Reverend Toluwani Adefusi is one of the youngest priests in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and currently serving at St James Anglican Church, Itaogbolu, Akure North Local Government, Ondo State. In this interview with SEYI SOKOYA, speaks about responsibilities of the younger generation towards the growth of the church, among other issues.
You are one of the youngest priests in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion); how has life been as a cleric in the vineyard?
It might be truly correct that I am one of the youngest priests in the Church of the Nigeria (Anglican Communion). I started as a church agent in the diocese of Oke-Osun under the retired Right Reverend Abraham Akinlalu. He brought me to the church to serve at age 17, at Ikirin-Ajinkiri, under now retired Venerable Isaiah Idowu. In that parish, I was his assistant; it was from that church I began to learn how to speak Yoruba. I found it so hard to speak Yoruba, and I couldn’t communicate effectively. So, I was given the alternative of handling the English session. After some time, in order for me to communicate effectively in Yoruba, the vicar gave me the privilege to handle the widows’ service every Friday evening and the catechism classes for those that will be confirmed by the bishop.
He was able to impact positively on me and taught me how to pray and fast, going the extra mile such as going to prayer mountains. Although, I learned part of that from my mother, this time I was zealous about prayer for effective ministry. I spent one year and eight months at Saint John’s Anglican Church, Ikire, Osun State; then I left for the seminary. I had good and bad times. It was from the seminary that I began to imagine what the parish would look like. I got admission into Immanuel College of Theology, Samonda, Ibadan, Oyo State, September 12, 2012, and graduated June 14, 2016.
As a young cleric in the Anglican Church, I was ordained at the age of 23, at Saint Paul’s Anglican Church, Emure-Ekiti, by Right Reverend (Dr.) Chris Omotunde. I was made a deacon at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Emure-Ekiti and I eventually became a priest at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Ikole-Ekiti, by the Right Reverend (Dr) Chris Omotunde, now the current Archbishop of Ondo Province and Bishop of Ekiti.
How did you receive the calling?
Right from birth, there have been predictions that I was going to be a cleric. As I was growing up, my parents, now late, told me that God had already ordained me right from the womb to be His minister. And that is why they could name me Toluwani. As I grew up, even right from my childhood, I began to aspire to be a priest in the church. In all the schools I attended, I was referred to as “pastor”. I was made the chapel perfect right from SS1. But I felt that I will answer the calling of God in the later years, maybe in my 40s or 50s. I was prepared for the challenges that I might come across in the ministry, especially the usual belief that growing clerics have issues of finances as well as do great things in life.
But, I was determined that God has called me, and He that has called me is strong enough to provide for my needs. Even when challenges rose, instead of running away from my calling, I stood, by the grace of God. Becoming a cleric was a passion I developed right from childhood and till today I am still in the calling. I still see myself growing, and I pray that God will help me.
How has life been in the priesthood?
By God’s grace, I will clock 28 this year. Despite my tender age in the priesthood, I have faced challenges, but God is still keeping me safe. In the course of the priesthood, I lost both parents, precisely last year. I had the opportunity to travel out of the country, but it didn’t come to fulfillment. I have served in churches where I was not paid a salary for about seven months. The challenges are numerous, but that did not shake me because I know that it was God that called, and I do not need to be afraid, just as He called little Samuel and Jeremiah.
According to a popular Yoruba adage, “Eni to ba ran ni ni’se laa beru…” God who has called me for a specific purpose is the only one that I will fear and respect His authority. The Bible says we should respect those in authority; so we should respect those in authority, not to fear them. We are to fear God, and the Lord God who has called me will be faithful to me till the end.
Is it true that the Church has relaxed its responsibilities to propagate the gospel?
I will say the Church has not relaxed in propagating the gospel. Evangelism is still moving from place to place and even extended to remote places. The only thing is that the Church has not shown enough love; they preach and teach, but they have not practised what they are teaching, and what is the gospel? The gospel is that we should go out and proclaim: that Christ died for us by showing that He loves us. The Church needs to show love to the needy and helpless.
