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The Experience of Gathering Information for a Directory of the Archives of
the Church of Uganda
by Frederick Mukungu
(A personal opinion drawing on my experience)
1.1 History of the Church of Uganda (C.O.U.). The church in Uganda was founded in 1877 (1) by the
Church Missionary Society (CMS) of the Church of England. The CMS covered most parts of Uganda.
This was followed by the Africa Inland Mission (AIM) in 1918 (2) who started the church in the West Nile
district , and the Bible Churchmen's Society (BCMS) in 1929 (3) who went to Karamoja. Uganda became a
diocese, cut from the Diocese of Eastern Equatorial Africa, of the Church of England in 1897 (4). Its area
covered the present day Uganda, western Kenya from the Nyanza region northwards up to the Rudolf,
Southern Sudan in the North, Boga -Zaire in the South-western part of Congo in the West, and Rwanda-Burundi in the South. From 1896 Uganda became a Protectorate of the British Government up to its
independence in 1962. In 1961 the Church in Uganda became an independent Province in the Anglican
Communion, called the 'Church of Uganda, Rwanda-Burundi and Boga-Zaire'. In 1980, the Francophone
church in Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire formed a separate Province. The Church of Uganda (C.O.U.)
remained in present day Uganda, and now has 29 dioceses.
1.2 C.O.U. archives repositories
Archives are records created or received by an organisaton/institution or individual in the course of
business transactions, preserved for their continued use. There were two main key groups of players in
the creation of Church of Uganda archives:
1. The missionary groups involved in founding the church, and
2. The Church at home in Uganda.
Since 1877 many records have been created and preserved as archives of the C.O.U. They include: (a)
records on the growth, general administration and development of the church; (b) institutions established
by the church, such as, schools, hospitals, and Bookshops; (c) and the church's relationship with the
Church of England, the British government and other organisations. They are at various repositories,
some of them outside Uganda at the headquarters of the Missionary Societies above and others within
Uganda at the Provincial Secretariat, diocesan offices, cathedrals, parishes and church institutions. Some
of the local archives are deposited at the Uganda National Archives- Entebbe, and Makerere University
1.3 Attempts towards making a directory of the C.O.U. archives: An earlier attempt to investigate
into what archives exist, where they are located, their state of preservation, and give advice on steps of
their preservation was made by the commission on Archives (5) set up by the Provincial Assembly in 1966.
This carried out a survey in 61 parishes. The commission's report (6) revealed that there were archives in
each of the parishes, eight of them with records produced before 1900. Recent attempts of gathering
information for a directory of the archives of the C.O.U. were made by Frederick Mukungu who has
produced two works:
1. A survey of the Anglican Church of Uganda archives documents in Britain - an MA
dissertation, (1995). This is a guide to the archives related with the C.O.U. in the repositories of
the CMS, BCMS, AIM, Lambeth Palace Library of the Church of England, the Public Record
Office of the British Government, and others.
2. Archives of the Church of Uganda: a catalogue of the Provincial Secretariat files and
maps of Dioceses, (1999).
2. Background to and work done for the Creation of the Directories;
2.1. Bishop Tucker Theological College (BTTC) initiative: For a long time BTTC which was the
Provincial Theological training centre for the C.O.U. sought to find, collect and avail to its students and
staff historical records on the C.O.U. for study and research. As the search went on it was realised that
very little effort had been put in the record keeping and preservation, let alone the realisation of the
usefulness of the Church's records.
In 1989, as college Librarian, I caused the Principal of the college to write to all the Bishops of the
Dioceses in the Province of the Church of Uganda, about the need to preserve archival material. The
college offered space in the Library to preserve and organise them for historical, reference and study
purposes. An appeal was made for copies of historical, administrative and other records to be sent to the
college, with costs met by the college. The letter was copied to the Provincial Secretary.
This was in the hope that Diocesan offices, Cathedrals, Archdeaconries and Parishes would surrender
their non-current records to the College for preservation and management. It did not work out. Only a few
dioceses responded to the appeal and sent some copies of their records including constitutions and
development plants to the Library.
2.2. Provincial Secretariat initiative: The copy to the Provincial Secretary yielded some good results.
Mention was made to the CMS Africa Regional Secretary who invited the information Secretary of the
CMS (UK) to look at the archive material at the Provincial office and made some recommendations for
their preservation and organisation. She made a report with suggestions for the Development of the
Archives and other records relating to the life of the C.O.U. (7). In this report a suggestion was made to form
a Working Group whose terms of reference were to:
1. advise the Provincial offices on the Provincial Management of the archives and other
areas of records management, so that the records will be safeguarded and organised for present
and future use.
