A Tribute to Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya

Bishop Ellinah winning the National Environmental Prize, Eswatini

Ellinah Wamukoya “For such a time as this”

A great tree has fallen. Our hearts are broken at the loss of our beloved Bishop Ellinah  Wamukoya

She was truly great in the kingdom of God. The first woman Bishop in Africa, she was a true pioneer.. She  modelled a new way of leadership, a leadership of  heart and hands that inspired and motivated those around her. She did not tell people what to do, she showed us the way. With her high levels of competency and spirituality she opened the doors for acceptance of women bishops in other countries across Africa.  Named as one of the BBCs 100 women of the year in 2016, she said of her ministry “I am going to try to represent the mother attribute of God”

The last whatsapp she sent me from hospital was after  I told her that they had appointed a women assistant bishop in Kenya and she wrote “Amen dear sister, that is good news. A legacy indeed. I shall come out to celebrate. Praise God”. Sadly she did not.

She inspired us to love God and love Mother Earth. She was one of the pioneer Eco Bishops of the Anglican Communion and her Diocese became a leader in environmental sustainability . Always hands on, she  planted trees, collecting litter and promoting reforestation, and biodiversity conservation. The Diocese won an award for two years as Environmental champion, from the Minister of the Environment.

In her Masters Thesis she connected the Eucharist with Creation and shared this insight at Anglicans Ablaze: “Eating and drinking the bread and wine  enables us to touch the clouds, the sun the earth , everything in the cosmos. Christ is food – not bread alone – being food  he is life. Hungry people are all over the world – they do not have life in abundance because they do not have food”

She shared memories  of carrying water long distances as a young girl and told me once that she felt that is why she became a bishop at this time, to be able to share the reality of the impact of climate change with her own stories. Like Esther , she came into her position ‘for such a time as this’.

When she was already in hospital a prayer that she wrote was sent out by the Lambeth Conference, she wrote:

“Creator God, we thank and praise you for giving us the opportunity to be co-creators with you and to ensure the sustainability of “Mother Earth” our meeting place with God.  God as a community of Father, son and holy spirit teach us as the anglican Community to work together for mutual respect with one another and your creation.  We repent for our negligence leading the earth to be in peril from loss of habitats and species. Help us to be caretakers of your gifts., protecting the land from abuse, and ready to share with all in need. Amen

The Archbishop of Canterbury tweeted back – Thankyou Bishop Ellinah.

Thankyou indeed dear Bishop. The great tree has fallen, but the seeds you have sown across the Green Anglicans movement of Southern Africa, Central Africa  and Kenya, and  the Anglican Communion  across the whole world have been planted. You have taught us, you have inspired us, you have shown us the way.  Now it is our task to let those seeds  grow – so that  your memory may  be blessed.

“To be of the Earth is to know

the restlessness of being a seed,

the darkness of being planted,

the struggle towards the light,

the pain of growing into the light,

the joy of bursting and bearing fruit,

the love of being food for others,

the scattering of your seeds,

the decay of the seasons,

the mystery of death

and the miracle of birth (John Soos)


Hamba Kahle Bishop Ellinah.

Canon Rachel Mash,
Environmental Coordinator

Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

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