Christianity – The early years Christianity was first implanted on Ghanaian soil (then Gold Coast) in 1503 when the Portuguese baptised the King of Fetu in the Cape Coast hinterland. This effort was however not sustained and by 1576, the proselytising mission had collapsed completely. Subsequent efforts in the 17th and 18th centuries by the French Capuchins (at Axim and Komenda), the Moravian Mission (at Accra and Elmina) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel achieved insignificant results and by the end of the 18th century, Christianity had made hardly any impact on Ghana. In the early decades of the 19th Century, several European Missionary Societies arrived in Ghana to resume proselytising activities. Leading the field was the Basel Missionary Society whose missionaries first landed at Osu (Christiansborg) in 1828.
The Basel Mission The Basel Mission was founded in 1815 in Basel, Switzerland, but many of the early missionaries who came to the then Gold Coast originated from the southern German district of Wurtemberg. Many of them were “Pietists”, a religious movement which had a profound effect at the time on German theology. The basic tenet of Pietism was the need to revitalise the Christian church from within by deepening and making more personal the religious life of the Christian community. It aimed at expressing their Christian convictions through positive deeds and exemplary life-styles including spreading the Gospel to other continents in response to the “call of God”. To the Pietists, therefore, the promotion of education, agriculture, village industries and perhaps a little trade were essential components of the Christian mission to spread the gospel.
The arrival of the Basel Missionaries at Christiansborg At the time of the arrival of the Basel Missionaries in 1828, there were several British, Danish and Dutch settlements interspersed along the shores of the then Gold Coast Colony. These settlements were essentially fortified trading posts from which the respective governors exercised some indirect control over limited tracts of land around the forts.
The fort at Christiansborg was then occupied by the Danes. Under the then prevailing Danish law, each colonial employee was allowed to co-habit with one native woman and this led to a steadily growing mullato population. It was largely to cater for the spiritual and educational needs of this group and the colonial employees that the Danish Government invited the Basel Missionaries to settle at Christiansborg.
The First Basel Missionaries In response to the Danish Government’s invitation, the first four Basel missionaries who arrived in 1828 were the three Germans; Karl Salbach, Gottlieb Holzwarth and Johannes Henke; and the fourth, Johannes Schmidt was of Swiss nationality. Unfortunately, three of them died within only a few months of arrival whilst the fourth one, Henke also died later in 1831.
A new team made up of Andreas Riis, Peter Jager and Christian Hernze arrived in 1832 to resume missionary work. So deeply entrenched was the traditional religious system that the Basel Missionaries had an extremely difficult time trying to convert the local Osu people and between 1828 and 1850 only fourteen adults were baptised.
Two of the three missionaries who arrived in 1832 also succumbed to the unhospitable climatic conditions shortly after their arrival. The early demise of his colleagues prompted the only survivor, Andreas Riss to relocate in 1835 to Akropong where the weather was much healthier. The settling of Rev. Andreas Riis at Akropong marked the beginning of serious Basel Missionary work in Ghana, and Akropong eventually became the nerve centre of Basel missionary activity in Ghana.
The Osu Mission – Beginning at Amanfong Rev. Riis’ relocation to Akropong did not stop missionary work at Osu completely and the Osu Church was founded later in 1847 and other congregation groups subsequently sprang up at La and Teshie from the Osu mission.
The Osu town especially the Christian community was then situated very closely to the walls of the Christiansborg castle. Consequently the first chapel which the missionaries built was virtually in the middle of the community within easy reach of worshippers. As the township grew, the population began to spread northward from the coastal part to the hinterland. In 1850, Denmark ceded its possessions in the Gold Coast including the Osu fort to Britain. One of the new measures instituted by the British was to impose a poll tax on the native population in 1852. When the people refused to pay the tax, the British brought in their warship, “H.M. Scourge” in 1854 to bombard Osu, La and Teshie reducing many areas to rubble. The Basel Mission station at Osu was also severely damaged. The destruction caused by the bombardment as well as fear of a future repetition of the punishment caused the trickling dispersal of the population to swell into a flood as people abandoned or removed their huts from the higher ground near the sea and headed northwards to settle on the plains at the foot of the Akuapem ridge.
The missionaries and some of the Christians numbering about 30 left and founded the Abokobi Mission on land previously bought by Riis. Johannes Zimmerman, the head of the Abokobi mission station had a vision of not only creating there a model Christian farming community but also the settlement there of German Christian farmers and craftsmen to demonstrate to the heathen community the totality of Christian living. Within two years, Abokobi had developed into a model Christian station from where the Osu station was rebuilt in 1856.
The early missionaries also recognised the potential of the “school” as a nursery for Christian converts and by 1844, the Basel Mission was running a school at Akropong in addition to the one at Osu which was established in 1843.
Decision to build a new chapel When the Christian community started slowly resettling in Osu after 1856 from Abokobi and other areas, a number of considerations started turning the thoughts of the young Osu congregation towards the idea of putting up a new chapel.
Already, the old Chapel was proving to be too small, particularly, on special occasions such as Anniversary Celebrations. Moreover, with the old site so close to the sea, the thunderous noise of the sea waves pounding upon the beach was such that sometimes the voice of the preacher could hardly be heard during services. Furthermore, as the town grew and spread, the Castle area ceased to be the centre of town-life activity; and for those who did not know Osu well, especially strangers and visitors from outside, the Chapel became difficult to find. Then in 1862, came an earthquake which destroyed part of the Danish Fort. In the course of reconstruction, a great part of the Fort was, in 1876, renovated for use as the Residence of the Danish Governor and as the headquarters of the Government. Subsequently, Government in the course of time bought out the remaining huts near the Castle belonging to the local people and converted the whole area to be used for a garden.
As a result of all this, by the end of the century, the vast majority of the Osu congregation had moved northwards, away from the old Chapel at Amanfong.
