2019 Newsletter

by Editor ~ March 8th, 2019. Filed under: Uncategorized.


Message from the Chairperson                              Revd Amos Kasibante

Review of the Year 2018                                        Revd Amos Kasibante


Uganda Networks Update                                      Charles Woodd

UCA Activities and Grants for In-Service Training   Revd Dr Michael Hunter


An Administrative Law Course for Kinkiizi Diocese                                      Revd Canon Bernard Bagaba

In-Service Training in North Kigezi Diocese            Revd Canon Gershom Muhanga

The Consecration of the New Bishop of Kitgum       Holly Brennan

‘Living Together, Working Together’                      Cathie Rutter

UCU School of Medicine                                        Revd Canon Dr John Senyonyi

Growing the Church through the BUILD programme            Revd Dr Jem Hovil

Hospital Experience in Uganda                               Revd Malcolm Pritchard

Care Hands Alive                                                  A Note


A Visit to Rhynie                                                    Liz Traill

John Vernon Taylor – His Vision and Mission for an Indigenous Church in Uganda              Bishop Joel Obetia

The Current Political Situation in Uganda                Ben Oluka

BOOK NOTICES                                                                                                  

Emmanuel Katongole. Born from Lament: The Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa.

A Review by Berdine van den Toren-Lekkerkerker



Message from the Chairperson

I am writing this just a year after the death of the former Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Rt. Revd Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo. I arrived at Entebbe airport at night just hours after his funeral had taken place at the Uganda Martyrs’ Seminary at Namugongo where he was also buried, not far from the museum of the Uganda Martyrs to which he had devoted much of his time in retirement, overseeing its construction. The museum has unique features, constructed in both modern and traditional, cultural styles. I remember going to Namugongo two days later and spending a few minutes standing before the grave alone – a big contrast from the sea of humanity, including religious, political and military dignitaries who, I was told, had attended the funeral. Nkoyoyo (as he was popularly known in Uganda) is remembered for his tremendous gifts in development and construction and left many projects whereby he will be remembered. More importantly, he had the common touch and reached out to all conditions of women and men, a man with a special pastoral concern for those on the margins of society, including street children.

So goes the story of memories. I suppose we hope for the future only because we have memories of the past. Anyone who has been associated in any way with the Church of Uganda will treasure the memories they have of the country, her people, and the vibrancy of the Church. And our memories are not only of highs but also of lows, of many friends both in Uganda and the UK who have passed on, but whose memories we treasure. The Uganda Church Association greatly values these memories and seeks to preserve them in the knowledge that there were others before us and that we build on the foundation of Jesus Christ, of the apostles and martyrs of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is in that light that we celebrate yet another newsletter of the UCA and the activities of Uganda Networks. I wish to thank those who have contributed news articles to this Newsletter and hope that those who read it will find it interesting, informative and inspirational.

Yours sincerely,

Amos Kasibante


 Review of 2018 – The Year That Was

Revd Amos Kasibante

Ugandans breathed a sigh of relief as they bade farewell to 2017; for the entire year had been clouded by the horrific assassination of the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, in the early hours of the morning a short distance from his home on the outskirts of Kampala as he left to go to work. Killed along with him were his driver and his bodyguard. All the signs were that the assassination was the work of professional hit men.

So, glad to say farewell to 2017, Ugandans hoped that 2018 would be different. There was relative peace in the first half of the year, but this was shattered in June by an assassination similar to that of Kaweesi, of the Arua Municipality Member of Parliament, Col. Ibrahim Abiriga, and his bodyguard – who doubled as his driver – at  Kagoma. It happened eight miles from Kampala on the Bombo road as he returned home from work in the evening. As his car approached his gate, men on a motorcycle showered his car with bullets and took off. A former soldier in the Amin army, Abiriga had joined a rebel group that fought against the Obote II government in the 1980s. When Museveni took power, Abiriga’s group made peace with the government. A convert to the National Resistance Movement party which chose yellow as its party colour, Abiriga had decided to dress in yellow and paint everything around him in yellow: His car was also yellow. He was regarded more as a clown than as a political threat to anyone.

Abiriga’s murder caused disaffection against the government among the youth in his area. They suspected that it was a government conspiracy and disrupted a function organised to mourn him and created a riotous scene, throwing away the chairs and fighting running battles with the police. The police arrested a vocal woman parliamentarian, Betty Nambooze Bakireke, from Mukono, whom they tried to link to the murder.

In August, elections were held to find fill the post. The NRM (ruling party), and FDC (Forum for Democratic Change) fielded their candidates. Meanwhile, opposition MP Kassiano Wadri stood as an independent and won. He had the support of the illustrious pop star, Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine and also as the ghetto President, given his life in the Kamwokya slum. Bobi Wine sings love songs, but also songs that are critical of the government and is seen as the voice of the marginalised.  He has a big following among the youth.

During the campaigns, the government accused him and the supporters of Kassiano Wadri of violence and of having stoned the President’s envoy and shattered the rear windscreen of the President’s armoured car. Bobi Wine’s driver, the young Yasin Kawuma, was shot dead as he sat in a car. Soldiers of the Special Force Command, which protects the President, sealed off the hotel where Bobi Wine and his team were residing. They proceeded to beat up and arrest the team of both men and women and carried them off to Gulu military barracks where they were accused of treason. Bobi Wine was suspected to have been killed, but was several days later arraigned before the army court in Kampala where a gun, a pistol and ammunition were presented as evidence. He had been so badly beaten he could hardly speak or walk without support. The charges were later dropped and he was charged in a civil court along with the others, raising suspicion that the evidence had been planted. Another youthful MP, Francis Zaake, of Mityana Municipality, had also been viciously beaten and was hospitalised at the Rubaga Catholic Hospital in Kampala where his life hung in the balance.

News of Bobi Wine’s arrest and torture spread outside the country and “Free Bobi Wine” demonstrations were staged in various cities around the world. Thus, Kyagulanyi had overnight become a political figure to reckon with, catapulted into the role by the events of August in Arua. His followers use the “People Power, Our Power” slogan to rally support for Kyagulanyi.  With thousands of unemployed youth, many of them university graduates, high levels of corruption, wide economic inequalities and the brutal methods used by the armed forces to quell public demonstrations, the slogan had a big resource to tap into. The army severely beat up people who gathered alongside the road or in the slums to welcome Bobi Wine back from the USA where he had received medical treatment. One of the victims of the brutal assault was middle- aged Reuter photojournalist, James Akena, a video of whose severe beating was posted on social media.

So it was that the assassination of MP Abiriga and the brutalisation of Bobi Wine and his group came to dominate all of 2018. Civil rights groups in the country spoke out against the brutality.

What of the church? The dominant Christian Churches in Uganda are the Catholic Church, the Church of Uganda (Anglican) and the Pentecostal Churches. The latter usually keep clear of politics. Interestingly the general public, if not the state, expects the historic churches to make public statements at a time of political or national turmoil or catastrophe. Voices of protest came from the Catholic Church, but their most moving response was the conduct of a Mass at Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala where they prayed for hospitalised MP, Francis Zaake and for Kyagulanyi. It is significant that both Zaake and Kyagulanyi are Catholics.

Perhaps the above narrative provides the background for the initiative taken later by the Inter-religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) to urge for a National Dialogue that would involve all political parties to address some of the major grievances the opposition may have before the general election of 2022.

If the foregoing conjures a picture of national and political crisis in 2018, there is an alternative narrative told by the ruling party and its supporters and endorsed by some church leaders. This narrative celebrates the maintenance of security and stability in the country and other economic developments such as road construction and the opening of a spanking new bridge across the Nile at Jinja.

There were also some natural catastrophes in 2018, the most notable being the landslides in Bududa District in Bugisu which killed some 40 people. In 2010 landslides had killed over 100 people. Various parts of Kampala also suffered from flooding, which they always do during the rainy season. In November, a different shock gripped the nation when over 30 revellers, mostly youth, drowned when a boat they were on capsized in Lake Victoria a short while after sailing from land.

Early in 2019, the Finance Minister, Hon Matiya Kasaija, gave a very positive forecast for the economy, which he announced has taken off from the ground, motioning with his hand the direction the economy is taking in a kind of Usain Bolt style. But some people say that whether the economy has taken off or not depends on who you talk to.

Revd Amos Kasibante, formerly a Tutor at Bishop Tucker Theological College, is a Vicar in Leeds and Chairperson of the UCA.


Uganda Networks Update

Charles Woodd


2018 was a year of mixed fortunes for Uganda Networks. On the positive side, we held two UK regional seminars, in Salisbury and Oxford, to enable organisations working in Uganda to share experience and intelligence, and also to advise us on ways we could improve what Uganda Networks offers. We also organised a workshop in Kampala for Ugandan members, with similar purposes. Altogether 45 people attended, from 34 organisations, and the feedback was very positive. Disappointingly, a further workshop planned for Manchester in November had to be cancelled as there was not enough take up.

As a result of discussion at the workshops, we added a number of templates and model documents to the members’ area of the website, alongside the How to… guides which are already there.

On the other hand, following the departure of our volunteer, who had created Google Ads for us to promote the website to Google users, we were not resourced to continue using this facility, and as a result hits on the site fell from about 10,000 a month to around 600 a month. It is arguable that this level is probably more representative of real interest in the site, but it does mean we are not creating awareness of Uganda Networks in the same way.

