CMS mission partners honoured by Archbishop of Canterbury with Lambeth Awards

From the archive.

Two former CMS mission partners, Deaconess Susan Essam (above left) and the Rev Pamela Cooper (above right), have been recognised in the annual Lambeth Awards which were announced this week by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The two women have both been selected to receive the new Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness, in recognition of their committed and loyal service to the church and community, in Nigeria and Japan respectively.

The award takes its name from Alphege, a former Archbishop of Canterbury who was slaughtered by Viking warriors in the 11th century, and the first archbishop to die a violent death.

Archbishop Justin Welby said: “The recipients [of the Lambeth Awards] come from many walks of life and many parts of the world, but all have served in their fields with distinction and self-sacrificial service, going beyond the call of duty.” In total 40 people will receive the awards, including religious, political and community leaders, musicians and evangelists.

Deaconess Susan Essam has lived in Nigeria since 1983, at first working as a Church Mission Society [CMS] mission partner until her retirement at 65, and since then working independently (remaining a CMS mission associate) with the diocesan team. After arriving in Nigeria, Susan spent time travelling, teaching and preaching in theological education before being appointed as administrative chaplain to Dr Benjamin Kwashi, the Bishop of Jos.

Latterly, Susan served as the director of music at St Luke’s cathedral and head of the School of Music at the Diocesan Christian Institute. She is now dean of the Christian Institute in Jos – the diocesan theological college, which runs a variety of certificate, diploma and degree programmes in theology, music and health. The college, which began in 1992 with one small course held in the diocesan office, is now fully residential with a growing student population.

While her roles have been varied, mainly focusing on theological education and teaching music, her strong faith and passion for God have remained undimmed. In that time the Church in Jos has experienced significant growth despite intense persecution and murderous assaults from Boko Haram and other militant groups.

Susan was overwhelmed to receive the award. She said, “I was absolutely astonished to be offered the Alphege Award. However, I accept it with all humility and gratitude. It is a great honour for me personally, for CMS and also for the Christian Institute, of which I am dean, and for the whole Anglican Diocese of Jos.”

Pamela Cooper joined CMS as a mission partner in 1968 and faithfully served the Church in Japan until 2008. Throughout her time in Japan, Pamela lived in Osaka where for many years she worked as a teacher at Poole Gakuin Junior College.

In 1999, Pamela took on the role of chaplain at Poole Gakuin University playing a key part in helping the university to maintain its Christian identity and ethos. She led the chaplaincy team of two part time Japanese clergy and worked alongside the Christian Education committee leading chapel services every day, Bible studies in various languages and other lunch time events.

Pamela combined this with her role as assistant vicar at Christ Church Shonai and was priested on 12 January 2004. She sought to encourage renewal in Japan’s Anglican Church, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, through Alpha programmes and other significant initiatives.

Along with the other recipients Susan and Pamela will be presented with their awards by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 31 March in a ceremony at Lambeth Palace.

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