The development of Krio Christianity in Sierra Leone 1792-1861
Currie Grant, Elizabeth
The roots of Krio Christianity are to be found in a particular period of Nova Scotian religious history. The Black Loyalists, freed slaves, who had fought for the British during the American War of Independence on the promise of land and freedom, found themselves placed in Nova Scotia after the war was over. They arrived in the wake of Henry Alline, the prophet heralding the Great Awakening in Nova Scotia, and encountered an evangelical movement that went beyond the boundaries of the accepted evangelical tradition in Britain. They became involved, some to leadership, in Baptist, Methodist and Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion denominations and absorbed a particular strand of New Light teaching.When the Black Loyalists journeyed to Africa at the invitation of the Sierra Leone Company they brought with them their specific religious beliefs and set up, in 1792, what were in effect the first black churches in tropical Africa. Slaves, recaptured from the holds of slave ships by British squadrons - arrived into Sierra Leone after 1808, disorientated, and without possessions. The Church Missionary Society, already using Freetown as a base, began the specific task of providing Christian instruction, and schooling in the assurance that Sierra Leone would develop as a Christian and therefore civilised country.Soon after missionary work began there were signs that the preaching was having its desired effects, recaptives came seeking to know their sins forgiven. Delight turned to concern when the recaptives did not follow the pattern the missionaries expected to see. Their behaviour appeared excessive, shouts, groans, cries for mercy and faintings. It bore similarities to the events on the periphery of the revival movements. They began to recognise that it had more in common with the "Ranters of Freetown" than with the missionary example, and efforts were made to try and protect the recaptives from Freetown religion. The missionaries believed that the expressions and behaviour of the recaptives, and indeed of the Nova Scotians, were due to ignorance of the things of God and to the African temperament. They placed great faith in education to rectify both.The formation of the Native Pastorate was seen as the climax of the development of Christianity in Sierra Leone pointing the way ahead for a "native" bishop. But when a recaptive was appointed bishop it was to the territories beyond the Queen’s dominions. Both Bishop Crowther, and Henry Venn, the architect of the self governing church, regarded the Church in Sierra Leone as too English a church for a "native bishop. In 70 years the Christianity had changed in character, a change that owed much to the dwindling numbers of Nova Scotians in the Colony and their corresponding decline as role models for the recaptives.