The Accra Circuit of The Methodist Church Ghana grew up as a result of the zeal and commitment of a small group of about twenty people who met in regular worship and fellowship to study the Christian faith at James Town, British Accra. The group was started by two mulatto traders from Accra; Peter Mayer and a friend, who had earlier come into contact with William de Graft, a Methodist Local Preacher, at Winneba and experienced the power of the Holy Spirit to convert.
Delegates from this group attended the first Missionary Meeting in Cape Coast organised by the Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman, a Missionary to Ghana from the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society in London. The group extended an invitation from King Ahumah Solomon, Chief of Ngleshie Alata, James Town, British Accra, to Rev. Freeman requesting him to visit Accra and establish a Mission and a School there.
This invitation culminated in Father Freeman, as he was affectionately called, planting the Methodist Church in Accra on 1st November 1838 by dividing the fellowship group into three Bible Classes and appointing three enthusiastic young men in the group, namely, John Ahumah Solomon, John Plange and Frederick France, as Leaders of the Bible Classes. Rev. Freeman then started a School on the following day, thus establishing the nucleus of the Accra Circuit and the Accra District/Diocese.
Rev. Freeman then went back to Cape Coast leaving the newborn Church in the hands of John Martin, his assistant, supported by the three Bible Class Leaders who later became Reverend Ministers in the Methodist Church with Rev John Ahumah Solomon progressing to become the first African Superintendent Minister in the Circuit in 1861. Through the work of the Holy Spirit the Church in Accra grew rapidly becoming a Circuit in 1841 under Rev. Robert Brooking, the first Superintendent Minister, and spreading its branches all over the Eastern Half of Ghana and the Volta Region.
Training of Church Workers
In compliance with the objective of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society in London, to spread Scriptural Holiness throughout the land by the proclamation of the Evangelical Faith which gives Light to People that sit in darkness under the shadow of death, people in ignorance and disease, the Missionaries in the Gold Coast started establishing institutions and structures that could aid their work.
In 1842 Rev Annesley Shipman, Superintendent Minister of the Accra Circuit, opened an Institution for Training of Native Agents in Accra in accordance with the Methodist Mission’s plans. It was a Seminary for Training of Teachers, Catechists and Interpreters, the human resource needed at the time to aid the missionary work. Students were from areas under the Methodist influence in the Country. However, the untimely death (after twelve months stay) of Rev. Shipman, the first Principal of the Institute, led to relocation of the Institute to Cape Coast.
A School-Chapel and a Mission House complex was also built at James Town in 1843 to assist the missionary work. A Girls’ School was started in 1844 by separating the girls from the boys in the Methodist School.
The evangelical thrust of the growing church was spearheaded by the evangelical groups in the Church, namely TOOKU, the Seventy Band, the Evangelical Band, the Visiting Band and the Sunday Schools. Today TOOKU that was reputed to have planted Methodist Churches in the Dangme and Volta areas is no more in the Accra Circuit and has become interdenominational helping people to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ and be able to function effectively in their respective church denominations. The Evangelical Band, the Visiting Band and the Sunday Schools are all extinct. The Seventy Band is now a shadow of itself. However a new group of Prayer Intercessors (Warriors) is now emerging.
The Bible Class Meeting
The Bible Class Meeting in the Accra Circuit follows the main structure of the Methodist tradition as designed by the Rev. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and as set out by the Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman founder of the Accra Circuit, It was the medium by which the Church moulds the spiritual life of its members through participation in the study of the Word of God, individual and corporate prayer and fellowship with other members, in addition to ensuring the welfare of members.
The Class Meetings were vibrant. Attendance was good and could go higher than fifty at a Class Meeting (over four times above the number recommended for a Bible Class Meeting by the Rev. John Wesley). Members were regular, punctual and enthusiastic. It was evident that the spiritual regeneration effected in the membership of the Accra Circuit and in the community at large since the period following the emergence of TOOKU in 1903 was the result of spiritual influence (the Holy Spirit) quietly awakening the hearts and minds of men and women in the Circuit.
The Bible Class Leaders, most of them TOOKU members, were dedicated in their calling. The Holy Spirit’s influence was obvious in their work. As good shepherds, they were in close contact with their members, visiting them at home occasionally and even assisting in solving some of their personal and family problems through counselling and prayer. That was possible because almost all the members reside in the same community. They encouraged the members to demonstrate the teachings of the Word of God in their daily living. The Leaders sought after the children in the community and encouraged them to go to Sunday School and attend Church service on Sundays. They sometimes went to the extent of bathing and clothing the children before leading them to the Sunday School, not forgetting to give the children, when necessary, some incentives (usually roasted maize and groundnuts).
