Rhenish Missionary Society
Overview
 
The Rhenish Missionary Society (Rhenish - of the river Rhine) was one of the largest missionary societies in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. Formed from smaller missions founded as far back as 1799, the Society was amalgamated on 23 September 1828, and its first missionaries
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 were ordained
Ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

 and sent off to South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 by the end of the year.

The London Missionary Society
London Missionary Society
The London Missionary Society was a non-denominational missionary society formed in England in 1795 by evangelical Anglicans and Nonconformists, largely Congregationalist in outlook, with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa...

 was already active in the area, and a closer working relationship was formed with them.
Encyclopedia
The Rhenish Missionary Society (Rhenish - of the river Rhine) was one of the largest missionary societies in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. Formed from smaller missions founded as far back as 1799, the Society was amalgamated on 23 September 1828, and its first missionaries
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 were ordained
Ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

 and sent off to South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 by the end of the year.

The London Missionary Society
London Missionary Society
The London Missionary Society was a non-denominational missionary society formed in England in 1795 by evangelical Anglicans and Nonconformists, largely Congregationalist in outlook, with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa...

 was already active in the area, and a closer working relationship was formed with them. The Society established its first mission station
Mission (station)
A religious mission or mission station is a location for missionary work.While primarily a Christian term, the concept of the religious "mission" is also used prominently by the Church of Scientology and their Scientology Missions International....

 in the Cederberg
Cederberg
The Cederberg mountains and nature reserve are located near Clanwilliam, approximately 300 km north of Cape Town, South Africa at about . The mountain range is named after the endangered Clanwilliam Cedar , which is a tree endemic to the area. The mountains are noted for dramatic rock...

 in 1829, named Wupperthal, and predated the naming of the German city
Wuppertal
Wuppertal is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located in and around the Wupper river valley, and is situated east of the city of Düsseldorf and south of the Ruhr area. With a population of approximately 350,000, it is the largest city in the Bergisches Land...

 by 100 years.

Very soon, the missionaries started migrating north through the barren and inhospitable south-western Africa. Here they encountered various local tribes such as the Herero, Nama
Namaqua
Nama are an African ethnic group of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. They traditionally speak the Nama language of the Khoe-Kwadi language family, although many Nama now speak Afrikaans. The Nama are the largest group of the Khoikhoi people, most of whom have largely disappeared as a group,...

 and Damara
Damara people
The Damara are an ethnic group who make up 8.5% of Namibia's population...

, and were frequently in the middle of wars between them. The missionaries tried to broker peace deals between the tribes, and for this reason was later seen as political assets by the tribes.

Around the same time, debate started in Germany regarding its colonial empire, with the activities of the RMS in distant Africa fanning imaginations. The unclaimed area to the north of the Cape Colony
Cape Colony
The Cape Colony, part of modern South Africa, was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, with the founding of Cape Town. It was subsequently occupied by the British in 1795 when the Netherlands were occupied by revolutionary France, so that the French revolutionaries could not take...

 was proclaimed German South West Africa in 1880, but they quickly ran into numerous problems, since Germany was inexperienced at colonization. The Herero and Namaqua Genocide
Herero and Namaqua Genocide
The Herero and Namaqua Genocide is considered to have been the first genocide of the 20th century. It took place between 1904 and 1907 in German South-West Africa , during the scramble for Africa...

 during 1904-1907 proved to be the nadir
Nadir
The nadir is the direction pointing directly below a particular location; that is, it is one of two vertical directions at a specified location, orthogonal to a horizontal flat surface there. Since the concept of being below is itself somewhat vague, scientists define the nadir in more rigorous...

 of their rule, and combined with the effects of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Germany was unable to maintain a foothold so far from home. South Africa annexed the area in 1915, renaming it South West Africa
South West Africa
South-West Africa was the name that was used for the modern day Republic of Namibia during the earlier eras when the territory was controlled by the German Empire and later by South Africa....

. During this time, missionaries' reactions ranged from compassion and help for the local tribes, to patriotism and support of colonial interests.

During the 20th century, the Society focused on its work in southern Africa. The Society ultimately amalgamated all of its mission stations in South Africa into the Dutch Reformed Church
Dutch Reformed Church
The Dutch Reformed Church was a Reformed Christian denomination in the Netherlands. It existed from the 1570s to 2004, the year it merged with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands to form the Protestant Church in the...

, except for Wupperthal which chose to join the Moravian Church. The mission stations in Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

 became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia is a Lutheran denomination based in Namibia. It has a total membership of over 600,000, mainly in Northern Namibia. It played a significant role in opposition to Apartheid in Namibia and was part of the Namibian independence struggle.The church developed...

 there.

In 1971, the Rhenish Mission and the Bethel Mission were combined into the Vereinigten Evangelischen Mission.
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