Also, the steady growth in paying membership that I indicated last year was crucial to the website’s long-term sustainability has not materialised. As a result, the Management Group has decided to commission a Review of the project since its inception in 2015, to assess how far we meeting our original objectives, and whether there are ways of taking Uganda Networks forward which are more sustainable. In the meanwhile, we have suspended some of the site’s functions, and said goodbye to our Website Administrator, Amanda Rymel, who had supported the site very ably for the last 10 months.

We are very grateful to the UCA Committee for agreeing a grant of up to £2,500 to see us through to the completion of the Review. Other funders have agreed to consider further support in the light of the Review’s conclusions. In due course, the Management Group will recommend a way forward to the UCA Committee, and we will hope to be able to report on this at the Day for Uganda in April.

At this point, I want to pay a huge tribute to Sue Craig, who has been a mainstay of the whole project since before its inception. Sue represented Uganda Development Services in the original discussions, inspired particularly by UDS’ founder John Maitland’s vision of a network of this kind. Sue oversaw the work of the Website Administrator, edited the monthly Newsletter, and was an endless source of ideas and inspiration as the project developed. Sue has now decided to step down from the Management Group for personal reasons – we owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. Ian Sanderson and I are holding the fort, with a Ugandan member, Florence Nassali, in support. If any UCA member is interested in joining the Management Group, I would love to hear from you!

Charles Woodd is UCA Treasurer and UCA Representative on the Uganda Networks Management Group


UCA Activities and Grants for In-Service Training

Revd Dr Michael Hunter

As Easter is very late this year our Day for Uganda will be held on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. There will be the usual opportunities to share news and information about work currently being done. Our main speakers will be Mr Ganzi Isharaza, a Ugandan journalist, who will talk about the importance of communicating across generations in the Church in Uganda, and Revd John Rutter who with his wife Cathie has recently returned from working with Kajo-Keji Diocese in exile in Uganda.

During 2018 we were again able to make several grants to help in-service training of various kinds. The particular grants made have been as follows:

  • Support for the work of Revd Richard Rukundo, the Church of Uganda’s Provincial Children’s Ministry Co-ordinator. This year’s support has helped the Chaplaincy Training programme and Richard’s work on Child Protection.
  • A grant to the Diocese of Kinkiizi enabled Revd Canon Kenneth Kanyankole, Diocesan Secretary elect, to attend a CORAT Africa Management course for Senior Church Administrators prior to his taking up office. He has spoken warmly of the way that the course has helped to develop his skills appropriately.
  • A grant to Kajo-Keji Diocese helped to resource a retreat for pastors and spouses working among South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda
  • A grant to North Kigezi Diocese helped fund in-service training for some church leaders who had had little earlier opportunity for appropriate training.

We remain keen to encourage Dioceses that want to develop suitable in-service training and we currently have some funds available to help support such in-service training. We are therefore again inviting Church of Uganda Dioceses to apply for grants to help them run short-term in-service training courses. These courses could be for clergy or lay readers or both.

We will give serious consideration to any Diocesan application for support for such a course. The amount of funding we might be able to provide to a Diocese for this purpose would probably be in the range of £1,000 – £2,000. We would expect a Diocese, as part of its application, to give us a brief summary of the proposed course, and details of a realistic budget. We would also expect the Diocese to be able to provide part of the funding itself. After the course we would wish to receive a short report on the course to be included in an edition of this Newsletter. Requests should be sent by email to the Secretary (details on the inside front cover of this Newsletter).

2018 saw the fourth of the lectures given in memory of Bishop John V Taylor. (An edited version of this lecture is found elsewhere in this Newsletter.) In recent years lectures have been given in Mukono, Kabale, Hoima and Gulu. We have been particularly glad that these lectures have provided an opportunity to stimulate and benefit some church leaders who normally have very few chances to share and discuss with others. The special fund resourcing these lectures is now exhausted but, should the Province of the Church of Uganda wish to hold similar lectures in the future the UCA would be willing to consider providing some financial help.

We are always glad to receive articles suitable for publication in this Newsletter, both from within Uganda and from others who in different ways are involved in the life of the Church and in development in Uganda. Copy for the next Newsletter can be sent to the Secretary at any time but should be received no later than December 2019.

Revd Dr Michael Hunter, at one time Tutor and Chaplain at Bishop Tucker Theological College, is Secretary of the UCA.


An Administrative Law Course for Kinkiizi Diocese

Revd Canon Bernard Bagaba

As part of their pastoral ministry clergy in Uganda are often involved in issues related to land. In the light of this and in response to an identified gap in legal knowledge among its parish priests and members of the Diocesan administrative team, the Diocese of Kinkiizi arranged an Administrative Law Course. Held for 5 days in August/ September 2017, its main objective was to increase knowledge in the area of national law and to strengthen those in positions of leadership in the Diocese in making correct judgments in their day-to-day operations.

The training course was conducted within the Diocese at Nyakatare Technical Institute. It attracted a cross-section of people including the Diocesan Bishop, the Diocesan Secretary, all heads of departments, all active clergy and a few selected active Lay Readers, all heads of institutions and their deputies, all headteachers and their deputies and child development centre staff. A total of 120 people benefited from this training. It was the first course of its kind in our Diocese.

The course was facilitated by a team of lecturers from the Law Development Centre, led by the then Diocesan Chancellor Canon Precious Ngabirano, Head of the Department of Law and Continuing Legal Education.

The topics covered included the following:

  • Introduction to law (meaning, purpose, distinction of various types of laws)
  • Family law (pre-requisites of a valid marriage, divorce, children’s matters)
  • Land law (meaning of land, systems of land tenure, ownership and management of church land, land leases, land management institutions, land dispute resolution)
  • Labour law
  • Administrative Law (meaning, delegation of powers and or duty, best procurement practices, natural justice, judicial review)
  • Criminal law and procedure (procedure, definition, elements of a crime, defences, offences against morality, offences relating to religion, offences under the Anti-corruption Act, arrests, institution of criminal proceedings, pleas available to an accused person, bail, functions of Director of Public Prosecution, powers of the Inspector-General of Government)

The course was officially closed by the District Chairperson of Kanungu, Canon Josephine Kasya. We hope and pray that the knowledge acquired by our parish priests and administrative staff will be utilized in making correct judgments as well as transforming our communities to become law-abiding citizens

We very much appreciate the Uganda Church Association’s generous grant towards the cost of this training. This grant provided over 20% of the total cost and without this help the training would not have been possible.

Revd Canon Bernard Bagaba has recently retired from being the Diocesan Secretary of Kinkiizi Diocese.


In-Service Training in North Kigezi

Revd Canon Gershom Muhanga

We are very grateful to UCA for their grant towards the In-Service Training Course held at Canon Ndimbirwe Bible College, Kyamakanda in North Kigezi Diocese.

20 students were recruited for training to do the following courses according to our needs as a diocese. 4 students are doing an Ordination Certificate in theology while 16 students are doing a Lay Readers’ Certificate. The grant was used to support the running costs for the 1st year semester in 2018: these costs include foodstuff, utilities and scholastic materials.

Our students are taken through ministry training: the core courses are Biblical studies (Old and New Testament), Worship alongside Pastoral Studies. African Traditional Religion, Church History and Preaching are also taught.


The Lay Readers’ class in a lecture              The College Library

Our vision for this college is to make it a college of difference in the Province of the Church of Uganda. Having been taken through ministry formation, an approach different from the Theological Colleges that currently offer a University education, students are inculcated with the spirit of service.

Revd Canon Gershom Muhanga is Diocesan Secretary of North Kigezi Diocese


A New Bishop for Kitgum

Holly Brennan

A group of 15 from Bristol West Deanery were excited to revisit Kitgum for the consecration of Bishop-elect Revd Wilson Kitara, who had visited us in Bristol two weeks previously. For many years he has been a friend through our Deanery link with Kitgum Diocese. He helped us send a container of school furniture to Kitgum Diocesan School, and chaired both the Clergy Children’s Education Fund and an agricultural project helping clergy families to move from subsistence farming to sustainable agriculture, following 20 years of conflict in the North.

We were invited to the Diocesan compound the day before his consecration. Repainting of All Saints Cathedral was still in progress and a simple wooden platform stood in the middle of a large open green space. We wondered how everything would be ready next day to seat and feed an expected crowd of over 10,000 people.

We visited the Diocesan School, Revd Jabulon Issoke Memorial College, where the new bishop has been Headteacher for several years. His deputy, now Acting Head, told us that school staff were devastated to hear Revd Wilson had been elected Bishop, though of course pleased for him. “We are not only losing our Head, we’re losing a father, mentor and friend.”

Consecration Day dawned sunny with a clear blue sky. Arriving early, we were amazed at the site’s transformation, with beautifully draped cone-shaped canopies and thousands of chairs around four sides of the field. Singing and dancing was under way with massed choirs and a good PA system creating a very happy celebratory atmosphere.


The 6 hour Holy Communion and Consecration service started at 9 a.m. with a colourful procession: Choir, Mothers’ Union, Fathers’ Union, Lay Readers, Brass band, Clergy, Archdeacons, Canons, Chancellors, the Bishop-Elect, Bishops and Archbishop Stanley Ntagali. The procession was greeted with much enthusiasm by the huge congregation.

After hymns and readings (2 Corinthians 5:11—6.2 & Matthew 18:21-35) Bishop Stephen Kaziimba’s sermon urged forgiveness and reconciliation after past difficulties.                                                                                                           “God is calling you, Bishop-elect, to be a bridge of unity and forgiveness so people will see the saving grace of Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The purpose of a bridge is to bring two sides together….we need a bridge between broken families…between Kitgum and the Government…We need to live in the present, to think of the future, not the past.”

