June conference focuses on intercultural congregations

Lanto Rajoelisolo (Montreal, Malagasy), Manitra Andriaharifara (Montreal, Malagasy), and Tsegaye Angassa (Calgary, Oromo) rehearse a song for the intercultural conference’s Divine Service

WINNIPEG – In 2008, Canada welcomed almost 250,000 immigrants with almost 80 percent arriving from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Pacific regions, and Central and South America. At the same time, Canada’s First Nations population increased at more than eight times the non-aboriginal rate and has the youngest population in the country.

With its roots in immigration from Europe in the late 19th and early- and mid-20th centuries, Lutheran Church–Canada is beginning to reflect and engage the diversity of cultures in Canada.

From June 3-5 representatives of various Lutheran congregations representing at least seven cultural groups met in Winnipeg to talk about building relationships with various cultural groups; identifying and sharing resources and learning what it means to be an intercultural church in 21st century Canada. 

“I know what it is like to be from a different country and trying to understand a new culture,” explained Brazilian immigrant (and recent Canadian citizen) Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel, LCC’s mission executive. “The church has such an important role to play in helping people adapt to Canada and to build special bonds with each other and with fellow believers.” 

The conference, organized by Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer (ABC District mission executive; Rev. Richard Beinert (pastor, Immanuel, Winnipeg) and Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel (LCC mission executive), included new Canadians from Africa, China, Korea as well as representatives of First Nations and Hispanic congregations and ministries and those who work within the various Islamic cultural groups.

One of the challenges LCC faces is providing trained leadership with both the language and cultural skills to serve growing congregations. In 2002 the church body approved a course of pastoral study for men who could serve their cultural group as a pastor. Currently, ten men are studying through the Pastors with Alternate Training (PAT) program. Through distance education, local classes, and mentoring programs with experienced pastors, these men will eventually provide pastoral ministry to their congregations.

Assefa Aredo (PAT student) and his mentor, Rev. Richard Beinert, discuss their teacher/student relationship for the benefit of others at the conference

“PAT is similar to the way we have approached pastoral preparation overseas,” noted Dr. Neitzel who provides oversight for the program. “Rather than four years of seminary, which is impossible for someone supporting a family on a minimum income, we provide the same type of course work over a longer period of time.” 

LCC First Vice-president Daryl Solie provided an introduction to the church’s history and structure as a step toward welcoming the various groups into Synod.  

“The heart, core and ultimate goal of the conference was expressed in the words of Psalm 67: ‘that your ways [Lord God] may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you’” said Dr. Neitzel. He believes the conference “helped us to grow in God’s Word as well as in our intercultural Gospel-proclamation skills.” 

The conference reflects a strategic direction identified by LCC in its 2009 Strategic Plan: “Developing innovative missions and promoting intercultural congregations.”

Posted By: Matthew Block
Posted On: September 17, 2010
Posted In: National News,

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