Meanwhile, the roof of the Chapel had begun to give way to decay; and it was not easy to decide what type of material to use for a new roof. It was also found that none of the roofing materials then available would be able to withstand the corrosive effects of the sea breeze; so that even if something could be done to repair the old roof, it would amount to spending a lot of money for nothing.
The need for a completely new Chapel became difficult to resist. It was accordingly decided to look for a new site which would be within easy reach of the people, while at the same time avoiding the disadvantages of being too close to the sea.
Choice of a New Site Following the resolve to move, serious preparations towards the building of a new Church were set in motion from around 1898. The Congregation at first acquired a plot of land in the centre of the town and wanted the new Church to be built there. But the Basel Missionaries objected to the proposed site for several reasons.
For one thing, the space was too restricted. For another, to overcome this limitation, the surrounding houses would have to be bought out and demolished. This would be very expensive. It was also feared that the noise from the drumming and other traditional activities of the heathen community in the area would prove a nuisance that could greatly disturb Divine Services.
Instead, the Missionaries preferred a site on the Mission grounds at Salem where the desired conditions of space, minimal initial cost and quiet surroundings would be met. Even though some people objected that Salem (at that time) was too far away from the population, it was countered that Osu Town was, in any case, already shifting and expanding northwards in the direction of the mission area, so that, with the passage of time, this disadvantage would be cancelled out. This argument lent great support to the views of the Missionaries; and it was agreed to accept their recommendation to erect the new Chapel at Salem where it stands today.
Fund-Raising for the New Chapel With the issue of the new site finally settled, the next question was where the money for building the new Chapel would come from. Detailed records of the fund-raising effort are not readily available. But it is known that between 1898 and 1901, various sums were raised as follows. Approximately 1,800 German marks (DM) were collected in course of time through general contributions. The Basel Mission Committee permitted the release of DM 2,500 reserved in the Poor Fund, to be spent on the building since there were actually very few real paupers in the congregation. An additional amount of DM 6,000 was contributed by the Europeans associated with the church (mostly those resident at Amanfong) and the African members; DM.2,600 collected by the Europeans, and DM.4,000 by the Africans. A number of African Civil Servants reportedly pledged to contribute a total of about DM.200 each month; but, apparently, payment was not very regular and soon petered off completely.
Ordinarily, the Committee in Basel did not remit monies for construction works overseas. But in the case of the new Chapel at Osu, the Committee was so impressed by reports of the enthusiastic efforts of the African members themselves that it decided to make an exception to the rule and gave DM2,000, a gesture which was much appreciated and applauded by the Osu Congregation.
It would appear that the collection of money by the local membership went on for some time beyond the completion of the actual construction works. We gather this from the Report of the Dedication of the new church by the late Rev. Michael Seeger, in October 1902. After making an appeal to friends in Basel for the donation of certain items of equipment and adornment for the new Church, he explained: “We are soliciting these from friends and well-wishers in our (home) country because our own members are now saddled with such a heavy debt due to the cost of the building that they will not be able to provide the money for them at the present time”.
Construction of the New Chapel – Osu Eben-Ezer The Committee in Basel next commissioned Mr. Karl Epting, a missionary Architect from Basel already serving in the Gold Coast, to prepare the necessary drawings; and, in 1902, assigned him the task of building the church.
Exactly when excavations and actual construction work began is not readily known to us. But the indications are that, once commenced, the building of the new Chapel progressed with amazing speed.
It is on record that the Foundation Stone was laid on Saturday, 1st March, 1902. Despite the fact that the architect occasionally had to be away at Kumasi, where he was at the same time also supervising renovation works at the Basel Mission House, the building of the Chapel went on at a remarkably fast pace. This was due to the dedication and skill of the artisans, craftsmen and other workers, all from Osu, many of whom had offered their services free, as a labour of love.
By the end of July 1902, the massive structure had reached a height of 25 feet. Soon the walls were fully completed; and the wooden super-structure which would support the roofing tiles was also put firmly in position.
The framework of the tower, which was to reach a height of 85 feet, with a cross at the pinnacle, was similarly completed within a short time.
A gallery was constructed below the tower, with a seating capacity of 200 persons. It is interesting to note that, at the time, this gallery was considered unnecessary for regular use on ordinary Sundays! Nevertheless, it was also anticipated that in future years, when more accommodation would be required, the gallery could be extended along the northern and southern walls of the chapel.
The filling in of the floor with stones and soil did not proceed as fast as had been expected. This was because, quite apart from the vastness of the floor area, the depth to be filled was about 18 inches. Moreover, virtually all of the soil had to be head-loaded by women and children using small pans.As the window and door frames had already been made, it did not take long for the rest of the work to take final shape.
Not surprisingly, considering the size and height of the building, the construction of the roof (using some 11,000 tiles brought in from Accra) and the erection of the tower proved to be the most hazardous operation of all. But as it turned out, these were completed without any incident.
Looking back today, it is amazing, to say the least, that the building of this imposing Chapel was finished in such record time without any mishap at all. Such rare good fortune must be attributed solely to the abundant Grace of God.
Indeed, the history of Osu Eben-Ezer Church goes back to the very first chapel built for the congregation at Amanfong by the early missionaries. This direct link between the two historic chapels derives from the fact that when it became necessary to erect a new Chapel (this time by the local congregation itself), the old chapel at Amanfong was carefully dismantled and its stones lovingly carried to the new Site. The old stones were used to start the new chapel. Symbolically, therefore, the old chapel at Amanfong actually “gave up its life” to make it possible for Osu Eben-Ezer to come into being.
