Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Richard Jones and the Sudan Revival of 1938

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Richard Jones and the Sudan Revival of 1938

Article excerpt

Missionary work by the Church Missionary Society began in Southern Sudan in 1906. In that year Llewellyn Gwynne, the leader of the Gordon Memorial Mission of the CMS in Sudan, led a small party of missionaries up the Nile, through the Sudd and established a station at Malek on the higher reaches of the Nile among the Dinka people. Upon his return to Khartoum, Gwynne left Archibald Shaw in charge. Shaw remained in charge of the work in Southern Sudan until the mid-1930s. Work in his own Dinka area was slow but Shaw energetically encouraged expansion amongst the more responsive agricultural tribes further south.

The death of King Leopold II of the Belgians in 1909 resulted in the return to the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan of the Lado Enclave, a large rectangle of land lying on the West bank of the Nile and bordering the Congo Free State. Mainly because of its contacts in high places, the CMS gained permission from the Condominium Government to begin missionary work in the Enclave in preference to other missions. The prevalence of sleeping sickness in the district delayed a start to the work but a station was opened at Yambio in 1913, in Yei in 1917 and at Lui, amongst the Moru, in 1920.

The work in the Enclave was more successful than previous work amongst the pastoral Nilotic tribes further north. The missionary enterprise followed the pattern, well proved in East Africa, of closely associated evangelistic, medical and educational work. This readied its most classical form in the work of Dr. Kenneth Fraser at Lui amongst the Moru people. Lui was surrounded by a circle of out-stations each consisting of a church, a school and dispensary, staffed by a teacher and a medical "dresser" both of whom were capable of leading services in the church.1 The combination of a new comprehensive religion, literacy and modern medical science was powerful and from the early 1920s there was an increasing number of baptisms reported from the stations of the Enclave.

What was on offer was a wholly new community that drew its life from different spiritual springs and brought with it new possibilities of knowledge and freedom from disease. It represented a powerful and in many ways balanced proclamation of the Gospel, but the material advantages drew many who had not appreciated the spiritual source or who sought to add it to the panoply of spiritual forces that protected people from a potentially hostile environment. Conversion required a cultural transformation: the adoption of European dress, the acquisition of literacy, submission to the disciplines of school life and incorporation into the missionaries' community. Such a transformation might attract or repel but it certainly remained true that the God who was proclaimed was the God of the missionaries, or at best, the God of the schoolboys.

There were always signs of a deeper encounter with the Gospel but invariably amongst the community of schoolboys, teachers and dressers who were already in some measure alienated from their traditional community. Some of these signs were remarkable, such as the vision of Christ that came to Epenwadria whilst he was a patient in Lui Hospital in 1923, a story that is still told amongst Moru Christians.2 The majority of missionaries in Southern Sudan came out of an English evangelical tradition that looked for personal conversion and evidence of a changed life in terms of a turning from open and conspicuous sin and an attention to personal prayer and Bible study. Much was to happen that would widen the missionaries' apprehension of how Sudanese might respond to the Gospel, but, in their own terms, there was much to encourage them in the early 1930s.

The Frasers at Lui between 1933 and 1936 frequently reported a growing interest in evangelism and in "the words of God."3 At Maridi the Rileys reported well-attended Bible class meetings that had led to open repentance and confession.4 Also, in the rural areas amongst the Mundu people, away from direct missionary control or influence, there was a spreading repentance and confession movement. …

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