Jane Gingrich is spending a year of service in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar, as part of the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. Here is an entry from her blog in which she records her experiences. The program relies on coordinators who facilitate the young adults’ ministry and provide mentoring and spiritual guidance. To support a coordinator, go to www.ELCA.org/missionarysponsorship.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The three days of Easter spill into four days in Madagascar. As in North America, each church celebrates a little bit differently, but among Malagasy Lutherans in my community of Fianarantsoa, this is how it looked:
On Maundy Thursday afternoon, people began to gather in the church as early as 3 p.m. Officially worship began at 5 p.m., but washing the feet of over 1,000 congregation members takes time! Every person’s feet are washed as they arrive, then prayer and the hum of singing begins as more and more people gather. By 6 p.m. most everyone is inside the church, freshly cleansed in an act of loving service. Singing, prayer, and the Meal mark the night and everyone returns home around 9 p.m.
Friday is a day of rest. At 6 p.m. worship begins and only a small crowd gathers for a solemn service of prayer, song, sermon and paschal litany. Jesus’ crucifixion is marked and all depart in silence. No stripping of the altar, no snuffing of candles — a simple liturgy of the Word to mark Christ’s sacrifice.
Sunday morning everyone wears new clothes and arrives for worship at 9 a.m.! The morning celebration of Christ’s resurrection is marked with lots of singing, choirs’ songs, baptisms (three at the church here), receiving of new deacons of the church, Eucharist and enthusiastic joy among members! Lunch is a time of gathering for families, relatives and friends. Then Easter Sunday is for relaxing, playing games and enjoying time with family.
Easter Monday struck me as being quite different from back home: It was a church picnic to celebrate Easter a second time! Gathering at 7 a.m. to pile into trucks and vans, as many congregation members as showed up traveled out of town into a nearby forest to lay out mats and blankets to sit on. Then food started to come out of baskets for preparation; women peeled carrots, chopped zucchini and made salads. Rice started cooking and homemade natural juices were pulled out of baskets. As the food cooked, we gathered in worship: prayer, singing, Bible reading, sermon, prayer and song! An incredible journey out into the woods to celebrate Christ’s return to creation! Being that the text was the “Road to Emmaus” story, it seemed most fitting to me that we were out in the world to celebrate Christ being among us again!
After worship, a meal — all shared what we had brought and enjoyed common food cooked together. Then the whole afternoon was filled with exploring the wooded area, singing and dancing traditional dances, and hearing jokes, stories and lots of laughter shared!