Following the legal part of the Ceremony, the Bishop-Elect vowed to adhere to the Articles of the Church before being taken to robe. The Archbishop then consecrated & installed Bishop Wilson – assembled Bishops laying hands on him – and presented him with a Bible: the 10,000 people present rejoiced with singing, ululation & clapping.

It was moving to see how warmly the Bishops’ wives, led by the Archbishops’ wife, Mama Beatrice, welcomed and prayed for Ketty Auma Kitara and also presented her with a Bible.

A camera drone hovered overhead as Caretaker Bishop, Rt Revd Charles Odurkami, was commended for the excellent job he has done for the past 3 years since Bishop Benjamin Ojwang was forcibly retired.(Bishop Ben was not present due to ill-health but the Bishops had visited and prayed for him the previous day). Bishop Odurkami thanked Kitgum’s clergy and laity for their welcome, trust and help as he had hesitatingly and humbly undertaken to “step into their shoes where the water was disturbed”. He prayed God’s blessing on Bishop Wilson and the clergy before admitting he was happy to be finally retiring.

Bishop’s Charge

Acknowledging an adverse legacy of poverty, illiteracy, food insecurity and moral & spiritual decadence following 20 years of conflict and displacement, Bishop Wilson outlined his thoughts and dreams to reconcile and restore the Vision of the Diocese. This would come through repentance, education, training, stewardship, appraisal & review so they can fulfil their mission to grow the Church and & serve the poor and vulnerable. He stressed the need for the core values of godliness, Scriptural faithfulness, Biblical family values, integrity & selfless service. His declared aim was to harness the voluntary support of professional expertise within the Christian community and to strengthen ministry groups to lead mission & evangelism, youth & family work.


There followed a variety of speeches from leaders in business, politicians (including the Prime Minister, who was representing President Yoweri Museveni), the Paramount Chief of Acholi, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Gulu and Archbishop Stanley Ntagali.

Finally, after the singing of the National and the Acholi Anthems, the ceremony closed with a blessing by the new Bishop and the rousing hymn, “To God be the Glory”. Then the feasting began (thanks to much hard work by many women in the field kitchens!).

Holly Brennan is a member of the Bristol West Deanery Link and U.K. representative for Clergy Children’s Education Fund and Kitgum Clergy Agricultural Project

N.B. Bishop Wilson expresses his gratitude to the Uganda Church Association for its sponsorship of his theological studies at Uganda Christian University, Mukono.



‘Living Together, Working Together’

Cathie Rutter

This was the theme of a Pastors’ and Spouses’ retreat held in July 2018 in Moyo, northern Uganda, based on the key verse “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12b). During a week in July 2018, 30 South Sudanese pastors and spouses from the Refugee camps in Northern Uganda assembled for this special event at Kajo-Keji College, facilitated by a grant from the UCA.

In last year’s Newsletter we wrote about the challenges and difficulties of the nearly 200,000 refugees living on camps near Moyo, (and indeed of the 1 million refugees in Uganda as a whole).  The burden on the pastors is hard to exaggerate – ministering to a traumatised people, struggling themselves with issues of health, inadequate water and food, covering large distances without adequate transport in their pastoral work, trying to encourage in the midst of suffering, taking innumerable funeral services, watching disaffected youths choose wrong paths in life, seeing so many children not receiving the education they need.  The list of demands goes on and on – and there is no pay for this work. And, in the background, their wives (we only had one male spouse attending), exhausted by the physical work of collecting water, firewood and preparing food, caring for the family (often including orphans and extended family members) and coping with the ongoing, demanding life of the refugee.

So, when students at the College were away on the break between semesters, 20 couples, selected by their Archdeacons, were invited to a Pastors’ and Spouses’ Retreat. Due to sickness and other family issues, 30 people were finally able to attend, representing 17 couples. In summary, continuing the theme of “three”, the week comprised three main elements: teaching to strengthen their marriages and ministry, the opportunity to rest and spend time with God, and thirdly, the provision of practical ‘treats’ – including good food, Bibles and stationery – to honour and appreciate their service to God.

During the keynote talks each day, couples sat together. Surprisingly, they did not need to be told to do this, but chose to do so of their own accord.  The themes were: ‘Worshipping Together’, ‘Growing Together’ and ‘Walking Together’ – concentrating on strengthening the marriages with mutual support and encouragement of each other’s ministries. There were two particularly poignant and significant activities in these sessions.  There was a light-hearted yet meaningful ‘competition’ to see which couple made their own plait from coloured cords the fastest – working together in harmony – a physical reminder to take home as a symbol of their working together with God.  It was especially meaningful to praise one nearly blind wife – the cord for that couple may have been the shortest but was by far the neatest in the room! On another day, each couple was given a copy of their marriage vows (in Bari, their own language) – they found a private space and repeated them to each other, praying together. For some couples this was deeply meaningful.

After a ‘tea break’ the men and women were then taught separately. While the men were literate, and many had good English, this was not the case with the women.  Therefore spending time with these women, teaching them about their value in God’s eyes, exploring their God-given gifts, and their self-worth was all the more important when society gives ‘status’ according to education, wealth and position. They made ‘Treasure jars’ – the first time many of them had done any drawing and colouring – and were taught that although they were ‘ordinary clay pots’ the precious treasure of God’s presence was inside each one of them (2 Corinthians 4:7). There were many times of joyful praise, and also a time of deep quiet when each woman looked at themselves in a mirror, assuring themselves that they were ‘secure, significant and accepted’ in God’s sight, saying the words in their own language.

A women’s group from a church in North Yorkshire had sent gifts which were presented to the women during the closing Communion service, as a mark of respect and to honour them.  So they received bags containing a mirror, sewing kit, nail kit, all in a specially hand-made container, along with some sweets, an exercise book and crayons.  Their smiles were a special gift to us!

Meanwhile the teaching for the Pastors was largely based on Ezekiel – preaching to a people in exile. The sequence progressed from starting with our own limitations and weaknesses (‘jars of clay’) to a focus on God being faithful in difficult circumstances  (‘this present house’ Haggai 2:9) and on further to a strong vision of hope for the future (‘dry bones’ and ‘river of life’ from Ezekiel)

There were also practical sessions in the afternoons, providing teaching on Agriculture and Health, How to reach out to men, Making reusable sanitary pads and Family values. Everyone was riveted to the screen to watch the Jesus film in Bari one evening.

The final activity of the Retreat was a Communion service: a powerful time of worship, teaching, reverence and prayer. At the celebrant’s invitation each couple came forward in turn for communion alongside each other. And then there was a ‘Celebratory Walk’!  Crossing cultural boundaries (and encouraged NOT by us, the Whites, but by the South Sudanese Principal of the College), there was a joyful walk, hand in hand, of the couples from the Chapel across the road to enjoy their final meal together.

Much of God’s work was done in the unofficial part of the programme. Over meal times when pastors were able to share in fellowship (men and women culturally would generally eat separately by choice), came opportunities to laugh, to learn and encourage each other. In the quiet spaces as delegates sought their own personal times with God.  In the chatter and joy of the women and children enjoying living in community without doing all the usual hard physical labour.

Several months on, there are still comments on the camp: ‘We have never received teaching like this before’; ‘My wife is now praying for my ministry. This has not happened before and now I feel strengthened and empowered’; ‘Can we come again?’; ‘This needs to happen every year’. The only negative feedback was that, after all the teaching on togetherness, the men and women had to sleep in separate dormitories!!  Thank you to all at UCA for all that your gift has enabled.

As these Pastors and their Spouses continue to minister in difficult conditions, they need your prayers.  Whether they have to remain in exile in refugee camps in northern Uganda or whether they are able to return to their homes in South Sudan, if the fragile peace holds, please pray that God will continue to empower and enable them.  Serving God to restore a deeply fractured community and many traumatised lives, while preaching a message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, is indeed a high calling.

Cathie and John Rutter have spent the past two years as CMS short-term Mission Partners, working with Kajo-Keji Diocese in exile.



The UCU School of Medicine

Revd Canon Dr John Senyonyi

 “I was sick and you visited me…truly I tell you whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:36-40

My grandson, coming up to two years in 2018, is a stark reminder of what Uganda doesn’t have in medical care. Despite all my education and connections, as well as those of my wife, Ruth, we were powerless to find anyone in our country who could fix his tiny heart that was broken from birth. My daughter and her husband flew with their five-month-old son to India, while we remained behind and prayed.

Today, as I cuddle him in my arms, melt under his smile and watch him run around our kitchen, I am reminded that men, women and children are more likely to die young in poor countries like mine. The World Health Organization ranks Uganda’s healthcare as one of the worst in the world. Data verifying our provider deficiencies are:

  • One in every 300 births ends a mother’s life.
  • Malaria causes 14% of our deaths.
  • One million people have HIV.

The Uganda Ministry of Health noted these among many other facts and factors in a development plan issued in 2015. Among data in this report are: 45 infant deaths per 1,000 births and a Ugandan average life expectancy of less than 60 years. To put our need in perspective, the USA infant mortality rate is 7 per 1,000 while, in the UK, the average person can expect to live to the age of 80. The Uganda “Vision 2040” plan addresses our deficiencies with goals over two decades.

Accomplishment by 2040 is too far away. We can’t wait.

That Uganda needs more doctors to resolve our health issue is without question. The World Health Organization reports 1 doctor per 13,000 Ugandans compared to 1 per 400 citizens in the United States. To provide these doctors, Uganda needs more medical schools.

What gives Uganda Christian University an edge in producing medical practitioners is not only institutional oversight for knowledge and skill, but also the moral and ethical ties to Christianity. In short, doctors who are strong in Christian faith care more about people they serve.

