Project Canterbury

Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar
by H. Maynard Smith

London: SPCK, 1926.



FRANK WESTON was consecrated as Bishop of Zanzibar in the Cathedral Church of Southwark on October 18, 1908; and on the same day at St. Matthew's, Westminster, he confirmed a young, man who had offered himself for educational work in the Mission.

He had sent on a circular to all workers in the diocese commanding them to meet him in Zanzibar. He had been very conscious how separate the three archdeaconries had hitherto been, and he meant to work for unity of administration with Zanzibar as his centre. He also sent a list of thirty-two questions which were to be discussed at a conference, for the Mission was in future to have one policy. 'The new Bishop,' exclaimed the native dispenser at Msalabani, 'is coming with much strength.'

He landed at Zanzibar on November 6 to bless the crowd of Christians who awaited him at the pier, and he was enthroned the same afternoon in the Cathedral Church. The ceremony went off without a hitch, although on landing he altered most of the details which had been previously arranged. After the ceremony there was a reception at the Hospital, and all the notabilities came, including the Roman Catholic Bishop. Frank, the sometime 'hermit of Kiungani,' was entering into a wider world, and did not forget his responsibilities for the Europeans in the diocese.

On the next day there was a Pontifical High Mass. The Cathedral was packed to suffocation, and the church was ablaze with lights and masses of colour. Black men and white men knelt together, and the One Sacrifice was offered for all. The Bishop celebrated facing west, and used the Book of Common Prayer throughout. He preached from the nineteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, and made his congregation realise the vision of the Warrior Christ going forth to storm the strongholds of Satan. Then came a clarion call to those who would follow in His train. They must expect war with the foes within and the foes without, and in that war there was no discharge. It was only through a willingness to suffer and die that the final victory could be won.

On the following day he delivered his Charge. The first part was addressed to all Church workers, and the second part to the clergy only. In it he emphasised quite clearly the unity of the work:

Our vision of the Mission as one single society must be so clear and strong that we never allow ourselves a smaller thought. Zanzibar is our common home. The Cathedral is the seat of our authority; the memorial of our founders; the monument of our dead; and the symbol of our final victory. (P. 17.)

It was to the Mission and not any particular work that the members were called.

We are in the Mission for no other purpose than to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in whatever place He may need us. We may not for the sake of sentiment, or through any personal attachment so cling to any one station or work that we cannot find it in our hearts to leave all and follow Christ elsewhere. Brethren, the Master did not call us to leave father and mother, wife and children, home and lands in order that we should find in Africa new ties which would keep us back from following Him 'whithersoever He goeth.' (Pp. 17, 18.)

The Bishop, when he knew the whole field, would have to decide on the disposal of the staff. He looked forward to an extension of the work, and said:

To my mind the golden rules for our Mission in extending work are two in number. First, always design and organise your station in such a way that you can substitute an African priest for a European without disturbance to the Christian adults and schoolboys; and secondly, don't make a new station so permanent that you cannot move it if need require. (P. 20.)

He was very anxious for simplicity of life and a common standard of living, but he recognised that 'we cannot fight against Nature, and Nature refuses permission to the European to live as the African.' (P. 21.)

So he insisted on the observance of the regulations prescribed by the Medical Board, and said:

When the good God has made known to us certain clear laws of physical health, in the keeping of which we may hope to serve Him in Africa, it were surely the height of spiritual pride to claim special inspiration to disregard them, and the depth of criminal carelessness to ignore them. . . . The Mission is built upon the sacred oblation of the Lord Christ, to which have been linked the self-oblations of many devoted workers in the last fifty years. Far be it from us to profane that united oblation by presuming to compare it with the empty sacrifice of life that occasionally results from carelessness, excitement or presumption. (P. 33.)

All through his Charge he emphasised the virtue of obedience, but he understood the spiritual dangers of those who were being obeyed.

Every ruler, be he English or African, is tempted to develop an impatience, an imperious temper, a self-centred judgment, and that from the very energy and zeal with which he deals with people. To be obeyed is at once the glory and the snare of rulers: it may be the ruin of the Christian worker. Those under authority, whether European or African, are, on the other hand, apt to feel strongly the burden of continual obedience. As a man dreams dreams and sees visions of his own possibilities, he not unnaturally looks for freedom of action within the sphere of his religious work. Then he comes to resent what he considers the interference of the priest-in-charge. It may be that the resentment is never shown on the surface, but it colours the whole mind and heart of the man, until he loses the Christ-like mind and fails to accomplish the purpose with which he started. (P. 9.)

The other hindrance, incident to all small communities, was the spirit of criticism and the temptation to ill-natured gossip. So the Bishop counselled:

To be an intercessor is the best way to rid ourselves of the unrighteous office of an accuser; and to pray for a brother's work is to make it our own in the sight of God and His angels. (P. 19.)

