At Kikongo, I (Glen) have been serving as interim district pastor. Kikongo has not ordained any pastors in years. One of my goals has been to validate the pastoral ministry and ordain our pastors who have been serving the village churches for many years. All nine pastors are my former students. Eight of the wives were also Rita’s students at the women’s school. One of the pastors lost the wife he attended pastoral school with, so his current wife has not had the training of the other women.
The ordination of nine pastors was scheduled for March 22nd. Three days before the scheduled ordination, the government closed all church services and there were to be no gatherings of more than 20 people due to the COVID pandemic. There are already some cases in Kinshasa. The Baptist General Secretary was already at Kikongo because he needed to be present for the ordination service. We had decided that the service would proceed and then we would announce to everyone that all future services were to be suspended.
The afternoon before the ordination, three of us got together and made the decision that we didn’t want any conflict with the government directive. We made alternate plans, but didn’t tell anyone. We were afraid that if we announced to everyone that there would be a private ordination, we would have a crowd. We simply told the pastors that we needed to get together early Sunday morning to pray.
At 5:45 AM, the nine pastors and their wives were present at our UNIBAC chapel. We did not open the church, even though it had been decorated and set up the day before.
We then told the pastors that they would be ordained in the presence of the General Secretary, the district pastor, and two visiting professors from Kinshasa. Rita and a couple of curious early risers were the “witnesses”. It was a meaningful occasion even though the ceremony was abbreviated and secretive.
The Congolese have a tradition of using clerical collars and robes for those who have been ordained. I have had to wear a robe for other events, but this was the first time because of my role as district pastor that I had to wear a clerical collar plus a robe and sash. It was all good and my friends all had fun razing me about my appearance.
After the pastors were ordained, we paraded down to the church. People were rising and were surprised to see the pastors and their wives all dressed up and celebrating already. People had been gearing up for a big service with lots of dancing and singing. In front of the closed church the general secretary announced to all that services were cancelled but everyone should pray at home. The people have been disappointed, but are understanding. We took the prudent course, and many are somewhat amused that we ordained the pastors without anyone knowing. The pastors told to keep their fancy robes and clerical collars on so that everyone could congratulate them. Later in the morning, Several of our pastors from outlying villages headed out of town, down the different trails in the direction of their home churches.
Ordination is a way we can honor the village pastors for their faithful service for so many years. It would have been a big disappointment if the ordination had not taken place.