It took quite a bit of convincing – two years in fact – for me to agree that our University should start a medical school.  My biggest concern was the cost. We didn’t have the funds. We still do not have all the money we need to run the medical school effectively without compromising other units of the University. We pride ourselves in running a fiscally responsible institution.

We prayed quite a bit as we still do about that ongoing need of funding for books, equipment, student tuition and facility space. The answer which came was that, what we didn’t have, God and His people would provide. We took a leap of faith.

The Uganda Christian University School of Medicine’s first 60 students – 50 in medicine and 10 in dentistry, and more than half female – started classes in early September 2018 with hopes that this first class will graduate in 2022.

Adding dentistry and medicine programs was a natural outgrowth of our university’s health-related programmes that have evolved in the institution’s 21-year history. In the months before the School of Medicine’s official launch on September 14, 2018, the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences became the UCU School of Medicine (UCUSoM), drawing in the existing programmes of nursing, public health, and Save the Mothers health administration together with the new medicine and dentistry tracks.

The collaboration between Mengo Hospital and Uganda Christian University was a given with our quality standing among East African universities, our university’s nearby Kampala campus and Mengo’s reputation as Uganda’s oldest hospital and its modernization in the 121 years since its inception. In addition to acknowledging the need, both partners already had shared values of ethics, holistic practices, compassion and witness to Jesus Christ. Additionally, the medical school supports our university’s strategic plan to increase science programs and its design to enhance evidenced-based practice and research. The programming also aligns with Uganda’s goal to expand science-related careers.

Data was a main driver to start the medical school. In addition to what I have already shared, more than half Uganda’s citizens have no access to public health facilities, and 62% of health care posts are unfilled. Respiratory and blood pressure issues are increasing alongside HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, malaria and diabetes. And, in addition, there are simply some health problems – like a baby’s failing heart – that we are not equipped to handle.

I realize that most Ugandans cannot afford to fly a loved one 3,418 miles for a life-saving procedure. I know, too, that UCU’s medical school cannot heal all the sick or eliminate Uganda’s health care needs.  But what we are doing will make a dent. With the hand of God and His people, the first class of the Uganda Christian University School of Medicine is up for the task. They are doing it for my grandson, for all of Uganda’s 35 million people and for those yet to come.

Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi is the Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University

Editor’s note: We are grateful to Cath Hitchin for sending us this article.

More information about the Uganda Christian University School of Medicine can be obtained via:



and in a fact sheet at https://www.ugandapartners.org/priority-projects/ucu-school-of-medicine/.

Contributions to the Uganda Christian University School of Medicine can be made via the UK support charity: www.ucupartners.org.uk, registered in England and Wales, seeking to support the work of the University for the benefit of the Ugandan people.



“I will BUILD my Church” – Growing the Church through the BUILD programme

Revd Dr Jem Hovil

‘How can we use all the different approaches at our disposal to equip those who actually lead, teach and care for our many local churches within our Church of Uganda parishes?’

That was, in effect, the question being asked in the mid-1990s, not least as the result of a church-wide survey. In other words, how can our lay readers and senior Christians, those part-time and spare-time leaders who are critical to the health of the Church, receive basic biblical, theological and practical leadership education? Particularly when the majority of these de facto pastors cannot find the time or resources for traditional, residential, college-based training.

There have been different responses over the years, and the Church of Uganda’s BUILD programme is one. BUILD stands for ‘Biblical Understanding for In-service Leadership Development,’ which is far from snappy but does explain what it is all about: training with Scripture at its heart, driving training for those in the midst of ministry.

BUILD achieves this with a locally developed curriculum that was created in a series of workshops hosted at Uganda Martyrs Seminary. The curriculum has ten modules, each with fifteen learning units. Each module takes a book of the Bible, the group of books it is a part of, a theological theme, and a leadership issue. For example, the first is simply, 2 Timothy and the Pastoral Epistles, Preaching the Gospel and Godly Leadership. Others have titles such as Mark and the Gospels, the Servant King and Servant Leadership, and Nehemiah and the Historical Books, Building God’s People and Strategic Leadership. They are a blend of Bible, theology and practice, emerging out of the Ugandan context. That curriculum is put into the hands of vicars, archdeacons, education secretaries and others trained to use it, so they in turn train those at the grassroots.

BUILD is now a department within the Provincial Education Directorate (as it is now known), with its own locally employed and funded co-ordinator, Canon Stephen Kewaza, with other co-ordinators and trainers scattered across the COU. BUILD has spawned other BUILD programmes and efforts in Uganda’s neighbouring countries. There has been strong take up in a cluster of Rwandan Dioceses; Kenya’s Butere Diocese and its African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research (AICMAR) hosts formal BUILD training for around seven dioceses in the west of Kenya (as well as reaching out to Tanzanian dioceses); and various dioceses in Congo, Burundi and South Sudan are also involved.

BUILD follows a pattern of formal, non-formal and informal training in order to multiply its impact. The formal training is in the form of a two year block-based Diploma in Bible, Theology, and Leadership, hosted by Uganda Martyrs Seminary as well as at AICMAR in collaboration with a Kenyan university (the Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto will be the guest of honour at our first graduation there this February). That diploma is rather like an in-service teacher training course: four blocks of training expose students to the BUILD modules and other practical papers. In between blocks, students develop their own local training programmes, incrementally, so that they not only learn how to do that, but also, by the end of their course, begin to equip others, through non-formal local leadership development groups. The current diploma cohort has students from across Uganda, including a South Sudanese group from a refugee settlement near Arua (Rhino Camp), together with two from Matana Diocese in Burundi, and two from Kamango Diocese, just over the border in Congo. That inter-cultural element has been enormously important to BUILD.

The non-formal groups are the heart of the work: there, local leaders can meet together in the parish, archdeaconry or diocese and be equipped to serve their local church and community. Finally, at the informal level, all this directly improves the quality of preaching and teaching, care and outreach.

How has all this developed? Slowly, but surely. Pray that it will continue to do so.

Revd Dr Jem Hovil, formerly working with BUILD in Uganda, now lives in Bath, UK and alongside parish ministry serves as a trustee of BUILD Partners (as well as of UCU Partners). Do visit buildpartners.org for more information and stories, and how you might be able to join in.


Hospital Experience in Uganda

Malcolm Pritchard

I literally fell foul of a tiled changing room. It seems in Uganda too many wall tiles find their way to magnificently shiny but treacherous floors. The unhappy consequence was a dislocated shoulder, a broken funny bone and I was in stitches….   I thank God it was my left arm, the fracture was not in the joint and I did not hit my head. Kind friends rallied round to assist with all things medical and practical. I am grateful….

Back in September, I had the rods in my broken arm removed and spent a couple of days in hospital. I am so thankful that all went well. It was a bit of a joke that, by decree of Caesar Augustus, I had to be taken to theatre supine. It would have been far easier to walk. I think the procedure took longer than the surgeon had anticipated – if only I had bought my muddy hook for pulling out tent pegs from the ground, that might have speeded things up a bit! Most of the theatre staff were Catholic and not reticent about telling me so. Sometimes such disclosures are a “get your defence in first” against overzealous evangelists, another symptom of superficial Christianity.

So I sought common pasture in Psalm 23 with an anaesthetist in recovery. (“He makes me lie down on green theatre sheets”…) I was then wheeled back to my private suite, hoping the porters did not run over those lying on mats in the corridor.

Uganda is a sensually fascinating place, visually full of colour and socially brimful of bustle with all the associated variety of vibrant sounds. And a hospital in a developing country is no exception to the rule (even if a bit gory in places). Picture a Northern Ugandan nativity, a brand new mother treasuring in her heart the mystery, wonder and perplexity of birth, typically without a Joseph by her side and single-mindedly adoring her bundle of joy and simply repeating “ba-by”. Other mothers wait helplessly, unable to pacify their distressed infants. Waiting rooms in every department are crowded, but the uncomplaining occupants give impressive meaning to the word “patient”.

Meanwhile, the supporting relatives of in-patients camp out under trees between the wards like so many Simeons and Annas, waiting for the consolation of some good news that will mean the world will be a different place. They bring in food, water, bed sheets and other necessities. Could the NHS be missing a trick? Sometimes relatives sob silently and once I heard another lamenting loudly. The drawer marked “death forms” and the notice about mortuary fees are in clear view of everyone who comes to reception. Christmas throws into sharp relief the empty place at the festive table and there the thorn in the straw is piercing.

Every Sunday in church, I bless new-born babies (Ugandan visitors to the UK are shocked by how few pregnant women they see). But from time to time we learn a member of church died in childbirth – the thin line between the God-given ephemeral breath of life and the sting of death. Christmas reminds me that we have a God who takes risks. The miracle and mystery.

Nursing staff are similar to buses in that there are long periods of nothing happening and then suddenly there are nurses galore, necks craned to see the sartorial exhibit in the chic candy-striped surgical gown. St Mary’s Hospital Lacor, the second largest hospital in Uganda and Gulu’s biggest employer, is one of the places making a huge effort to improve healthcare against all odds. At risk of sounding like a cracked record, poverty means there is corruption.

Too many Western aid agencies turn a blind eye to the failures in the system, so it is good news to see the church so active in bringing affordable and quality healthcare to communities. St Philip’s, a little way up the road, is one such local clinic. The idea is to have a place where staff are trained and paid properly and do not steal the government-supplied drugs. Nor do they shut up shop when a patient with malaria or a mother in labour shows up in the afternoon when the guest room is fully booked. Is it any wonder there are so many funerals here?

