By: Okunyin Boaz Orlan-Hackman
A service has been held to rededicate the Zimmermann Memorial Congregation Chapel of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana at Abokobi with Christians admonished to rededicate their lives to Christ and be the conscience of society.
The Abokobi Presbyterian Chapel is believed to have been built in 1860 by Johanness Zimmermann and Augustus W. Steinhauser. These two Basel Missionaries, according to a church history, were said to have led a group of 30 displaced persons from Osu to Abokobi following the British bombardment of the coastal towns of Teshie, La and Osu in 1854 for refusing to pay the Pool Tax.
At Abokobi, the displaced group settled on a land previously bought by another missionary, Andreas Riss, in 1844 but taken over by the Mission where they celebrated the Holy Communion for the first time within a week after their arrival on 1st October with 14 members, signifying the beginning of the church at Abokobi.
A steady increase in the membership of the church convinced the Home Committee of the Basel Mission to build a permanent station at Abokobi in 1857.
The decision to establish a permanent mission of the church at Abokobi led to the construction of the first chapel believed to have been built in 1860 alongside a manse, school and a well for water.
The first chapel was simply built with sun-dried swish bricks and roofed with shingles which was shipped from Bremen in Germany. A wooden cross was placed on top of the roof symbolizing the church.
The Abokobi Presby Chapel since then has undergone three modifications with the current state being the third. The first modification occurred in around 1872 with the addition of a tower which housed the church bell earlier placed behind the building.
It is believed that when church growth accelerated there was the need to reach people from far with the bell and this culminated in the construction of the tower to raise the bell in order to reach people from a distance.
The fortunes of the church expanding suffered a great deal in 1872 thereabout when an attempt to drive away bees which had settled in the tower resulted in the tower being set ablaze, affecting the roof as well but were repaired later.
There was yet again another setback for the church as a severe rainstorm on 23 January, 1963 that hit Abokobi Township and caused extensive damage to property also affected the chapel. Both the roof and the tower were seriously affected. The chapel was re-roofed and the tower re-built separately from the main chapel using concrete blocks.
As part of the celebration of the church’s 150th anniversary in 2004, it became necessary to give the chapel a facelift and as such a planning committee was constituted and featuring high on its terms of reference was the chapel renovation.
The committee was made up of a lot of prominent men and women and was chaired by Rev. E. Odai Tettey with Dr. E. A. Aryeetey as his vice.
The church then invited a company known as Engineers and Architects to submit a proposal which among others suggested the retention of the old architecture because of its historical antecedent, an estimated cost of One Hundred Thousand US Dollars ($100,000.00) which was One Billion Cedis at the then exchange rate, and an assurance that the when completed, the life span of the building could be extended to between 60 and 100 years.
The estimate for the chapel renovation so frightened the church that it decided to put on hold its intended plan until funds were available. However, Rev. Robert Boifio-Quarter, who had taken over from Rev. E. A. Amarkwei came to their rescue. He introduced Mr. Roger Hammond, an ace building contractor, who offered to assist the work of the chapel renovation without taking a fee. The first phase of the chapel renovation was completed in 2004 allowing for the 150th anniversary celebration in new surroundings while the second phase continued thereafter till the whole renovation project was completed in 2014.
Since its establishment in 1854 to date, the Abokobi Presby Church has received and worked with fifty (50) Pastors with Rev D. Ablorh being the first Ghanaian in-charge in 1883.
ACTIVITIES TOWARD REDEDICATION
A month-long programme was rolled out to celebrate the rededication of the chapel. These included a health walk, an appearance on Obonu FM’s “Kaakaa Akwe” programme and a revival torchlight procession and bonfire among others leading up to the rededication service.
The occasion of the rededication of the chapel brought together people from various sects of the society including traditional rulers, political heads and community members as well as the teaming members of the church.
As a symbolic gesture for the rededication, the keys to the chapel was handed over to Rev. Ebenezer Akrong, the District Minister who in turn handed it over to Rev. Dr. Godwin Nii Noi Odonkor, Chairman of the Ga Presbytery who then knocked on the entrance door and opened it with peace greeting which was responded to with cheers and shouts of joy by the congregants.