Prayer he insisted on, and decreed that every priest in the diocese should devote two hours every morning to communion with God. This included Matins, Mass, and Meditation.

Prayer, he said, is the only known way of bringing to our heathen people the power that is to make them Christians and bring them to heaven: that is to say, it is the supreme secret, the possession of which differentiates us from them. (P. 12.)

Lastly, he saw that the real driving force of the Mission lay not so much in the zeal of the teachers as in the holiness of the taught. There is a grim criticism in his remark:

I have grave doubts as to our standard of requirements for baptism; but about the insufficiency of the care extended to our communicants I have long ceased to doubt. (P. 23.)

The Charge ended, on the following days of the week the Synod sat in the Cathedral morning and evening, while in the afternoons there were conferences for Church workers at Kiungani. On nearly every point raised there were plenty of speakers, but all the canons except two were passed unanimously, and those two were passed with one dissentient apiece. In such a gathering Frank was at his best. Seated on his throne at the back of the altar, surrounded by his chapter, he had no fears about the results of free discussion. He had all the skill of an advocate in presenting a case persuasively, and when he was disinterested he had the judicial faculty of being able to state the pros and cons lucidly, in order, and with due insistence on the points really at issue. I do not think these discussions ever led him to change his opinions or alter his policy, but they gave him an opportunity of explaining his own views and of understanding the objections of others. They also forced him to clear his own mind and formulate his thoughts. He was always in need of an assembly or a friend with whom he could talk things out. And nearly always he got his own way.

At this first Synod the canons of the diocese were completely revised and new canons were promulgated. The Synod swore to observe them; and they were subsequently published with several appendices of detailed directions.

The Conference was also a great success, and an enthusiast wrote: 'All our ideals for the Mission are going to be translated into facts.' The Bishop's estimate was not quite so confident, for he wrote in Central Africa:

The Synod and Conference was a great event, giving me just that knowledge of the most pressing problems that I needed in the beginning of my work. We faced nearly all our difficulties, and more or less decided the lines along which we should not move to meet them.


In consequence of suggestions made during the Synod, he proceeded to write The Epistle of Frank, a pastoral in Swahili addressed to native Christians. The language is simple, direct and emphatic. It just met the needs of converts, and is still being distributed among them.

The Bishop begins by pointing out the dangers that arise from the spread of Islam on the one hand and of an unchristian civilisation on the other. Many were 'learning foreign customs, without knowing their meaning or their use, and unable to distinguish the good from the bad.' He tells his children:

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave His Life for the sake of the Mohammedans and for the sake of those who love this world; but He cannot draw to Himself either the Mohammedans or the lovers of this world unless the Christians range themselves on His side by their words and deeds.

This necessitates a public witness, so church attendance is insisted on, and directions are given how the obligation should be fulfilled; but, beyond this, private prayer is necessary that the union with Christ may be maintained, and that His work may be done by His children. He recognises the difficulties of such prayer in African houses and in heathen surroundings, but concludes:

Therefore my will is this. Let every Christian who has a house of his own direct his children to pray morning and evening, each by himself, all remaining quiet for a time. And let Christians who have no opportunity to pray at home go to the church or to the school to say their private prayers; and let those who have no church, nor house, nor school go out into the fields or woods, each with his prayer-mat, to pray in secret.

The habit of prayer should be formed when young. So he writes:

I warn all the elders that they fail not to teach their children to kneel down and to pray properly. Let them say after their parents the words of prayer one by one, until they have sufficient intelligence to pray alone.

He speaks at length on the scandal caused by drunkenness and the sin of adultery, and draws a terrible picture of the adulterer's fate, 'who is despised by the child he has begotten, cursed by the woman whom he has seduced, and denied by the God Who made him.' This leads him to an instruction on Holy Matrimony, and he writes with great plainness on the reciprocal duties of husband and wife, on the wickedness of child marriage, and of heathen superstitions regarding sex. For him the foundation of the Christian life lies in the family, and he deprecates the young man leaving home to seek money and pleasure in the coast towns.

The Lord Jesus Christ has told us to seek first the Kingdom of God, not concerning ourselves overmuch with the things of this world. It is not that He has given us leave to sit down and do nothing. Far from it. He did not say that. But he has commanded us not to throw away our religion for the sake of worldly gain. Therefore I warn you, my children, lest ye desire riches overmuch. Do not go far from the Churches of Christ to get riches. ... I know it is hard to remain in a humble estate and to see others heaping up riches, but it is better to remain thus than to lose one's soul.

Riches themselves are not denounced, and he proceeds to teach rich and poor the duty of almsgiving, for 'a Christian who does not give alms confesses that he has no thanks to offer to His Saviour.' Alms are to be devoted for the sick and poor, for the expenses of worship and for the spread of the Gospel. He owns that the last need had not hitherto been brought home to them.