In his goodwill message to Osu in 1952, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Osu Eben-Ezer Chapel, the Architect and Builder, Mr. Karl Epting, then an old man in Basel, recalled:
“I look back with joy upon (the) ten years during which I was privileged to work in the Gold Coast. It was in 1902 that the task of building the Church at Christiansborg was entrusted to me and many willing helpers. I seem to see before my very eyes today all the carpenters, masons and carriers hard at work. Without them, I would not have been able to do the job. I send to all who remember me my hearty greetings”.
Furniture and Equipment So encouraging was the pace of work on the construction of the Chapel that well before the building operations were actually completed, 19th October, 1902 had already been fixed for the opening and dedication.
Accordingly, with this target date in view, plans were set afoot for the provision of pews and other furniture.
The old pews from the old Chapel at Amanfong were brought down to the new Chapel; but a set of new ones had to be made in addition to fill the remaining space.
The Pulpit, Altar and Baptismal Font were all gifts donated by members and friends. The Pulpit was donated by the late Mr. Robert Richter Bannerman, the youngest Presbyter at the time, and an expert carpenter. It was a piece of work made by himself. On the front of the Pulpit, on ebony wood, was inscribed the following words from Psalm 119, verse 105: “Thy word is a Lamp unto my feet”. Above the inscription was a Cross, engraved and painted black.
The Altar was also made by Mr. R.R. Bannerman with a few finishing touches by Mr. Epting to match the Pulpit. It was ordered, paid for and donated by the late Revd. Carl Christian Reindorf, who had then just retired from active service.
The Baptismal Font, made of mahogany was presented by the Basel Missionary Rev. Widmaer. For evening services, Mr. Jonah Reindort, son of retired Rev. C.C. Reindorf, presented four hanging lights, each bearing five separate lamps, chandelier fashion. Baptismal and Communion vessels were brought from Amanfong; and new cloths for covering the Altar, Pulpit and Baptismal Font were donated by friends and well-wishers.
The stage was now set for the opening and dedication of the new Chapel on schedule.
Final Preparations Friday, 17th October 1902: On this day, finishing touches were feverishly put on the building. In particular, a Cement Tablet was fixed in the space above the main Entrance of the Church, bearing the inscription: EBEN-EZER 1902 1 Sam 7: 12 This tablet has remained in position to this day.
Saturday, 18th October 1902: At 6 p.m., the Church bells (the belfry was then inside the tower) were joyously rung for the first time, as a signal to the whole of Osu that the following day would be a special Festival. All who heard the long pealing of the Church Bells felt elated, their hearts uplifted and attuned in thanksgiving to the Lord.
Earlier in the week, people from the Mission Stations in the Ga-Dangbe District and beyond had started arriving at Osu for the great occasion. By Saturday night, the whole town was agog with the numerous expectant guests who had assembled in readiness for the dedication function on Sunday.
Sunday, 19th October 1902: Before dawn on this historic Sunday, the boys of Salem Middle School, with their trumpets, played and sang hymns in a rousing procession through the town to prepare the hearts of the people for worship. At the head of the procession was Missionary Schultze.
Farewell to Amanfong By 9.00 a.m., a large crowd of people had assembled at the site of the Old Chapel at Amanfong, now in ruins.
A short Farewell Service was held in the open. The service opened with a hymn, followed by a prayer of Thanksgiving to God led by the late Revd. Samuel Wuta Ofei, in which he thanked God for the many blessings which he had lavished on His people through the old church; and sought His guidance and continued blessing on the new church. The Service closed with a hymn, followed by the Lord’s Prayer, said by the whole gathering.
The service over, the huge crowd formed up and began to move northwards in jubilant procession. At the head of the procession were the Basel Missionaries in their ministerial robes. Then came the African Pastors, also in their robes, the first three holding in their hands a Holy Bible and the Holy Vessels for Baptism and Communion. Next after the Pastors came the Presbyters, followed by the boys of the Salem Middle Boarding School, with their trumpets blaring. Then came the children in the Primary School and the Christian women and men, both from Osu and the various Mission Stations. Finally, not to be left out of history in the making, the heathen community came massively and joined the procession bringing up the rear.
This event had been described as a most impressive and inspiring sight, as the long procession of Christians and heathen slowly wound its way through the town towards the new Chapel at Salem. There were special wardens or marshals to keep the procession moving in an orderly manner; and all the while, the children were lustily rendering songs befitting the occasion.
Opening of the New Chapel When the procession arrived at the new site, they were welcomed with the ringing of the Church bells. Mr. Karl Epting, the Architect and Builder, stood beaming with pride and gratitude at the main entrance to welcome them.
The congregation assembled in front of the church and sang the verses of Ga Hymn 215 (Now thank we all our God). After the singing of the hymn, Mr. Epting, in a short address, gave thanks to God for His merciful protection of the workmen from danger throughout the months of work. He then handed over the keys of the Chapel to the most senior Basel Missionary present, the Revd. Michael Seeger.
After the singing of another hymn, Revd. Seeger opened the Main Entrance door in the name of the Trinity. Immediately thereafter, the two side doors were also thrown open.
The great excitement of the massed congregation at this point can well be imagined! There was a terrific push from the huge crowd as the congregation surged forward, everyone wishing to enter the new Chapel at the same time to be sure of a seat.
While all this was going on, Nii Mantse, the Chief of Osu, and his large entourage appeared on the scene, resplendent in their colourful ceremonial attire.
It took quite some time to get the excited congregation to settle down before the Opening Service could begin. Because there had already been the Farewell Service at Amanfong earlier on, the Opening Service was made quite brief. There was no organ at that time; so the officiating leader sang the first few notes of the opening hymn aloud, and the congregation picked it up. Even without an organ, the singing was magnificent and the volume filled the new House of God. After the hymn, there was a prayer soliciting the Lord’s presence and blessing. Psalm 24 was then read; and the boys of the Salem Middle Boarding School, seated upstairs in the gallery, began to render an anthem. As their voices floated down, the Revd. Michael Seeger climbed up into the new Pulpit. He preached an inspiring sermon based on 1 Peter 2:5.
