Edgar Mittelholzer


Guyana's Greatest Novelist (1909-1965)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006



Lutheran Church in Guyana

The Lutheran Church in Guyana was originally founded by Dutch settlers in 1743, making it the second oldest Lutheran church in the Caribbean and the South American continent. During its early history, the church was served by pastors from Holland. In 1803 the colony changed hands from the Dutch to the British, and in 1841 the Dutch severed links with the Lutheran church in what was then British Guiana. That left the church without pastoral services, and the church began to decline in membership. All the Christian congregations organized in Dutch times died out except Ebenezer Lutheran Church.

In 1878 John Robert Mittelholzer, the first Guyanese pastor, began serving the Ebenezer congregation. He served not only the Dutch descendants but also those of African, Amerindian, and East Indian origin. Five congregations were established in the Berbice region. In 1890, Mittelholzer and the Ebenezer congregation became part of the East Pennsylvania Synod of one of the ELCA's predecessors, the General Synod. When the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA) was formed in 1918, British Guiana became one of its mission fields. During the next half century, many Lutheran missionaries were sent to British Guiana, which became Guyana in 1966.

In 1944 the Lutheran Church in Guyana became an associate synod of the ULCA, and in 1950 it was received into membership in the Lutheran World Federation. When Guyana became independent in 1966, the church also became independent During the 1970s the former Lutheran Church in America began reducing its financial support and mission personnel in Guyana, and the last missionary left in 1983. The LCG experienced a period of decline and "brain drain" as the country was in the throes of a rapid downward economic spiral and political uncertainty.

The Lutheran Church enjoyed a long and strong tradition of church schools which trained people for active church membership and service. At its peak, the church (with some government assistance) maintained 18 elementary and two high schools.

The LCG is now in the process of rebuilding and restructuring. It will be a slow, arduous and challenging task. At the present time there are eight pastors to serve 48 congregations in fourteen multi-point parishes. Pastors care for their own congregations and serve as "acting" pastors in other parishes, which is a drain on their time and energy. In addition to fully trained pastors, many catechists and ordained deacons provide leadership in the church. The tradition of capable lay leadership is strong in the Lutheran Church in Guyana.

All pastors receive their theological training at the United Theological College of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, which is within the Caribbean context. In recent years, several strong and capable seminary graduates have taken their places among the church's pastoral staff, bringing new life to the church. The Lutheran Church in Guyana ordained its first female clergy member in 1993.

The church, with its 11,000 members, has been notably successful in bridging differences among East Indians, Africans, Chinese, Amerindians, and others.


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