Truly, you have not seen the needs of God's work, because the Europeans have sent their offerings hither. Their money it is which is used in the Mission. But now our work is increasing, but the offerings of the Europeans remain the same. Therefore we must either decrease the work of God or we must increase our offerings.

He concludes with simple instructions on Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion and Penance. He urges his flock to more frequent communion. He recognises the difficulties of Africans, but they are not unlike the difficulties of Englishmen: which we may illustrate by one more quotation.

Some do not come because they are quarrelling and in a state of bitterness. They hold on to their quarrel and bitterness and refuse the Lord Jesus. Is it not better to bear all things than to fail the Lord Jesus? He endured the Cross for your sake that He might save and redeem you; cannot you bear with trouble and the words of others for the sake of receiving Him?

Throughout the whole letter runs the note of authority, but it is the authority of a father over his children. He explains and warns, pleads and rebukes, because his love has an intensity which will not be content with what is second best, and because he is anxious and oppressed with the thought of judgment to come.

He followed up the letter by issuing simple prayers which could be used privately or could be said by families together. Such prayers were to be the Christian's refuge and were to take the place of charms, fortune-telling and other ' heathen foolishness.' Belief in God was to lead to a personal relationship. God was a Father, Who could do everything, and might be told anything. He could listen to the prayers and condescend to the needs of His humblest children. So the prayers contained petitions for sowing and reaping, for protection against witchcraft and snake-bite, and for help in all the changes and chances of African life.

The Bishop himself believed quite simply in the power of prayer. He went to God about all that troubled him, and never scrupled, as a son from a father, to ask from God anything that he required.

One day, coming out from Mass at a mainland station, an old heathen chief, in a wonderful turban and a jade-green joho, prostrated himself at his feet and implored him to bring rain, lest the people perished by famine. The Bishop took him by the hand, led him back into the church, and collected such Christians as were still about. Then they all prayed very earnestly for rain, and that afternoon it poured. The people said: 'The prayers of the Bishop have strength.' On another occasion a native arrived from some distance to say that his wife was dying and wanted to make her confession. The Bishop, who was in the station, started at once, but when he reached the tent the woman was past consciousness and seemingly at the point of death. Then he knelt down and prayed very earnestly that she might make her confession, and as he prayed she opened her eyes and knew him. Without any apparent difficulty she made her confession, received absolution, and immediately afterwards died. The story reminds us of St. Philip Neri and the son of the Massimi. To those who were there it seemed a miracle, but Frank expected answers to his prayers.

A native priest, who once accompanied him on his journeys, says that when he, like the rest of the camp, went to sleep by the fire the Bishop began to pray; when he woke about three in the morning the Bishop was still praying. In the daytime he was so busy, and yet at night he had such energy in prayer. The priest says: 'Of all that he taught me and said to me, of all that I watched him do, this was the greatest wonder--to see how he prayed.'


For the first six years of his episcopate his headquarters were in Zanzibar, but he was never there for more than three months out of the twelve. Every year he reckoned on visiting all the stations of his scattered diocese, and, though there was a railway to Muheza and Korogwe from Tanga, most of his journeys had to be made on foot. In one six months he calculated that he had walked nine hundred miles in the Masasi Archdeaconry. At the beginning of his episcopate he preferred this wild, untouched region, where there wrere no coast influences and few plantations of sisal and rubber; where, after the rains, the grass grew twelve feet high; and where through most of the year the trees were bare of the leaves which had withered under the scorching sun. Later, he preferred the Zigua country in the north and the Shambala highlands, not because of its better climate and glorious scenery, but because the people were more settled. In these regions a native church with its own organisation and social outlook was fast developing, whereas, in the Ruvuma country, missionary work had to be done under the more direct control of Europeans.

The arrival of a Bishop at a Mission station was eagerly anticipated. It was an occasion for pomp. On his first visit to Msalabani after consecration, all the sixty-five out-stations sent representatives to greet him, and a large party came over from Mkuzi. The crowd met him at some distance from the church, and at first there was a wild rush, for everyone wanted to shake hands. Then he stilled them, and they just as naturally knelt to receive his episcopal blessing. Afterwards the procession was formed. The Bishop in his purple cassock walked slowly in the midst, surrounded by his clergy. In front, backing away from him, danced men and boys, waving branches and chanting as they danced. Around and behind him came others also dancing, surging forwards and retiring according to the measure--a sea of black figures in white garments--while beyond them were the women with bright silk handkerchiefs on their heads, clad in vari-coloured calico garments called sheeties. Last of all came the solemn native dispenser, brandishing a sword in one hand and carrying a reed in the other with a weaver-bird's nest on top. Up the long orange grove they went in the sunlight, while the bells of Holy Cross pealed out their welcome; and at the church door the tumult suddenly ceased. As many as could crowded within, and Solemn Evensong provoked its own emotional response, while the service ended with a Te Deum to a plain-song setting.