I spent much of my hospital time queueing – for admission, for billing, for pharmacy – and was invited to go to the front, an offer that I declined. We polish the benches with our bums as we slide up the line. Pity the preoccupied clerk behind the payment windows attending to a relentless stream of imploring humanity. She stretches and rubs her back from too long at her desk. At 5pm, she firmly shuts the window even though some have not made it to the front in time. You may recall the whole broken arm saga began with me slipping on some wet tiles. As I came out of the pharmacy after my little op, they were washing the tiled floor and I took special care to avoid Groundhog Day or a swift rendition of The Gasman Cometh! I had been first on the list and, it being a local anaesthetic, I recovered quickly so was able to go home late afternoon.

Revd Malcolm Pritchard is a Mission Partner of the Church Mission Society. He lives in Gulu, working with Archbishop Janani Luwum Theological College and the Diocese of Northern Uganda.



Care Hands Alive

Eleanor Walker has sent us information about Care Hands Alive. This project, linked with the Mothers’ Union, is led by Margaret Kitanda (a former President of the MU in Namirembe Diocese) and aims to provide pre-marital and marital counselling, to bring harmony to families and resettle broken families, to equip parents with parenting skills and to work with children and adolescents who lack parents or are torn apart by peer group pressures. As part of its work it trains women to help in these areas.

She says that it is just one good example of Ugandan Christians helping their country to move forward, and particularly helping women to gain self-respect and improve family life.

Eleanor met Margaret in 1971 when she was doing VSO at Lady Irene College, Ndejje and Margaret was a student there.



A Visit to Rhynie: Birthplace of Alexander Mackay 1849-90

Liz Traill

In early Spring 2018, marooned at home in North Berwick by snow and ice, I prepared a talk about our pioneer missionary to Uganda for a meeting in Rhynie, Aberdeenshire. The invitation had come through the Session Clerk of Noth Parish Church whom I had met unexpectedly when a train from to Aberdeen was cancelled. I had been visiting my brother and family. God works in amazing ways!

Mackay’s life-story has a certain symmetry, the first 14 years spent in Rhynie being home-schooled, the last 14 years spent in Africa and the middle 13 being educated, gaining engineering experience and travelling. He was, as they say in Scotland, “a man of parts”, highly intelligent, well-read and with many skills in his hands. He was a whole-hearted Christian and dedicated his life to serving others in the Name of his Master.

His Early Life

He was a fair-haired, blue-eyed friendly boy who enjoyed visiting and watching people at their work, the carpenter, the blacksmith, a lady spinning and weaving. His father, Dr Mackay, was a great scholar with wide interests beyond the basic education in the Classics and Mathematics which he imparted to his son. Alexander liked anything mechanical, walked four miles to see the railway and the train going to Huntly. He absorbed general science and knew all about bees because his mother had a hive.   At the age of 14 he was sent to Aberdeen to complete his schooling. In spare time he went to the shipyards and observed what was going on, knowledge which he would put to practical use in Africa. He asked his father for a printing press and learnt how to use it. Visitors at home included geologists, explorers and even Sir Roderick Murchison, President of the Royal Geographical Society, after whom the Murchison Falls in Uganda are named. In 1867 the family moved to Edinburgh. Alexander spent two years at the Free Church Teacher Training College at Moray House, known then as a “normal school”, then studied Engineering at University. He taught part-time in schools to pay his way. From the age of about 15 he had a real personal faith in Jesus and felt called to take the Gospel to Africa, while using all his practical and engineering skills. He went to Berlin to learn more about engineering, working in a big company. While he was there the call came to join the Church Missionary Society as a member of the team going to Uganda.

The Wider Picture

The so-called “Scramble for Africa” was in progress and efforts were being made to combat the slave trade. Explorers such as Speke and Baker had aroused much public interest in the River Nile and the lakes in the heart of Africa. David Livingstone had a remarkable career as a missionary doctor. The American journalist Henry Stanley led an expedition to find Livingstone and passed through Uganda. He met the Kabaka, Mutesa, and was very impressed by the orderliness of his kingdom on the north shores of Lake Victoria. Mutesa expressed interest in Christianity and Stanley explained the basic facts, the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. Mutesa asked Stanley to invite Christian missionaries to come and teach his people. So Stanley wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published in November 1875 and contained the words: “It is the practical Christian tutor who can teach people how to become Christians, cure their diseases, construct dwellings, understand and exemplify agriculture, and turn his hand to anything, like a sailor – this is the man who is wanted.” He advised that the expedition would cost no more than five thousand pounds. Within a few days an anonymous gift of £5,000 was offered to the Church Missionary Society for a Mission to Victoria Nyanza. A party of eight men was formed including Mackay, but only three of them ever reached Uganda.  Shergold Smith and Rev. C.T. Wilson arrived first in 1877. Alexander Mackay was delayed by malaria fever at the Coast and followed a year later in 1878.

Fourteen years in East Africa

Mackay’s story will be familiar to many readers of this Newsletter. Mackay set up a printing press in his workshop in Nateete, today a busy suburb of Kampala. He had learnt Swahili at the Coast; later he mastered enough Luganda to translate and print portions of Scripture for the use of Kabaka Mutesa and his Court. He spent much time teaching boys and young men to read, also always working at his bench mending and making things. He held services at the Court and explained what Christian faith meant.   After Mutesa died in 1884, his unpredictable son Mwanga (perhaps rather like General Amin in our time) took over the kingdom. He came under the influence of some jealous Arabs, who were slave-traders. They encouraged the persecution of Christians and in 1885-6 a terrible time ensued when many, both Protestant and Catholic, were martyred. He ordered the execution of Bishop James Hannington who was on his way to Uganda, coming from the East. The Church grew: as the saying goes, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. 

Mackay went on patiently with his work, translating and printing the Gospel of St Matthew. I heard a story about the “Biscuit Tin Bible”, which fitted into a Victorian tin: some people learnt to read it upside down, such a large crowd gathered around it!    Mackay had to leave Uganda because of pressure from the Arabs at Court. He went across the Lake and settled on the south side. He built a house with clay walls two feet thick and set up his workshop. At Usambiro, H.M. Stanley on his second expedition visited him and described “a gentleman of small stature, with a rich brown beard and brown hair, dressed in white linen with a grey Tyrolean hat” who welcomed the party and made them feel at home. The house was full of books! Mackay had built the first wheeled vehicle in that part of Africa, a wagon to carry logs from the forest, and he was busy making a steam engine to power a saw mill and building a new boat to sail across Lake Victoria. He was teaching people to read, dispensing simple medicine and running a small farm. He was a practical missionary to the end, dying of fever in February 1890, aged 41.

The Challenges he Faced

When I looked at them, I realised that some of them were similar to those faced by Constance Hornby of Kigezi and many present day mission partners. Mackay was combatting the Slave Trade head on, Miss Hornby was pioneering girls’ education from scratch, we in the 21st Century face the challenges of new technology and threats to the global environment. However, the climate, disease and health issues, travel and loneliness are enduring problematic issues. There is always a certain amount of danger and political troubles also affect our work. The overall lesson to be learnt from Mackay’s life is, “Let us move with the times!”

Rhynie is a most interesting place to visit and there is a display about Alexander Mackay in the Church of Scotland’s church there. The very old graveyard in the hills near the village has the Mackay family grave with a memorial stone for Alexander. It is an atmospheric place. The Minister would welcome visitors. For more information, see the website <Noth Parish Church/Join My Church>.

Liz Traill worked in South West Uganda for many years, teaching at Kigezi High School and then as the Headmistress of Bishop Kivengere Girls’s School, Muyebe.


John Vernon Taylor: His Vision and Mission for an Indigenous Church in Uganda

Bishop Joel Obetia


John Vernon Taylor, one of the greatest missionary statesmen of the 20th century, was  born in Cambridge in 1911 and in 1945, at the end of World War II, he moved to Mukono, Uganda, as a missionary. Initially he was to be Deputy Warden in Bishop Tucker Theological College, but was very soon made Warden as Revd John Jones was made to resign in the Balokole crisis. Returning to England in 1954, John worked for the International Missionary Council and then as Africa Secretary of the Church Missionary Society. In 1963 he became CMS General Secretary, remaining in the post until 1974 when he became Bishop of Winchester where he served until his retirement in 1985.

John and Peggy settled in retirement in Oxford East, near All Saints Convent and regularly joined in worship with the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor. When I joined the convent as a student in 1998, some of the best moments were when John Taylor and John Macquarrie joined us for lunch after the Sunday Mass. They were times I theologically cherished. John and Peggy had contacts with most African Scholars in Oxford and would regularly invite them for an English cup of tea with butter and jam scones. I learned to enjoy Marmite from these tea parties!

John died in February 2001, a few days before I came for the final leg of my research. In the mortuary at All Saints he was dressed in a Kiganda Kanzu instead of the Bishop’s regalia! He wrote his entire funeral liturgy! He left a letter and a package for me titled: “To be given to Joel when the right time comes”. I received that package and letter in June 2005 when I was elected as the 6th Bishop of Madi/West Nile Diocese. It had his Cope, Mitre and Scarf, which he used in the see of Winchester and a stole from Archbishop Ramsey from South America.

John Taylor’s significance for Christian Mission

John Taylor is one of those rare saints offering us glimpses of what wholeness and completeness feels like. In a time when the church is traumatised by decline in many parts of the world and terribly anxious about its future, his all-embracing vision is wonderfully liberating; inviting us to trusting faith just as our fears try to overwhelm us. Taylor’s significance for mission today, I would argue, lies in his refusing to let Christians huddle together in secure Christian ghettos, becoming ever more theologically conservative, building higher the walls of division, marking out more clearly who is saved and who is not, and shouting louder to make ourselves heard. He offers a way forward which is at once thoroughly orthodox and marvellously sensitive and human. He does this by remaining absolutely true to scripture and Christian tradition, while holding himself wide open to experience the new thing God is doing elsewhere.