2. find suitable accommodation and professional oversight of the archives.
The membership of the Working Group was as follows:
The Provincial Secretary
Someone from the Library School, Makerere University
A nominee from the National Archives/Museum services
A church history specialist
I attended its first meeting as librarian but that was all because I left thereafter for my Masters degree
studies. They met a second time with my Deputy but financial constraints at the Provincial office could not
allow the implementation of our recommendations.
2.3 Personal initiative: For me, going for further studies was a double blessing. As I thought
about my dissertation topic the Archives of the C.O.U. of Uganda sounded loud, hence the choice of my
MA dissertation topic as indicated in 1.3 above. This was because some of the rumours going around in
the 1980's and early 1990's were that missionaries had carried home to England the C.O.U. archival
records. These I could discover and I was determined to get them. I visited the headquarters of the three
Missionary groups which were involved in the founding of the Church of Uganda plus its mother church,
the Church of England and the Public Record Office at Kew of the British Government. As I went about
my research I noted the good preservation measures, organisation and dissemination policy of the
archives in England. I realised what should have been done and should be done about preserving the
Church of Uganda archives back home. Yes, a few missionaries took records. After my studies I
determined to go back to Uganda and try to organise, first the records at the Provincial office which were
substantial in number, and then I would see how to continue with Diocesan and Parish archives.
3 Steps taken and Work done to create the directory/catalogue:
3.1 I took the following steps and started working:
1. Sought permission from the College Principal for a weekday to go and work on the
Provincial Secretariat archives, and it was granted.
2. Requested the Provincial Secretary to allow me to organise the archives and he did.
3. Made a Project Proposal for Organising the C.O.U. archives, with phase one and two
concentrating on the Provincial archives and, phase three on Diocesan archives
4. Made a budget for the personnel and materials such as files for unfiled records, and other
stationery, boxes, shelves, fumigation, cataloguing and indexing materials for the Provincial
5. With the Provincial Secretary, made an appeal to CMS for funds
6. Formulated a Classification Scheme for the C.O.U. archives
7. Started working on the archives by carrying out the following activities: sorting and filing
unfiled records following their source-offices, classifying files according to the above scheme and
cataloguing them, putting files in boxes according to their creating offices/committees, fumigating
the repository, weeding the files, removing rusted pins and staples from records, etc. Towards the
end of the exercise, the CMS sent me a retired Librarian, Ms Frances Williams who helped for two
months. At the end of my work I produced a Catalogue of the Provincial Secretariat files and
maps of Dioceses as indicated in 1.3.2 I also gave advice to the Provincial staff about the
procedure and requirement for depositing records in the archives
3.2 Problems encountered: There was no money granted by the Provincial Office for this work apart
from getting me some of the boxes for putting in the files. When the boxes got finished, one of the
researchers now the Revd. Dr. Zac Niringiye after appreciating my efforts, got me the remainder. The
CMS offered "£200 sterling if the Provincial Secretary could match the sum with Provincial funds", but the
latter could not and therefore the offer was lost! All the same I went ahead and worked every Wednesday
and, sometimes, Saturday.
4. The value of the Church and Mission Archives
4.1 Archives found: The Archives found at the headquarters of CMS, BCMS, AIM, Lambeth palace
Library of the Church of England and the British government Public Record office at Kew included records
on the history, administration, growth and activities of the Church of Uganda and the involvement of these
organisations in its development and growth. The archives found at the Provincial Secretariat of the
Church of Uganda include records such as correspondence, minutes, reports, constitutions, development
plans, memos, financial records, budgets, contracts, certificates of ownership and registration,
organisational structure, personnel and personal records, inventories, registers of early
baptisms/confirmations/marriages, publications, etc, of the Archbishop's office, the Provincial Secretary's
office, other Provincial offices/departments, Provincial Assembly and its Boards.
4.2 Benefit to the church as well as scholarship: The records named above are very important for:
1. historical information
2. administration, legal and fiscal information
3. Reference information and
4. Study and research.
As I was organising the archives at the Provincial Secretariat, many inquiries were made about records
and information on various historical, administrative and educational issues. Church workers, Christians,
students doing church related courses come looking for information on various aspects of the Church of
Uganda. It is important for any institution to know its history. Administrative and Legal documents have to
be preserved for the security of the property of the church. I remember the Secretary of the Church
Commissioners looking for information from past minutes about the transfer of some houses from
Namirembe Diocese to the Provincial Office. Reference is usually made to the past experiences in the
archives in order to plan for the future. Financial records are used for better future planning and budgeting.