One of the ladies who were present writes of the Bishop's unremitting work during the next few days. 'He works,' she writes (and, we hope, with a little exaggeration), 'twenty hours out of the twenty-four.' Obviously such a strain could not be continued for long, and the long journeys from one station to another were the Bishop's salvation. He wrote to Canon Travers: I despair of holidays and must wait for the mental rest one gets when walking hard.' Sometimes on these walks he became so footsore that he had to lie up for some days, and then he found time for letters and reading. And yet in this strenuous life his general health undoubtedly improved. The tendency he had in youth to be round-shouldered and awkward disappeared. Those who saw him on English platforms will remember a man who had his shoulders well set back and his chest expanded--a fine upstanding man, six feet two in height, who moved with the grace of a trained athlete.

I once asked him on what he fed, and he replied that the best things to travel with were tinned Christmas plum puddings. They were easy to pack, were very nutritious, and if you were tired when reaching your camp, you could eat them without further cooking.

At first he always carried a tent, but subsequently he preferred to be without one. He had no objection to a native hut, and enjoyed a bivouac under the southern stars, his feet extending towards a crackling fire of thorns.

His equipment was always reduced to a minimum to save porters, but one boy was always entrusted with his gun, though he had very little real interest in sport and was not, I believe, a good shot. He explained that the porters liked it, it suggested a possibility of meat for the evening pot, of a savoury addition to a mess of beans; but perhaps this was not a complete explanation. The child who had wished to be a soldier, the boy who had worked so hard to get into Woolwich, the man who had come to Africa in the spirit of a knight-errant, the Bishop who regarded his work as a conflict with Satan and the powers of evil, looked upon his gun as a symbol, it reminded him of the warfare to which he was consecrated--the ideals of a pacifist were not his.

In a letter to a friend written in 1910 he dwells on the pleasant excitement of camps, liable to visits from lions and elephants, but he adds that he feels no call to hunt such beasts. Howbeit, he did once shoot a lion. He came to a heathen village where a lion had been carrying off first one and then another of the inhabitants. He sent out all the men with drums and anything that would bang to surround the brake and drive the lion into the open. They made, he said, din enough to infuriate any creature gifted with hearing. Meantime, he stood himself in the open amidst all the women and children, who refused to go away. This made him feel nervous; but when, with a growl, the lion bounded from the thicket, they fled and left him alone. He had to wait until the beast was almost upon him to make sure of his aim, but the lion was killed all right, and he had no little satisfaction in sending the skin home to his mother.

I do not think he ever killed another, but some five years later he wrote to a friend:

The day we left Namagono's village, near the Ruvuma, three lions carried off a woman. The chief was too late in looking for me, and, though he followed me for some hours, he did not catch me to tell me the news. Had I heard in time, I should have had to break my journey and hunt lions in grass about six feet high. So on the whole I am, in a way, relieved that he was too late. I'm too old for such hunts now and too blind to be sure of killing at sight.

In the same letter he tells:

The other day I and my porters walked into a herd of elephants, of whom there are hundreds in these parts. Several men were out shooting them, but the Africans lose a great deal of food every year through them. They even put their trunks through the roofs of houses and eat the food stored in the roof while the owners look on! And they are fierce these days, and do some killing of people.

Which reminds me that some years before he told me a similar story. He was walking on a native path by moonlight, when a great elephant burst through the bushes in front of him, paused for a terrible moment in the track and then went on. He was followed first by one and then another--six in all, including a baby elephant, and all in single file. 'I stood,' he said, 'quite still, and I was afraid.' Frank knew only too well what fear is, but his was the high courage which does not flinch.


Although in journeyings often the Bishop might become footsore and weary, he regarded his long tramps as a relaxation--they relieved his mind. At Mission stations there was so much to do, so many to see, and the work itself was not always pleasant.

But if he had many sorrows he had also glad surprises in the simplicity, sincerity and efforts made by converts. So we read in the little book called In His Will

I have known Africans walk for something like five hours on a Saturday night in order that they might be at Mass on Sunday morning, for the simple reason, as they put it: If the Lord Christ was coming to meet them, they could not stay away.

He loved to baptise any catechumens who were ready when he arrived at a station, and especially he loved to do so at Korogwe, where immersion was the custom and where each detail of the solemnity had been thought out beforehand.

His Confirmations were very simple. He had no hymns, and did not usually give an address. He went round the church with his chaplain and confirmed each candidate by name where he knelt, first signing him with the Cross on the forehead in oil and then laying his hand on his head with prayer. He liked to gather the confirmed together afterwards, when he talked to them and said prayers with them. Sometimes he deputed this office to another, and was rather scandalised to find that one native priest could find nothing more appropriate to say than the thanksgiving after Mass.

