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"A CITY SET ON THE HILL CANNOT BE HIDDEN..."

INTRODUCTION:

As part of His sermon on the mount, Jesus, the Christ made it plain that a city that is set on the hill can never be hidden. How true this is is seen in the history of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana as a whole and the Akropong Christ Presbyterian Church is particular. Just read the following interesting observations made by four eminent historians of the Church,K. Nkansah-Kyeremateng: the late Rev. T.A. Osei, the late Fred Agyeman and Rev. Dr. Edward Reynolds

“Even though not all the West Indian brethren proved to be shining lights, with them around, Akropong became a city set on a hill, the light of which could not be hidden” . -Nkansah-Kyeremateng.

“I must make it clear that … the foundation of the Presbyterian Church as a whole has roots more or less in the foundation of the Presbyterian Church at Akropong. Both are so interwoven and intertwined here and there that the Church historian must exercise care to separate them” . T.A. Osei.

“The Basel Mission’s first station was Osu but the first three years proved fruitless so they moved inland to Akropong and then came back from Akropong to win Osu …” . -Fred Agyemang.

“The Akropong Presbyterian Church is undoubtedly the most significant Presbyterian Church in the history of Ghana. Although the early Basel Missionaries who laid the foundation for the Presbyterian Church of Ghana did not initially begin their work of evangelization at Akropong, it was from this town that the gospel took root and spread to all parts of the country” . – Edward Reynolds.

This town, Akropong, is the seat;

1. Of the Akuapem Presbytery
2. Of the District Assembly
3. Of the Okuapehene
4. Of the District Directorate of Education
5. Of the District Police Command.

ORIGINS: i. The Town:

According to Prof. Kwamena-Poh, the recorded history of what is now Akuapem State goes as far back as the 17th century . By 1646 the Guans who were living on the hill had come under the power of the Akwamus. According to the learned Professor, “The Akwamu suzerainty witnessed a period of disturbed conditions among the Guan communities: incessant plunder, bad harvests … actions of cruelty” .

The atrocities of the Akwamus heightened to such an extent that it became unbearable. That and other factors became so crucial for the inhabitants to fight for their liberation. An appeal was therefore sent to the King of Akyem Abuakwa, Nana Ofori Panin to come and help in this regard. He also detailed his nephew, Ofori Dua or Ofori Kae or Ofori Kuma who later won the accolade, Safori, to come and lead them to fight against the oppression and suppression of the Akwamus .

By the grace of the Almighty God, the Akwamus were defeated. With joy and gladness, Safori and his people were made to live here with the Guans and as the political leaders of the new nation that had come to be known as the ‘Akuapems’, out of the Twi words, ‘Kuw’ and ‘Apem’ meaning, thousand groups. And so “in 1731, the representatives of the various communities on the hills converted their rebel organization into a political association. A new State was inaugurated at a meeting held at Abotakyi, of various heads of communities. With this ‘Concord at Abotakyi’ the Akwapims gave their allegiance to the Akim war leader” .

The Akim immigrants, according to Kwamena-Poh, came to settle on the Akuapem hills. They settled in two areas, Amanokrom, the seat of the Gyaase division and Akropong, the capital of the new State. The capital was initially built at Amamprobi on a piece of land given by Okyeame Aworoben of Mamfe; but this place was waterlogged and hence, unsuitable for settle
ment. Due to this, Nana Baagyiri of Abiriw offered a new site at the place known today as Nsorem. Here Akropong arose under the shades of the Mpeni trees, and has since remained the seat of the overlords.

 

ii. The Church:

Just about a century later in 1835, during the reign of Nana Addo Dankwa 1, a young man by name, Andreas Riis arrived in Akropong with his Mulatto friend who served as his interpreter to begin a mission work. This was after almost seven years of fruitless efforts of the Basel Mission at Osu. It could be recalled that at the invitation of the then Danish Governor, Richlieu to the Basel Evangelistic Mission in Basel, 3 Germans and a Swiss were sent and on 18th December, 1828, they arrived in Osu in the then Gold Coast.

Very unfortunately, they all died within a short span of three years. Andreas Riis with two others, one of them, a Medical Doctor were sent to replace the pioneers. Hardly had those missionaries started work when two of them died, which incidentally included the Medical Officer. The only survivor was Andreas Riis.

Riis had once read about the cool and the salubrious weather of the Akuapem Hills. In the company of his friend Lutterodt, a Mulatto, Riis journeyed to the hills in January 1835. The paramount chief and his elders warmly accepted Riis. The typical African hospitality, which is deeply embodied in the Akuapem were made manifest by Nana Addo Dankwa I and his elders, especially Nana Kwaw Kutruku, who was made to seek the welfare of Riis and his friend.

Riis finally decided to live in Akropong. According to the Very Rev. A.A. Beeko, Riis’ decision to move to Akropong was based on three main reasons:
i. The climate was healthier,
ii. That he would be able to work among a truly indigenous people who had been influenced or affected by the demoralizing life of Europeans at the coast.
iii. That working in Akropong he would be free from the suspicion of being an agent of any colonial power.
And so on 26th of March 1835, the late Rev. Andreas Riis moved to live in Akropong. He was his own building, which earned him the sobriquet, ‘Osiadan’, a builder.


For a couple of years Riis was the only Christian in Akropong. That is to say, he had no convert.
Nana Addo Dankwa had the impression that, Christianity and for that matter, the Bible was for the white and idolatry and its related primitive customs were for the dark-skinned person. He therefore told Riis that he believes if his people see a dark-skinned person who believes in the God of the white and also reads the Bible, it would go a long way to change their perception about Christianity.

When Riis went back home for holidays, he shared this with the Home Committee. This made the Basel Mission to go to Jamaica and Antigua to recruit Christian families. On 17th April 1843, six families and three bachelors arrived in Osu and proceeded not long afterwards to Akropong . It was their presence that changed the face of the mission work in Akropong and for that matter the country as a whole.

Commenting on the role of the West Indies in Akropong, the Very Rev. Beeko has this to say, “By the grace of God, sadness and hopelessness gave way to joy and the feelings of great expectations” . At long last a church was formed; a Primary school was also established in 1843. Four years later in 1848, the Training College was also established. The famous Akropong Salem also followed in 1867.

These schools went a long way to produce scholars who contributed so much to the growth and development of the church. The Emeritus Professor A. A. Kwapong, the immediate past Chairman of the Council of State, in his foreword to the Very Rev. Beeko’s Trail Blazers, was proud to say, “It would be erroneous to come away with the impression that the great missionary scholars like Christaller accomplished their outstanding work for the Basel Mission in Ghana in a one-sided, foreign donor-native-recipient relationship with their African Christian converts. In this regard, the outstanding contributions of people like David Asante, Theophilus Opoku, Jonathan Palmer Bekoe, and Paul Keteku, who collaborated with Christaller in translating the Bible into Twi and later in compiling his great Twi Dictionary and book of Akan proverbs …” .
At the time the church attained independence in 1918, she was structured into eleven main Pastoral Districts in the whole country and you can be sure that Akropong was not left out . As to how many stations came under her pastoral jurisdiction could be your own guess.

Out of this pastoral District, several other pastoral Districts have been created. This includes, Anum, Adukrom, Adawso, Larteh, Amanokrom, Mamfe etc. The last one to be elevated was Abiriw.

 

The much talked about, the Akuapem Campus of the Presbyterian University College is underway in Akropong. This comes as no surprise at all because as noted elsewhere in this write-up, the first Primary school, the first Middle school, the first Teacher Training College were all established here. The University, for us as people of Akropong, is a reward for the many firsts we have played in the history of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.

 

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