Christians often lose their baptismal, confirmation or marriage certificates and often go to the church
records/books for copies or certifying. Some records are used for finding ages of people, places, or
The mission archive have been used to trace the history of the missions themselves and the Church of
Uganda, assess the performance and achievements of each mission and find out methods for new
missionary ventures. The CMS archives at Birmingham University are very much used by scholars and
the church for historical, study and research information.
5. Problems hindering the preservation of records of the Church of Uganda
5.1 Provincial Secretariat problems:
1. Some records are not filed but are just stored in bundles.
2. Only a few earlier files are labeled; unorganised and it is difficult to know what is there
thus making it difficult to do research on the C.O.U.;
3. Are locked up in a storeroom with no one to attend to the records or help users;
4. Many files are getting damaged due to dampness. The Mothers' Union records parked in
cartoons has one of the boxes damaged by terrible chemical.
5. There is no one with overall responsibility for the records management at the Provincial
office and there is no systematic care of the files.
5.2 Problems facing Provincial Secretariat and Dioceses:
6. Clips and staples rust after sometime and damage paper;
6 Possible solutions to the preservation problems in the Church of Uganda.
7. Lack of awareness of the usefulness of the archives among most church workers and
therefore less care is given to the church records;
8. Poor church buildings, some areas dusty, and with no shutters or cupboards for security
of records. Records are kept by church Lay-readers or clergy who live in equally poor housing the
records are left to accumulate dust, attack by insects (e.g. cockroaches, silver fish, ants) and
9. Leaking roofs: Most of the houses in the rural areas in the East and Northern Uganda are
grass-thatched and therefore susceptible to leaking. This creates the problem of water or
moisture attacking the records, dissolving ink, causing mold, stains paper and causes leather to
10.. Abandonment of records due to wars and cattle rustling. In the north and for sometime
Western Uganda there have been civil wars which chase people away, abandoning church
records behind to destruction by people, rain or fire. The Karamojong in the North East frequently
attack their neighbours and cause them to abandon their homes and churches, and records;
11. Careless handling and tearing of records. Most of the records are on poor, acidic paper
which decays and gets torn thus destroying information. Uganda is also a tropical country with
high temperatures which increase chemical reactions of the acidic paper.
12. Lack of management skills to care for, preserve, organise archives for use.
13. Borrowing and not returning.
14. Theft of records due to unattended repositories
15. Fading due to poor copies or ink used;
16. Lack of equipment and means to change short-lived medium to long term media e.g.
microfilming of paper records;
17. Inability to update audio-visual records with change of equipment as technology thus
making them unusable after sometime.
18. Change of offices; Some officers have tended to do away with old files due to ignorance
of their importance, and start their own files.
19. Lack of a preservation policy.
20. Lacking of funds to implement the preservation policy. For example, I organised the
Provincial office archives and made the catalogue at my personal expense.
21. Disorganised filing: Some records have been put in wrong files which makes it difficult to
22. Lack of record keeping. There are many church meetings for which no minutes are taken
and implementation of decisions depend on memory, which is short lived.
6.1 The objective of preservation is "to ensure that information survives in a useable form for as long
as it is wanted (8). Where the medium is too weak to survive for long, or too bulky for the limited space
available, there may be need to transfer the information to a more durable or economic medium, for
example from poor/bulky paper to microfilms.
6.2 There is need to create awareness and promote understanding among church leaders and
workers about the value and usefulness of archives as a basic resource of information (9).
6.3 At the Provincial Secretariat, there is need:
1. For a trained archivist to sort and weed the files, and
2. To organise the files in useable order.
3. Instruct users in proper handling of archives
4. For cataloguing of files.
5. For indexing of the records.
6. For suitable accommodation for the records to be found. BTTC was recommended by S.
Parks for research purposes and because there is professional staff to preserve, organise and
supervise access to it. This had been accepted by the Provincial Board of Education but the
Library extension at BTTC which was intended for an archives repository has been taken over by
University Library growth. The Provincial Secretariat may also consider creating a Provincial
repository where it could require copies of most of the documents produced to be deposited.
