Friday, April 30, 2021

Kinshasa 2021 - Sims Chapel Replica in Kwilu Province

Five years ago, I wrote about Sims Chapel in Kinshasa (May 4, 2016). Built in 1891 by Dr. Aaron Sims of the American Baptist Missionary Union, it is the oldest permanent building in the city and still serves a regular congregation.  Recently, I learned of a new church under construction about 250 kilometers east of Kinshasa at Kinkosi in Kwilu Province that is a reproduction of Sims Chapel.
Sims Chapel in Kinshasa

Kinkosi is a parish in the church district of Kikongo, part of the Communauté Baptiste du Congo (CBCO). CBCO is a member of the Eglise du Christ au Congo, which federates all the Protestant denominations in the country. In the early 1920s, residents of Kinkosi learned of Baptist missionaries at Sona Bata near Kinshasa who were preaching, teaching and healing. The villagers thought these services could benefit them and two young men hiked west for ten days to Sona Bata to ask the American Baptist missionary to send a pastor to their village. It was not until 1926 that a Congolese pastor was available to come to Kinkosi, but the response of the villagers was such that the mission decided to open work in the region and in 1929, Kikongo station was established on the Wamba River (Strong Eyes of Faith).
Aerial view of Kikongo and Wamba River

Kikongo and Sona Bata circled in red.

As the centenary period of the Kinkosi church’s founding approached, the congregation reached out to missionary Glen Chapman, who with his spouse Rita, has served at Kikongo since 1992. Glen suggested a commemoration with a historic church that was representative of CBCO, and they agreed to use Sims Chapel as the model. He was able to secure financing from the Emmert Legacy fund and brokered a construction contract between the village and two builders who had successfully completed buildings and other infrastructure for the Universit√© Baptiste du Congo at Kikongo.
A community meeting at Kinkosi

Kinkosi church - the rafters are up.

Installation of the tin roof.

The roof is on.

While researching this post, I discovered that Kinkosi may not be the first instance of replicating Sims Chapel. In 1900, a new chapel was erected at the Baptist post of Kifwa, a predecessor location of the Sona Bata station, which was established on the rail line in 1907. The choice was more likely practical than symbolic, as Dr. Sims’ chapel had proved to be a design that Congolese without extensive construction background could produce. The brick and thatch roofed structure was 24’ x 50’ (7 x 15 meters) vs 20’ x 60’ (6 x 18 meters) for Sims Chapel.
(Baptist Missionary Magazine, 1900)

Sims Chapel in 1897 (Baptist Missionary Magazine, 1897)

The church roof was completed in March 2021 and the Rector of the Université Baptiste du Congo is planning its dedication.

  • Kinkosi photos courtesy of Glen Chapman.

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