“Like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.
The closing prayer was said from the Altar by the late Revd. Timoteo Mensah; followed by the benediction by Missionary Seeger. The Service then ended with a song by the Accra Church Choir.
A general celebration of Dedication, to which special invitations had been sent out, had been scheduled for 2.30 p.m. and His Excellency, the Acting Governor of the Gold Coast, Capt. L.R.S. Arthur, C.M.G. had promised to attend.
It would appear that some people did not go home at all after the forenoon Opening Service; because well before 2.00 p.m., a large crowd of people had already begun to assemble within the precincts of the Chapel, milling around, awaiting the opening of the closed doors. Shortly before 2.00 p.m., the doors were opened, and almost immediately the Church was filled beyond capacity, crammed with about 1,500 people.
Exactly at the appointed time of 2.30 p.m., H.E. the Acting Governor arrived, accompanied by his Private Secretary; and he was led to a Madeira Chair covered with the British Union Jack set apart for him.
The function began with the singing of Ga hymn 188 – “Wosane dzi wo Nuntso no”, and the late Revd. Jeremias Engmann, a retired pastor, said the opening prayer from the depth of his heart in a voice full of emotion.
H.E. the Acting Governor, having been offered the Chairmanship of the function, took the Chair and gave a short address accepting the assignment. In his opening address, he made a survey of the achievements of the Basel Mission in the Gold Coast over the years and commended them for their selfless and devoted services. He urged the people to show their sincere gratitude to them. He also expressed his personal joy and admiration that the Basel Mission had been able to build such a beautiful and spacious Church within so short a space of time.
A few days before the Dedication Ceremony when the draft programme for the occasion was shown to H.E. the Acting Governor, he had expressed his fears about the length of the programme of 20 items for the function. For this reason, all speakers were given a maximum of 8 minutes each; and a small table clock was provided to ensure that everyone kept within his time limit. Happily, most of the speakers came up to expectation, even though they would have wished for more time.
In all the addresses were expressions of joy and gratitude, as well as words of exhortation, admonition and edification spoken in Ga and English alternately, to enable those who did not speak Ga to say what they had to say on the occasion. The offering came up to DM.520, which was an appreciable amount in those days. In the Vote of thanks at the end, H.E. the Acting Governor was warmly thanked for having chaired the function successfully to the end; to which he replied with a short address. In that short reply, His Excellency said he had come to see for himself the church which was built in record time; and he was glad to have been given the opportunity as the representative of the government to take part in the historic Dedication Celebration.
And so ended the activities of October 19, 1902, the day when, 100 years ago, Ebenezer Chapel was formally “out-doored” in the hope that in the years ahead it would be a great blessing to the whole population; which, indeed, has proved to be the case.
In his report on the Dedication of the new Church, the Revd. Missionary Michael Seeger fittingly concluded as follows:
“We give thanks to God for His great kindness and mercy shown to us in both the erection and the dedication of the Church. May the Lord make this Church a place where His glory will dwell, His name will be glorified, a place from where many will be shown the way to life”
To this prayer we can only say a big “AMEN” for as long as Osu Eben-Ezer Chapel stands, it symbolises a concrete tribute to past achievement and a beacon of hope to future generations.
Later Additions and ImprovementsMagnificent as it may look architecturally, Osu Ebenezer Chapel is more than a mere edifice in stone and wood. It is the embodiment of a truly living Church whose membership, over the years, have sought, like “living stones” to build up a “spiritual house” of flesh, blood, tears and real stones acceptable to God.
For this reason, right from its opening and dedication in 1902, Eben-Ezer Chapel has never ceased to change and grow as a House of worship and devotion. And the most encouraging aspect of the history of the Chapel since its erection by the Basel Missionaries is the fact that all the subsequent improvements have been initiated from within, either through the collective efforts of the entire congregation or through loving and thoughtful acts of spirited individuals or small groups in making gifts of various items of furniture and equipment etc. to the Church.
What now follows is a general listing of some of the major developments and improvements in the 100-year life of the Chapel.
- The Arch
- The Northern Vestry
- The Southern Vestry
- The Pews
- The Church’s Organ
- The Gallery
- Brass Lectern
- Brass Tablet
- Fencing Wall
- Chancel Ceiling
- The Shed
- The Church Hall
- New Pulpit
- Front Pavement
- Soft Furnishing
- Latest Additions
The present chancel or sanctuary is not the original. It is said to be the work of Mr. Kitchener, an Architect of the Basel Mission; and it was erected as an addition sometime between 1911 and 1913.
The arch, separating the chancel from the nave of the Chapel, was originally made of swish and stone. The present form in concrete and cement mortar is the result of renovation undertaken at a later date.
The present vestry on the northern side of the Chapel was constructed in the mid-twenties.
Following an appeal by the District Minister about the need for extra space for pastoral use in the Church, a member of the Osu Eben-Ezer congregation, Mr. Frederick Adumuah gladly provided the funds needed for the construction of the Southern Vestry in cherished memory of his mother, the late Mrs. Jacobina Akweley Adumuah-Dowuona.
The pews in use today are all new. The old pews belonged to various periods. Those from the Church at Amanfong were phased out gradually and replaced over the next two to three decades after the dedication of the Church with light-weight pews. The thick heavy pews which were once arranged along the southern and northern walls of the Church were made in the early forties by the famous Carpenter T.B. Laryea (Ataa Laryea) of Osu; and have stood the test of time. The third set of long pews previously in the centre, between the aisles, were made later by Mr. Emmanuel Nortey Akrong, Manager of Works in charge of the Mission Station at the time. Some of these long pews were procured by the Church itself, but quite a number, possibly most of them, were generously presented by the Osu Children’s Service. All the present and more comfortable pews have very recently been procured through generous donations by members of the Church.