For him the Christian missionary is to gladly affirm this universal presence and action of God, recognizing it and celebrating it, while being himself the evidence of God’s Christlikeness. Consequently,The Christlike God is all about our distinctive contribution as Christ’s witnesses to the human search for meaning, attempting to describe the Christian gift which we are called to share with all our sisters and brothers without distinction.

John Taylor helps us greatly with his definition of religion. Every religion, he argues, represents a people’s particular tradition of response to the reality which the Holy Spirit has set before their eyes. Note how very careful he is not to say that any or every religion is the truth which the Spirit has disclosed, nor even that it contains such truth. It is quite clear that this includes Christianity because for him no religion represents the truth of God. It is also misleading to speak of the various religions as revelations of the one God, for this suggests that God discloses different aspects of God’s self to different people. “Is this”, John Taylor asks, “How a compassionate father loves the various children of his family?” No, of course not. God is faithful, and God’s self-revelation and self-giving are consistent for all, but different people respond differently. All we can say on the basis of the facts is that people of a particular culture have responded and taught others to respond to what the Spirit of God made them aware of through the events of their history and the vision of their prophets. In other words, every religion represents both obedience to God as well as disobedience. Human beings use religion as much to escape God as to approach God, so both obedience and disobedience get built into the tradition and are passed on to succeeding generations.

If this is true, it follows that all of us, the whole of humankind, are called to conversion. We begin to think about mission, then, knowing that we are all in the same boat, creatures of God together, gloriously made in the divine image but marred by human frailty and sin. This radical humility is our starting point, an honest recognition demanding of us grace, sensitivity, patience, gentleness, and genuine openness to the leading of the Spirit.

Christian mission so defined certainly includes the search to find what we have in common. There is, of course, a great deal of common ground shared by people of faith; all religions express an awareness of human alienation, enslavement, and the need for healing and deliverance, and in all religions people experience an inward liberation, a sense of being accepted and made new.

What of dialogue?

We can only move closer together if we begin to trust each other, and without trust nothing of any lasting value will pass between us. Dialogue, for Taylor, is a sustained conversation between different people who are not saying the same thing but who nevertheless go on talking. It happens whenever we recognise and respect the differences between our various ways of thinking, yet refuse to abandon one another.

If we are honest, we find this very, very hard to sustain, for we are all naturally afraid of the unresolved opposites in ourselves. We want a simple unity when in fact we are a mass of contradictions. It follows that it takes a high degree of maturity to respect an opinion which conflicts with my own without itching to bring about a premature and naïve accommodation. Being really present to one another, persisting in dialogue, Taylor suggests, is actually about loving one’s enemies! He never allows us to forget that mission is an act of love-making.

Mission as presence

For Taylor the Eucharist, the central act of Christian worship, is all about presence, the real presence of Christ in word and sacrament. We might imagine it should follow naturally that Christians are well exposed in being really present to one another. The trouble, however, with professional Christians, as he wryly observes, is that often we are not all there! Being really present to one another is actually quite rare. Listening is an art-form at which too few of us excel. Yet mission demands real presence of us. It is encounter, impossible apart from relationship. It happens, if it happens at all, face to face. I need to be here with you, not somewhere else; attentive to you, not distracted; really looking, listening, and paying attention.

Taylor’s Vision and Mission for Uganda

This lecture concerns John Taylor’s contribution to theology and missiology and the influence of his years in Uganda on his subsequent thinking and ministry. His vision and mission when he came to Africa was very similar to that of Henry Venn, Alfred Tucker and Max Warren: the founding of an indigenous church in Uganda. For him the missionary task was to connect the gospel to the cultures and peoples to whom they are sent; people who have histories, faces, names, hopes and fears. Such a vital connection produces something unique and therefore indigenous to the different mission fields. Incarnation is to be the pattern rather than the exception, an indication of what God is like, where God’s Word grasps and moulds local flesh into his body living in and through the Christian peoples of an area.

John Taylor is a trustworthy guide for mission into this twenty first century because his vision is never narrowly compartmentalised. Christian mission, as he understands it, should embrace the whole of life, its facts, beauty and pain. It is a God-given invitation for the Church to embrace God’s own way in the world, the way of the cross. It means sharing the stupendous revelation that God is not some vague mystery or even that God is love, but that God is Christlike. Only this can reveal the kind of love burning in the heart of God for all the world he created.

An indigenous church means God creating, loving and redeeming whole persons, not just the religious bits. And because salvation is for the whole person, the gospel must be conveyed by the whole person – what we tell (proclamation), what we are (life and witness) and what we do (service, ministry and mission). An indigenous church tells the big story through the telling of small individual and community stories. Creativity lies in linking these stories, finding surprising connections between things already known, combinations which make the familiar strange again, arresting attention, disturbing complacency and inviting more exploration.

Any picture Taylor had of the missionary as a super human had to be unlearned when he came to Uganda at the time of the East African Balokole Revival crisis in 1945. Suddenly handed the reins of power as the Warden of the College, he learnt that theology cannot always be systematic, but is often fragmentary, tentative and exploratory. He believed theology is always unfinished and incomplete because the God of mission is in the business of doing new things or doing old things in new ways. There is no way that doctrine will one day be a finished product; it is always engaging us in an active process of learning.

Signs of Indigeneity in Uganda

  1. The Revival Crisis and Opportunity

John Taylor was sympathetic to John Jones’ concern to instil discipline, and thought the word ‘expelled’ misrepresented the situation. He was convinced that in their enthusiasm the revivalists failed to recognize their own anti-European sentiments and that this lack of self-awareness was dangerous to the peace of the College. For the revivalists to have all the answers and nothing to learn was even more dangerous.

He recognized the revivalists represented one form of Africanization, although they made no concession to Africa by acknowledging or using traditional African dance, drama or music. For Taylor they were protesting at one inclusivist model of Africanization and imposing another exclusivist form. They constituted an appropriation of Christianity not through hierarchy or school but through a very typically African cultural reality, a decentralized association unified by its singing of Tukutendereza and certain basic forms of behaviour and greeting. It created a space within the missionary church in which the members felt ‘at home’.

In his tentative way John Taylor brought healing for hurt, encouraged generosity of spirit in place of narrowness and judgmentalism by being courteously patient with those who could be deeply irritating, and was able to see and reverence the good in what was potentially destructive to the development of a Christian leadership training college. So he was able to introduce the African drums, the spirituals and drama in Chapel: this allowed the Word to become incarnate and the college a place of peace, growth and renewal. Out of this has now come the strong leadership of the Church of Uganda, by contrast with other revival experiences where it led to schisms and a weakening of the church.

  1. Experiential Theology

Taylor knows language is the medium for theological thought. He taught biblical studies and systematic theology. He discovered that, unlike English, Luganda was entirely devoid of abstract terminology. He then realized that every abstract idea, including the idea of God, is derived from our experience of God, that all revelation is given through things that happen. For John, true theology has to be incarnational. An indigenous church must itself become part of the gospel it proclaims. The individual’s experience of the presence of Christ needs to be embodied in the community and communion of the church. This ‘narrative theology’ of testimony, of my story in our story, remains today the theology of the Church of Uganda born in the revival.

This experiential theology also forms the mission method of the church in Uganda. The missionary’s role was not to evangelize, but to service and enliven the existing church. Evangelism was carried out mainly by indigenous Christians who went about telling the story of their experience of Christ. As Warden, Taylor’s vision and mission of an indigenous church was not to keep it unnecessarily under the strings of the missionaries, but to release it under local leadership so it could relate responsively and responsibly to its own context. These principles of grounding all concepts in experience and embodying the gospel in the life of the church, led John to try to develop this indigenous church by creating a sense of community.

  1. Sense of Community

A village of 12 houses called the Ordinands’ Village (OV) was built to create this community atmosphere. College life was closely related to life in this small theocratic village. John understood this to be God’s method of teaching theology to his people Israel and it seemed a good model for training spiritual leaders for the African rural communities.

He wrote, ‘At Mukono the purely academic must give place to a more ‘experimental’ theology; the truth in our doctrine must become incarnate in the quality of our common life. Our task is not merely to prepare our students for the profession they are to follow in the future, but even more to live with them, here and now, in every daily experience, the life of the Spirit. That is why the OV more and more is becoming the centre of all the theological training as the Christian home becomes the unit for which we are planning. It is why we are including regular periods of work in the food gardens, why we are preparing to start a small herd of cattle and why we shall attempt to raise our new hostel by building it ourselves.

And later:

‘It seemed to us that this was the best training for…the future leaders of a church that was more and more to ‘work out its own salvation’ without foreign leadership or  initiative. The helplessness and poverty of the families was inciting us all to acts of patronage rather than partnership’

John wanted to move the Church away from the patriarchal model of dependence to one of mutual responsibility and inter-dependence in the body of Christ. But it was tediously slow work. Time and again he realized dependency was more comfortable than responsibility because making real decisions involves making real mistakes, which entails failure and living with the consequences. So his new ideas faced many upsets and much resistance.

