04 March 2020
Four windows in USPG’s
new chapel celebrate
four missionary bishops
I have spent most of the day [4 March 2020] in London at a meeting of the Trustees of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).
USPG moved into new offices in Trinity Street, Southwark, last year, and it was good today to see that USPG’s unique stained-glass windows of four pioneering missionary bishops are now in place in the USPG chapel after a year in storage.
We began today’s meeting with a celebration of the Eucharist in the new chapel in the Trinity Street offices. The chapel space was part of an office building in the past, and the windows now bring the chapel to life, with their bright colours and their sense of history.
Our meeting continued throughout the day in the chapel with the four windows commemorating these four missionary bishops reminding us of the legacy and the story of SPG and USPG:
Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (1809-1891): He was born in Osoogun, and was a 12-year-old when he and his family were captured by slave raiders. He was freed from a Portuguese slave ship by a Royal Navy squadron that was enforcing the ban on the slave trade.
He resettled in Sierra Leone, where he was baptised in 1825 and changed his name to Samuel Crowther, in honour the Vicar of Christ Church, Newgate, London, the Revd Samuel Crowther, one of the pioneers of the Church Mission Society.
He was working as a missionary in Nigeria when he was recalled to England where he was ordained deacon and priest in 1843 by the Bishop of London and then returned to Nigeria. On the suggestion of Henry Venn, Crowther was consecrated Bishop of the Niger by Archbishop Charles Longley in Canterbury Cathedral on Saint Peter’s Day 1864, becoming the first African bishop in the Anglican Communion.
He prepared a Yoruba grammar, translated the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer into Yoruba, and received an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity (DD) from the University of Oxford. He died on 31 December 1899.
Bishop Vedanayakam Samuel Azariah (1874-1945): He was an Indian evangelist and the first Indian bishop in the Anglican Communion, serving as the first Bishop of Dornakal. He was also a pioneer of Christian ecumenism in India.
His father, the Revd Thomas Vedanayagam, was an Anglican priest from a traditional Hindu family who converted to Christianity in 1839 while he was at a CMS-run school.
Bishop Azariah was an evangelist with the YMCA before he was ordained an Anglican priest at the age of 35 in 1909, and became a missionary in Dornakal. He spoke at the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910, and on 29 December 1912, three years after his ordination as priest, he was consecrated the first Bishop of Dornakal. He was consecrated in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Calcutta, with 11 bishops of the taking part.
Cambridge University awarded Bishop Azariah an honorary degree in 1920. In 1936, he built Epiphany Cathedral in Dornakal, which is depicted in his window in the USPG chapel.
He died in Dornakal on 1 January 1945. At the time, the Diocese of Dornakal had 200,000 members. Two years after his death, the united Church of South India was formed, bring together the Anglican, Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches.
Bishop Tsae-seng Sing (1861-1940): He was the first ethnic Chinese bishop in the Anglican Communion and an Anglican bishop in China. His father was the first Anglican priest in Chekiang (Zhejiang) Province. Sing Tsae-seng was educated at Trinity College, Ningpo, and ordained in 1890. He was Headmaster of his old college for 29 years. He was also Archdeacon of Chekiang from 1910 to 1918.
He was consecrated an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of North China at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai, in 1918.
During his time as an assistant bishop in the diocese, the Bishops of Chekiang were two Dublin-born bishops, Herbert James Molony (1908-1928), and John Curtis (1929-1950).
Bishop Joseph Sakunoshin Motoda (1862-1928): He was the first Japanese-born Bishop of Tokyo in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Anglican Church in Japan, although he was ordained in the US in 1893.
He was born in Kurume, Fukuoka, on 22 February 1862, and studied at Kenyon College, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, New York. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania (1895) and a Doctorate in Divinity (DD) from the Philadelphia Divinity School (1916).
He was the first Japanese person to become an Anglican bishop when he was consecrated as Bishop of Tokyo on 7 December 1923. He was also President of Saint Paul’s College, Tokyo.
Bishop Motoda argued for the education of a Japanese ministry and for an increasingly autonomous national church in Japan. He preached at Canterbury Cathedral during a visit to England in 1928. He died in Tokyo on 16 April 1928.
The Bishop of Southwark, the Right Revd Christopher Chessun, was a special guest in the chapel last month [5 February 2020], when he led a service of blessing and dedication for the windows.
‘These four bishops were surely signs of hope in the world,’ Bishop Chessun said at the time. ‘They are signs that for all we may be constrained and confined in our culture, the Gospel we have been given to proclaim does, time and again, shine forth in ways that make profound contact with God’s people in every part of the world.’
The Revd Jessie Anand, who was attended the blessing, is related to Bishop Azariah: the bishop’s daughter married her uncle. Jessie became the first USPG missionary in Britain in 1987 through the ‘come over and help us’ programme, worked in USPG as a desk officer for Asia. At that time, the windows were in the USPG offices at Partnership House in Waterloo.
The four windows were originally commissioned and produced in 1951 to mark the 250th anniversary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) as it was then.
USPG’s General Secretary, the Revd Duncan Dormor, has said, ‘They represent where we’ve come from, who we are, and for me they speak to the nature of the Anglican Communion today.’