The Church Tower, which had been showing signs of weakening from the effects of the regular use of the Church bells inside it underwent extensive repairs in the forties under the direction of one Mr. Matolli, an Italian Architect. In the interest of safety, it was deemed advisable to dismantle the Church bells from the tower altogether and install them in the present belfry in front of the Chapel, in May 1966.
In the early forties, during the pastorship of late Rev. H.N. Anang, a group of “noble-hearted young men” from the congregation made a gift of an imposing Pipe Organ to the Church, to replace the old harmonium operated by bellows.
The pipe organ donated in 1940 started failing after 25 years and had to be replaced. The present organ was bought and donated to the church around 1967 by a group of members who saw the need and were moved to supply it.
Perhaps the most ambitious improvement in the forties was the re-construction of the old gallery. The wooden pillars were replaced with concrete pillars; the old floor boards were changed, and the gallery was extended on both sides so as to provide additional space for the greatly increased membership, exactly as anticipated in 1902. The most encouraging aspect of this reconstruction, according to the late Rev. E. Max Dodu, then pastor-in-charge, was the “magnificent achievement” of the congregation in contributing more than £1,300 in less than eight months to meet the cost of effecting the changes. The new gallery was dedicated to the Glory of God on 6th June, 1948.
Following the introduction of lay readers (of Scripture lessons) there arose the need for a lectern. The first brass eagle-topped lectern was acquired accordingly in 1963; and it proved itself a useful piece of furniture as well as an additional adornment, until 1992 when the eagle top was stolen by burglars. Immediately, a wooden eagle-top was ordered and generously presented to the Church by Mrs. Letitia Omaboe to fill the distressing gap created by the burglary. The present brass eagle-topped lectern was donated in October 2001 by the family of the late Mr. Lebrecht W. Fifi Hesse, former Senior Presbyter of Osu Eben-Ezer.
The late Mr. T.Q. Dolling, a son of Osu resident at Adabraka, was moved to donate the beautiful brass tablet enfacing the Pulpit. It is a lovely and neat reproduction of the inscription on the Old Pulpit carved on Ebony by R.R. Bannerman in 1902. This generous act of Mr. Dolling turned out to be his fitting memorial, for he passed away barely two years after he had presented it. It is this same brass tablet that adorns the front of the present Pulpit.
For many years the Chapel had no proper fencing around the perimeter of its compound. Only a few flowering shrubs marked portions of the area around it. In course of time, it became desirable to have a proper fencing wall to protect all the space around the church from encroachment, trespassers and other abuse, as well as to beautify the surroundings by providing a lawn for social functions and a car park. However, a firm decision could not be taken immediately because of frustrations due to differences of opinion and bitter criticisms from members of the congregation.
At last, during the time of the late Rev. T.T. Laryea, about 1963, a committee of energetic members led by the late Rev. C.H. Clerk was formed and entrusted with the planning and construction of the wall. Ignoring all the complaints and criticisms from members, the committee went ahead and fulfilled its mandate. The result is the beautiful perimeter wall around the Chapel today, which was the work of Messrs Brun Ltd., Contractors, of Accra
For many years serious cracks were noticed in the walls of the Church. At first these were thought to be delayed after-effects of the earthquake of 1939, or due to the bed of sand of a former stream. To overcome the problem, the foundation of the chapel was excavated in several places and filled with concrete; but to no avail. The cracks continued. It was not until 1969 that Mr. A. Matolli (the Italian Architect who worked on the tower) revealed that the cracks were most probably due to the weight of the roof tiles. The tiles were therefore removed and replaced with the present aluminium roofing sheets. Since then, the walls have been largely free of cracks.
For years, since 1902, the roof within the Chapel was bare and the red tiles could be seen from inside. However, following the re-roofing with aluminium sheets, it was decided to make the interior more presentable by providing a ceiling. This was undertaken in 1970, using panels made of afromedia or sapele wood. The polished surface of the ceiling added dignity and lustre to the whole renovation works.
The Chancel was similarly ceiled and furnished with a triplet electric light to shed radiance over the Altar at night. The walls, which were damaged by the tremor of 1939, were fortified and re-painted with colours harmonising with those of the stained Glass Windows depicting the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
As far back as the early fifties, the Chapel auditorium became inadequate to accommodate the fast increasing membership. In the sixties there was talk of expanding the chapel; but this idea was dropped when structural experts advised against it. Instead, it was decided that the church should go to its members in the localities from where they used to come to worship at Eben-Ezer Chapel. This led to the development of satellite churches in the sixties and seventies as off-shoots of Osu Central, namely Kaajaano, Osu North, Maamobi, Haatso-Papao and more recently Bethlehem in the heart of the fishing community at Aborm.
However, notwithstanding this decentralization, the pressure for additional space still remained. The Shed on the northern side of the Chapel was therefore erected in 1977/78 to seat the overflow of the congregation during Sunday Services. The benches under the Shed were largely donated by some of the Church Groups.
At the same time that the Shed was erected, the idea of a Church Hall as a permanent solution to the problem of space for the Children’s Service, other groups and pastoral activities of the church was mooted. A full account of the Church Hall Project appears separately in Chapter 4 of this Brochure.
The original wooden Pulpit made and presented by Mr. R.R. Bannerman in 1902 became weak after nearly 70 years’ use and needed to be replaced. Anticipating this need, the 1934 class of the Osu Presbyterian Middle Boys’ Boarding School, commonly called “Osu Salem” including Dr. Evans Anfom, late Mr. Joe Ayettey etc. quietly planned to do something about it. The present beautiful Pulpit, made in concrete and faced with polished micro terazzo tiles was, therefore, constructed in situ by the 1934 Classmates Association; and its completion was carefully timed to coincide with the celebration of the 50th Anniversary, or Golden Jubilee, of their leaving School. They formally presented the Pulpit to the church in 1984, on the occasion of their Jubilee and it was unveiled and dedicated by Rev. J.E. Svanikier.