Diocesan offices with reasonable safe houses may also create repositories for the records from
parish churches which have poor storage facilities.
7. For a closed and open access policy to be worked out so that people outside the
originating departments can have access to the archives after a defined period of time. Usual
practice in UK is allow access to scholars and researchers after 30 years.
8. To have a qualified person in the provincial office to supervise deposit and access to
records less than 30 years by the originating departments. This person can give guidance to
secretariat and other staff about record keeping.
For all the archives in the Province of the C.O.U. there is need to:
9. Encourage continuous filing in offices.
17. Copies of inventories for every church should be sent to the Diocesan offices and
Provincial office for compilation of Diocesan and Provincial archives directories.
10. Remove all rusting pins and staples and use plastic clips or thread to clip on the paper;
11. Microfilm the decaying acidic paper records for safely and longer life expectance;
12. Fumigate the archives against insects
13. Catalogue the files and index the records there in for retrieval
14. Put archives in proper boxes and label these boxes
15. Have a requirement for record keeping. This has been provided for in some diocesan
constitutions such as Mukono Diocese which stipulates that, "The following books should be kept
by every church and passed on to every incoming Vicar by the outgoing clergy.
(i) Register for those being prepared for baptism
(ii) Baptism Register
(iii) Register for those being prepare for confirmation
(iv) Confirmation Register
(v) Register for marriage bans
(vi) Marriage Registers
(vii) Register for those buried at the church ground
(viii) Register for communicants
(ix) Register for service leaders and preachers
(x) Register for all the Lay-readers in a Parish names of their sub-parish, their qualifications and when they were received.
(xi) Parish Council minutes books
(xii) Inventory of the church property
(xiii) Register of all the church wardens for each year
(xiv) Financial and Accounts records
(xv) History book of the church
(xvi) Record of those stopped from and returned to communion
(xvii) Files for all outgoing and incoming correspondence.
7 Conclusion The purpose of creating directories for the archives of C.O.U. is for
preserving, organising, retrieving, accessing and disseminating information for use. Where a church has
no safe building records should be kept at the archdeaconry church, which is usually iron-roofed and
lockable, or in any nearby safe educational institution library. There should be someone charged with
caring for the filing, supervising use and security of records, preserving the medium in useable conditions
or transferring to long life medium information from deteriorating medium. There should be a policy
governing the periods of closed and open access for every record. At every repository from sub-parish,
parish, archdeaconry, diocesan up to Provincial level, there should be a catalogue for files and other
documents of what exists and an index of every record. There is need to include a preservation item in the
budget of churches and church institutions so that it is not overlooked.
This is a very expensive venture and takes a long time to achieve. It therefore needs to be done
in phases. Phase 1 May include putting records in a safe place, fumigating them, registering and putting
files in boxes, and compiling a catalogue for each repository. Phase2: Weeding out unarchival records,
removing rusting clips/staples, indexing records, etc. Phase 3: To visit diocesan headquarters, cathedrals,
parishes and teach staff and workers about the preservation and organisation of church records.
* * * * * * *
1. Karugire, S. R. The arrival of the European Missionaries. In: A Century of Christianity in
Uganda, 1877-1977, edited by A. T. Tom Tuma and Phares Mutibwa, Nairobi: Uzima, 1978, p.4
2. Richardson, K. Garden of miracles, London: Africa Inland Mission, 1968, p. x, 189
3. Hooton, W. S. The First twenty-five years of the Bible Churchmen's Missionary Society, London:
The Bible Churchmen's Missionary Society, 1947, p.59-60
4. Shepherd, A. P. Tucker of Uganda, London: Student Christian Movement, 1929, p.118-119
5. Minutes of the First Meeting of the Church of Uganda Commission on Archives, March 24,
1966. (Source: Archbishops' files at the C.O.U. Provincial Secretariat- Abp/155/11).
6. A Meeting of the Church of Uganda Commission on Archives held on November 14, 1966.
(Source: Archbishops' files at the C.O.U. Provincial Secretariat- Abp/155/11)
7. Parks, S. Some suggestions for the development of the archives and other records relating to
the life of the Church of Uganda, December, 1993.
8. Feather, J. Preservation and the management of Library collections, London: The Library
9. UNESCO. Main principals of fire protection in libraries and archives: A RAMP Study, 992, p.i
Last Revised: 10/01/01
Last Revised: 1/5/05
© Wheaton College 2005