The two-day celebration of 150 years of Christianity in Nagaland commenced on Saturday evening with thousands of believers of the Christian faith congregating at the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) Convention Centre in the state capital Kohima.
Delegates from all the 24 member associations under the NBCC are being joined by those from different denominations of Christianity in the state, representatives of Council of Baptist Churches of North East India (CBCNEI) and international ministries including the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and Asia Pacific Baptist Federation (APBF) for the sesquicentennial celebrations under the theme “His Story”.
“This is a historic moment in our faith history,” said Rev. Dr. Zelhou Keyho, the general secretary of NBCC. He pointed out that it is a time that the Nagas need to connect the dots of the past to the present day – the Naga story before and after 1872, of “how a people living in darkness were liberated and became children of God.”
Delivering a message at the opening worship service on the theme “His Story: Celebrating the Gospel”, Keyho reminded the congregation that the people of this region were “nameless and were called barbarians and savages living in a corner of India, until missionaries from abroad introduced the word of God to them.”
Missionaries from the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society were said to be the first to have contacted with Nagas as early as 1839 but it was not till December 1872 when the first Church in Naga soil was established with the first group of believers at Molungkimong village (in present day Mokokchung district) under the guidance of American missionary Rev. Dr. EW Clark. The following years stated to have seen a humble growth of Church memberships in Nagaland but laid the foundation for the later Churches in the subsequent years.
Paying tributes to the pioneers of Christianity in Nagaland, Keyho said it was not an easy journey for both the missionaries and the early converts as theirs was a story of suffering and persecution. “We should not forget their sacrifices,” the church leader said. “But God surely had His own plans for us Nagas,” he maintained, as rules, regulations and boundaries set by others could not thwart Nagas from becoming God’s people. He further paraphrased 1 John 3:1 and Ephesians 1:4 from the Holy Bible to how God chose the Naga people and “set eternity in their hearts”.
“Our story is His (God’s) story. The responsibility of carrying forward His story is upon us. Our work is to proclaim His-story… May His story become our story. May His story become your story,” Keyho said.
Delivering greetings from APBF on the occasion, the federation’s president Rev. Mark Wilson said celebrating the 150 years of Christianity in Nagaland together is a big thing. He maintained there is exponential power when Christians get together to worship and serving together, bridging gender and racial chasms and celebrate generational and cultural differences.
“Our Christian faith is being challenged in different ways and different forces and the witness of Christ sometimes get undermined but may we stand together as authentic Christ followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit…. May God use this 150 years celebrations to renew and stir our faith to rise and use the Nagas to become passionate partners as you already are in God’s story, and to reach out to millions with God’s redeeming gospel and beyond,” Wilson said.
CBCNEI general secretary Rev. Prof. Akheto Sema also delivered greetings during the programme. On Sunday, World Baptist Alliance general secretary Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown will deliver the main message on “His Story: Transforming Communities” to the congregation in the morning worship service.
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