As part of the improvements in the late forties, the pavement surrounding the Chapel was completely over-hauled and rehabilitated. However, it needs to be placed on record that several years later, that section forming the broad platform facing the main entrance of the Chapel was an extension commissioned and paid for as a gift to the Church by the late Madam Lomas-Tay, who also afterwards made some very generous bequests to Osu Eben-Ezer in her Will.
Until fairly recently, the floor of the Chancel was covered with a thick blue carpet matching the blue wall. That carpet and the twenty upholstered seats arranged along the walls of the Chancel, and some long pews were all most generously presented by Mr. Harry Sawyer (Nana Akoto Djan III), entirely at his own cost, during the early seventies.
After some 20 years in use, the blue carpet became the worse for wear and had to be replaced. The present red carpet adorning the floor of the Chancel was purchased and installed in October 1992 at a cost of just over one million cedis contributed quietly by some members, friends and well-wishers of Eben-Ezer Chapel in response to a special direct appeal.
The two orange-coloured arm-chairs flanking the Altar were presented to the Chapel in 1979. One was presented by Mr. Arnold Zurcher, visiting from Basel, Switzerland, in memory of his mother, Mrs. Louis Spahns Zurcher, a missionary of the Basel Mission, who died in the Gold Coast in 1906. The other was presented by the 1954 Classmates of Osu Salem on the occasion of their 25th Anniversary Celebration held on 9th December 1979. The blue upholstered chairs positioned in front of the organ were presented by the late Mrs. Edith Quist Therson of St. Barnabas Church, Osu in memory of her departed husband, Mr. James Quist Therson.
The Altar covers and other covers for the pulpit, baptismal font were all presented during different periods by various members.
Other recent improvements have been the installation of a public address system with speakers strategically suspended from the ceiling to improve audibility in the chapel. The system, acquired at a total cost of about two million cedis (including accessories) raised through special collections by members and donations received from friends and well-wishers has been in use since 1990. The old PA System has however served its purpose well over the years and a new one has just been installed to enhance the quality of singing and for greater audibility in the Church.
The ceiling fans upstairs in the gallery were all presented in 1991 by Mr. Tony Lamptey, a member, as a considerate gesture to help make the youth groups who usually sit upstairs feel more comfortable.
The white cross just recently installed on the corner wall of the main entrance of the Chapel was presented some time ago by Mr. W.I.T. Odoteye, a senior member of the Church. It has for long been his wish that since the damaged cross at the top of the Church Tower could not readily be repaired, there should be a substitute prominently displayed elsewhere as an inspiration to worshippers and passers by alike.
Conclusion Over the years, scores of members have come forward at various times to make presentations or help with the upkeep of the Chapel. Some of these are immediately visible (such as all the new pews, windows and doors, additional vestry just constructed and flower pots around the Chapel): Others are not readily seen or known (such as wafers for Holy Communion for which a member abroad has placed a regular standing order). But the one common element in all these gestures is the depth of feeling and the genuineness of the love we all have for our Chapel.
It is indeed gratifying that as a place of worship, the Osu Eben-Ezer Chapel has never lacked admirers or supporters. On the occasion of the Church’s Centenary Celebration, it is to be hoped that even as we rejoice, the happy occasion will make us all more mindful of the debt of gratitude we owe to the past, and sharpen our awareness of the obligation that devolves upon us to cherish and maintain this grand old chapel for the benefit of the generations of worshippers who will come after us.
Long live Osu Eben-Ezer!
OSU EBEN-EZER: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW The Eben-Ezer Presbyterian Church, Osu proudly traces its roots to the Basel Evangelical Mission enterprise in the early nineteenth century. Though, the beginnings of the mission painted a very grim picture, the fruits however, have overwhelmed everybody. The significance of the Osu mission has gone beyond its borders. Undoubtedly, two of the major landmarks in Osu are the Eben-Ezer Presbyterian Church and the Christiansborg Castle. Indeed, since its early days Eben-Ezer has been a beacon for the entire nation in terms of active evangelism, diligent pastoral work and sound Christian education and training based on the proverbial Presbyterian principles of discipline, hard work and absolute integrity. In that regard,Eben-Ezer has trained many people who have played and continue to play important roles faithfully in building our nation and Church.
The relevance of Eben-Ezer is not confined to the past; it continues to be a formidable force in the society. She still serves as the spiritual bastion for many people, a source of comfort and hope for thousands of people in and out of Osu.
In appreciation to God for the wonderful gift of Eben-Ezer and in cherished memory of the faithful saints who bequeathed this proud heritage to us, we have decided to celebrate the hundredth year anniversary of the Eben-Ezer Chapel. We also want to use the celebration to remind ourselves of what Eben-Ezer stands for and the mission entrusted to her.
In preparation for the celebration we have given the chapel and its precincts and the office area a face-lift. We have also tried to reach out to the poor and the under privileged in the society and to share with them our idea of the goodness of God as we have experienced Him through Eben-Ezer . Similarly, we have considerably increased our modest financial and material support for the aged and infirm within the Church over the past year. We are still determined to raise this support to higher levels in the near future as our finances would permit, by God’s grace.
We want to continue to be relevant and useful to the future generations in spite of technological advancements and the rise of skepticism. The Church is therefore looking ahead with an obstinate resolve to keep the torch lit almost two centuries ago burning. We are determined to keep on setting the pace and blazing the trail for both church and society. In line with this determination, the Church has converted the old Session Hall building into modern offices fitted with state of the art equipment. To inject efficiency into the administration of the Church we have employed relatively younger and qualified staff to run it. We hope this trend will continue.
