While today over 30% of Brazilians are Protestants (accounting for 65 million people), traditionally Brazil was a stanchly Roman Catholic country. It was only in the early to mid-19th century that Protestantism gained a niche presence, due the arrival of a small number of Protestant immigrants and British and American missionaries who served only small flocks of converts. For most of the 19th century Protestants in Brazil adhered to mainstream traditions, namely Lutheranism, Adventism and Presbyterianism.
Presbyterianism eventually proved to be an influential movement in Brazil. It was introduced to the country in 1859 by the American missionary Ashbel Green Simonton, and the the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (Igreja Presbiteriana do Brasil, or IPB) was founded in 1863, making it the oldest of the Reformed family of Protestantism in the country. The church grew rapidly, establishing parishes and school across the Brazil by end of 1860s.
A key figure in the early church was Modesto Perestrelo Barros de Carvalhosa (April 15, 1846 – August 18, 1917), a native of Madeira, who immigrated to Brazil with his family as a child. He was attracted to Presbyterianism as early as 1863, and under the guidance of Reverend Alexander Latimer, officially converted to the faith in 1866. He studied to take orders under Simonton’s tutelage and was ordained in 1871, whereupon he spent the next few years traveling the country on missionary duties.
Calvalhosa was a talented writer and translator (Portuguese – English), and his ability to master complicated texts and explain them to parishioners was widely admired. He was soon considered to be the ‘intellectual powerhouse’ behind the Church’s progress in Brazil.
In 1875, he moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he played a major role in running the Imprensa Evangélica, the first evangelical newspaper in Brazil, established by Simonton in 1864. He later served as the editor of the paper.
So entrusted was Carvalhosa by the Church’s elders, that he was chosen to chair their Supreme Council on three occasions, in 1875-1877, 1883-1885 and 1906-1910.
After serving for five years, from 1888 to 1893, as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Curitiba, Cavalhosa moved permanently to São Paulo, where he became a church elder, teaching at the American School and mentoring young minsters. Especially in his later years, he was known for his stanch opposition to Pentecostalism, a movement which would later take Brazil by storm.
The Present Work in Focus
In 1874, Carvalhosa authored the Manual de Culto, by far his most important work and one of the seminal texts of Presbyterianism in Brazil. It was a liturgical manual intended for pastors, setting out the rules and rituals by which faith should be practiced. While the church never formally adopted any liturgical manual, Carvalhosa’s Manual do Culto was de facto accepted by the church hierarchy as the official guide for administering the faith, and has remained so up the present day, albeit with modest revisions.
Four editions of the Manual were published under Carvalhosa’s name, the first edition of 1874; a second edition of 1886; the third edition of 1892 (being the present work) and a fourth edition of 1906. Each of these issues were augmented from the one previous, although the nature of the content did not change.
The present 1892 ‘greatly augmented’ third edition, was printed in a delightfully crude technical manner in São Paulo by the local Evangelical Press. It features a comprehensive coverage of the liturgy, with its sections including a Preface by the author (written while he served as minister in Curitiba, dated June 7, 1892); a general section on the ‘Worship of God; On the Baptism of Children; On the Baptism and Profession of Faith of Adults; Celebration of the God’s Supper; the Blessing of Marriage; Funerary Rites; expulsion of People from the Church;
Public Repentance; Ordination and Investiture of Presbyterian Leaders; Ordination and Investiture of Presbyterian Deacons; Ordination of Preachers; Ordination of Evangelical Ministers; and the Organization of the Church.
And the church historian Reverend Onezio Figueiredo recently points out, the Supreme Council of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil never officially produced or decreed a liturgy guide; however, Carvalhosa’s Manual do Culto was immediately and permanently accepted as the de facto official liturgy, as “Its implementation was tacit, carried out by consensus and general use. If there was no objection from the Supreme Council, this is taken as acceptance, even because all its ministers were ordained on the basis…” of the Manual do Culto.
Carvalhosa died in 1917, and he willed the copyright of his Manual do Culto to the Presbyterian Church’s Supreme Council. Figueiredo notes that shortly thereafter a minister, Reverend Matatias Gomes dos Santos, who took charge of future publication of the book on behalf of the Council, decided to remove Carvalhosa’s name from the work. As such, the next issue, being the fifth edition of 1924, makes no mention of Carvalhosa’s name.
Carvalhosa’s original Manual do Culto, scarcely altered in content, has continued to be the de facto official liturgy of the church up to the present time. However, since Santos’s actions, Carvalhosa has not been credited in any of the authorized editions of the work, an injustice that Figueiredo believes must be corrected, writing that “Carvalhosa was one of the greatest intellectuals of our Church, writer and to translator. The Manual do Culto cost Rev. Carvalho a lot of effort and research, at a time when cultural information was extremely precarious, especially in the liturgical area. We hope that future reprints of this most important work will mention the author’s name.”
A Note on Rarity
All the early editions of the Manual do Culto (dated 1874, 1886, 1892 and 1906) are today extremely rare. While there are clearly a small number of examples in Brazilian libraries, including of the present 1892 edition (they are cited as sources in recent Brazilian literature), we cannot specifically trace their locations (perhaps most are in Presbyterian libraries that do not have online catalogues). Importantly, we cannot trace any examples of any of the early editions outside of Brazil, nor can we find any sales records for any other examples.
It seems that the early editions of the Manual do Culto were issued in only extremely small print runs for the exclusive use of Brazilian Presbyterian ministers, and seeing heavily use in a generally tropical climate has led to a very low survival rate.
Today the Presbyterian Church of Brazil has an estimated 650,000 members, 4,475 ordained ministers and 5,068 churches and parishes, located in all the country’s 26 states. The flock incudes many important individuals in industry, culture and politics, such that the church’s influence extends far beyond what its size would suggest.
As for Protestantism in Brazil in general, it has grown like wildfire over the last decades. In the 1960s only 5% of Brazilians were Protestants, while today that has risen to over 31%, accounting for 65 million people, one of the largest populations of the faith on the globe. However, while traditional Protestant denominations, like the Presbyterians, are seeing slow but steady growth, most new converts join the hyper-evangelical churches, such as the Pentecostal and Seventh Day Adventist movements. Most of these worshipers are from the middle class, or aspiring middle class, often attracted by the ‘prosperity doctrine’ advocated by these churches. The growth of Protestantism has radically upended Brazil’s politics and culture, supplanting the traditional Roman Catholic and secular establishments in many areas.
References: Waldir Pereira da SILVA, Música Sacra Litúrgica: Entre a Tradição e a Inovação (2021), n.p.; Ata da 1a Reunião da Comissão executiva da Assembléia Geral da IPI do Brasil – Exercício 2007 – 2010, Primeira sessão, p. 62. Cf. Onezio FIGUEIREDO, “Constituição, Princípios de Liturgia e Códidigo de Disciplina da Igreja Presbiteriana do Brasil Comentados” (Bacharel em Teologia pelo Seminário Teológico Presbiteriano do Centenário; Complementação Filosófica pela Universidade de Mogi das Cruzes – SP), pp. 149-150; Ismael da SILVA, Notas históricas sôbre a Missão Evangelizadora do Brazil e Portugal, vol. 3 (1961), p. 126.