‘See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God’ (I John 3: 1) … a statue of Archbishop Luwum (right) on the façade of Westminster Abbey
Today is the First Sunday in Lent. I am a guest preacher this morning [17 February] in the Unitarian Church in Saint Stephen’s Green, where I have been asked to speak about why I am an Anglican.
This morning’s service this is the first part of the Dublin Unitarian Church’s programme to celebrate their presence for 150 years on Saint Stephen’s Green. I imagine neither marking the Season of Lent nor celebrating the Communion of Saints are high priorities in the Liturgical Calendar of the Unitarian Church. Nor can I imagine that the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for the First Sunday in Lent (Year C) are going to be used.
Yet those readings remind us of how the Lord hears our voice and sees “our affliction, our toil, and our oppression” (Deuternonomy 26: 7), and how in Christ “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek (Romans 10: 12).
Those readings are so relevant this morning as I continue my journey through Lent recalling the saints remembered in calendars in different traditions of the Church, and as I realise that today we also remember Archbishop Janani Jakaliya Luwum (1922-1977), who is recalled on this day in a lesser Festival in the Calendar of the Church of England and other Anglican churches.
He was the Archbishop of the (Anglican) Church of Uganda from 1974, and was one of the most influential modern Church leaders in Africa. He was murdered in 1977 by either Idi Amin personally or by Amin’s henchmen.
The archbishop was born in a village in Uganda 1922, and trained as a primary teacher before he converted to Christianity in 1948. A year later, he went to Buwalasi Theological College, and he was ordained deacon in 1953 and priest in 1954. He was consecrated a bishop in 1961 and five years later became Archbishop of the Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire – the second African to hold this position.
Archbishop Luwum was openly critical of the excesses of Idi Amin and his regime after he seized power in 1971. In 1977, the archbishop delivered a note of protest to Idi Amin against the policies of arbitrary killings and disappearances. Shortly after, he and other Church leaders were accused of treason.
On 16 February 1977, he was arrested and was publicly humiliated at a rally called in Kampala by Amin. He was killed the next day – supposedly in a car crash, although he had been shot through the mouth and in the chest several times. Time magazine suggested Amin himself had pulled the trigger.
Our Gospel reading this morning (Luke 4: 1-13) is an appropriate reminder this morning, as we remember Archbishop Janani Luwum, of the temptations to succumb to the evil exercise of power in this world, even today.
Archbishop Janani Luwum is recognised as a martyr in the Church of England and other Anglican churches, and his statue is among those of the Martyrs of the Twentieth Century on the west façade of Westminster Abbey.
Collect (First Sunday in Lent):
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
Give us grace to discipline ourselves
in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Readings (Year C):
Deuteronomy 26: 1-11; Psalm 91: 1-2, 9-16; Romans 10: 8b-13; Luke 4: 1-13.
Post Communion Prayer:
you renew us with the living bread from heaven.
Nourish our faith,
increase our hope,
strengthen our love,
and enable us to live by every word
that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Tomorrow (18 February): Fra Angelico.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Dublin (Trinity College Dublin).