The desire to become a priest (or pastor) never crossed my mind before coming to Norway, even though I took part in many activities in the church, coming from a Christian family. I never thought about studying theology. It was just not a career alternative. I am sure that I shared that opinion with many Malagasy young Christians, which are really active in the church.
Now, I have to say that things have turned out differently in my mind and spirit… yes, I think that being a priest is amazing and somehow I am thinking towards that now.
I was quite surprised when I heard a 18-year old fellow student in Hald telling he wanted to be a pastor, back in the fall, in Mandal. It seemed just so weird for me. Almost a shock.
In Madagascar, the priest is actually considered as the father of the church community. Like many other African and Asian countries, the Malagasy society is really hierarchical. Therefore, it was absolutely unthinkable for me to study professional theology as a 19-year-old. I would not fit in that picture.
We do not have theology in University, so I would need to apply to the church’s school.
The rules in my church’s theological school would stop me to do so anyways. Too young, I would not be allowed to study there yet. Also, I would need to be married before the end of my studies. I would be assigned to work in a church in a place I do not know and I would also be moved probably very often against my will. My life would therefore be driven by the Church Leaders’ decisions throughout the years. I know it is part of the dedication to the Lord. I respect that. But that was just not how I saw life. Being a pastor is more a calling than a career plan, so the usual thing is that people join the theology school in Madagascar and decide to be a priest after studying something else and working with something else for many years before that “calling”. It is not a personal decision, it is a heavenly calling implying the family as well… A big thing.
The zeal to serve the Lord is really present in the Malagasy Young Christians though, singing in choirs, leading scouts, teaching sunday school and doing many different things, dedicating a lot of time and making sacrifices for it. Nevertheless, very few of them had the desire to step up and become priests. The women are unfortunately not allowed to become priests yet in my home church, but that is another discussion.
Coming to Oslo, I met a lot of people studying theology in the University and Faculties (MF, UiO,…) to become priests. They are so young, 20, 21, 22 years old. And they are inspiring.
Matilde, in the picture above, whom I was in a camp leader team with, is one of those inspiring people I met. She is almost finished with the studies and will be a priest really soon. I observed that she could come with ideas which were efficient for transmitting the message of the Gospel to youth. She could contextualize the bible to the youth’s way of thinking. And, because she is young, she could make them feel more secure as well. That low age gap, in addition to her large knowledge of the bible and God, is very useful for helping the youth to deal with hard questions of faith and life. And later on, as an ordained priest, she will be able to do all of the work in a congregation. She will be able to work as a spiritual counselor for students as well, for example. I think that this is just amazing.
I feel that even if the Lutheran church in Madagascar is really flourishing compared to the one in Norway, youth is leaving the church little by little. What I mean is that we, youth, we go to church but our behavior is going away from God’s will. That is a bit sad and can be a danger for us and the church later on. I really want to deal with that issue…
In my opinion, this problem is due to the lack of contextualization of the Holy Message to the youth’s environment. They need closer counselors. Therefore having very young priests closing the gap and reducing the hierarchy distance could be a solution for bringing youth in church and guiding them in the right way.
Being a spiritual mentor for youth, being like a brother or a best friend, a confident instead of a distant elder, that is what can be motivating for me to become a young priest. There are things you share to your brother or friend but that you do not tell your father by fear of being judged and reprimanded.
Therefore, now I think that studying theology to become a young priest is a great idea. The goal would be making youth tell those things instead of hiding them by fear, so that they’ll know the truth, by the Holy Spirit’s work through the priest. And since he or she is young, he has a lot of energy to dedicate to the work of leading a congregation as well.
Becoming a youth priest, especially as a young Malagasy Lutheran is really hard, because of the rules… but now at least I am thinking towards that, and I love the idea. I am not hostile to it like before. That’s a change.
Thanks for reading, may God bless you all!