When the New Apostolic Church first started to work in Portugal, the ministers had to deal with language barriers, finding places for worship, and building schools. This weekend, many years later, two special divine services await the country’s almost 5,500 brothers and sisters.
When missionary activity started in Portugal, a poster advertising the commencement of the Church’s activity in the country invited interested people to a divine service with the pastor alemão. The divine service was a complete success, even though there was no German shepherd dog preaching at the altar—which is what pastor alemão actually means—but a man carrying the ministry of Shepherd.
Beginnings in Portugal
Christianity has a long tradition in Portugal. Already Paul told the Romans about his journey to Spain, as the entire Iberian Peninsula was called at that time. It was not until 1143 that Portugal became a kingdom of its own.
The New Apostolic Church came to Portugal via Germany and France. From 1971 onwards, the New Apostolic congregations of Ennepetal-Voerde in Germany and Guebwiller in France regularly offered divine services in Portuguese for the guest workers from Portugal. At the same time, Priest Auguste Lauchenauer from Guebwiller in France travelled frequently to Portugal on business and also talked to the people about his faith.
France, Switzerland, or Germany?
In 1979 Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler decided that Portugal should be served by ministers from the New Apostolic Church France. In 1980 he then gave the New Apostolic Church Switzerland responsibility for the mission country. And finally, starting in 1981, the then New Apostolic Church North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, under District Apostle Hermann Engelauf, served Portugal. Today the country belongs to the New Apostolic Church Western Germany under the leadership of District Apostle Rainer Storck. The Apostle in charge of the country is Dimitrios Diniz. He looks after almost 5,500 brothers and sisters in 22 congregations and is supported by around fifty ministers.
Overcoming language barriers
District Apostle Armin Brinkmann once wrote to the young people that missionary work begins with familiarising oneself with the culture and language of the country to which you are being sent. To avoid misunderstandings such as German shepherd dogs conducting divine services instead of a Shepherd, the German ministers hit the books and learned Portuguese.
First, District Apostle Hermann Engelauf divided the missionary work in Portugal among his Apostles. Already on 25 August 1985 he was able to place the work in Portugal in the hands of a local Apostle: Manuel Luiz was ordained as an Apostle.
Organising a church building
In February, District Apostle Engelauf had driven through Lisbon in a taxi in search of a church building. He walked across a building site and found an estate agent reading the Bible there. The estate agent’s name was Manuel Luiz. He quickly found a building that was converted into a church and he became New Apostolic. He was later hired by the Church to be in charge of construction in Portugal. He was one of those who laid the foundation for the Church in Cape Verde, Brazil, and East Timor.
The building, which the later Apostle Luiz found for the New Apostolic Church, is located about 25 kilometres from the centre of the capital Lisbon on a hill in Sassoeiros. Another building was built on the site, which was dedicated as the main church in 1984. The Church’s administrative offices and a New Apostolic school are also located there.
The Escola Nova Apostólica with the logo of a white emblem of the New Apostolic Church on a green background was inaugurated in 1985. Fatima Luiz, Apostle Luiz’s wife, was the first director of the private primary school.
From the very beginning, District Apostle Hermann Engelauf also wanted to make a social difference in Portugal. “The children are our future, we have to take special care of them,” he said at the inauguration of the school on 29 September 1985. At that time, the school had 40 pupils from all religions and seven teachers. Today there are almost as many teachers as pupils back then and around 300 pupils. The director is Fátima Jerónimo.
The building of the New Apostolic church next door is used for special occasions, such as the graduation ceremony of the fourth graders in 2012, when more than 500 guests came to congratulate them, even Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber. “In our New Apostolic school, we not only impart knowledge, but also Christian values,” he pointed out in his speech. He also acknowledged the school’s motto: “Learning with joy because teaching is done with love.”
Portugal is looking forward to the Chief Apostle’s visit
The brothers and sisters are excited about the coming weekend. “Our Chief Apostle will conduct two divine services in the south of Portugal,” Apostle Dimitrios Diniz reports, who is responsible for the country. On Saturday the ministers and their partners from all over Portugal are invited to Adela de Palheiros. And on Sunday the divine service for the departed will take place in Portimão and will be broadcast throughout the country. “It will be the first time that a Chief Apostle visits the southern part of the country and conducts two divine services there,” Apostle Diniz says. “Our brothers and sisters are so excited about these two services.”