The Bible Class Leaders were highly respected in their communities and often relied upon for advice in family matters and customs. Their presence at customary marriages and other family gatherings was a must, to pray and give spiritual touch to the ceremony. This recognition by the community made the Leaders useful channels through which people frequently accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and joined the Church.
Now the spiritual life of the Church is no longer the same. The Bible Class Meeting has lost its liveliness. Deterioration has set in; enthusiasm waned and attendance declined drastically that Bible Classes are teaming up in order to have enough number of people for Bible discussions. Also the once effective dawn prayer meetings are now poorly attended and have become a matter of routine. The evening worship on Sundays and Wednesdays have ceased.
Meanwhile, to make the Church more manageable the Gold Coast District Synod in 1905 divided the Accra Circuit into two halves; comprising Accra and Aburi Circuit on the one hand and New Juaben and Volta Mission on the other. Accra was then listed as Class “A” Circuit, that is, self- supporting which status in the Methodist Connexion it has maintained to the present day. By the mid nineteen-twenties, Accra Circuit was reduced in size and eventually limited to Accra City and the surrounding towns and villages.
Subsequently, Adabraka Society (renamed Rev. Ernest Bruce Memorial) attained Circuit status in 1954 separating from the Accra Circuit. She was followed by the Fante Society (renamed Calvary Society) to become the Accra North Circuit in 1973. Korle Gonno Society (renamed Mt. Zion) and Abossey Okai Society (renamed St. Luke) jointly attained circuit status as Korle Gonno Circuit in 1975 before separating in 1991 when Abossey Okai was made a Circuit. Tema Society (now in the Tema Diocese) attained Circuit status in 1977. Kaneshie Society (renamed Rev. Joseph Thomas Clegg Memorial) attained Circuit status in 1978. Freeman Society in 1978 as Accra South Circuit and Ada also became a Circuit in 1978. Peki had circuit status in 1983 and finally Madina in 1996.
Accra Circuit has also nurtured Districts/Dioceses like Koforidua – 1978/79, Tema, then including Somanya – 1996/97 and the Volta Mission.
Today Accra Circuit is made up of only two Societies, Wesley, the Mother Society, in Accra and Rev. Peter Kwei Dagadu Memorial Society at Osu, plus a Preaching Post at Kuku Hill, Osu and a Mission Station at Akpoman near Abokobi in the Ga Mission. The total Christian community of the Accra Circuit stands at Three thousand three hundred and eighty-one (3,381) served by a Superintendent Minister, three (3) Circuit Ministers, one hundred and sixty-five (165) Bible Class Leaders, fifty-seven (57) Full Local Preachers and several Church Stewards.
All the Church Organizations in The Methodist Church Ghana are present in the Accra Circuit and actively functioning. These are the Women’s Fellowship, Christ’s Little Band, the Guild, Susanna Wesley Mission Auxiliary, the Youth Fellowship, the Men’s Fellowship, the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades, the Girls’ Fellowship, Singing Band and the Praise Team. The Circuit also has a thriving Children’s Service ensuring its future. The Lay Movement and the Women’s Division are also present and functioning.
Places of Worship
In 1916 the Accra Circuit started preparations for construction of a new and larger Chapel near the Old Wesley Cemetery on Horse Road (now Asafoiatse Nettey Street) to take care of the increase in church attendance. The Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg laid the foundation stone for the new Accra Wesley Chapel in 1922. This historic new Wesley Chapel, designed by Mr. W. F. Hedges, constructed with hewed local stones and roofed with timbers from Canada, was completed and dedicated to the glory of God on 30th and 31st January 1960. The Chapel was then graced with a Two Action Pneumatic Pipe Organ replacing the old Pipe organ which was donated by a philanthropist named Mr. J Addo Vanderpuye in 1965. This old Pipe Organ served the Church for 25 years in the Old Wesley Chapel and 26 years in the uncompleted new Wesley Chapel; a total of 51 years. However the Two Action Pneumatic Pipe Organ is currently silent in need of repairs after only 37 years service.
In the meantime, the new Wesley Chapel became a Cathedral when the Methodist Church Ghana adopted the Biblical pattern of Episcopacy on 23rd January 2000 and the seat of both the Presiding Bishop of The Methodist Church Ghana and the Bishop of the Accra Diocese of The Methodist Church Ghana.
Accra Wesley Cathedral is the third Wesley Chapel to be constructed since the Church was established in Accra. The two earlier Wesley Chapels built at James Town in 1843 and 1867 respectively were successively destroyed by the earthquakes of 1862 and 1939 respectively. However dedication of the second Chapel, popularly known as Old Wesley Chapel, opened the way for the first Methodist District Synod to be held in Accra in January 1871 when Mr. Frank C. Orgle, the first Circuit Steward in Accra attended the Synod as the first Lay Representative from Accra.
