What you need to know:
- Gospel. The missionary chosen to plant the seed of the gospel in West Nile was a man called Frank Gardner. He served the Lord diligently and like all good leaders, he did not overstay his welcome and left it to others to water the seed.
The Anglican Church will celebrate its centenary in West Nile sub-region on June 24. The main celebrations will take place at Mvara, Arua District, the headquarters of the Madi and West Nile Diocese established in 1969 with Rt Rev Silvano Wani (RIP) as first bishop.
Madi and West Nile Diocese is the largest diocese of the Church of Uganda with 11 archdeaconries, 169 parishes, more than 700 churches and 700,000 Christians. Unlike the rest of Uganda, where the first Anglican missionaries, who came to our country were sent by the Church Missionary Society, the missionaries who came to West Nile were sent by an organisation called Africa Inland Mission (AIM).
AIM was an interdenominational mission started by Peter Cameron Scott, an American Presbyterian minister born in Scotland. The first AIM missionaries came to West Nile in 1917 and they came initially at the request of Alfred Weatherhead, the first colonial District Commissioner of West Nile, to assist him distribute relief food to wananchi in the area.
AIM began its missionary work in 1918 at Vurra, near the Uganda/DR Congo border before relocating to Mvara, near Arua Municipality. In order to preserve the unity of the Protestant Church in Uganda, AIM agreed that the Church they planned to plant in West Nile would be an integral part of the “Native Anglican Church” aka NAC which became the Church of Uganda.
The missionary chosen to plant the seed of the gospel in West Nile was a man called Frank Gardner. He served the Lord diligently and like all good leaders, he did not overstay his welcome and left it to others to water the seed, to borrow language Apostle Paul used in a letter to the Corinthians.
Since 1918, more than 150 missionaries have been sent to water the seed planted by Gardner, mainly British with a few Americans such as Ms Laura Barr. The best known of the missionaries were the following:
First, Rev Canon Albert Vollor and his wife Mrs Florence Vollor. Rev Vollor arrived at Mvara in 1945 and served in various capacities until he retired in 1965. An austere and reserved man, he was affectionately called “Abi” or “Bwana Valla” by the faithful.
Abi in Lugbara means ancestor or grandfather and he was archdeacon of West Nile, supervisor of all NAC schools and head of mission. His wife Florence was called “Okualia”, which literally means a short lady. She was always beside Abi and a loyal helper of a powerful man who built the original Emmanuel Cathedral at Mvara.
Second was Rev Canon Seton MacLure and Ms Mary MacLure. I remember him as our Sunday school teacher at Ombatini Junior Secondary School. Rev MacLure and a lady called Joy Grindey, who was a linguist, translated the Holy Bible and a Hymn Book into Lugbara and Kakwa. Except for his Mzungu accent, I admit that Rev MacLure would beat me hands down in Lugbara which is my mother tongue.
Third, Dr Ted Williams, who built Kuluva Hospital which until 1963 had the only eye clinic in the greater north. Two of his sons, Edward and Peter Williams, succeeded their father and managed the Hospital until 1970s. Kuluva is one of the best hospitals in West Nile.
Fourth, Mr Stuart Cole, from Northern Ireland, who was for many years Principal of Arua TTC and Ms Margaret Lloyd who came to West Nile in 1946 originally as a teacher at Arua TTC, but from 1949 spent most of her time at Mvara as headmistress of the famous Arua Junior Secondary School and started Mvara Senior Secondary School in 1960.
As West Nilers prepare to celebrate the centenary of the Anglican Church in the region, I would like to pay a well-deserved tribute to the above and many other missionaries who laid the foundation for a vibrant church which is marching forward in the light of God.
To God be the glory!
Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.