He held Retreats for clergy, for Europeans and sometimes for the native laity. In his addresses he could be very simple, he was always very impressive, and usually he was very long, but his wonderful voice held his hearers spellbound.

A Mission station is only a centre. Msalabani had no fewer than sixty-five out-stations attached to it, and Masasi a similar number. The Bishop liked, when possible, to inspect places where there are only a few huts and a very elementary school, where children and perhaps adults squatted on the ground and tried to write the letters of the alphabet with their fingers in the sand.

Then there was the medical work at which he could only look on and marvel, but it was very near to his heart. When he was ill in England in 1914, in spite of the doctors, he insisted on attending the Guild of St. Barnabas that he might appeal for more nurses. What a tale he had to tell them! Here is his account of Luatala:

Take the little hospital of Luatala. I, in my ignorance, in making the estimates for the year allotted enough money to keep twelve beds and also enough money to build a hut for them; but to-day at Luatala there are just 150 in-patients! They are not paid for out of my estimates; they are not lying upon my twelve beds, nor are they lying in my hut; but they are lying all over the quadrangle which is allotted to the patients and to the hospital. They come in with their own food, and ask to be allowed to stay until they are cured. When their food runs short, they either go themselves--if they possibly can--or they send to their relatives to bring in more food. And there they are, feeding themselves, in order to have the advantage of a skilled nurse like Miss Dunn. Most of these people are suffering from a horrible sort of ulcer which seems to eat away the whole body. And Miss Dunn, provided with medicine by Dr. Howard, is healing them in a rather extraordinary way. And the people come from many, many miles distant, just with their food, and they refuse to go away--they will be in-patients!

This story brings home to us how the demands on the Mission have always exceeded its means. The office at home soon learnt that the Bishop's estimates were always exceeded. It was not only in hospital charges, for when the Bishop visited a station he always had to meet a priest-in-charge with a long list of reasonable wants. Frank hated to discourage a man and break his heart; he was much more inclined to allow him to undertake more than he could bear, and so break his back.

When he visited a station, the Bishop would sit up half the night with the priest-in-charge entering into the smallest details. He had a keen scent for the possibilities of development, he was never afraid of drastic changes in method, and he was prepared on the spur of the moment to draft new schemes that seemed to obviate every difficulty which could be foreseen. His facility was wonderful, his enthusiasm for his plans carried others away, but they did not always work. It was perhaps sometimes a pity, when he came to a man already over-burdened, and inspired him with such zeal that he tried to add to his labours.

At first he did not come into direct contact with the people except in church and on the baraza, where he decided difficult cases reserved for his judgment. He began by being very scrupulous about interfering with the work of the man on the spot, or about doing anything which might diminish his authority. So in those early days no one was allowed to interview the Bishop unless introduced by the priest-in-charge, yet Frank's real mission was a mission to individuals. So long as he did not know the diocese and was overwhelmed by the number of cases submitted for his decision, his rule was probably right; but it broke down because he cared for men, women and children one by one, and could not think of them merely as representatives of classes. He began his work as an administrator and a judge; he died the father of his people, their protector and their consolation.


In 1909 he wrote to his mother:

No one at home can quite grasp the situation in Africa, the exact condition of a native church, the morality which seems to hang on a thread, and the faith which has so little resistance--always quick to reach out but weak against opposition, like St. Peter's early faith.

Men became Christians and found very little support in public opinion. Even in more civilised communities a corporate conscience is of slow growth. Men responded eagerly to the new faith, and the new life was a revelation to them, but they found it very difficult to keep the commandments. It was the more difficult because neither heathen nor Moslems acknowledged the intimate connection between religion and morality. There were many falls, and the Bishop wrote to a friend:

My chief job seems to be listening to the words of the wicked. All the bad cases are kept until the Bishop turns up, and then they are produced one after another. The good I only see in church.

About the same time he wrote in Central Africa:

Of one thing I am convinced--a Bishop in these parts must be prepared to sit still and listen to people's words for the greater part of each year.

But he was very patient and would listen. No one can tell a longer story than an African, and he has no inherited veneration for the truth. Long hours Frank would sit in the baraza listening to irrelevancies and waiting for the truth to emerge. Given sufficient time most of the guilty ones were convicted out of their own mouths; but the Bishop was not content to inflict a penance--he strove to make a penitent. Sometimes a reconciliation had to be effected, sometimes restitution had to be made, but more often the cases were of a sexual character. On one visit to Masasi he had to deal with five hundred marriage difficulties, and the details of some of them would have shocked the Divorce Court at home. And yet in 1910 he could write:

I have had a number of what are called Bishop's cases . . . spending many days hearing them this summer. We are a young Church and in the light of Church History we take courage.