  1. Creativity in worship

John started experimenting in this area of creativity by introducing drama, indigenous music and musical instruments and other forms of art. For him, the gospel could not be merely verbal, it must involve imagination and the emotions. He wanted an unprejudiced, experimental fostering of existing African art-forms rather than forcing Africans to copy European models: thereby he assisted Africans in the creative evolution of an indigenous drama as rich as any the world has seen. He wanted to encourage creativity rather than imitation, seeing his task as a choice between destruction and development. He was able to move the evangelical ‘Word-centred’ Chapel to a Sacramental one, but in freshly imaginative and historically non-controversial ways.

He did this by winning both hearts and heads to help the Christians to live together the Christian life in its total application to daily round of work and study and worship and leisure, carried through in a close fellowship of common devotion to Christ the centre. This was typically Benedictine, a balanced diet of labour, prayer, exploration and rest.

The college became known for its staging of the parable plays in the course of the normal liturgical year and the Passion Play as the integral part of Holy Week. In the face of strenuous opposition from the revivalists, who opposed all things African being mixed with Christianity, he managed to draw on the African gift for spontaneity and powerful dramatization, for a truly African way of preaching that appealed to Ugandan hearts. The drama was always conceived within the drama of Christian liturgy.

  1. Political Consciousness

As Uganda entered the final run-up towards independence, Taylor wanted, given the intensely apolitical nature of the revival movement, to interest the leaders of the church in the current affairs of their nation. He deliberately taught the role of the Hebrew prophets and the gospels in the affairs of the nation of Israel, preparing the Church of Uganda for the situation independence would bring. He wanted clergy capable of reading the signs of the times and becoming interpreters and prophets to excited, and at the same time bewildered, people. The need was for a church capable and prepared to speak the truth, to counter with truth and moderation the rising tide of rumours, suspicion and terror-mongering, and to rebuke with truth, where necessary, the injustice which masks itself under specious high-sounding phrases.

Did Taylor achieve his vision and mission?

Both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. On the one hand, in training indigenous leaders like Dunstan Nsubuga, Yohana Mukasa and Akisoferi Wesonga he succeeded very well. The fractious revival became the strength of the Church of Uganda, expanding its musicology, lively worship and preaching. The drums and musical instruments he introduced have stayed as part of the Church’s identity.

On the other hand, Taylor was frustrated by the persistent dependence syndrome. On a few occasions he could see true partnership in the African leaders who saw independence too hard to undertake. This was made more difficult by European paternalism: missionaries found submission difficult and preferred to create new posts for themselves rather than serve under an African leader.

Has African exhausted its potential to be an indigenous church? Certainly not! Every Church is unique like a fingerprint but that uniqueness is yet to be revealed for Africa. For Uganda to play others before God is a shame and unacceptable. God knows us and did enough to make Christ die for us; we need to approach God boldly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as it is now our task to finish this project.

Rt Revd Dr Joel Obetia is the retired Bishop of Madi & West Nile.

This is an edited summary of the lecture given by Bishop Obetia in Gulu on 23rd November, 2018. Electronic copies of the full lecture (and of the response by Bishop Alfred Olwa) can be obtained from Mr Charles Woodd at ugandachurchassoc.treasurer@gmail.com



The Current Political Situation in Uganda

Benon Herbert Oluka

I was born in 1983 in the eastern Ugandan district of Kumi district, an Iteso. By the time I started to understand what was going on around me, I realised that there was a civil war between the national army under President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and a rebel group called the Uganda Patriotic Army (UPA). As if that war alone was not enough, the people of Teso had to endure sporadic raids by armed Karamojong cattle-rustling warriors.

As a result, my childhood was lived in perpetual fear and anxiety: most of my earliest memories involved waking up in the dead of night to a cacophony of scary orders, threats, screams and, sometimes, the loud bangs of gunshots from government soldiers, rebel fighters or the Karamojong. I saw things I should never have seen. I saw things that I cannot unsee.

Two particular experiences have stuck in the mind. The first was at Kumi Boys’ Primary School, when rebel soldiers raided the school and killed three of the teachers because they refused to offer support to the rebels. The second was when my entire family, with many others, was marched at night so rebel collaborators could be identified and my mother was beaten when trying to protect me. 26 years later I am still battling the ghosts of these traumatic experiences.

But as I grew up, I felt some hope. We learnt at school that President Museveni and his colleagues in the National Resistance Movement (NRM) political organisation had made promises to right the wrongs of the past. Those promises were summarised into what they called the NRM’s Ten-Point Programme. We grew up reciting this Ten-Point programme, which represented a way out of the dark, traumatic times.

The NRM’s Ten-Point Programme

  1. Restoration of Democracy
  2. Restoration of security of all persons in Uganda and their properties
  3. Consolidation of national unity and elimination of all sectarianism
  4. Defending and Consolidating National Independence
  5. Building an independent, integrated, self-sustaining national economy
  6. Restoration and improvement of social services and rehabilitation of war-ravaged areas
  7. Elimination of all forms of corruption in public life
  8. Settling the peasants that have been rendered landless by erroneous  “development” projects or outright theft of their land through corruption
  9. Co-operation with other African countries and defending the human and  democratic rights of our long-suffering African brothers
  10. Following an economic strategy of a mixed economy – i.e. Use of state and private sector as well as cooperatives in the development process.

In discussing the current political situation in Uganda, I would like to use these 10 aspirations as the benchmark and to juxtapose them to the current political situation.

A) Restoration of Democracy

Uganda got a new Constitution in 1996, ten years after President Museveni came to power. At the time, President Museveni himself described it as the best Constitution in the world and said he would fight anyone who tampered with it.

In 2006, ten years after the Constitution was promulgated, the government oversaw the restoration of multi-party democracy, allowing political parties to organise and contest elections amidst some restrictions on their freedoms.

However, around the same time, we also began to see some reversals. For instance, the term limit clause in the Constitution was expunged. This clause was the best chance Uganda had to witness a peaceful transfer of power for the first time in its post-independence political history.

Fast forward to 2017: the 75-year age limit clause, the second and last remaining Constitutional guarantee for a peaceful transfer of power was deleted by Parliament.

B) Restoration of security of all persons in Uganda and their properties

For most of Uganda’s post-independence history, the country has had a war or some kind of armed group operating somewhere within its borders. That ended in 2006, when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) group led by Joseph Kony was pushed by changing political dynamics in South Sudan to the DRC. At that point, one could say Uganda had been completely pacified.

However, as President Museveni himself noted while making the 2017 State of the Nation address, “peace means absence of war, but it must also include absence of lawlessness.” While Uganda has seen an end of armed conflict, there has been an increase in insecurity caused by organised criminal groups that operate mostly in urban areas. To the Government’s credit, there has been an effort to curb these senseless murders, especially after the state deployed military agencies to track down suspects. However, there is still a long way to go: in 2016, the World Internal Security and Police Index ranked Uganda’s police force in the bottom four of the 127 national police forces it assessed. President Museveni has recently made changes in the top Police leadership but the jury is still out on whether the Police can redeem itself and tame the wanton insecurity and loss of property to criminals.

C) Consolidation of national unity and elimination of all sectarianism

Uganda is a country composed of 56 tribes (I prefer to call them nation states) that were compelled by historical developments beyond their scope to co-exist, so perhaps it was always going to take a lot of effort to forge a sense of national unity across the country.

Currently, however, Uganda seems to be more divided, especially with some groups feeling marginalised by the politically dominant groups. In December 2016, a report by the Parliamentary Committee on Equal Opportunities said there is widespread regional imbalance in the appointments made to public office. A 2017 report by the Daily Monitor newspaper showed a similar regional imbalance in the money spent on road maintenance.

D) Defending and Consolidating National Independence

Many studies show that economic independence should ideally come before political independence. Uganda has reduced dependency on foreign aid from 32.6 per cent in the 2009/10 financial year to less than 20 per cent, according to the most recent statistics.

However, this is placing a heavier burden on the poor because government is either borrowing more money internally, thus driving up interest rates, or instituting heavier taxes on those already poor. It is no surprise that, according to a National Household Survey carried out in 2016/17, poverty levels have once again risen, from 19.7 per cent in the 2012/13 financial year to 27 per cent in 2016/17.

Matters are not helped by the various ways in which the government openly favours supporting foreign investors over their local counterparts. As a result, competitive home-grown businesses are not emerging. For example, although Uganda has gone big on infrastructure development, most of the companies involved in the sector are Chinese. Eventually, those with the economic power in the country end up calling the political shots. There have also been cases where Ugandan politicians have been accused of corruption.

There are, however, some positives. To President Museveni’s credit, he has consistently insisted in the last 10 years or so that Uganda’s natural resources such as oil and iron ore must be processed in the country in order to ensure that the country reaps more benefits from them. The government is also trying to promote the Build Uganda, Buy Uganda (BUBU) initiative.

E) Building an independent, integrated, self-sustaining national economy

As shown in the previous point, Uganda does not exactly call all the shots in its economy. Without economic independence, a country cannot have an independent, integrated, self-sustaining national economy.

F) Restoration and improvement of social services and rehabilitation of war-ravaged areas

Credit must go to the government of Uganda and its partners for making considerable efforts to rehabilitate previously war-ravaged areas. Travelling across the northern region of Uganda, which was worst hit by a two-decade war, it is clear how much the road network has been improved. The shortcomings, including corruption and poor management of the rehabilitation funds, do not diminish the good work that has been done in some areas. Some of the major towns in the north have received major infrastructure boosts under the World Bank’s Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID).

Less progress has been made in the restoration and improvement of social services across the country. In the health sector, for instance, a recent report by local humanitarian agencies described a sector characterised by “lack of drugs, absence of the often inadequate health workers, delays in accessing health care services even at referral hospitals, and neglect of patients who manage to access the health care facilities, resulting into avoidable deaths among other problems.”

