Born in Peebleshire, Scotland in 1825, Charles Frederick Frazier Mackenzie was educated at St John’s College and Caius College, Cambridge. He left England for Natal in 1855, to serve as archdeacon to Bishop John William Colenso, working among the English settlers there until 1859. In October 1860 he was commissioned at Canterbury Cathedral as the first missionary of the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA). Consecrated Bishop “of the Mission to the Tribes Dwelling in the Neighbourhood of the Lake Nyasa and River Shire” on January 1, 1861 at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, Mackenzie led the Mission’s first expedition up the Zambezi River into Nyasaland (now Malawi) and established a base near Lake Nyasa.
The missionaries’ preaching of the Gospel and their efforts to secure the release of slaves (who formed the core of Bishop Mackenzie’s mission community) led them into conflict with native leaders and Portuguese colonists and slave traders. The mission and the people among whom they lived and ministered lived under constant threat of drought, famine, and malaria. Eventually the mission’s supply of quinine was exhausted, and in an outbreak of malaria that claimed the lives of three others in his missionary party and of many natives, Bishop Mackenzie died barely a year after his consecration, on January 31, 1862. In his book, Celebrating the Saints, Robert Atwell writes that Bishop Mackenzie was “a man of transparent and humble Christian devotion.”
Charles Mackenzie is commemorated in the Calendar of the Scottish Episcopal Church. A special service of Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral in October 2010 commemorated the sesquicentennial of his commissioning as the first UMCA missionary.
Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Charles Mackenzie, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Nyasaland. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.