SPETUME FLORENCE NJANGALI: ADVOCATE FOR CHRIST AND FOR WOMEN’S MINISTRY
FLORENCE SPETUME NJANGALI was born in a Uganda village in 1908. Reared by Christian parents she was baptized at the age of twelve in 1920. She was loved by many for her warm personality and determination to learn all she could. She threw herself into her studies at the Duhaga Girls’ Boarding School where she did well. School leaders taught her to treasure Scripture and seek a life of holiness. From them she learned administrative skills. She became first an assistant teacher, then a full teacher, assistant headmistress, and finally, in 1938, the headmistress of the school.
1938 was a watershed year in her life for more than the assumption of a school leadership position. On this day, 18 October 1938, Njangali declared before the church her heart to serve Christ wholeheartedly. This was a key date not only in her own life but for the Ugandan church because she became a zealous Christian worker whose life impacted many of her contemporaries. Much of that impact came through her insistence that women should be ordained and serve in similar capacities to men.
At the time, the Anglican Church in East Africa was experiencing revival. Njangali became active in the revival movement. In 1942, she broke new ground by becoming the first and only female among thirty students in a two-year lay-reader course at Bishop Tucker Theological College. Her coursework completed, she returned to her position as headmistress leading the Duhaga school to renewed growth and national recognition; but now she also was a lay reader at the nearby cathedral. Her license granted her the authority to undertake some traditionally male tasks:
“...[Y]ou may conduct services of Morning and Evening Prayer, read or preach sermons and with the Bishop's permission administer the Chalice at Holy Communion and such as other services as may, from time to time, be approved by the Bishop.”
In 1953, after fifteen years of intense Christian service, she was appointed a member of the Native Anglican Church Synod in Uganda, a high honor that brought her among national leaders of both church and state. She used the platform to press for equal treatment of women.
Eventually she trained at seminary, overcoming barriers that prevented women studying with men. She gave up her well-paid educational post to become a Christian worker. At first she was assigned to the Mothers’ Union, a commission to strengthen monogamous marriages. Only after many years was she able to overcame prejudice and convince the Uganda church to ordain women as deacons. She received her ordination as deacon in 1973. She lived until 1984, long enough to see women ordained to the priesthood within the Anglican Church.
After Njangali’s death, Bishop Nathan Kyamanywa founded the Canon Njangali Girls Secondary School, named in her honor. The school accepted orphans and encouraged not only Christian living but practical agriculture and science studies.
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