In order to move the Church in the right direction some of its members were commissioned to draw up a development programme to guide her. They came up with a comprehensive report. Some of the proposals were for short term whilst others were long-term programmes. We have started implementing some of their proposals. In line with their suggestions and in order to achieve our aims, the Church has decided to strengthen and make good use of the committee system by which various subjects and tasks are examined objectively and with dispatch by appropriate committees or Ad-hoc expert committees with recommendations to Session. This, we believe, has enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of Session. In that direction, many more members with divers professional backgrounds have been consciously drafted unto the various committees and have been given greater autonomy to operate. New committees have been added to the existing ones. These new ones are the Business and Investment Committee and the Mentoring Programme.
The idea behind the formation of the Business and Investment Committee is for them to look at some other legitimate means by which funds could be raised through investments to meet the ever-increasing needs of the Church. Among the many programmes they would have to plan for is the conversion of the whole Saint Thomas area into a modern private school complex from kindergarten to Senior Secondary School.
The Mentoring Programme is charged with the responsibility of identifying very poor children as well as those with crisis background to be helped to rise above their predicament and become the full human beings God created them to be. The Church is in the process of recruiting a corps of volunteers to serve as mentors. We shall also do an appraisal of the Eben-Ezer Scholarship programme to make it more responsive to the needs of the congregation.
The manses at Saint Thomas are an apology. They do not befit the status of Eben-Ezer . The idea is to pull them down and reallocate the land to the School Complex. The new proposed site for the manses is the house between the Church Offices and the SIC Club House on the Rev. Richter Street, Osu. It is our hope that before the end of 2003 we shall see signs.
We are planning to make definite social interventions in the community God has placed us in. Financial provision for such programmes shall be made in the Church’s annual budget. We also want to restructure our programmes for the aged and infirm in the Church. We want to take good care of them and again provision would be made for them in the budget.
We have planned to intensify teaching as well as out-reach activities in the Church. We are also evermore committed to probity, transparency, and accountability in all our programmes and operations because we firmly believe that an informed membership and an active Church is the only means by which we shall be able to keep the light lit in the nineteenth century burning even brighter.
Beloved in the Lord, we cannot afford the luxury of basking in the glory of the past. We must necessarily use the past glory as a springboard to help us leap into the future and create the atmosphere that would make the Church ever relevant. Let us hold on to our vision and modify it as we travel into the future so that at no time would anybody be able to say that the Church is “old-fashioned” or “irrelevant”. Let us hold fast unto the great commission! This is the only hope for Eben-Ezer.
REV. VICTOR OKOE ABBEY DISTRICT MINISTER
THE CHURCH HALL PROJECT
A Need Fulfilled
The Osu Eben-Ezer Chapel was built exactly 100 years ago in 1902; and it adequately served the purpose for which it was built for nearly 60 years. However, the growth rate of the Osu congregation, especially from the mid-forties onwards, clearly signalled that the seating capacity of the Chapel could no longer cope with the influx of new members.
To cater for the increasing number of members, the old gallery was extended on both sides in 1946 during the pastorship of the late Very Reverend E. Max Dodu, later a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. But the additional space provided by this extension proved to be a very temporary stop-gap.
The fact was that apart from regular divine services, the Chapel had now become a multi-purpose facility being used for other church activities, such as Children’s Sunday Services, performance of Nativity and other sacred plays, concerts, confirmation lessons, meetings and singing practice by the various church groups, to mention just a few. The pressure for space for the general pastoral activities of the church kept mounting; and by the early sixties, the situation had become such that some of the activities were organised outside, under a shed that had been erected to cater for the congregation over-flow during Sunday services.
Plan for Proposed Church HallIt was at this stage that Session decided to solve the problem of dwindling space by building a Church Hall for the Osu congregation. Accordingly, a committee was appointed to consult the various groups within the church and seek suggestions on the ultimate size and usage of the proposed Church Hall.
Following these consultations, Mr. O.T. Agyeman, an Architect, was commissioned to crystalize the corporate ideas of the groups and design an appropriate church hall for the congregation. Later on, Mr. Agyeman teamed up with Mr. E.O. Adjetey, an Architect and also a member of the Tema Manheam Presbyterian Church, and they finally submitted the required designs and detailed working drawings for preliminary discussions with the Committee.
After the designs had been examined and approved by Session on the recommendation of the committee, a model of the proposed Church Hall was made to give the congregation an idea of the final shape of the hall. The Architects then engaged the services of Mr. Michael Asafu-Boakye of Asafu-Boakye & Partners to undertake the structural design work. It is worth mentioning here that both the Architects and the Structural Engineers willingly and generously agreed to provide their services free of charge.
The ground floor of the proposed Church Hall was to accommodate about 400 persons, which was considered adequate at that time. The design also made provisions for Canteen and Library facilities, as well as rooms for meetings by church groups.
Work CommencedEventually, the Building Permit was obtained when the late Mr. Joe Ayettey was the Chairman of the Church Hall Building Committee. In 1975, a sod-cutting ceremony was performed by the late Rev. J.E. Swaniker; and construction work started immediately with the excavation of the foundation trenches.
Work SuspendedMembers of the congregation were watching developments closely; and when they saw the dimensions of the foundation lay-out, there was a hue and cry against the scale of the project. Members protested rather vehemently that the project was too big and that the estimated cost was beyond the financial resources of the congregation. The pressure to scale down the project was so vociferous that a decision was taken to eliminate certain facilities and features, including the void which would have provided ventilation and light to the offices and toilet areas.
