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Immigration behind Francophone Lutheran growth in East District

April 1, 2015 No Comment

lccQUEBEC – That immigration is a significant source of membership is hardly news for Lutheran churches in Canada. It is part and parcel of our history and in the early days accounted for nearly all our churches’ growth.

Waves of Lutheran immigration are a thing of the past but new Canadians still constitute the bulk of membership in francophone Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) congregations. These new members are not from Germany, Scandinavia, or other European Lutheran strongholds. A closer look using the past six months brings this reality to light.

In Montreal’s Église de l’Ascension, a Malagasy Lutheran couple arriving from France joined the church after being told about the church by friends. Last month an ethnically German Lutheran family arrived from Romania and contacted the church after looking for a French-speaking Lutheran church on the internet. The other adult catechumen is a recently-arrived Cameroonian student whose student brother had become Lutheran here after being invited by other Cameroonians. The one baptism in that time period was that of the Canadian-born son of a Malagasy Lutheran couple arriving from Switzerland and joining the church after an invitation by fellow Malagasy Lutherans.

In Sherbrooke, all of the six most recent catechumens were foreign students, originally from Madagascar, now residing in Quebec. The latest baptism there was that of the son a new Canadian-Malagasy married to a French-Canadian. Sainte-Trinité in Quebec City reflects the same pattern. Indeed, Malagasies now form the majority of the fledgling Lutheran community there. The most recent adult member is a Lutheran Malagasy student, referred to the church by a co-patriot from the church in Montreal. Again, the one recent baptism there was that of the son of Malagasy-born immigrants.

The above trend is not new for LCC in Quebec. The six-month slice described above is representative of much of the increase for previous years, even the past decades, unlike the previous two decades when former Roman Catholic French-Canadians constituted most of the francophone Church membership.

That latter demographic now holds true only in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a preaching station of the Montreal congregation where the dozen or so communicants are virtually all Canadian-born, the majority French-Canadian, including new contacts now beginning instruction. There, too, most of the new worshipers came to know the Lutheran Church through word of mouth. Overall though, there is now a notable absence of Canadian-born interest in the church (perhaps the same as elsewhere in Canada?).

Noticeable in the immigration-fed membership trend is that hearing from friends and acquaintances is the means by which most people come to the French-speaking churches. Outreach through distribution of flyers, events and deliberate general outreach (except perhaps the website) have had negligible results.

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Rev. Dr. David Somers (Montreal) is a Missionary at Large for French outreach on behalf of the East District of Lutheran Church–Canada.

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