By Erik M. Lunsford
On a warm and sunny November Sunday in Shinyanga, Tanzania, members of Ebenezer Cathedral, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania—South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELCT-SELVD), came together for worship. Outside the gates, bicyclists and drivers whizzed by as street vendors opened for business.
The church sits on a busy street in the small bustling city. Its grand structure has two steeples with crosses mounted on their tops and a third steeple perched on top of the stained-glass lantern. On this day, a flood of worshipers arrived for the second service of the morning as others chatted in fellowship following the first.
On many Sundays at Ebenezer, the Word is read and preached by the Rev. Dr. Yohana Ernest Nzelu, bishop of the diocese. This Sunday, while the bishop traveled, the Rev. Silas Mkiramweni preached, and the Rev. Titus Makala served as liturgist. LCMS Missionary Shara Osiro was greeted as a guest. The choirs sang and danced, and congregation members followed as the recessional didn’t end in the narthex but spilled out into the parking lot.
The ELCT-SELVD strives to stand on the truth of the Lutheran Confessions and the Scriptures. Just south of Lake Victoria, men and women of the ELCT-SELVD receive instruction, often from LCMS professors and missionaries, to serve the church as evangelists, pastors and deaconesses. Some of the men studied for advanced degrees at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.
The diocese is building a new seminary next to its headquarters. It walks alongside the LCMS in theological education and multiple mercy projects, including homes for children with albinism and an anti-malaria program. LCMS missionaries are moving to Shinyanga for full-time theological education.
As for collaboration with the LCMS, “We share the vision; we share the mission of the church,” said the Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Joseph Makala, emeritus bishop of the diocese.
Read more about the shared mission of the ELCT-SELVD and the LCMS in the upcoming Spring 2024 issue of Lutherans Engage the World.
Posted Feb. 9, 2024