2016 witnessed the bizarre situation where two of the country’s health ministers were being flown out of the country for treatment. In 2017, the Auditor General revealed that every year Uganda spends about $2.8 million on treatment of senior government officials abroad.

With the help of a World Bank loan, the government is currently working on refurbishing the national referral hospital, but doing the same for regional hospitals and others further down the health service chain is a tall order that will not be achieved soon.

Similar challenges are faced by underfunding in education, agriculture, housing and other social service sectors. The situation is not helped by those senior government officials who, by seeking services abroad, are able to insulate themselves from the challenges faced by these sectors.

G) Elimination of all forms of corruption in public life

According to the World Bank, Uganda loses about $100 million annually to corruption. The vice has become so widespread that it is almost a way of life. President Museveni acknowledges that corruption is commonplace within public institutions but, according to a statement from the Office of the President, claims that it “has become so complex with educated people in public offices, making it impossible to pin them without evidence.” Each year Museveni promises to fight corruption but it seems that few really believe that things will change.

H) Settling the peasants that have been rendered landless by erroneous “development” projects or outright theft of their land through corruption

The land question in Uganda has become a very tricky matter, as state and citizens navigate the different local land tenure systems that each region subscribes to. Just about every government has failed to find a solution. The increasing population pressure on land, along with the pressure from foreign interests, is further complicating matters.

Last year, the government tried to propose a fresh amendment to the existing land law to “ease government acquisition of land for development of public infrastructure such as roads, electricity and the railway.” However, opinion polls suggest many Ugandans oppose this proposal, fearing that the government wants to grab their land. It is certainly true that many Ugandans do not trust their government and leaders on land matters, especially because of the previous conduct of some government officials, who have been accused of grabbing land from those who do not have the means to challenge them.

I) Co-operation with other African countries and defending the human and democratic rights of our long-suffering African brothers

Uganda has become an influential, if sometimes controversial, player on the regional and continental stage. Within the East African region, for instance, Uganda influences the political and military developments in neighbouring countries such as South Sudan and DRC.

In Somalia, our leaders have walked the walk of living up to this aspiration, with Uganda doing a commendable job through its contribution of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). It is of course important, when working for the human and democratic rights of those in other countries, that the same rights are worked for in one’s own country.

J) Following an economic strategy of a mixed economy – i.e. Use of state and private sector as well as cooperatives in the development process

In the early 1990s Uganda sold off many of its state-run enterprises in order to satisfy conditions set by the World Bank to secure financing to rehabilitate the economy. This decision went against the earlier stated position of the Museveni government when it came to power. Today, Uganda has a fully liberalised economy in which the government is largely playing the role of mediator. By contrast, neighbours such as Kenya and Ethiopia, which retained state-run enterprises such as their airline, commercial bank, and other strategic interests in their economy, are expanding into Uganda and other parts of the region. Uganda is now playing catch up through half-hearted attempts to revive some state-run enterprises such as a national airline. Uganda seems to lack a solid policy strategy to drive its long-term development agenda.

The Political Situation across East Africa and Africa as a whole

It is clear that Uganda is at a crossroads politically. However, it is by no means the only country in the East African region that is battling with a political crisis. We are right in the middle of a large sea of political uncertainty. All Uganda’s neighbours and near neighbours face large political challenges.

However, despite the challenges that East Africa faces, all hope should not be lost. Recent years have seen the peaceful transfer of power in some countries whose previous history suggested this to be unlikely


In conclusion, available evidence shows some ways in which Uganda is not in a good place politically. However, the same is true of East Africa as a region. We are caught somewhere between obstinate leaders, failed systems that cannot bring them to account and poor populations that do not have the capacity to raise their voices and complain about the largely raw deal they are getting.

But that situation should not make all of us who wish Uganda well to throw our hands up in despair. As the country’s history has shown, Ugandans are generally a resilient people who outlast big challenges. As other African countries have shown, a political situation can change in the blink of an eye. What is key for the future is the empowerment of Ugandans so that they can seize the opportunities they have in the present and also those that will arise in the future.

Benon Herbert Oluka is a Ugandan journalist.

This is an edited summary of the talk given by Mr Oluka at the Day for Uganda in London on 7th April, 2018. His talk was illustrated with quotes and clips from Ugandan media including New Vision and Uganda TV. Electronic copies of the full lecture can be obtained from Mr Charles Woodd at ugandachurchassoc.treasurer@gmail.com


Book Review

Emmanuel Katongole. Born from Lament: The Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2017.

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Ps. 11:3)

This is the question Dr Emmanuel Katongole struggled with after visiting Congo and reading Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, written by Jason Stearn about Congo’s recent history.

Dr Katongole is associate professor of theology and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame, USA, and a Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Kampala, Uganda. In his book Born from Lament Katongole faces the ugly reality of violence and evil, as he has encountered it in Congo, and several other countries in Africa, while at the same time he accounts for hope that goes beyond human optimism or a “Christian stiff upper lip” that seeks to push the painful reality under the rug. And in this account of hope it is the practice of lament that is at the centre – lament as the meeting place of the human person in agony, God’s presence in that very agony, and God’s future of peace and reconciliation.

Katongole argues that in order to avoid empty optimism, we need to face the reality. In this book he tells many stories of pain, loss and injustice, stories that are often beyond imagination. But how does one tell such a story of seemingly boundless violence and evil, without either, on the one hand, diminishing its deep reality, or, on the other hand, falling into the pit of despair?

Using the voices of people in pain, through poetry and storytelling, Katongole creates portraits of real people in real situations. And these portraits are brought into conversation with examples of lament from Scripture, such as the Psalms of lament, the book of Lamentations, and the cry of Rachel mourning for her children as well as the wailing of Jesus over Jerusalem, as told in the Gospels.

The picture of what lament is, as it emerges out of this conversation, is complex. But, for Katongole, it is most of all a theological practice: “a way to name what is going on, to stand, to hope and to engage God in the midst of the ruins” (p. 45). Where violence renders people voiceless, in lament people regain a voice. And in finding the voice, they may find the strength to stand again, and to take a stand, to find hope, and the power to act. Yet, lament can only play this role, since it is not just a telling of the story into the void, it is a telling that is directed at God. And it is in this God that hope is found, hope because he turns out to be present in the pain, present to the point of dying while carrying all the pain and sin. This God has been shown to be a faithful God, who works out his purposes in this world. He may seem silent or absent, but his hidden history is surely drawing out his kingdom of justice and peace.

The political outcome of this theological practice of lament is the creation of openness towards reconciliation, and peace-building. The encounter of the self-giving God in the practice of lament gives people hope and strength to look beyond their pain (without negating it) towards the vision of God’s kingdom, and beyond their personal situation towards the possibility of justice and forgiveness.

Katongole tells many stories of people who engage the terrible reality with truth and with courage, living and speaking a prophetic life of reconciliation, knowing that they are carried by “God’s saving engagement with the world, at the heart of which is the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.” Katongole calls this a participation in God’s reconciling love for the world. (p. 261, 262)

One of these stories of despair and lament, together with the strength to live in hope, and to surpass one’s personal agony for the sake of justice and peace, is the story of Angelina Atyam, mother of Charlotte, who was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 1996, together with 139 other girls. Angelina and the other parents started a group of mutual support and of advocacy for the release of their children. At one point Angelina is offered the freedom of her daughter Charlotte, if she would stop the advocacy and publicity campaign. She refused, since she could not face a future in which she would regain her daughter while knowing that the other 139 girls were still suffering in captivity. Katongole asked her what kept her going. She responded: “Every Saturday I washed and put out Charlotte’s clothes on the line to dry, and every day I set a place for her at the table and prayed for her… I prayed a lot. Many nights I was not able to sleep and I would sit up and argue with God. It was actually on this particular night, seven years and seven months after the girls were abducted that I spent the whole night wrestling with God and asking God many questions. That was the night that my daughter escaped from the rebels.” (p. xii)

It is this hopeful wrestling and struggle that I recognise in the people I have met in the Central African Republic over many years. When asking people how they are doing, even at times of war and grave insecurity, the answer often is: “We are well, by the grace of God.” I have seen how times of insecurity have pushed people to reflect how they can expand their ministry. I have met people who in times of want rejoiced at the possibility of sharing the little resources they had just received. I have seen that people are well, by the grace of God.

In the closing paragraphs Katongole expresses his desire that “the stories of hope from Africa will be spoken of as those that provided the ink, the much-needed energy, and the fresh vitality to bolster the waning prospects of global Christianity in the twenty-first century.”(p. 265)

I strongly believe that this deeply human, thoughtful and realistic account, is a true gift of faith and hope to a world of scepsis and despair, even to a world in which humanity seems to be lost, since it is also the account of a God, self-giving and suffering unto death, yet resurrected to eternal life. For me too, living in a secularised Europe, this is a story of hope, breaking through the scepsis of indifference and consumerism, opening my heart and life to the world beyond with a hermeneutic of the loving and faithful presence of God.

This book is an expression of the gift of the African church to the church worldwide.

Berdine van den Toren-Lekkerkerker MA is a Church Mission Society Mission Partner for Theological Education in Africa and Asia. From 1997-2005 she lived and worked in the Central African Republic, at the Faculté de Théologie Évangélique de Bangui.



We invite contributions for the next issue of the Uganda Church Association Newsletter. The editor would be glad to receive news from Dioceses in Uganda and from others involved in work in Uganda in different ways.

Contributions can be sent at any time but need to be received no later than December 2019. 

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The main activities of the Association are:

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