All posts tagged celebration

Within the Baptist denomination worldwide there is a commonly held belief that in order to be a believer, a person must make a personal commitment to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, Baptists wait until a person is old enough to understand the meaning of the Christian Gospel before they are baptized. The precise details of how baptisms are practiced are sometimes different from place to place, but the basic baptism formula is fairly consistent. A pastor asks a candidate if they have repented of their sin, if they have made a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. In response, the pastor baptizes the person “… in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19). 

The Regional Baptism Service at Kacyiru

Because the Kacyiru church is the main church in this region, and because most baptist churches do not have their own baptistry, candidates from all over Kigali come to this one big baptism service. Traditionally, baptisms are held around the new year. In this case, the service was Saturday morning, December 31. Here, Pastor Joel introduces the baptism candidates to the congregation early in the service.

Photo: Pastor Joel introduces the baptismal candidates to the Congregation

The service featured special music guests from the Democratic Republic of Congo. This brass band made the trip to Kigali in order to share their music. It helped make the whole service more of a festive event. 

Photo: A brass band from the Democratic Republic of Congo

The great time of celebration has arrived! The candidates are all ready to be baptized, and are lined up in eager expectation. 

Photo: People lined up to be baptized

This panorama photo shows the whole church (click on it to see more detail). On the left is the front platform which contains the baptistry. Many people are standing up front to assist with the service; some are leading singing; others are taking photos; others are providing towels. Down the central aisle of the church, you can see the line of baptismal candidates all waiting their turn. 

Photo: Pastor Capitale and a Woman Being Baptized

This is a very special photo. Pastor Capitale is standing in the baptistry with the very first candidate, and woman who is elderly and frail. She was so weak that she needed to be helped into the baptistry and the pastor is holding onto her so that she does not slip or fall. It was inspiring to see this woman’s determination and faith as she followed through on her commitment to be baptized in the church. 

The Baptism Service at Kiyovu

A week after the Kacyiru service, Pastor Andre celebrated the first Sunday of the new year with a service of baptism at his church in Kiyovu (also in Kigali). This was a very special service for our friend and colleague Andre, because three of his own children were baptized: Princess, Aaron and Marie Therese. 

Photo: All the congregation gathers around the baptistry to watch

The Baptist church in Kiyovu is smaller than Kacyiru, but it is a vibrant community with great passion and enthusiasm. You can see by the way the whole church gathers around the baptistry that they are excited to witness these young people making their profession of faith. 

Photo: Aaron being baptized

Reception at Andre and Theresa’s house

Following the baptisms, there was a reception at Andre and Theresa’s house. They want to honour their children and celebrate their step of faith — and celebrations are always done in community in Rwanda. So, they rented a marquis tent and 100 plastic chairs and hired a caterer to prepare food for all the church members, friends and family, and delegates from other churches in the area. All tolled, there were over 90 adults and 30 children. 

Photo: Back at Andre and Theresa’s house for a reception

Since Andre is our colleague and friend it was a pleasure for the global field staff of Canadian Baptist Ministries to be able to attend the reception. There was a buffet lunch, fanta, singing, a few gifts, and many many speeches. Everyone was in a happy mood and the atmosphere was very festive.

Photo: The Guests of Honour: Marie Therese, Aaron and Princess

We thank God for these many young people in Kigali who have made their profession of faith through baptism. It is the first step of a long journey. It is a recognition of the power of God at work in their lives to draw them out of their life of sin, and into a life-giving relationship with the Lord Jesus.

It is a joy to work with a ministry partner like AEBR. These baptism services are an indication of the spiritual vitality present in this denomination. We pray for continued growth as the AEBR reaches out to the people of Rwanda in word and deed. 

Last year I posted a brief note about the annual celebration services that are held in all 13 regions of the AEBR each year. Denominational leaders and local dignitaries and officials gather for a wonderful worship service full of music, dance, scripture, and reports of what God has done in the church over the past year. Instead of having a formal, annual meeting as we might do in our churches in Canada, the AEBR churches choose to incorporate their annual reports into this worship service each year.

