Pilgrims from The Diocese of Atlanta recently returned from a journey of discovery, where they got to know the people and history of Ghana’s Cape Coast.
Bishop Rob Wright said annual pilgrimages began in 2017 as part of Atlanta’s companion relationship with the Anglican Diocese of Cape Coast.
“In 2016, our Diocese began a relationship with the Anglican Church in Ghana, West Africa, from where millions of African were shipped to this country. People from our Diocese have since traveled annually to Ghana and the Anglican Bishop of that area has visited [our] Diocese,” Wright said.
After being postponed for three years by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s trip took pilgrims to religious, cultural, and historic sites and nonprofit organizations.
Lay pilgrims worshiped and clergy officiated at parishes throughout Cape Coast. Wright preached at Cape Coast’s Christ Church Cathedral. And the group joined Cape Coast Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Victor Reginald Atta-Baffoe for Evensong at St. Nicholas Seminary.
Pilgrim Debra Titkemeir of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Carrollton said she was thrilled to worship at St. Margaret’s companion parish.
“We had already had an ongoing partnership with our sister parish Saint Teresa of Avila and this Sunday I got to go and be a part of their service and it was a wonderfully amazing experience,” Titkemeir, said in an Instagram post. “There were so many people there that I saw the light of God in, and it felt like home. It felt like Saint Margaret’s, and it felt like St. Teresa, so I loved it!”
The parish’s partnership grew out of a conversation between St. Margaret’s rector The Rev. Jeff Jackson and his counterpart at St. Teresa’s of Avila when Jackson was part of the 2019 Atlanta pilgrimage.
The group also explored the area’s natural beauty.
At Kakum National Park, they viewed the forest canopy from far above on long rope bridges. Diocesan youth missioner Holle Tubbs said she sensed God’s presence in the relationships pilgrims built as they explored the stunning scenery.
The journey also brought the pilgrims face-to-face with one of the ugliest facets of Cape Coast history: the Atlantic Slave Trade and its devastating repercussions across subsequent generations in Africa and the U.S.
At the Assin Manso Slave River, pilgrims stood in the water where West Africans who had been abducted from their homes took their last bath before being marched some forty miles to Elmina Castle where they were held in dungeons before being sold and taken away on ships.
The hallowed sites forced pilgrims to grapple with the difficult realities of this shared history and struggle with how to honor those who passed through, Tubbs said.
At Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre, a nonprofit healthcare project, pilgrims learned that government assistance is not common in Ghana so vulnerable people depend upon such organizations for care.
“The work at Padre Pio began by providing assistance and housing to families affected by leprosy, but the scope of their mission has grown to include a childcare center, a residential home for the elderly, and a school for children with disabilities,” Tubbs said.
At another stop pilgrims saw Diocese of Atlanta dollars at work.
Harry Gross, of Christ Church in Macon, posted an Instagram reel on the group’s visit to a pig farm built with financial support from the Diocese of Atlanta’s Global Missions Commission.
“Bishop Victor came years ago and requested our help in establishing this project and it’s so cool to actually get to see this firsthand now,” Gross said.
“We’ve given several thousand dollars over the years to help establish this, and this is the diocese’s money. This is your money at work doing good in this community.” Gross, who chairs the Commission, said the project is expected to provide an economic boost to the entire region.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing this project develop and to see it grow and produce, you know, more income and more wealth for the Diocese of Cape Coast and the people of Cape Coast. So, thank you so much for your support of this project.”
Canon for Ministry C. John-Thompson Quartey, who was on the initial 2017 pilgrimage, said this year’s trip was “extremely meaningful and invigorating because we were able to see the fruits of our support for the vision which Bishop Victor shared with us about creating a sustainable economy for the diocese.” Quartey, who was born in Ghana, said a personal highlight of the trip for him and his wife Jerlyn was being able to stay in the homes of their Ghanaian hosts.
During a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Cape Coast Bishop Wright and Bishop Atta-Baffoe signed an official memorandum of understanding. The document commits each diocese “To empower our Christian ministries through prayer for and learning from each other. To exchange clergy and other lay professionals for our mutual benefit. To support each other with material resources. To respect each other’s diversity in culture, context, and theological understandings. [and] To encourage the development of mutual understanding between our two Dioceses.”
Wright said the MOU signifies the maturing of the relationship that began in 2016. Since then, Wright has twice invited Bishop Atta-Baffoe to visit Atlanta. In 2017 Atta-Baffoe was part of the dedication of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta and in 2019, he addressed the Diocese of Atlanta’s Annual Council.
Before traveling to Ghana’s capital city Accra, the pilgrims shared a meal with Bishop Atta-Baffoe, clergy, and lay people from The Diocese of Cape Coast and discussed the next steps in their companion partnership.
In Accra, they were joined by the Rt. Rev. George Kotei Neequaye, suffragan bishop of Accra, for a visit to the home of W.E.B. Du Bois before stopping by Trinity Theological Seminary in the city of Legon.
Bishop Neequaye and Accra’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Torto, also hosted a lunch for the pilgrims before they returned to Atlanta.
“The people of Ghana, especially the clergy and lay people of The Diocese of Cape Coast and Accra, have been incredibly generous hosts,” Tubbs said. “We are so grateful for their hospitality and partnership and are already looking forward to our next visit!”
Wright said the pilgrimages are a cornerstone for strengthening the companion relationship.
“Please join our staff and pilgrims in prayer as we imagine practical ways to provide meaningful, mutual support to our Ghanaian siblings in Christ,” Wright said.
The diocese’s commitment to the companion ministry with Cape Coast includes keeping our worshiping communities informed of conversations, events, and more. Explore our Conversations of Companionship page. Learn more about the Diocese of Atlanta’s companion relationship with the Anglican Diocese of Cape Coast.
2023 Pilgrims to Cape Coast, Ghana:
Bishop Rob Wright; Beth Sarah Wright; Canon C. John Thompson-Quartey; Jerlyn Thompson-Quartey; Rev. Tim Black, Convener, St. John’s College Park, and wife Patricia Babuka; Harry Groce, chair of the Global Missions Commission; Ben Day, rector, Christ Church, Kennesaw; Alma C. Hall, St. Paul’s, Atlanta; Debra Titkemeir, St. Margaret’s, Carrolton; Colin Brown, St. Martin in the Fields, Brookhaven; Malinda Schamberger, Director of the Chattahoochee Valley Episcopal Ministries; Adreana Sands, student, Holy Innocents School; Jailynn Smith, student, Holy Innocents School; Holle Tubbs, diocesan youth missioner.
Photos by Holle Tubbs