The intervention caused work to be stopped so that the Church Hall could be re-designed. What with the fact that a new building permit now had to be obtained, all these activities obviously caused further delays. Eventually, the second Building Permit was obtained after the then District Pastor, Rev. E.S. Mate-Kodjo, joined a two-man team of the Church Hall Building Committee to pressurize the City Engineers.
By this time, the congregation, forgetting their own contribution to the problem, had become thoroughly fed up with the seemingly interminable delays. Their patience wore so thin that convincing them to join in fund raising became a daunting Herculean task. Funds raised for the project around this period slumped to an average of a mere ¢12,000 per annum.
Work Resumed – and Suspended AgainBy the grace of God, notwithstanding all these problems, construction resumed in 1983. But, lo and behold, no sooner had work got underway, and before the foundation works leading to platform level could be completed, than there again arose vehement protests from some members of the congregation. This time, the complaint was that the revised Church Hall, when completed, would be too small for the congregation! In the face of the mounting pressure, the then District Pastor, Rev. C.K. Sackey deemed it advisable to direct that construction work be, yet again, suspended to enable a fresh and thorough re-appraisal of the project to be made.
Once again, the Architects were called to a meeting with the Church Hall Building Committee, with Rev. C.K. Sackey presiding. After much deliberation, it was agreed to revert to the original design; except that this design, once condemned as being “too big” , was now deemed to be “not big enough”. Accordingly, certain modifications were made to increase the seating capacity of the ground floor and, also, to provide a gallery on the first floor.
With these amendments, the ground floor would now accommodate 580 persons; the stage, a maximum of 80 persons; and the gallery, 540 persons; making a total of 1,200 persons. There would also be a cinema projection room, changing rooms for stage players, some units for offices, meeting rooms for small groups and, of course, separate toilet facilities for males and females. The Architects engaged the services of Structural Engineers, Messrs. Strescon Engineering Consultancy, for the necessary structural design modifications.
In April 1988, when the modification plans were completed, the Building Committee recommended that, in view of the changed circumstances, the construction of the Church Hall should be awarded to a contractor. This idea was accepted by Session; and Messrs. A. Lang Ltd. and F. Fileppi Ltd. were approached to submit tenders.
Corner-Stone LayingOn Sunday, 7th July 1991, a special service was held at Eben-Ezer Chapel in connection with the Cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Church Hall. Rev. E.S. Mate-Kodjo, former District Pastor preached the sermon, after which the entire congregation formed a procession, led by Rt. Rev. D.A. Koranteng, the then Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, to assemble in front of the Church Hall where the Moderator laid the cornerstone.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. E.N. Nortey, the then Chairman of the Church Hall Building Committee explained why the day had been set aside for special prayers; and expressed the hope that the Rt. Rev. Moderator, after laying the cornerstone, “will intercede on our behalf and ask God to motivate all of us to give and give generously until the work is completed during our life time.”
The Last StagesThe special cornerstone-laying must have invoked God’s special blessing on Osu Eben-Ezer as it revived the flagging enthusiasm of church members and led to a more determined effort to complete the project.
The Fund Raising Committee intensified its efforts at implementing new Fund-raising strategies. A healthy competitive spirit developed among the birthday groups and some individuals made substantial contributions both in cash and kind towards the project. Over a period of only five months, the birthday groups were able to raise a total of over seven million cedis (¢7,579,970) to support the project. Meanwhile the galloping inflationary trends in the country affected the project adversely. However, in spite of this unfortunate situation, work on the project continued steadily but rather slowly.
GECLOF LoanIn 1996, there was a strong urge that against all odds the project should be completed without further delay. Thus in April 1996, on the advice of the Building Committee and with the approval of the Local Conference, the Church applied for a loan of forty million cedis (¢40,000,000) from the Ghana Ecumenical Loan Fund (GECLOF) of the Christian Council to speed up and help complete the project. In due course the Church succeeded in obtaining the loan in full and as expected, it was applied towards the completion of the project.
Handing over to SessionOn Tuesday, 19th May 1998 the Building Committee handed over the keys to the building to Session after the Architect/Consultant had passed the building as completed. The structure has a total comfortable seating capacity of 1,010 made up of 534 on the ground floor excluding the stage and 476 at the gallery. Also on the ground floor are a Reception Office, a Store, Pantry, Kitchenette and two dressing rooms adjoining the stage. On the first floor are two Conference Rooms, two Office Units and a Film Projection Room. There are adequate toilet facilities on both floors.
Furniture and EquipmentAlong with the building handed over were 1,200 quality steel chairs and a complete public address system donated by Mr. Victor Nartey, a one-time active member of the Building Committee now resident in Zimbabwe.
Mrs. Margaret Quist a retired Civil Servant and an Educationist also donated a gas cooker and a deep freezer. With these items in place, the Church Hall was ready to serve the purpose for which it was built.
Opening and Dedication of the Church HallOn Saturday, 4th July 1998 the opening and dedication ceremony was performed by the Very Rev. Anthony A. Beeko, then Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.
Recounting some historical Christian activities at Osu during the ceremony, Rev. Beeko, among other things, described the Church Hall as one “with a difference, ....... a magnificent piece of modern architecture to provide a place where we can sit, discuss, learn and share fellowship with our Lord and fellow human beings.”
He finally congratulated the Church at Osu for undertaking this project and urged it to do more to the glory of God.
ConclusionThe Osu Congregation in particular and many Ghanaians in general will readily attest to the distinctive role which the Church Hall is now playing in the community. Apart from the numerous Church functions and meetings which are now regularly held in the Hall, it is now highly sought after as a venue for wedding, receptions, dinners for special occasions, funerals, lectures, seminars and workshops by individuals and large corporate firms alike.
Whatever the misgivings in the past about the need for a Church Hall, there is no doubt today that all Osu Eben-Ezer Presbyterians are justly proud of their magnificent Hall and its serene surroundings.