By Eric Teniola
IT is rare for a church to celebrate One hundred and fifty years anniversary in Africa, but that was exactly what the Cathedral Church of Christ, Diocese of Lagos, Marina did recently. The faithful trooped out to the church to mark the event with pomp and pageantry.
It was a remarkable event. Last Sunday the incumbent provost, Very Reverend Adebola Ayodeji Ojofeitimi from Ilesha in Osun state announced that the 150th anniversary will be rounded off on December 10 while a church will be planted around Okun Ajah in Lekki to be name in honour of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther next month.
Earlier Provosts of the Church include Adelakun Williamson Howells (1951-1960), Festus Oluwole Segun ( 1960-1970), Samuel Hugh Akinsope Johnson (1970-1995), Adebola Olusegun Okubadejo (1995-1998), Thomas Akinola Jaiyeola Oluwole (1999- 2002), Oluyinka Ibikunle Omololu (2002-2009) and Babatunde Colenso Akinpelu Johnson (2009 to 2016) .
The Provost Wardens of the Church were R.A.O. Martins (1946-1950), G.O. Laja (1951-1955), Alphaeus Martins (1956-1961), E.V. Badejo(1962-1970),D. O. Asekun (1970-1975), Bode Peters(1975-1980), Ayo Otuyalo (1980-1985), V. Akin Thompson (1985-1990), Kola Ramos(1990-1993), F.T. Durand (1993-1995),E.O.G. Moore (1995-1999), Muyiwa Oyewole (1999-2003), Gbola Akinola (2003-2011), Damola Dacosta (2011-2013) and Jide Ladeinde(2013 to date).
Honouring Bishop Ajayi Crowther(1806-1891) is a good thing. For on June 29 1864 he was consecrated the Bishop Western Equatorial Africa by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral, becoming the first African Anglican Bishop. His son, Archdeacon Dandeson Crowther was also a prominent churchman in the lower Niger area while his daughter was the mother of Herbert Samuel Heelas Macaulay (1864-1946), a Nigerian Surveyor and Politician.
The foundation stone of the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina was laid on March 29, 1867 by Mr. John Hawley Glover, administrator of the then Lagos in the presence of Henry Doherty and John Ogunbunmi who were then Wardens of the Church.
Bishops that have served in the church include Rev. Melville Jones (1919-1940), Lesilie Gordon Vining(1940-1953),Leslie Gordon Vining (1951-1955), Adelakun Williamson Howells (1955-1963),Seth Irunsewe Kale (1963-1974), Festus Oluwole Segun (1975-1985), Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye (1985-1999) and Ephraim Adebola Ademowo (2000 to date)
And the following have served as people’s warden in the church. They are E. M. Agbebi (1907-1909), C.B. Olumuyiwa (1919-1923),D.T. Sasegbon (1923-1935), A.A. Bajulaiye (1936-1941),E. A.. Pearce (1946-1947), J.A. Curtis (1948-1952), Adeniji-Williams (1953),F. O.. Campbell(1955-1967), J. G. Ayodele(1967-1970),A. O. Oredugba(1970-1975), D.B.O. Ogutuga (1975-1981), S. A. Makinwa (1981-1987), S. A. Durojaiye (1987-1989),John Balogun(1989-1996), F. A. Adwunmi (1996-1999),Goke Ademiluyi (1999-2002), Rotimi Odugbesan (2002-2010), Gbolahan Ayodele (2010-2015) and Olugbolaga Ajayi (2015 to date).
On January 1926, the stained glass window at the High Altar of the church were presented by Mr. E.M.E. Agbebi in memory of his late brother and his wife, Mr.& Mrs. G. D. Agbebi and, his father-in-law, Dr. Obadiah Johnson. He also donated to the Cathedral the stained window at the altar of the Lady Chapel in memory of his late brother, Mr Folarin Agbebi.
In 1920, the following members were members of the Church building committee. They were M.S. Cole, J.H. Doherty,E.O. Moore, P.H. Williams,E.M.E. Agbebi,G.D. Agbebi, G.T. Bikersteth, J.R.R. McEwen,F.T. Wey,T.K.E. Phillips,S.H. Pearce, Adeniyi Jones,F.G. Martins, M.A. Akinsemoyin, Victor Coker,T.J. Carew, C.B. Olumuyiwa,I.A. Ogunmodede, A.E. Norman- Williams, J.T. Nelson-Cole, Z.I. Renner and D. Sasegbon.
On September 10, 1958, the terrazzo flooring of the church was donated by the Jones family in honour of Dr. C.C. Adeniyi Jones.
When Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Phillip came to Nigeria on January 28 1956, they worshipped at the church and on Independence Day 1960, Princess Alexandria who represented the Queen also worshipped in the church.
The following served as the Vicar’s Warden of the church. They are M.T. Robbin(1907-1916), M.T. Ogunmefun(1917-1922), F.T. Wey(1923-1924), M.O. H. Obafemi(1925-1926), J.R.O. McEwen(1928-1929), H. S. A. Thomas (1930-1931), A. A. Bajulaiye (1932-1935), E.A. Pearse(1936), N.O. Dixon (1938-1939) and J. A. Adeniji (1940-1945).
On April 19, 1969, General Yakubu Gowon the then Head of State married his wife, Victoria Zakari in the church.
At present the church has a 64 stop, 4 manual pipe organ which was dedicated on May 2, 2010.
On a normal Sunday, the Church conducts four services—7.15am, 9.15am, 11.15am and 5pm. On entry to the Church one is captivated by the beauty of its architecture. It is the oldest Anglican Cathedral in the Church of the Nigeria Communion and one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in Africa. It was designed by Architect Benjamin Bagaondogi. At present, the church attendance is high owing to the recently designed policy of the Provost, Very Reverend Adebola Ojofeitimi who has involved Youths and Church societies in the administration of the Cathedral.
While church attendance is falling in England, church attendance is rising in Nigeria. What a paradox.
According to a recent report I read by Mr. Harriet Sherwood, a religious correspondent, “The number of people attending Church of England services each week has for the first time dropped below 1 million – accounting for less than 2% of the population – with Sunday attendances falling to 760,000.
The statistics, published on Tuesday, reflect the C of E’s steady decline over recent decades in the face of growing secularism and religious diversity, and the ageing profile of its worshippers. Numbers attending church services have fallen by 12% in the past decade, to less than half the levels of the 1960s. The figures from the church’s latest annual survey of attendance show that a weekly average of 980,000 people attended its 16,000 churches during October 2014, comprising 830,000 adults and 150,000 children. The vast majority attended on a Sunday, and there is likely to be some double-counting in the weekly figure.
Numbers shot up at Christmas, with 2.4 million attending a festive service in 2014. The church conducted 130,000 baptisms in the year, down 12% since 2004; 50,000 marriages, down 19%; and 146,000 funerals, down 29%.
The church said it was not surprised by the latest figures. “While the recent trend of the past decade continues, it has been anticipated and is being acted on radically,” said Graham James, bishop of Norwich.
“We do not expect that trend to change imminently or immediately over the next few years due to demographics. We lose approximately 1% of our churchgoers to death each year. Given the age profile of the C of E, the next few years will continue to have downward pressure as people die or become housebound and unable to attend church.”
Speaking at the opening of the Anglican primates’ meeting in Canterbury, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “In some parts of the Communion decline in numbers has been a pattern for many years. In England our numbers have been falling at about 1% every year since world war two … The culture [is] becoming anti-Christian, whether it is on matters of sexual morality, or the care for people at the beginning or the end of life. It is easy to paint a very gloomy picture.”