Occasionally moral break-downs occurred among the native clergy and teachers, and he wrote in 1910:

I am most anxious that we should not lose confidence in the African ministry. Many members have proved themselves most zealous and able ministers of the Word and Sacraments: but I have many and many a time warned our supporters that the increase of the native ministry must for years involve us in the increase of our European staff.

These words had special reference to the Masasi district, for he wrote in Central Africa:

Masasi district is suffering from the result of a premature grant of home rule to the African clergy, and during the next few years we must be content to concentrate our attention on old-standing Missions, trying to build up what we already have.

Some at the time thought that he had been too lenient with offenders, but his heart yearned so for the conversion of sinners, and his personal presence was felt by the sinners to be overwhelming. He was sometimes too easily persuaded by their tears and protestations, which were genuine enough while he was present, although the penitent fell again when his influence was no longer felt. In 1911 a priest in the Ruvuma country had to be suspended.

The Bishop's great influence with his African clergy lay in the fact that he trusted them. Knowing that he trusted them, they had a new sense of responsibility, and grew in the capacity for governing their flocks. It was only very occasionally that his trust was abused, and then it was generally the case of a lonely man breaking down under the stress of sudden temptation. That, if not inevitable, was to be expected, and his policy has been more than justified by its fruits. The heroism and steadfastness under shameful persecution of the native clergy during the Great War should fill a glorious page in the history of the Mission.

Only once he wavered. In 1916 two priests who had done good work had to be suspended for gross immorality. One was a man in whom the Bishop had the utmost confidence; and when the Bishop received the accusation by letter, he cabled at once: 'Bishop convinced charges untrue.' But both charges were true none the less, and for a time the Bishop despaired of his work. He wrote to his brother Bishops in the U.M.C.A. to say that the time had not come for a native ministry, and that he had no intention of ordaining any more native priests. A year later he was building the new college at Hegongo, and the last years of his life were chiefly devoted to the teaching and training of natives for the ministry. How inconsistent he was! someone will say--but the inconsistency was not in building Hegongo, but in those black days when he thought that he had failed and his heart was very sad.


Three failures in all are not a great number. I expect, with less excuse, the percentage of scandalous clerks in England is as large; and most of the cases brought up before the Bishop had nothing to do with either clergy or teachers.

The native, like the European, is very willing to pay an outward homage to the moral law, but he can generally convince himself that his own circumstances are exceptional, that his sin, though wrong, is one that everyone commits, and that it is not as bad as many sins which go unpunished. So if conscience within is not to be stifled, it needs the support of authority from without. This may be received through the practice of sacramental confession. But in an infant Church, where public opinion is apt to be tolerant and a corporate conscience is hardly awake, something else is needed. In small communities where most things are known, and the example of lax living is very contagious, the Church can only hope to maintain her standard by demanding public penance from those who fall into grave sin. By an Act of Synod passed at Zanzibar, a man who had received absolution in the confessional was warned that he might be called on to perform public penance should his sin become notorious.

In a meeting at the Church House in 1911, the Bishop admitted that at one time there were a hundred people at Korogwe undergoing penance. Then he went on: 'You may say this is shocking; but in how many London parishes are there not a hundred people who ought to be doing penance? There is no one in the parish of Korogwe who has not been dealt with.'

The Bishop, however, was very loath to condemn men publicly, especially when he believed that they had tried, even if they had failed. The rigorists in the Mission sometimes criticised him for what they considered to be errors of his heart; but, though zealous to vindicate righteousness, he was still more zealous to win souls. He was always afraid that the strict enforcement of rules might lead to a mechanical view of Christian conduct. He wanted that those whom he condemned should find through penance a way to conversion. He arranged that classes should be held for them, he allowed them to make their confessions and receive absolution, he allowed them to attend the Missa Catechumenorum, and finally he decreed that no penance should exceed six months.

Sometimes sinners were defiant and refused to submit, and then he was obliged to proceed to excommunication. There was one very sad case of a man, the godson of a dead missionary, who had been one of the Bishop's boys at Kiungani, and afterwards a teacher. The awful solemnity took place in church. The candles were dashed down and extinguished, but when the Bishop came to the terrible words: ' We do hereby cut you off,' he could not complete the sentence, but broke down sobbing. All the congregation sobbed with him, while the bell went on tolling for the doom.

A year or so afterwards he revisited the station. It was a time of festival and everyone was glad, except the Bishop, who was still thinking of his lost sheep. At length he was told that the man had been hiding in the neighbourhood to see him as he passed by. He took this as a sign of grace, sought him out, persuaded him to do penance and afterwards restored him to the Church. The Bishop, some thought, had been too lenient. Perhaps they were right, for the man relapsed into his wicked life and is once more an outcast. But, if we condemn the Bishop, we must also condemn St. John for his attempts to reclaim the young robber.


The following stories, sent me by a lady, will illustrate the Bishop's power over individuals and his care for them.

