remarkable on the Sunday in Dortmund.

Coworkers’ work is a Reverse Mission Movement: talking to ecumenical Co-workers serving in parishes, I learned that they really see themselves as missionaries brought by UEM to Germany and serve God being enabled by the Holy Spirit. Their missionary call comes where they see themselves in a country with large Christian Churches where Sunday worships are attended by a majority of elderly committed people. They see one of their main roles as charged with bringing a Christian revival to a dying church and taking a challenge of “bringing especially German youth to Christ”. It is acknowledged by parish leaders at the congregational levels that the South-North Co-workers are theologically prepared:

  • They understand concepts of mission and evangelism,
  • They have some elements of “spiritual warfare” theology which rather repels German Protestants and evangelicals,
  • African or Asian Pastors are not seen as migrants, economic or political refugees who are in Germany as a result of suffering,
  • Agreeing on what makes someone a pastor, that theological training is the basis to conduct a parish work. They all come with a basic training but wish to be given a chance to do more theological studies, especially in Germany. Asked what they are learning in serving a German congregation, ecumenical Co-workers share that they are offered a chance to learn about intercultural hermeneutics and intercultural communication; German history, theology, sociology; and practical exercises like preaching in a German congregation or supporting the families who lose their loved ones in a funeral service.

Rev. Dr John Wesley Kabango, Africa Department

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