17 April 2013

Uganda: Bishop Tucker Theological College - 100 Years of Service to Community

ONE hundred years ago, on a land removed from the seat of the Church of Uganda, a theological college, Bishop Tucker Theological College (BTTC) was born. It was difficult to know what would become of it years later. But one thing was for sure; that God's will would prevail.

The college was named after Bishop Alfred Tucker, a leading Christian Missionary from England. It thrived on the generosity of people like Ham Mukasa, who donated land for this training institution to grow and the dedication of several men of God, who gave up their time to bring this institution to life.

A fully-fledged Christian university straddles a once simple theological college, a towering witness to God's providence and the vision of the founders. Several activities are under way to mark the BTTC centenary.

They include a graduation and opening of science laboratories at the university (held in October last year), hosting Martyrs Day celebrations on June 3, this year, centenary celebrations around the country from June 4 to 30 and a week of activities from July 1.

There will be public talks culminating in a major celebration on July 5 with a graduation, book launch and several other activities. A book containing the history of the college will be published.

There will also be a liturgy for the celebration of worship in the Church of Uganda and public talks on the church, faith and education in Uganda and the East African region.

Reason to celebrate

BTTC has made such a great contribution to the growth of the Church and education in Uganda. According to Rt. Rev. Tibeesigwa, about 90% of all church ministers in East Africa have been trained there.

The college played an important role in training women leaders like Florence Njangali, Rev. Diana Nkesiga, Rev. Canon Dr. Olivia Nassaka Banja, Prudence Kaddu and Monica Sebidega, among others.

Njangali was a leading fi gure in the Anglican ministry. She was once a member of the Native Anglican Church Synod in Uganda and head teacher of Duhaga Girls Primary School in Hoima.

Nkesiga is currently the Vicar of All Saints Cathedral in Kampala. She says although women were still largely discriminated against in church ministry, BTTC set the stage for their participation.

"We were ground breakers. Our experience there enabled us to challenge the dominant stereotypes against our role in the church," She says. Nkesiga adds that BTTC provided sound biblical teaching that helped to ground them in ministry in a world of increasing false teachings.

"Looking at the few students we were with in the early 1990s, I realise how BTTC has grown into one of the most influential institutions of learning within and beyond Uganda," says Rev. Canon Dr. Olivia Nassaka Banja, the dean, Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology at UCU. Dr. Nassaka explains that BTTC has provided a strong backbone against which leadership in Uganda and beyond has thrived.

"That UCU is producing highly professional individuals that serve in all sectors of Ugandan society can be attributed to the strong, spiritual, moral and ethical founding values of BTTC," she says.

Early beginnings

In his work entitled "Called to Serve, Bishop Turker Theological College, Mukono, A History", Dr. Kevin Ward, a renowned religious scholar and one-time teacher at BTTC, says establishing a college was one of Bishop Turker's ways of empowering the Church of Uganda to develop its own leadership.

"He realised that a second generation of Church leaders needed a more formal training," it states. The first college started in 1905 as a seminary in Namirembe, but was later transferred to Mukono when Rev. Edward Daniell, a missionary priest, moved there in 1913 to begin work on a college.

When Bishop Tucker died in England the following year, Ward says "It was decided, appropriately, that the college at Mukono should be called the Bishop Tucker Memorial College." The college was first housed in temporary buildings on the current site of Bishop's West Primary School. Ham Mukasa, a chief and landowner offered land in Ntawo for the expansion of the college and with Daniell as the college's fi rst warden, BTTC thrived.

With finances from the UK and other generous individuals and institutions, the college grew in stature. In 1967, BTTC graduated two of its first students to receive diplomas in theology.

Later in the 1970s, a bachelor of divinity degree programme was awarded in collaboration with the Theological Institutions in East Africa (ATIEA). It was later replaced with bachelor of divinity degree awarded by Makerere University.

UCU is birthed

In 1997, BTTC morphed into Uganda Christian University Mukono, providing one of the best private universities in this country. With a total of 11,000 students from 13 different countries currently enrolled at the university, the institution has played a significant role in educating people in and outside Uganda.

Rev Canon Dr. John Ssenyonyi, the UCU Vice- Chancellor, calls this occasion a pivotal time. "When we celebrate 100 years, we are thanking God for the past years and also thinking ahead well beyond our own lifetime," he said.

There is no doubt that as all dance to the rhythm of a great history, they will be thinking about the next 100 years.

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