WEST NILE.The largest Diocese in the province of the Church of Uganda celebrates its Golden Jubilee on the 29th of December 2019.
From the first Bishop to the 7th and current, from that first Church to the hundreds, from that first Archdeaconry to the 12 currently and from the initial handful of Clergy, laymen and Christians now in their thousands.
The first school and now the hundreds of institutions of learning, Madi and West Nile diocese has evolved in leaps and bounds since its creation in 1969 and evidently so.
But not all the glittering picture of this prosperous diocese has been gold, the twists and turns have been enormous and in those turbulent times, the church has been shaken to the roots.
But a gigantic cathedral at the diocesan headquarters will give a visitor a good first impression of resilience and endurance despite the challenges and perhaps a hope for the times to come.
When Bishop cum Archbishop Silvanus Wani was consecrated as the first Bishop of Madi and West Nile diocese in 1969 after curving the diocese from Northern Uganda, a lot of work had been done in the past.
The Anglican Church had by this time been in place for a few decades in the region, Frank and Edith Gardner and Franks Brother Alfred with their significant arrival in 1919 and consequent works under the African Inland Mission (AIM) ensured continuity and steady growth.
As early as 1942, diocesan records show that there were already over 150 churches supervised by Petero Adiemvu and Yonisani Indriki Abukaya, the two gave monthly reports to Archdeacon Albert Vollor.
By 1945 for instance, membership at Emmanuel Cathedral alone had risen to over 2900 people, a few indigenous Christians had also been trained in the ordained ministry including Hezekiah Ajule, Levi Ruakoa and later Benoni Obetia, Silas Adroa, Elijah Angulibo, Sila Adroa, John Dronyi, Kezekia Ajule as the numbers added.
By 1958, the archdeaconry had nine priests and well over 460 lay readers to steer the church. In the quest to educate the Christians, Arua teachers training college (TTC) was granted college status in 1954 while Kuluva Hospital to offer good health care had been opened in 1951.
The Lugbara Bible despite the first New Testament Bibles being published in 1933, the full Bible could only be out for use three decades later in 1967 after a rather hectic work of translation and typing by Laura Belle.
By 1969, West Nile had already three archdeaconries, Arua, Koboko, and Goli, Arua archdeaconry comprised the current Vurra, Terego, Arua urban, and Arua archdeaconries; Koboko had the current Madi, Aringa, Maracha, and Koboko archdeaconries and Goli comprised the current Nebbi diocese, Oyibu, and Rhino camp archdeaconries.
The young diocese
Less than ten years after his consecration as the first Bishop, Rt. Rev. Wani had another abrupt call to lead the church as the archbishop following the gruesome death of the then archbishop Janan Luwum.
Remelia Ringtho was subsequently appointed to fill the void left by Wani and the man who had hitherto been the diocesan administrator and known for his timekeeping and punctuality would steer the young Church until his retirement in 1987.
Bishop Remelia although frail with advanced age still lives to date in Warr in Nebbi diocese and the current Zombo district.
Tough times hit the diocese
Rt. Rev. Ephraim Adrale replaced Remelia Ringtho but sadly his reign marked the beginning of more than a decade of troubled times for the diocese. He died shortly in 1990 after only serving for two years.
Four years after his death, the diocese was plunged in further weeping with the news of the demise of Rt. Rev. Ariaka Mawa Nguma. Bishop Ariaka died in a motor accident on his way to a meeting of the house of Bishops in Kampala.
However, the only ray of hope during this time was the birth of Nebbi diocese symbolising the continued growth of the church despite the challenges.
The provincial assembly had granted Nebbi a diocese status on the 19th August 1992 with the consequent consecration of the first Bishop Henry Luke Orombi on October 24th, 1993. Bishop Orombi would later be elected as the Arch Bishop of the church of Uganda.
Dr. Enock Lee Drati replaced the late Ariaka in 1995 serving until his retirement in 2005; Dr. Drati (RIP) despite serving until his retirement in 2005 had a tough time running the diocese.
Sections of the clergy and Christians rose against his administration, something that drastically destabilized the Church with threats of break-aways. He later died in retirement in the United States.
New hope, new energy
On 27th November 2005, Dr Joel Samson Obetia took the reins at the diocese as the chief shepherd, he had hitherto served as a lecturer at Uganda Christian University (UCU) Mukono.
Dr Obetia, a distinguished evangelist offered an olive branch to the disgruntled Christians rallying them to forget their differences and make a new start.
His appeal largely succeeded and Dr Obetia, who after retirement returned to his former workplace is much remembered as a clear-headed orator with an enormous sense of humour.
However, February 26th 2017 will go down in history books of the diocese as one similar to the Biblical story of anointing King David among a host of Jesse’s children.
Bishop Andaku before his election by the House of Bishops was not only humble and reserved but little known and yet amongst the community where he lived, much loved.
Son to the retired Terego archdeacon Semi Draku, Bishop Andaku joined the ordained ministry years later after he had been in teaching.
He immediately embarked on rather ambitious projects in infrastructure, environment, clergy welfare and professionalization of the church staff as well as leasing different church lands.
The simple man he is, Bishop Andaku has set himself as the yardstick of time management, and the 7th prelate considers himself lucky to have been Bishop at both the centenary of the faith in the region and the golden jubilee celebrations of the diocese of Madi and West Nile.
To be continued…….