By Eric Miller
On Aug. 9-13 the young Church of the Brethren denomination in Burundi, in East Africa, celebrated the 315th anniversary of the Brethren movement that began with baptisms in the Eder River in Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708.
A gathering of more than 1,000 people was held in a schoolyard a few blocks from the Gihosha church in Bujumbura, Burundi. Preaching, teaching, singing, and other activities took place over the five days.
Church of the Brethren representatives from each of the churches in the Africa Great Lakes region–in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda–as well as representatives from the church in the United States participated or provided leadership. Choirs from Burundi, Rwanda, and the DRC also participated. As a result, this was one of the most international Church of the Brethren gatherings ever.
The leadership of the churches met for dinner, sampling fish from Lake Tanganyika and discussing the joys and challenges in each of their churches. Although the churches of Africa struggle with conflicts, natural disasters, and lack of resources, they also are blessed with faithfulness, growth, and various projects that help to improve the lives of people in their communities.
Asked about the significance of the crusade, the crusade’s secretary Jean-Marie Bizimana said, “We want people to know how strong the church is and that it has a long history.” Athanases Ntirandekora, deacon of Bujumbura Church of the Brethren, added that the crusade “got the blessing from God. We saw friends from other countries and the hand of God. It was hard work, but God helped us.” He also noted that through the crusade “many came to know God and that Jesus is king.”
According to Cedric Niyonsaba, another deacon of the Bujumbura congregation, the best part was the “celebration of 315 years. Our members were reminded to continue the work of Jesus.”
Burundian Brethren also shared what they like about the Church of the Brethren:
Bizimana shared, “We focus on the Bible as the word of God. We can each take our understandings and put it together.”
Ntirandekora noted that the Church of the Brethren is a peace church and that Brethren read the Bible and practice what it says. “The church has a good vision,” he said, “People love their neighbor, and the leadership love the members. People like it because it teaches love and peace.”
Find a photo album from the celebration at https://churchofthebrethren.smugmug.com/Burundi-Church-Celebrates-315th-Anniversary-of-the-Brethren.
Please pray… For the young Church of the Brethren in Burundi and its leadership and membership, that all may be blessed from the energy and enthusiasm engendered by the celebration of the 315th anniversary of the Brethren movement. Give thanks for the Burundi Brethren and their faithfulness and commitment to Christ and his church.
Niyonsaba pointed out that the Church of the Brethren is a New Testament church. “We baptize as Jesus was baptized. The New Testament came from Jesus and we continue his work. It is different from other churches because no one is forbidden to continue the work of Jesus. Everyone is invited to do the work of Jesus.”
— Eric Miller is executive director of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren. Find out more about the international work and relationships of the denomination at www.brethren.org/global. Find a photo album from the celebration at https://churchofthebrethren.smugmug.com/Burundi-Church-Celebrates-315th-Anniversary-of-the-Brethren.
Find more Church of the Brethren news:
- Brethren bits for Sept. 29, 2023
- For a common spiritual cause: Prayer walk is sponsored by Virlina Peace Affairs Committee
- Mountville Church witnesses on gun violence
- Lynchburg church reaches out with ‘grieving service’ for a nearby death
- Manchester Church hosts the Sing Me Home Festival this Saturday, Sept. 30