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Early History

The Presbyterian Church, like all Christian Churches, traces its roots back to the early Church in Jerusalem, to Augustine, and to Paul. Modern Presbyterianism is considered by many to be a rebirth of the early Church of the New Testament. Presbyterianism connotes a democratic form of Church government which was practiced by the Christians of Apostolic times and made popular by John Calvin in Switzerland during the reformation. It spread into Europe, especially Scotland and then to Canada and North America, through the unremitting exertions of the reformer, John Knox. Today, Presbyterian Churches are found all over the world, and here in Nigeria we have churches in almost all the States of the Federation.

“Send us man to teach us true God” , this is a portion of the historic letter addressed to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria of England in 1844 by King Eyamba of Calabar expressing the passionate desire of his people to know and learn about ‘the true God’. Upon receipt of this letter, Her Majesty referred it to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and implored her to act upon it with great dispatch. Two years later, a team of missionary workers arrived Calabar on April 10, 1846 on board the ship “Warren” in answer to the Macedonian call.

The leader of the team was Reverend Hope Masterton Waddell. He was a Scottish Minister who had worked in Jamaica among Jamaicans whose grandparents had been taken away from the West Coast of Africa as slaves to the West Indies. These Jamaican Christians felt a great concern for their homeland and had vowed that whenever they are released from slavery they would carry the gospel back to their native land in West Africa. Thus, the missionary team that arrived Calabar on April 10, 1846 to start the Presbyterian Church in Nigeria comprised of Scottish Ministers as well as Jamaican Church workers of West African extraction.

The party settled to work immediately. The first sermon by Reverend Hope Waddell was preached in Creek Town on July 26, 1846. The first Holy Communion was served in Duke Town on August 1, 1847. A primary school named after Reverend Hope Waddell, was started almost immediately.

Hope Waddell Training Institute is one of the oldest schools in the former Eastern Region to offer secondary school education to Nigerians. This institution was originally staffed by the Scottish-Jamaican Christians themselves. As time went on, these missionaries were joined by many others, amongst them the energetic Mary (Ma) Slessor. God blessed her remarkably and used her to reach many for Jesus Christ. Due to the work of these early faithful Christians, the Church grew with many congregations throughout the former Eastern Region.