Photo: The church is too small for all the guests so the service is held outside

The typical service will have three large marquis tents set up in a U shape. The guests are seated according to ‘protocol’ with the Legal Representative and Regional pastors sitting in the front rows, along with politicians, civic leaders and other high ranking officials (there is no ‘separation of church and state here.’ We have had mayors, regional leaders, Provincial governors and even Members of Parliament at many of the services).


Bring in the Choirs!

Photo: A choir member illustrates the song visually by building a brick wall

As the choirs sing, they always dance and use hand gestures as a way of acting out the song lyrics. It is also common for someone to illustrate the song, as this woman is doing, using some kind of object lesson. I believe it was to illustrate that the church is built on the foundation of Christ.

One of the reasons these celebration services are so long (typically between 4 and 6 hours!), is because all of the churches in the region participate and most have at least one choir. Canadians might suggest making a limit on the number of choirs in order to streamline the service, but who do you cut? It is a wonderful feast for the senses as we enjoy the many different songs of worship.

Photo: Seraphim Melodies choir

These previous two pictures are of the Seraphim Melodies choir (and the band). I joined the choir about eight months ago and it has been a great challenge learning lyrics, new song rhythms and a very different style of playing for both bass and guitar. Even though it has been a bit of a steep learning curve, it has been a fantastic experience to sing and play music in a different cultural context.


Fomal Introductions

In the worship services, as I mentioned earlier, the seating is always arranged by protocol. At some point in the service formal introductions are made. Politicians, leaders from other denominations, and the AEBR leaders all come forward to bring greetings and introduce themselves.

Photo: The Regional Pastors and their Spouses

Photo: Wendy and Ken Derksen and Jonathan bring greetings to the congregation

Service of Ordination

Photo: New Pastors are introduced

This was a special Sunday for the Kacyiru church because seven pastors were ordained. This photo is taken as they were being introduced to the congregation. Following a service of dedication and prayer, they received their collars as a symbol of ordination. (Blue shirts are first level ordination. Black shirts are second level ordination. Wine shirts are for Regional Pastors).

Photo: Our colleague, Justin, kneels for the ordination prayer with his young daughter

Preaching the Word

Photo: Preaching the Word of God with translator and colleague Andre Sibomana

It was a very great honour to be asked to preach at this celebration service in Kigali. Even though the Kigali region is numerically smaller than most of the other regions, it is the location of the AEBR head office and it has a significant leadership role for the whole denomination. This is also our home church (in Kacyiru) and so it was a double honour for me to be able to preach at my home church for the first time.

Traditional Dance

Photo: Children from the church stage a beautiful traditional dance

One of the wonderful traditions preserved in Rwandan culture is dance. It is always a treat to have a group of young people perform a choreographed dance as part of the worship. It is wonderful to see the way Rwandans have been able to preserve and celebrate their culture.


The End of the Service

After reading the annual report to the congregation, there is usually a time for final speeches; with the most senior government representative giving a short talk (usually about 30 minutes). Then a final hymn is sung and a benediction draws the service to a close.

Photo: Dark clouds start to move in

However, on this particular Sunday, dark clouds began to move in during the reading of the annual report. By the time Pastor Gato was finished, it had started to rain and everyone huddled under the marquis for shelter.

Photo: It rained so hard, the ground was covered in water within a few minutes

Soon, the sound system was dismantled and whisked away to the church to keep it safe from the rain. After 15 minutes, one of the pastors ventured out into the rain with an umbrella and shouted a benediction over the sound of the pouring rain. Despite this somewhat anti-climactic finish, the service was a great success and everyone was encouraged and uplifted because of it.

Imagine a service like this in each region for 13 consecutive Sundays every fall! It is a great way to celebrate what God is doing in the churches and to witness first hand the vitality and health of this denomination. We are so thankful to be part of what God is doing in the AEBR.