It was because he was so courteous and homely that the sinners came back. An old Christian woman at Masasi, who had been excommunicated for over twenty years, when asked what the Bishop had said that induced her to repent, answered: 'He said, Mother, it was very good of you to come and see me in this pouring rain. Sit down and get warm.'

Walking along one day the Bishop passed a woman picking fruit in a tree, and called to her: 'Elizabeth, I have a word.' She climbed down and he went on: 'Elizabeth, the man you are living with is not your husband.' She answered: 'It is true, Lord Bishop.' He simply said: ' I want you to leave him and go back to live with your father.' And she did so.

An ex-reader, who had become a great drunkard, told me that the Bishop called him and said: 'I want you to tear up the certificate of the Government giving you leave to tap six palm trees.' The man went home, fetched the paper and tore it up before the Bishop, thus losing the large sum he had paid for the licence as well as the palm wine which he got daily from his trees.

One day he only sent a message to a Christian woman to give him the gourd by which the Medicine Man had inspired her with Walungu (spirits), which enabled her to prophesy, and she not only sent it to him but gave up the lucrative practice of divination.


The same lady writes to me that, when the Bishop was on his first tours,

The African women were rather frightened of him, for he seemed to them more of a judge than a father; and he, on his side, rather misunderstood the Christian women, for he only saw the truculent, naughty ones who came before him in the marriage cases, or the sullen ones who could not speak because their husbands were lying and they dared not contradict them.

My correspondent in another letter tells how he grew in understanding and the women changed their attitude towards him. She describes a Retreat for women teachers, and how they squatted about his feet with their babies on their backs, how they attended to his every word despite occasional protests from the babies; how they said afterwards: 'The Bishop might be one of us: he knows us through and through.' This shows, my correspondent concludes, the amazing power of the Bishop to get down to the level of others, 'for a Bondei woman's mind at times taxes even the patience of an African man.'

If the Bishop began by not understanding African women, he was never under any misapprehension about the fundamental importance of dealing with them. In 1910 he wrote to a friend in England:

Our chief difficulty is in introducing Christian marriage laws into a quite savage country, and in insisting on monogamy: while the small number of Christian women as compared to the men adds to the worry.

Again, he wrote in Central Africa:

The most pressing problem in this vast district (Zigualand) is that of the women and the girls. An ideal of Christian womanhood is the overwhelming need of our young Church at present, and we must win it in the face of tribal customs, unholy rites, semi-Mohammedan influence, and national apathy. The African teachers do their best, but they require constant assistance and care.

There had been, from the days of Bishop Tozer, a girls' school at Mbweni, which was started for the education of released slaves. From 1900 onwards a number of famine orphans had been living under the charge of an African deacon and his wife, who were taught at Hegongo in the stone house which has now been converted into the chapel of the Theological College. By an Act of Synod in Zanzibar of 1908, it was decided that small boarding schools should be established in all the archdeaconries. It was further enacted that, though a European was to be in charge, all instruction for domestic life should be given by African women. The Bishop now went further and sent ladies to Korogwe, Kigongoi, and Kizara to get into touch with African life and start small day schools, especially for girls. It was at first very difficult to get them to attend, and all manner of absurd suspicions were excited. When these were allayed and girls came, it was found almost impossible for them to become Christians. Accepting the Cross prevented their entry into the dances and initiatory rites on approaching womanhood, but unless they were 'danced' they were a drug in the marriage market, and that market is no metaphor in Africa.

The initiatory rites and dances both for boys and girls were a great trouble. They varied a great deal in different tribes. Among the Yaos they were comparatively free from objection, and the Bishop wished to see them purified and sanctioned. Attempts have been made to do this, and hold the rites under Christian auspices at Masasi; but I believe the Bishop was a little dubious about the results. In the Shambala highlands the rites were revolting in their filthiness. Sexual life was polluted from the start, and the Church could do nothing but express its abhorrence.

After the rites came marriage, and the difference between Christian and heathen conceptions occasioned many difficulties for the converted. About some of them the Bishop spoke in London in 1911, and I quote from the report:

In some districts where Christianity was new, he found that with two-thirds of the people the real trouble was not that they had not been converted and did not care for the Lord, but that the conflict between their old heathen views and the high standard of Christian marriage had been too much for them: and in that conflict they had gone under; and this not through vice and not willingly, but because in the beginning they had not in the least understood what Christian marriage meant, and had contracted marriages either before or after baptism which ought never to have been contracted, and had carried over into the Christian life the burden of heathenism with which they had no right to be burdened, and from which it was in the power of the Church to set them free. In two years he had seen about a thousand Christians who were in trouble, and over half of them had returned to communion.

