“Let’s get together”—in Brazil for 90 years

It all began with a newspaper ad… This year, the New Apostolic Church in Brazil is celebrating its 90th birthday—with a lot of music, a youth convention that transcends borders, and an unusual invitation to all.

Wilhelmine Wyck was happy when the landlord pressed a cut-out from the newspaper into her hand. “Dear New Apostolic members…”—so began the advertisement. Two years before, in 1925, Mimi—that was her nickname—had come to Brazil with her parents and four sisters from West Germany via the Netherlands. Since that time, the 18-year-old had not been able to attend a divine service.

“Let’s get together,” so the text of the advertisement continued. The man who had placed the ad was Josef Koller, who had already emigrated from Southern Germany to Brazil with his wife and youngest son in 1924. Since that time he had maintained close written correspondence with Apostle Georg Schall. And now he was trying to make contact with other members in the south of the country.

Fled an economic crisis

Families Wyck and Koller were among the many Europeans who had fled to South America following the economic misery that had followed the First World War. Unemployed and impoverished, many immigrants found work in the area of agriculture and were not seldom exploited. But since they most often also brought along solid training in professions that were in demand, most of them were able to build up a new life over the course of the years.

Among the immigrants there were also many members of the New Apostolic Church—mostly from Germany and Switzerland. Biemann, Skalla, Freitag, Lipok, Krupski—these are the family names of which Mimi Wyck relates. In November 1927, the first New Apostolic divine service in Brazil took place in the house of her future father-in-law, Josef Koller.

A ban decides the language of divine service

The first Apostle visit—which included sealings—followed in 1930: in addition to the countries of South Africa, Australia, and China, the later Chief Apostle Helper Franz Schlaphoff had also been entrusted with the working area of South America.

Given the background of most of the believers, the sermons were at first conducted in German. However, when Brazil took the side of the Allies in the Second World War, the German language was forbidden in the country. Since that time, the country’s official language of Portuguese also became the language of divine service.

Brazil enjoyed its first visit by a Chief Apostle in the year 1978 when Chief Apostle Ernst Streckeisen came to visit. Starting in 1983, pastoral responsibility for the country was divided up between two different District Apostle districts—the south was part of the Argentina district, and the north became one of the missionary areas in the care of North Rhine-Westphalia. Since the year 2002, Brazil—together with Bolivia—has been its own independent District Apostle district.

Great distances in a gigantic country

Today the New Apostolic Church in Brazil counts some 8,000 members—in a region so large that all of Europe, from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and from Great Britain to the Bosphorus Strait, would easily fit into it. “The congregations are like islands.” Which in no way detracts from the commitment of the members, however: alone for the choir and orchestra rehearsals ahead of the Chief Apostle’s visit in 2015 they managed trips of between 350 and 1,000 kilometres—by bus and at their own expense.

“Whosoever will may come…” could be the motto for this year’s visit by the international Church leader. This is because all Church members who can manage the trip to North Eastern Brazil are invited to the anniversary celebration. Also on the agenda: a youth convention that transcends borders in the south of the country together with young members from Uruguay, as well as choral concerts in the various congregations in São Paulo.

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Andreas Rother, Karin Zwar
Brazil, Structure, Congregational life