Grant Naylor reports on a two-week placement in the Diocese of Kofuidua, Ghana
For two weeks in May I was fortunate to undertake a placement in the Diocese of Kofuidua, Anglican Church of Ghana. My parish has considerable links with the diocese, as my training incumbent, Fr Robert McTeer, is a canon of St Peter’s Cathedral, Kofuidua.
I set off for Ghana with some trepidation. Growing up in an Anglo-Catholic parish in Liverpool, I had imbibed the Movement orthodoxy that the CofE is merely two separated provinces of the Catholic Church. Why then would anyone want to spread schism around the world and be part of an Anglican communion? As an Anglo-Catholic I am fine with being CofE, but ‘Anglican’ is an identity I have never voluntarily owned.
After a chaotic arrival at Accra airport, which included being whisked through the diplomatic channel by a devout young policeman, I was able to meet my host for the first week. Fr Solomon Frimpong is dynamic young priest in his first living. St Mark’s Church Kibi was founded in the 1930s and now has an impressive church built in the 1990s with some help from my training parish, Auckland S. Helen. Fr Solomon and his family are an inspiring example of servant ministry. During my time in Kibi his wife was determined to ‘send home fatter’ her white priest guest. Hospitality and welcome are a real characteristic of the Ghanaian people. The mission house is situated next to the church and I was able to witness the demands of his ministry in the town. The door could have been revolving because there was a constant stream of people coming in and out, seeking advice, or requesting help and prayers. Fr Solomon’s day begins at 5am with Matins and does not conclude until late into the evening.
To add to the burden on this young priest I noticed that, because landlines are poor in the area, all parish business is conducted via the mobile telephone. There is literally no escape from the parish for Ghanaian priests; home or away, you are on call.
Young people dominate the church in Ghana. They are encouraged to lead and to take roles of responsibility. I met some who ran choirs, bands, associations and prayer groups. In turn these young people had brought in other people to serve under them. At a meeting of the diocesan Guild of the Servers of the Sanctuary, I was particularly struck by the contrast with England. In Ghana the GSS is primarily a youth organization. Its committee is entirely composed of youths and they hand over to others in elections after they have served for their term. Of course there are more young people involved in church life in Ghana, but should we not ask ourselves if this is not directly related to them being encouraged into roles of responsibility? What I have seen in Ghana challenges me to look to the young of our own parishes as potential leaders.
The liturgy and theology of the church in Ghana is rich and catholic. Sunday mornings are a combination of Solemn High Mass and charismatic revival. Beautifully executed ceremonial blends seamlessly with lively dancing to deep rhythmic drums. The church in Ghana has always had a strong catholic leaning. This is unsurprising considering the church was largely founded by USPG. All of the early colonial-era bishops were Tractarian or committed Catholics; most notable amongst
them is Mowbray O’Rourke, to whom we owe gratitude for the consecration of a well-known Marian shrine in Norfolk. These pioneers of the faith are thought well of by the church there today. Mowbray O’Rourke was a skilled and diligent missionary. He clearly saw the need to
accommodate temporarily some native customs (even polygamy!) in order to win souls. He was committed to growing an indigenous leadership for the future of the church to ensure its continuance. From the 1960s the church has been governed by black bishops exclusively.
At the time of writing, the church has 10 dioceses, 7 of which are orthodox. All of these were carved out of the original diocese of Accra. Kofuidua was inaugurated in 1982 with only 4 priests. It now has over 30 and has spawned another diocese, Ho. The present bishop of Kofuidua is Bishop Francis Quashie, who was one of those original founding priests of the diocese. I had the pleasure of staying with him and his wife for a few days and was able to get a grasp of how he has to operate as a bishop with large distances to travel, and limited resources. It was a great joy to meet him again after his last visit to St Helen’s parish when, during the interregnum in the See of Beverley, he confirmed 8 of our candidates, thus maintaining that great Anglo-Catholic tradition of importing far-flung bishops.
The latter part of my placement was spent at the Cathedral Church with Dean Seth Adu and his family. Fr Seth is well known to many in England, having trained and served his title over here. Fr Seth was onetime Curate in Scarborough and then looked after the parish of St Mary’s, Cottingham. Once again the hospitality and fraternity were excellent.
My final Sunday was spent at St Peter’s and I was able to witness the installation of four new canons. The service was a moving recognition of four of the diocese’s most faithful priests. Despite being almost four hours long, I found it all tremendously encouraging. Here in the land where our forefathers planted the seeds of catholic faith was the living out of that faith. The mass was all that we could expect and more, yet it was marked by the culture of Ghana. Out in Ghana there is the proud legacy of the forefathers of our movement. In today’s Church we need places like Ghana to remind the mother church that of her true identity. That is why I would encourage any of you interested in forging a link with Ghana to contact Fr McTeer, Canon Terry Grigg or anyone else you might know with contacts.
Visiting Ghana has inspired, refreshed and encouraged me. Seeing a church so committed to Gospel values and to our catholic faith is both humbling and renewing. We could learn much from the Church in Ghana. I have always been sceptical of the communion and its reason for being. After visiting Ghana I cannot deny what have seen. I have seen the Catholic Christians, inspiredby our humble movement, in communion with Canterbury, serving their people and evangelizing others. After spending time reflecting on my time in Ghana the words of Michael Ramsey seem appropriate:
‘The Glory of us children is our fathers; remember them, thank God for them, imitate their faith. And the mighty purpose of God will move forward and instead of our fathers there shall be our children, princes of Christ in our own and in every land: ND