Home town boy, James Ssebaggala, becomes new Bishop of Mukono

First published 19th August 2010
Mukono in the blood

Born, bred, schooled, married, re-schooled and working in Mukono District. Most of James' life has revolved around the Diocese of Mukono. His father was one of the earliest indigenous priests ordained in the church of Uganda, some time in the 1920s or 30s, who served first in Namirembe and then in Mukono.

The great escape

One of 12 brothers and sisters growing up in a priest's home James quickly decided he did not want to follow his father's footsteps. As far as he could see a priest's life was 'a lot of work for very little pay.'

In his teens he left home to escape from the 'rules and regulations' of his childhood. The space this afforded gave him the opportunity to think for himself.

A word in season and out ..

Around this time James' elder brother had found faith for himself, committing his life to following Jesus, and he used to take every opportunity to come round and share his testimony and experiences with his little brother. On one occasion he shared the story of a man he met at an open air event in Mityana. This man had been discussing faith, and was asked if he would like to come to God, after thought the man said, yes, but not now. On his way home that man was knocked over and killed.

As he reflected on this story James was profoundly influenced by the realisation that our lives are not our own, but utterly dependent upon God. Having run away from his earthly father he now surrendered his life to follow his heavenly Father and has never looked back.

Born again

From the moment he made that commitment James' life was changed. In his words,

When someone is your Lord, you pay Him allegiance, you are no longer alone, but directed by Him.

He went to college in Entebbe to study surveying a different person, his new found faith growing daily. He soon became involved in leading worship and his heart was gripped with the desire to help others come to know the life of Christ.

Return to Mukono

Qualifying as a surveyor he was immediately posted back to Mukono by the Ministry of Lands and Survey. From the start he became involved in youth work starting a youth ministry at St Luke's, Seeta which grew rapidly. (30 years later Bishop Lee visited the same parish to find that they still have over 600 young people attending the church on a Sunday morning!)

God calling

As the youth ministry developed people began to recognise a call to the ordained ministry in the young James, at first he tried to ignore it, but eventually he gave in and after two years study at Bishop Tucker Theological College in Mukono he was ordained in 1984. Over the next 20 years he was to serve in a number of parishes, but also as Diocesan Estates Officer and Diocesan Youth Secretary, often combining all three roles. Further study in youth work and social work amongst young people took him to Germany and Mindolo in Zambia.

Marriage and family

As a youth worker there were always plenty of young, pretty and available women around, so how to decide? James was very aware of the temptations and from early on determined to wait until God made it clear to him who was the right person to share his life. It wasn't until 1987 when his sister in law had an accident leading to a prolonged spell in hospital that he met an attractive young nurse caring for her. Conversations on the ward led to a growing friendship, a discovery of a shared faith and common interests over the next four years. Tezirah, too, had clear ideas for the kind of man she wanted to marry so she was in no hurry to decide, but in 1991 they married in Mukono and now have four children from 10 18 years old.

Diocesan Secretary to Mission for All

James experiences and training had by 2002 made him the natural choice for the post of Diocesan Secretary which he filled until 2005 during which time he did a masters degree in Leadership and Management. Then in 2005 he was offered a five year contract to work for Mission for All (MIFA) a German backed NGO working to alleviate poverty, particularly amongst children on the streets of Kampala. It was as he was seeking to renegotiate his contract which ended on the 30th June 2010 that he learned on the 2nd July that he had been appointed the new bishop of Mukono

Ready or not!

So begins a new period of life. There is, as James pointed out, no training period for a bishop, and "so you just have to trust that with all that you have gone through Go will make you ready to do the work."

Please pray:

For the family

  • James and Tezirah, their children, Joanne, Joy, Jonathan and Juliet as they move home and get used to a new life style.

  • Tezirah as she continues her work as a public health nurse at Mukono District Health Department

For James

  • That he may fulfil the purpose for which God has called him

For the Diocese

  • The challenge of building a new cathedral over the next few years

  • The challenge of keeping and discipling young people

  • The challenge of calling people to Christ in a district which is renowned for witchcraft and child sacrifice

  • The challenge presented to the church by the growth of Islam in the community

  • The challenge for the church to understand how it should develop its worship and practice in a changing world, where increasingly young people are seeking out alternative forms of music

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