Cliff College and Nigeria

The Methodist Church Nigeria (MCN) asked Cliff College to develop an International Diploma in Applied Ministry and Mission (IDIAMM), similar to that piloted by the CLIFF COLLEGE INTERNATIONAL LEARNING CENTRE (CCILC) in Sierra Leone, but with a special emphasis on training ‘evangelism trainers’ as the church re-positions itself with a fresh focus on mission. This programme begun in July 2006 in two Methodist Colleges in Nigeria saw more than 100 students graduate in July 2008. The programme has been so successful that further funding sought by the MCN for a rolling programme has been approved by the British Methodist Church so that all ordained ministers and deaconesses can receive this further training in ‘Ministry and Mission’.

The Launch of the New Course (2008-10)L~

The basic funding for the new two-year course has been approved through the Scholarship And Leadership Training (SALT) advisory group of the Methodist Church UK and supplementary funding for books, materials etc is again being sought from sponsors like Feed The Minds and other friends of the programme.

We tried to save time for the participants and money for the ILC programme by combining several activities in this month long training visit to Nigeria from 20th June to 20th July 2008. Despite preparing as much as possible in advance of our visit, the increased pressure of finalising arrangements for all these events whilst working with the new intake of students within a strictly limited time-scale meant that an always hectic programme became almost unmanageable at times. Tribute must be paid, not only to our travelling team, including our visiting lecturers, for their hard work and unfailing good humour, but also to our partners in the MCN who worked tirelessly with us to achieve the successful outcomes shared in this report.

The College at ZonkwaL~

Umuahia students on their new courseThe college at Zonkwa set in the predominately Muslim north of Nigeria was not part of the original CCILC programme. Fortunately, with the help of donations and team visits we have been able to respond to the MCN request of the Prelate and the Principal at the college that we should help build up the training work being developed at Zonkwa. Rev Dr Malcolm & Janet McCall share this brief report, “The developments at Zonkwa over the 6 months since our last visit in January of this year were truly amazing. The longed-for borehole has been sunk, linked with a generator, and is now producing good, clean water on the permanent college site. Our friend Very Revd Shettima Chibok, the College Principal, has built rudimentary student accommodation and a chapel with mud blocks, and has moved the whole college on to the permanent site. For our short 5-day input of lectures, 68 people turned up, and the chapel was used as our assembly-room.” It is particularly encouraging that the Very Revd Shettima had enrolled as a student on the new course with us this July in Umuahia.

Mary Archer Champness GraveThe number of students to graduate from the 57 who started the original course in 2006 at Sagamu was 46 (5 of these with merit-averaging 60% or above) and from the 82 who began at Umuahia, 62 graduated (15 with merit). A further 10 students may graduate later if their remaining pieces of work are submitted through the local registrar and receive a pass mark. Overall than, this means that of 139 students who began the course in 2006, 108 have earned a diploma (including 20 with merit) but more importantly every student has been resourced with lecture materials, books and practical training that will continue to enhance their ministry for many years to come. Once again we are reminded that it would cost more to bring two students to the UK on scholarship for two years than it has cost to train and resource over 100 students in Nigeria.

Distance Learning Programmes are difficult to monitor and bring to completion in any setting but the huge distances to be travelled and the problems with communications make life very difficult for students and local staff. What was particularly gratifying was to see how so many students had taken very seriously the ‘Applied Ministry And Mission’ aspect of the course and produced portfolios that demonstrated a great deal of ingenuity in applying their studies to their local situations. The portfolios suggest that planting new churches by students has become almost commonplace and this is backed up by reports from Bishops and others who have noted the spread of this work. To read how students have responded to the need for what some might describe as social work or community development as part of engaging in mission/evangelism is heart-warming. These very practical portfolios will be used as training aids for future courses.

