Originally posted Oct. 30, 2012, at It’s All Relative.Republished with permission of the author.
Editor’s note: Emery Ellingson is spending a year in Uruguay as an ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission volunteer.
So last Sunday service was at 6:30 p.m. instead of its typical time at 10:30 a.m. Since the student residence where I live is attached to the church, I walked downstairs at about 6:28 and was still the very first person to arrive.
A few minutes later Octavio, the pastor of the congregation, arrived and we sat down and waited for other people to show up. I haven’t really had the chance to talk to Octavio much so I took advantage of this opportunity to ask him a few questions, one of which was, how did Nuestro Salvador Lutheran Church come to exist? In other words, exactly why are there Lutherans in Uruguay? Since nobody showed up for church until about 6:50, I got a pretty thorough and very interesting answer!
Nuestro Salvador was founded by Lutheran missionaries about 50 years ago but it was not the first Lutheran church in Montevideo. In the 1930s there were two Lutheran churches that had been started by immigrants from Europe. Estonians, Latvians, Germans and Slovenians who came to Montevideo were largely responsible for the growth of the Lutheran church in Uruguay. However, the Second World War caused a rift among these groups and the two churches. The German Lutherans and their church had conflicts with the other church, which was composed of Latvians, Estonians and Slovenians. During the war and its aftermath, these ethnic communities welcomed new members who were fleeing Europe and a few years after 1945, Nuestro Salvador was founded.
Currently, according to Octavio, who grew up attending one of the other Lutheran churches in Montevideo, there are two major Lutheran congregations in Uruguay, one in Montevideo and another in Rivera. The Lutheran churches in Uruguay are members of the Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Unida or the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina and Uruguay, which is composed of about 7,000 members from 38 congregations.
Octavio also explained that one of the hallmarks of the Lutheran church in Uruguay has been its involvement in ecumenical efforts such as La Obra Ecuménica, which is my site placement for this year. Many of the other Lutheran churches in Argentina also mirror a similar pattern of being founded by different ethnic groups who wanted to preserve their religious traditions in a new land. Sound familiar?
Find a link to Emery Ellingson’s blog It’s All Relative at Lutheran Blogs.