African Church pioneered praise and worship —Venerable Dairo
Provost of Saviour’s African Church Cathedral, Ekotedo, Ibadan, Oyo State Venerable Oluwajimi Diaro, in this interview by TAYO GESINDE, speaks on the history of the African Church and the forthcoming 60th anniversary of the church, among other issues. Excerpts:
Can you tell us a brief history of the African Church?
The African church broke away from CMS, now Anglican, in 1901 and that was how it started in Lagos and extended to this part of the country. The headquarters of the church is in Lagos, but we have branches in Ibadan, Ekiti, Ilesa and so on. Saviour’s African Church is an offshoot of Ebenezer African Church, Anfani, Ibadan, Oyo State. It was some of our members from Ebenezer that established Saviour’s Church in 1959. We built this hall and started using it as a church, but we have modernised it twice to get to the present position it is now. We have been under Ebenezer since we left in 1969 until last year that we were made a diocese. Many of us left Ebenezer to start this place. We have been here from the beginning but now, Ebenezer is a diocese. When we started, many members had to make a lot of sacrifices. They contributed to build the church, we were able to build a school and over the years, we have planted churches in other parts of Ibadan.
What were some of the things the church was doing before that they no longer do?
I won’t say there is any, the African Church has its method of worship and that is what we have been doing and following, it is the same constitution and that is actually what we follow. We normally have our Bible study before we start our service every Sunday. As I mentioned earlier, we have established branches that is the main thing; we have our own school established like other churches. We have the archdeaconries, which consist of some churches. For example, Holy Trinity is an archdeaconry, but we belong to the same diocese and our own is Our Saviour’s archdeaconry, St Michael, Apata too is part of our diocese. Saviour’s African Church is however, the headquarters of them all and the seat of the bishop.
The 60th anniversary of the church is around the corner, what are the activities lined up for the celebration?
The church would be 60 on the August 18, 2019, and part of the programmes lined up for the event include, a rally (which held sometime ago), to tell the world that we are actually preparing for the 60th anniversary of the church. On June 18, we shall hold a memorial service for those who had served in the church, the departed ones. On August 11, we shall be having a community singing and we shall invite the old choir members and the choir from other churches to come and celebrate with us, and on Sunday. August 18, would have the thanksgiving for the anniversary at 5pm, we are also planning to visit a motherless baby home. We are particular about youths in the neighbourhood and we want to empower them. We found out that there are some youths, who want to learn some handiwork such as hair dressing and barbing, and no one appears ready to sponsor them. So, we want to sort out some of the youth in the neighbourhood and the church would pay so that they will be able to acquire some skills and empower them for the future. Part of the programme we have too is to establish a church to commemorate the anniversary. Besides, we are planning on the Oke-Itunu land golden jubilee estate, we have a land at Oke-Itunu and we discovered that some students at The Ibadan Polytechnic go as far as Apete downwards to get accommodation and we have a land that is very close to the institution, we are thinking of erecting a student hostel there. To this end; we want to raise N60 million to erect the structure.
How long have you been here and what has the experience been like?
I have been here for three years and four months. It is quite challenging but God has been faithful to us, you know we have more aged people in our church compared to other churches.
60 years is a long time and over the years the church would have evolved with some new innovations. What are some of the things you have added to the African Church order of service to make it more attractive to the youth to stop them from running to Pentecostal churches?
In the past, African Church started the issue of praise and worship in Christianity. African Church actually came out of Anglican and in those days, we only sang hymns in churches and there was nothing like praise and worship or traditional drums, and all. It was actually the African Church that introduced all these into Christendom. What we are doing to attract the youth is that we regularly organise a Youth Sunday. We have about four to five Sundays in a month and we have dedicated a particular Sunday to the youth. They are in charge from the beginning to the end of the service. All aspects of the service is conducted by the youth of the church. Another thing is that we have been able to change some aspects of our services that the youth considered boring. Truly it is not boring, but we have decided to modernise it to make it look more attractive to them. However, they should still expect a bigger and stronger church by the grace of God after the 60th anniversary.