That is the brighter side of it. It was necessary to understand that out there in each tribe, there was a different view of marriage, and that in no tribe was there a view compatible with Christianity. For instance, if they were to start with the Yao people round Masasi, they would find that in the healthier condition of things, when a young man wanted to get married he had to find a girl whom he liked, and then go to her mother and ask to be allowed to marry: if accepted, he had to leave his father and his father's village, and go and live next door to his future mother-in-law, whose gardener and farm labourer he became. If he was a bad gardener or poor labourer, he was simply dismissed and another taken on in his place. Let this meeting consider how Christian marriage was to be planted on the top of an idea like that.

Or take a people like those at Kigongoi. As they explained it, about a hundred years ago the chiefs of a clan used to pass through the land, and as they went through the villages, if they saw a small child, three or four years old, they would put a necklace of beads on the child. Then the child belonged to the chief, and when she grew up the mother was bound to send her to the chief's village to be one of his wives. The mothers, to fight against that, agreed to betroth their infant boys and girls; so that when girls were about four years old they were betrothed, and when eight or nine they were counted as married. Now, how was the Mission going, easily and quickly, to incorporate Christian marriage in the tradition of a tribe like that? It was not only that the girls were already married to heathens, it was worse than that: the whole basis of life in the tribe was impaired. The homes of the tribe were founded on marriages which could not last. The Mission, coming later in the development of these people, offered them Christianity; they responded, and then they found just there, at the point which really mattered, there was the hopeless barrier of the Christian marriage law. On going up into the hills one found the same kind of thing, the result of child marriage. He remembered talking to Miss Gibbons, who said that one most promising girl in the school was already betrothed to an old man, a heathen in the plains, who already had four wives. Here was a girl ready to be taught Christianity, anxious to come into the Church, and her fate was sealed by her relations.

These were only some of the difficulties. Before conversion many had been polygamists. Sometimes the husband was converted and not the wife, more rarely the wife and not the husband. There were mixed marriages between heathen and Christian, inevitable when the male Christians far outnumbered the female. There were marriages contracted in childhood. In some tribes wives were inherited as well as cattle; in some marriage was regarded as a temporary contract terminable by either party.

The infant Church was faced not only with the problem of how to deal with such unions, but how to deal with the sexual sin that naturally resulted from them. The Bishop was convinced that the Church could only be built up on the foundation of family life, and that this involved the indissolubility of marriage. He was equally convinced that, if ' consent makes matrimony,' many of the existing unions were ab initio null and void. But to declare them to be so would ruin many homes, and so each case had to be decided on its merits. The Synod had drawn up elaborate rules, but no rules could cover all the circumstances which could arise, and the Bishop had a legal mind, quick to see a distinction. The natives, I am told, did not always appreciate his arguments, and more than one disgruntled man complained: 'He broke So-and-so's marriage, and will not break mine.' I am told also that sometimes a priest-in-charge did not agree with his decision in a particular case. No doubt he sometimes made mistakes, but I have the high authority of his successor for saying that he met a difficult situation with courage and fidelity to principle, and that his decisions have made for morality and the purity of Christian homes.


It was because he was so convinced that Christianity could only be based on a family life that he was so opposed to his converts leaving their tribes and villages to find work in the plantations or coast towns. Neither the manners nor the morals of German planters met with his approval, and he writes from German East Africa:

The development of plantations, with its debased civilisation, is a sore trial to our people and a hindrance to the Gospel.

In 1913 he wrote from Luatala:

I am hoping, when I meet Herr Wendt, to procure some justice for our people from the Europeans of the plantations.

And in the same letter:

The Gospel is winning all along the line in our district, but I have yet to arrange something for the many Christians at the coast or shambas of the Germans.

He knew, as he wrote in Central Africa:

We cannot keep our men out of the commercial movement if we would: the coast towns will always claim many, and in claiming their bodies will enchain their souls.

If Englishmen, east of Suez, sometimes forget the moral code and traditions of their race, Africans away from tribe and free from custom are still more apt to go downhill. This is especially the case of Mission boys who have not become Christians, or whose conversion has been unreal, for whereas a native Christian is a much better man than a non-Christian, an educated non-Christian sinks much more rapidly than an uneducated one. His little learning has given him a taste for luxury, has filled him with self-conceit, and has made him feel contemptuous of the old ties of home and tribe. It is these boys who bring discredit upon Missions and make the Christian servant a byword among Europeans. They are far from being all of them bad, but they find it hard to withstand temptations, especially when they are away from home and the restraints imposed in their home surroundings. In his later years the Bishop was happy in having chaplains at Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam who could shepherd these wandering and sometimes erring sheep.

I am not sure that the Bishop did not consider the incursion of Western civilisation more dangerous to the upbuilding of a Christian Church than either Mohammedanism or witchcraft; but whereas we must now go on to think of his work and views in regard to Islam and witchcraft, it will be better to defer the consideration of the relation of white and black men until a much later chapter.

Project Canterbury