Historic ordination in Costa Rica

Stephen and Marta Deal

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Geraldine Alvarez, second from left, was recently ordained is the first twoman to become a pastor in the Costa Rican  Lutheran church.

Stephen and Marta Deal are ELCA missionaries in Costa Rica. Stephen is the global mission regional representative for Central America. In this excerpt from a recent newsletter about the 25th anniversary of the ELCA's companion church in Costa Rica, Iglesia Luterana Costarricense, Stephen discusses a significant ordination. To support Stephen and Marta, or another of the ELCA's over 240 missionaries in the global church, click here.

Without a doubt, 2013 has been memorable for the Iglesia Luterana Costarricense, our companion church in Costa Rica. It was their 25th anniversary year with special activities over the course of the year.

For much of its history, Iglesia Luterana Costarricense has relied on foreign missionaries to pastor many its congregations. This has been a transitional phase, common to all of the Lutheran churches here in Central America. With the passage of time, however, every church has to produce and prepare its own pastors. 

In 2013, Iglesia Luterana Costarricense took a significant step in that direction with the ordination of five presbyters and two deacons. Without a doubt, these ordinations were the high point of a festive worship service to mark the church's 25th anniversary on Sept. 1.

Among the group of newly ordained pastors is Geraldine Alvarez, Iglesia Luterana Costarricense's first female pastor. Geraldine moved from Nicaragua to Costa Rica in 2005 when her mother accepted the position of rector at the Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana in San José.

In her search for a church home, Geraldine found the Iglesia Luterana Costarricense congregation in La Carpio, a Nicaraguan immigrant community on the western edge of San José. Her participation there led to a decision to prepare for pastoral ministry. After four years of theological studies and three-plus years of pastoral experience, she became the first woman ordained by the Iglesia Luterana Costarricense. 

Geraldine's ordination is remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, because the cultural influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Costa Rica continues to be strong, including its historic refusal to ordain women. Second, because Geraldine is Nicaraguan in a country where discrimination against the Nicaraguan immigrant presence is widespread.

Marta and I have been privileged to participate in Iglesia Luterana Costarricense's 25th anniversary. We do so as ELCA missionaries, mindful of the fact that we represent you and that your support makes it possible for us to be part of the church's mission and ministry here in Costa Rica.

Thanks be to God for the 25-year witness of Iglesia Luterana Costarricense! And thanks be to God for your companionship in global mission!