October 29 – James Hannington and his Companions, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, Martyrs, 1885

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration

James Hannington was born at Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, September 3, 1847, and was educated at Temple School, Brighton. For six years, he assisted his father in the warehouse business. The family became members of the Church of England in 1867, and the following year Hannington entered St. Mary Hall, Oxford, where he obtained his B.A. and M.A. degrees.

Following his ordination at Exeter, Hannington served as a curate in his native town until, in 1882, he offered himself to the Church Missionary Society for its mission in Victoria, Nyanza, Africa. Serious illness soon required his return to England, but he went out again to Africa in 1884 as Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa.

Lake Victoria (http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/news/lib/202)

Hannington’s mission field was the shores of Lake Victoria. On a difficult venture towards Uganda, he and his party were apprehended by emissaries of King Mwanga, who feared this foreign penetration into his territory. After a week of cruel privations and suffering, he and the remaining members of his company were martyred on October 29, 1885.

Hannington’s last words were: “Go, tell Mwanga I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.” Other martyrs of Uganda shared his fate before the Gospel was firmly planted in this heartland of Africa, where today the Church has a vigorous life under an indigenous ministry.

Lake Victoria (http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/news/lib/202)


I  Precious in thy sight, O Lord, is the death of thy saints, whose faithful witness, by thy providence, has its great reward: We give thee thanks for thy martyrs James Hannington and his companions, who purchased with their blood a road into Uganda for the proclamation of the Gospel; and we pray that with them we also may obtain the crown of righteousness which is laid up for all who love the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  Precious in your sight, O Lord, is the death of your saints, whose faithful witness, by your providence, has its great reward: We give you thanks for your martyrs James Hannington and his companions, who purchased with their blood a road into Uganda for the proclamation of the Gospel; and we pray that with them we also may obtain the crown of righteousness which is laid up for all who love the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm 124

Lessons:  Job 23:10–17, 1 Peter 3:14–18,22, and Matthew 10:16–22

Preface of Holy Week

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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13 thoughts on “October 29 – James Hannington and his Companions, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, Martyrs, 1885

  1. The date is October 29. I appreciate Holy Women, Holy Men and this blog is an excellent way to collect the feedback you are seeking. Is there a reason why you are skipping some commemorations?

    I moderate Unapologetically Episcopalian and will provide our 13,000+ friends with a link to this site as often as possible.


    • We’re not listing the major commemorations (those listed in the Prayer Book). They are not up for reconsideration or change. This blog is for discussion of those commemorations specific to Holy Women, Holy Men. I had mistakenly posted a couple of these major commemorations earlier in the month. Sorry for the confusion. Thanks for your interest.

      • Only the collect and readings are part of the Prayer Book. If the biogs for these commemorations are going to be included in future editions of HWHM, posting them here for comment would still serve a useful purpose.

      • I agree with Philip. The bios are going to be listed in the HWHM.. This is an occasion for comment on all of the bios. Cannot the SCLM list the bios for the Red Letter days of the BCP 79, too?

      • For the scope of this work, we’re invited to comment only on the lesser feasts and fasts. Holy Women, Holy Men is a full revision of the lesser feasts and fasts only. Though most of the red letter days are included for convenience, they are technically not a part of the text that must be approved by General Convention as they are already part of the Prayer Book calendar. Coincidentally, none of the biographies, of major or minor varieties, are technically part of the official calendar revisions and do not carry the same authority as the propers.

  2. New Hebrew reading: Considering the comments over the last several months regarding new readings from the Book of Job, this reading from Job should ‘pass the test,’ as it is Job speaking. 🙂

  3. October 30 – James Hannington and his Companions, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, Martyrs, 1885

    The commemoration, on the whole, is excellent. I’m somewhat ambivalent with the Psalm 124 choice. The penultimate verse particularly (along with most of the other verses) doesn’t seem apropos of the martyrdom situation (“We have escaped … we have escaped”), while the final verse fits well (“Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.”) Psalm 62, as one example, would seem a better choice: “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.” Nevertheless, the write-up, the collect, the epistle and gospel selections are all helpful. I especially like it that anyone can pray, and MEAN, the words of the collect without ingenuously asking to duplicate in the circumstances of their Christian life and service precisely what James Hannington did in the circumstances of his Christian life and service.

    The OT lesson is tolerable, I suppose, but it ends with verses I find odd and less than inspiring for this context: “16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; 17 If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!” No doubt Hannington understood and felt the dire seriousness of his situation, but I doubt he should be described (accurately) as faint of heart!

  4. I know that this is not a new commemoration and the biography has been written for a while. Even so, the biography of Bishop Hannington is disjointed and confusing.

    The first paragraph does not make sense. What does the family of James Hannington joining the Church of England have to do with Bishop Hannington’s return to school? There would seem to be more to the story. Why not highlight the reason(s) for the decision(s)? If Hannington worked in his father’s business, it would seem he dropped out of school. This needs some explanation.

    In the second paragraph, the statement that the Rt. Rev. Hannington “offered himself to the Church Missionary Society” is awkward. “Offered himself” carries a connotation of self-sacrifice which it did not necessarily have in the 19th century. [The term is used in his Wikipedia biography.] I doubt that the Rt. Rev. Harrington knew he would be martyred when he joined the Church Missionary Society. Or did the Rt. Rev. Harrington know that he was going on a high risk assignment and there was a strong likelihood that he would be murdered? If the latter point in true, then there needs to be some further explanation.

    Also in the second paragraph, terms such as “serious illness” are annoying. I supposed that the biographies cannot be too graphic but it would be much clearer if a more specific description were given. It does seem as through his illness remitted once he returned to England.

    In the third paragraph, what does the phrase, “on a difficult venture towards Uganda”, mean? Was the Bishop going by a new or different route? This is certainly implied by the “last words” of the Bishop. Some explanation would be helpful. Did King Mwanga have a legitimate reason to fear white Englishmen arriving in his kingdom? Remember this was a period of empire building by Great Britain and other European powers. The assumption that the advent of white men in equitorial Africa to enlighted a benighted dark continent is no longer sustainable.

    Who were Bishop Hannington’s companions? Who else was killed and why were they killed?

    In summary, a fuller, more precise biography would really be helpful for those of us who do not know anything, or only know very little, about most of the people commemorated. Thank you!

  5. I agree with Suzanne. Does Temple School, Brighton, have associations for English people? It hasn’t any for me [unlike, say, Eton or Harrow]. At this time, I think, you had to be a member of the C of E to enter Oxford or Cambridge. The wording makes it sound like a conversion of convenience. What were he and his family before? This really needs clarification, as do the questions Suzanne raises.

  6. The date on this blog, October 30, should have been October 29.
    James Hannington and his Companions is on October 29.

  7. Inadvertently this comment appeared with John Wyclif, it belongs here:
    Line 5 of the first paragraph: after “Oxford,” insert “(now part of Oriel College)”.


    Line 3 of the third paragraph: after “of”, substitute “Mwanga ll, the Kabaka (ruler) of Buganda” for “King Mwanga”.

    I suggest adding another sentence to line 6 of the third paragraph: “Mwanga was eventually exiled to the Seychelles in 1899, where he was received into the Anglican Church and baptized; he died there in 1903.”

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