What are the chances of younger clerics in achieving leadership positions in the church?
There are chances of leadership for the younger clerics to achieve leadership positions in the church if they are mature. I can mention clerics that became bishops in their 30s and 40s. But, a leadership position is meant for mature minds; so, younger clerics, most times, are immature in handling their sacerdotal duties. If they are mature, the leadership position will be given to them. Maturity is important in handling the things of God and the Holy Spirit. This is because one can be mature and not have the Holy Spirit, but when the Holy Spirit is in one, it will help one’s maturity to handle the things of the church as a leader.
Had there been any point in time when your personal experience almost forced you out of your calling?
I have had terrible encounters that almost forced me out of the calling. These are when I feel that God is not answering my prayers; or when my parents died. I felt that everything was gone. My parents, Mr Henry and Mrs Fola Adefusi, before their death, stood by me in times and seasons of my growing to become what I am today. They were very supportive and handed me over to God. It is a pity, as the first child of three other siblings to loss our parents within a week. The incident was shocking; I thought life was ending for us, but helpers came from all round – from some family members, church members and some of my mother’s colleagues in the Federal Ministry of Information. I cannot thank them enough.
If God had not been on our side, and used these people, I don’t know where I would have been today. I might have been in the psychiatric hospital because it is still a rude shock to me that my parents are gone. I still cry within me; I buried them on the same day; they died within a week interval and I buried them on March 31, 2020, at the Cathedral of Saint Steven’s, Oke Aluko, Ondo State. I really thank God for their relentless effort in making me what I am today by sponsoring my vision to be a priest. Even when the church I was posted to could not pay my salary, they were so supportive. I also thank Rt. Reverend (Dr.) Abraham Akinlalu and Rt. Reverend (Dr.) Simeon Borokini. These two bishops and their wives have taken me as their son since my parents died.
Is Nigerian Christianity still on the right lane of propagation of the gospel?
We have various means of propagating the gospel; the Anglican Church to which I belong tries its possible best to reach out to the unreachable to spread the gospel; we embark on village outreach and every other means to win souls for Christ.
The gospel itself is Christ; it means we are propagating the kingdom of Christ and the Christo-centric message that Christ has died, risen and will come again if we align to God. But what many preach about is money and how to be rich and prosperous; to receive blessings and break yokes. They have not been preaching about salvation. This is very essential. It is good to preach prosperity, and deliverance, cast out and bind demons, but mind you, it is not good to do all these and not have Christ. The central message of the gospel is for us to have Christ. Matthew 6:33 says: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things shall be added unto you.”
What is your advice to fellow young clerics?
Challenges are bound to arise; it will not break us, but make us. They should stay focused and rely on God and wait for His elevation in due season. This is the best way to fortify Christianity at large. Young cleric must depend solely on God. We have the energy now and we must use all what we got now to serve God and populate His kingdom. It is our responsibility to act according to the scripture and incorporate new trends to spread the gospel.
What has life taught you in the calling?
Life has taught me to depend solely on God and nothing else. I should not believe that there is anybody anywhere who can take the place of God.
Is it true that the vineyard is saturated with ‘self-called’ clerics?
It is true that there are self-called clerics in the church of God. Matthew 7:15-21 says: “By their fruits you shall know them…” Be careful of their vices, they are everywhere, proclaiming that they are called by God. We are not to judge them, but to lead them to God. We need to be careful in our dealings with them.
These are the set of people who will go the extra mile to get power by visiting spiritualists and occult gatherings. We are not to do this if we are called by God. We are to stand firm and believe strongly that God is our support.
What should the Church do to assist the government in solving security challenge?
We have a role to play and I want to urge the Church not to relent in its efforts to support the government. We need to be more security-conscious as a Church and also sensitise people on security. We should always pray for the total restoration of peace in our nation.
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