Two other Chapels built during the missionary period in the Accra Circuit survived the earthquake of 1939 and still exist. These are Wharton Memorial Chapel, behind the Bank of Ghana, dedicated to the glory of God in 1874 and Freeman Memorial Chapel at Bucom, built and donated to the Freeman Memorial Sunday School in 1902 by Mr. William E. Quartey=Papafio, General Superintendent of Sunday Schools. Today, both Chapels are in the Accra South Circuit due to their geographical location.
In recent times the Wesley Society has put up a magnificent Church Hall building on the site of the desecrated Old Wesley Cemetery adjacent to the Cathedral to serve both the Church and the community. A statuette of the Rev Thomas Birch Freeman adorns the front of the Hall named after him. The statuette was unveiled to the glory of God on 16th August 2009 by the Rt. Rev. Abraham Ayi Tagoe, Bishop of the Accra Diocese of The Methodist Church Ghana, to commemorate the 170th Anniversary of the founding of the Methodist Church in Accra; and the Hall was dedicated to the glory of God on 23rd September 2012 by the Most Rev. Prof. Emanuel K. Asante, succeeding Presiding Bishop of The Methodist Church Ghana.
GA Hymn Book
Publication of the complete Methodist Hymn Book and Offices in the Ga language in 1967 was a great achievement by the Accra Circuit. This enabled the Ga congregations to sing meaningfully enriching the worship. The translation from the English into Ga was made by the Rev. Ernest Bruce and a committee of the Leaders Meeting led by Bro. James D. Sannie facilitated the publishing.
Since inception a total of Forty-two (42) Superintendent Ministers have served in the Accra Circuit, beginning with the Rev. Robert Brooking in 1841. The current Superintendent Minister is the Very Rev. Dr. Nana Kwesi Bart-Plange. The Circuit has also turned out numerous Ministers, Superintendent Ministers, a President/Presiding Bishop. A host of lay Church Workers who have served the Church at Conference and Synod levels, on the General Purposes Committee and in other key areas of the Methodist Connexion. Two Lay members, Joseph Benedict Odunton and Dr. Augustus Amatey Armar have also served as Lay Presidents of the Methodist Conference in 1983-1985 and 1991-1993 respectively.
In educational matters the school that was opened in Accra by the Rev Thomas Birch Freeman on 2nd November, 1838 has survived. The Methodist Primary School near Wesley Cathedral, the Methodist Girls School at Kaneshie and the Methodist Boys School behind the Korle Lagoon are memorials of the school, which has produced many prominent citizens in the economy of Ghana. Since its inception numerous educational institutions like Kindergarten, Primary, Middle and Secondary Schools have been opened by both the Accra Circuit and the Circuits and Districts/Dioceses that came out of the Accra Circuit. Some of these educational institutions are among the best in the Country.
In 1884 the Methodist Church planted the seeds of a high school in Accra at the same time that the Church raised the status of the Cape Coast Girls’ School from that of a Primary School to a high school to become the Wesley Girls High School, Cape Coast. Unfortunately parents began to withdraw their wards from the Wesley Girls’ High School in Accra because of financial constraints caused by the harsh economic problems of the day. This made the Methodist Synod to authorise closure of the Boarding department of the School and turned the Day Department into a Primary School in 1932. The Cape Coast high school survived because of the benevolence of some philanthropists.
The Accra Circuit, not satisfied with the closure of the Wesley Girls’ High School in Accra and mindful of the fact that there was no Methodist Secondary Educational Institution in Accra, forced its way against a formidable opposition in the Church to establish a new secondary school named Wesley Boys High School on 1st March 1956. It was a significant achievement made by the Accra Circuit supported by the newly created Adabraka Circuit. The synod then appointed the Rev. Lawrence Hardy Shewland Osae-Addo as Headmaster to nurture the school which was later renamed Wesley Grammar School and girls were admitted.
Death of Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman
Finally, the mortal remains of the Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman, Patriarch of the Methodist Mission in the Gold Coast, Yeruba and Popo District and founder of the Methodist Church in Accra, who later served as a Superintendent Minister in the Accra Circuit from 1881 to 1885, was laid to rest in the Old Wesley Cemetery adjoining the Wesley Cathedral, Accra.
Born at Twyford, England 1809
Arrived in the Gold Coast AD 1838
Died in Accra 12th August, 1890
Aged 81 years
He being dead yet speaketh (Heb. 11 v 4)