The congregation danced to a variety of songs rendered by the church’s choir and singing band as well as a brass band group in a highly charged jubilant mood in glory of the Lord for how far He had brought them.
Delivering the sermon on the theme: “Come Holy Spirit, Give us Love”, Rev. Dr. Nii Noi Odonkor said because of the lack of knowledge of the person of the Holy Spirit among Christians they become confused with its work.
He emphasized the need for Christians to seek the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives to transform the society in which they live. “Christians are the conscience of the world. Society is more complex today and we need the Holy Spirit to direct us”, Rev. Odonkor charged Christians.
The Ga Presbytery Chairman thanked those who envisioned the need to expand the chapel and commended the Abokobi Presby for their ones which had seen them through to this stage and encouraged them to build the church as they have done for the chapel.
He also expressed gratitude to the contractor and the planning committee for a job well done.
The District Minister, Rev. Ebenezer Nii Adjey Akrong, in a message, advised the members not to see as the end “the huge investment made in the physical expansion and beautification of the chapel,” rather, “let us now turn our attention to the spiritual expansion of the membership and make it more beautiful.”
Rev. Akrong thanked his predecessors and all who made the expansion and rededication of the chapel a reality.
The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for the Ga East Municipal Assembly, Hon. John Kwao Sackey, who was a special guest of honour, urged the members to begin a new relationship with God with the rededication of the chapel.
“Let us not just see the rededication of this new edifice as our sole aim of gathering here today. As we assemble inside this chapel today, I wish to humbly request all of us to re-dedicate our lives also to the Service of the Almighty God, by initiating new ways of reaching to people with the word of the Lord, like the early founders of the church.”
The MCE praised the church for its role in the development of Abokobi and enumerated plans of the Assembly, already ongoing, such as the construction of a maternity and children’s block for the Abokobi Health Centre, a single-storey Abokobi District Police Station and a Market as well as the construction and tarring of the Abokobi-Sesemi while a culvert has been constructed over the stream across the Sesemi-Akporman-Boi road to link the communities to give the town and surrounding communities a facelift to befit its status as the municipal capital.
The Abokobi Mantse, Nii Samuel Adjetey Mohenu also added his voice to the call for the members “to rededicate themselves to the cause of God’s work and to come together in unity to hold in high esteem the image of this Christian community and also to cherish the norms and regulations, especially Christian discipline, which make Abokobi a unique community, worthy of emulation”.
He also commended the Ga Presbytery for their initiative to arrange the 2015 Seminar for Traditional Rulers held in April in Abokobi and thanked the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Abokobi Session, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana as well as the Ga Presbytery and all individuals who had contributed in diverse ways to the success story of Abokobi.
Twenty-four individual members of the church who have rendered distinguished service to the church development and work of God were recognized and honoured. 12 were presented with citations, 9 received shields while 3 others were awarded certificates of appreciation.
A 6-seater washroom facility for male and female, donated by a member of the church, was also dedicated to God and handed over for use.
UNIQUENESS OF ABOKOBI
Since the creation of the Ga East Municipal Assembly in 2006 with its headquarters located at Abokobi, the town has become the attraction of many owing to its status as the Municipal Capital and the rich history of the Presby church in Abokobi resulting in the emergence of a tri- governance structure.
The Abokobi Township was founded by the Presby church and it was the place where the Hebrew Bible was first translated into Ga by Johanness Zimmermann. It is the only town whose chief, a member of the church, is installed by the church, and he does not poor libation and he is not subject to any paramount chief and the chieftaincy is non-hereditary.
So, to put the uniqueness of Abokobi in proper perspective, it has three ruling authorities; Religious – the church, Traditional – the chief, and political – the Assembly headed by the Municipal Chief Executive. This has led to its befitting stature as the Vatican City often propagated by the current MCE, John Kwao Sackey.