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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 Introduction
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 Library.

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
Librarian, BTTC
Vice-Principal, BTTC
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 archives.
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 property.

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:



5.2 Problems facing Provincial Secretariat and Dioceses:

6 Possible solutions to the preservation problems in the Church of Uganda.

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:



For all the archives in the Province of the C.O.U. there is need to:

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.

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 Association, p.2

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
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005