Text: Luís Samacumbi
Congregationalists, also called congregationalists or independents, were among the first generation of English Protestants. Coming from the Anglican Reformation, its history is related to Puritanism, a critical and reforming movement that acted within the Anglican Church with the aim of stripping it of the characteristics of the Roman Apostolic Catholic Church that exercised enormous influence even after the emancipation promoted by King Henry VIII .
Congregationalism was one of the branches of English Protestantism that quickly expanded to other nations such as Holland and the United States in the face of the religious persecutions that marked English society in the 16th and 17th centuries, being also present in Angola, through the missionary action of United Church of Christ of the United States of America and United Church of Canada. Therefore, we can say that Angolan congregationalism is American. The origin of this Protestant family is strongly identified with social issues that were never limited to thinking and producing religious discourse to those who participate in ecclesial communities, but also to fighting for individual freedom, equality, thinking about faith, stimulating experience with the divine, to assume the administration of the grays, to educate families not only in sound doctrine, but also in science, founding schools, hospitals and evangelical centers
The importance of congregationalism occurs for its contributions to Protestantism, as well as the legacy left in the foundation of the United States of America through the Puritans, for the practice of a model of government that represented an experimentation within a religious framework of the social theory of the free man, without mediators, who assumes his destiny and takes responsibility before God and men about his choices, whether personal, political or vocational.
The congregational model of government was a novelty for ecclesiastical standards in the 16th century, strongly marked in Europe by the massive presence of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church which, as mentioned above, had a vertical government model, centered on the figure of the Pope. Such a hierarchical model, a legacy of the Roman Empire. Even with the separation of the English Church from the Catholic Church, the system was maintained, differentiating only that the English monarch would be its ruler.
The first historical (but not yet institutional, manifestation of congregationalism) that is known took place in London in the 16th century. On June 19, 1567, a group of English Christians dissatisfied with the direction of the Reformation in the church in their country, met in the “Plumbers Hall”, being however dispersed by the local authorities, having some of their congregants flogged, arrested or killed, in addition to those who fled to Holland, 4 where they also started congregationalist ecclesiastical traditions there.
Congregationalists, also called puritans in literature dealing with the memory of the founding of the American nation, were Calvinists and helped build the notion of a God-elected nation.19 The striking presence of congregational Puritans coined the moral standards of Americans in their early centuries. , because the influence was exercised not only in religious aspects, but also in educational, political, civil and ceremonial aspects. The contemporary claim to a private faith with no influence on the social life of individuals was obviously unknown at the time. To think of work, family, politics, education and society without a religious framework was unimaginable and the new nation of the so-called “New World” would, therefore, have much of its ethos shaped by Protestant values (congregational, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Quakers and others).
The importance of congregationals is not only linked to the history of the Protestant Christian faith. Limiting their actions to Church History would be a mistake, because as social actors within a specific historical context, the congregationals with their ecclesiastical experimentation were representatives, within a religious framework, of a true Social Theory. Congregationalism represented the application and development of the free man, the emancipate who understands that, despite participating or collaborating with institutions, he can and must take on his responsibilities and destiny without waiting for mediating agencies to do for him. Congregationalism, with its emphasis on the individual, conscience, ecclesiastical freedom and administrative autonomy, reveals itself as a religious version of the individual's emancipation and the practical experimentation of certain social revolutions by which Europe had been witnessing in other loci.
The IECA - Congregational Evangelical Church in Angola was founded by three American missionaries, sent by the Mission Society of the Congregational Churches of the United States, among them was Professor Samuel Taylor, who was a University student connected to issues of social transformation (descendant of slaves Africans, probably from Angola, namely Vie.), On November 11, 1880.
The missionaries entered Benguela and from this Province they extended to the interior of the Country. Therefore 300 years later after the arrival of the Portuguese Diogo Cão in Angola, that is, in 1482.
The Church started as a religious movement of education for social transformation, with the aim of bringing the indigenous people to the desirable dignity of a child of God. To implement this objective, he chose rural areas and communities, destined for the reign of Vie (Bié). However, history ensures that, passing through the territory of King Ekuikui II, Kingdom of Bailundo, they were detected as foreigners and asked to present themselves before the King. After inquiring the reason for his presence there, he realized that they had come to teach regarding the existence and power of God, to which he retorted: "If only that, then it is worthwhile to return to your land, because we have our only God who is Suku". The men were ready to give up when one of them remembered that they were there to announce the son of God the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.
When this message reached the King's ears, the King asked for more explanations about it and then concluded: "If it is this son of God who saves that you have come to announce, then start here with my people, before they reach the Vie." And so it was, a school was started under the tree, 70 children recruited, persuaded with toasted ginguba, sugar and candy and against the will of many families who saw the waste of labor for the fields, columns of loaders and pastures. When this group graduated, a school was erected and also served as a temple of worship. A Mulemba was planted, as a non-aggression pact, between the King and the Missionaries after resolving conflicts that arose later. The first 14 graduates, of the 70 enrolled, became missionaries and teachers in their communities, converting many to this new philosophy of abundant life with Christ. They were called “omãla vafulu”, son of the saints, in reference to the kindness, meekness, solidarity, faith and wisdom expressed by the “olonãlas”, Lords.
This group the people called Masters “Alongisi” and they were distributed by the villages to start new communities of the new life, more abundant. New agricultural techniques were introduced, new habits and customs, an improved diet, with soy, homemade vegetable oils, consumption of domestic and wild animal protein, and educating children to learn to read and write, speak the local and foreign languages well, using for good communication and development of the ministry of the word. The Church grew, it became a big tree having faced gales and some say that the fig tree has already broken, but it was not destroyed, it did not dry up. This remains green since this was rehabilitated since 2002. In 2004, we planted a replica that also grows wonderfully, proclaiming an Angola with a promising future. The Bailundo school, built many other schools, in the Missões do Camundongo, Chilesso, Chissamba, in the Bié Province; Elende and Dondi, in Huambo Province; and Bunjei, in Huila Province.
These Missions watered the institutions of that time with the qualified personnel who could best be found: Teachers, clerks, agricultural technicians, nurses, rural development advisers through an integrated program called “Improvement of the people”, which spread throughout Central Angola to along the Benguela Railway.
Two examples we can share here about the success of this program that had the Church as a movement for social transformation:
Staff training was carried out to continue the program for social transformation;
Vaccination programs never came from the Portuguese government, but from the Evangelical Centers and Evangelical Missions.
At present the IECA covers the 18 Provinces of Angola, namely: Cabinda, Lunda Sul, Malanje, Cuanza Norte, Cuanza Sul, Bengo, Luanda, Benguela, Namibe, Cunene, Huila, Huambo, Moxico, Bié, Zaire and Cuando Kubango, where it is providing various social services including those in the Education Sector.
IECA FOR CHRIST, CHRIST FOR ALL
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- História da IECA – Plano Estratégico da Igreja Evangélica Congregacional em Angola 2013 - 2017