Dedication of a new well at ZonkwaA cause for celebration, and celebrate we did, with the students at the Umuahia graduation on the 16th July, and the students at Sagamu on the 19th July. Both of these packed celebrations were graced by family and friends and a glorious ‘Technicolor’ gathering of the leadership of the MCN along with local and international tutors involved in the course. The Principal of Cliff College, Rev Dr Martyn Atkins preached and presented to the successful students the IDIAMM. The International Coordinator, Rev Richard Jackson draped each of the graduates with a blue and gold Cliff College Preaching scarf tailored in Nigeria. The MCN motto “Worthy is the Lamb” on one face of the scarf being balanced by the evangelistic thrust of the Cliff College motto, “Christ for All: All for Christ.” on the other. The National Coordinator, The Very Revd Okon Ekerendu, then offered each of the graduates back to the MCN for a blessing by the Prelate and his representatives as, “trained evangelists of the Conference of the MCN”.

The Ceremony at AbeokutaL~

Rev Thomas Champness is known to many as the forefather founder of Cliff College. In the 19th Century he began to gather around him and train evangelists under the banner of the Joyful News Newspaper which he first published in 1883. These evangelists travelled the UK and eventually to different parts of the world as “Joyful News Missioners”. As this group of trainee evangelists outgrew Champness’ homes in Bolton and Rochdale they were housed eventually in 1903 in the newly established Cliff College.

What is less well known is that earlier in his ministry in 1857, Thomas Champness responded to a call to serve as a missionary in Sierra Leone. After three years he returned home in poor health. Whilst on furlough he married Mary Archer and returned with his young bride in 1860 to West Africa, but this time to Abeokuta in Nigeria. Mary Archer Champness died there on the 23rd September 1862, less than two years after her marriage to Thomas and she was buried in Abeokuta. Rev Thomas Champness was invalided home in 1863 and the rest as people tend to say is ‘history’.

The International Coordinator, Rev Richard Jackson’s own ministry involvement for ten years with the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone (1969-79), more recently in Cliff College and now through the CCILC in Sierra Leone, Cuba and Nigeria has served to keep the ‘history’ alive in at least one heart and mind. Through our friends/partners in Nigeria, we were able to locate in an old cemetery at Abeokuta and refurbish with a new headstone the grave of Mary Archer Champness. It was particularly appropriate that the present Principal of Cliff College, Rev Dr Martyn Atkins (who earlier this year as President of the Methodist Church UK unveiled a blue civic plaque commemorating Thomas Champness on his former Bolton home); Rev Richard Jackson and the CCILC team; and the Head of the Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence Dr Sunday Ola Makinde should be able to link past missionary sacrifice and service with our present and continuing partnership by sharing in a service of remembrance, a most moving ceremony at the graveside of Mary Archer Champness.

His Eminence announced that at the upcoming Conference in August, a resolution would be brought to confer a posthumous award as a ‘Knight of John Wesley’, the highest award given to a lay person, on Mary Archer Champness. His Eminence in addressing those present paid tribute, not only to Thomas and Mary Champness and the continuing partnership through the CCILC with Cliff College and the ‘Mother Church’ in the UK, but also to those indigenous servants of God from Sierra Leone who shared the gospel down the west coast of Africa and who have meant so much to the church in Nigeria.

ConclusionL~

Perhaps, our remembrance of Mary Archer and Thomas Champness does more than anything else in this report to highlight the DNA link between past missionary service, our present CCILC partnership and the future mission of the worldwide church. The challenge to Christians today is no less demanding than that made to the first disciples and to Thomas Champness who when asked in 1857 by the President of his church, ‘“Will you go to Africa?” replied, “Yes, if you send me.” “Will you go to Sierra Leone? Before you answer, let me tell you that Sierra Leone is the white man’s grave. In front of the Freetown Chapel there is a row of graves on each side of the walk, and a young missionary lies in each grave; some of them lived only a few months. Will you go?” With the greatest calmness imaginable he courageously replied: “Yes if you send me.”’

Rev Richard Jackson is the International Coordinator for CCILC.

Those who want or need to know more can contact him at Cliff College, Calver, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S32 3XG

All prayers, encouragement and where possible practical and financial support are gratefully recieved.

Category: