CHRISTIANITY

A Brief on the Anglican Church

ST MATTHEWS CATHEDRAL, IJEBU JESA

The history of the Anglican Church in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà represents the history of Christianity in this part of the country especially in Ijesa land. Effort has been made to present a detailed account of the history which is very important in the history of our community, Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà.

The twilight of a full invasion of Western Nigeria with the Gospel of Christ was brought by the release of Samuel Ajayi Crowther (later Bishop) from Slavery in 1822. By 1842, the number of tread slaves that settled in Abeokuta had reached 500 and they pressurised the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Sierra Leone to send them a missionary worker to lead their congregation.

In January 1857, Rev. Hinderer and Evangelist George Vincent Agbebi arrived in Ilesa. Agbebi who stationed to do the work in Ilesa, could not work beyond Ilesa for about thirty years, first, because he had not enough capable assistants, and secondly because of ragging inter-tribal wars going on between the Ijesas and the Ibadans at about the same period. He was thus forced to concentrate his activities on Ilesa.

From 1868 to 1893, the Churches in Yoruba land were part of the Diocese of Sierra Leone. With the death of Bishop Ajayi Crowther on December 31, 1891 there was administrative reorganization which brought Revd. Herbert Tugwell to oversee the Diocese of Equatorial Africa based in Lagos. This period opened the way for the gospel to come to Ijebu–Jesa.

According to S.O. Ogundare, it was Rev. J.M. Luke who preached the gospel in Ijebu-Ere, for the first time, and this was in 1888. Though the occasion was a well attended service, no Church developed from it, due to the dearth of enlightened people who had had a taste of Christianity before then. Later, some liberated slaves returned from Sierra Leone to Ijebu–Ere. These returnees had been exposed to the Christian religion in Sierra Leone and they included Jayeoba of Asaba-Oke Compound, Philip Olowe, and John Fasoyin. They, with few others, formed the nucleus of the early Christian Congregation in Ijebu–Jesa. Later, people like Obadiah Pere, John Falua, John Ogunlayajo, Abraham Osanyin, (who later became the first layreader), Ojo Awe Opokiti, Adu Oluyole, Joshua Longe Ogunkola, Samuel Sobande, Thomas Rogbodo, Beatrice Taiwo and her father also returned to swell the Christian congregation on ground.

Bible Fellowship and Worship Services were held in the house of Jayeoba at Odo-Oja and later moved to the more spacious house of Ajimuti-Ogun; record revealed further that Pere Obadiah’s house was also temporarily used as a Church.  By the time David Awomolo returned from abroad, the Christians had swelled so much that they had to move to his yet more spacious house.

The following people were also among foundational members of the Church: Alo Esugbohungbe Opokiti, Ale Ogunseemi Opokiti, John Eniolorunda, Obembe Dare Orioke, Sabiolegbe Ajayi, Aluko, Aga and Seriki. It would seem that the first worker for the Christian body in Ijebu–Ere was Evangelist Theophilus Olaleye who, as a Wesleyan Worker under CMS pastoral care was posted in December 13, 1896 by Rev. R. S. Oyebode, the CMS priest in Ilesa to take charge of the Christian believers.

It was necessary to send an evangelist to these believers because for a number of years these initial Christians had been meeting in members’ houses to fellowship and learn the simple rudiments of the Christian faith like the Catechism, the Lord’s Prayer and some Psalms. Unfortunately, the arrangement later sparked off some feud when in 1899 one Rev. H. Atundaolu of the Wesleyan Mission visited Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà and found a congregation under a Wesleyan worker. And since CMS overseer in Ilesa could not find a CMS worker to pastor the congregation, Rev. Atundaolu determined to claim them for the Wesleyan Mission.

The congregation resisted this, and by 1900 a serious crisis was on ground. Because of the religious affinity which Rev. Atundaolu had with the Oba Haastrup, Ajimokun I of Ilesa, he enjoyed some official backing of the Oba. But the Ijebu-Ere worshippers remained unyielding. It was the resolution of this conflict that gave rise to the arrangement that the Wesleyan Mission should take charge of Christian congregation at Iwara, Ijeda and Iloko while the CMS should pastor those in Ijebu–Ere, Esa–Oke, Iwoye, and Ere. We need to note two important things here:

  1. The town known as Ijebu-Ere at that time, is Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà of today (the change of name was effected in 1916).
  2. The Church at Ijebu-Ere that we are talking about here, was the foundation of St. Matthew’s Church, (now Cathedral) fondly called CMS Church in the past.

In 1901, the congregation started to build a Church on a piece of land in Batisin’s compound in Odo-Ese, a land secured with the help of Ojo Opokiti. The first building of the Church commencing with all vigour and enthusiasm, built of mud walls and thatched roof, was dedicated on April 8, 1902 by the Rev R.S. Oyebode.

The first Christian School (which would have been the foundation of St. Matthew’s School) was started in 1903 by Evangelist Samuel Ajayi. Unfortunately, he was dismissed from the CMS Mission on a charge of adultery and the school became defunct.

Special mention must be made of Pa Abraham Osanyin who at various times of need (such as was created by Evangelist Ajayi’s dismissal) took on the task of leading the congregation in services, taught candidates for baptism, and led them to Ilesa in 1906 and 1907 for baptism by Revd. R.S. Oyebode.

The first female member of the Church- Beatrice Taiwo took charge of weekend cleaning of the Church. Both Pa Abraham Osanyin and Mama Beatrice Taiwo (who was later married to Joshua Ogunkoya) later came to be recognised as the Church’s first Baba-Egbe and Iya-Egbe Ijo of the Church, though without any formal conferment of titles.

On January 11, 1908, the first trained Catechist E.J. Oke was posted to the CMS Church Ijebu–Jesa. A land was allocated to the CMS Church at Igbomolefon. This land was the place being used by idol worshippers, it was a dreaded grove where smallpox causalities were buried and which evil spirits of all sorts haunted.  Notwithstanding, the Church took over the “molefon” forest in a circumstance that was really confrontational with idol worshippers, laid the forest bare and laid the foundation of the first Church building on this new site on November 1, 1912. The building was completed and dedicated for use on May 6, 1914. Thus the “Grove of Molefon” became “The holy place of Tabernacle of the Most High God”.

Internal crises soon rocked the Church arising from the difficulty some members had with some of the doctrines and policies of the Church, like Baptism, Confirmation and participation in the Holy Eucharist, as against cultural practices like polygamy, divorce and inheritance of dead relations’ wives. In spite of obvious resistance from members, the CMS authority had to subject members to policies and controls needed to preserve the sanctity of its sacraments.

These controls brought about serious discontent, culminating in the withdrawal of some members led by Joshua Ogunkola (a founding member) to found the African Church in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà.  Worth mentioning here is the refusal of Mama Beatrice Ogunkola (nee Taiwo) to follow her husband to the African Church.

In like manner, a disagreement over payment of Church dues led a staunch pioneer of the Church Pa Thomas Rogbodo to quit the Church. He later invited the Roman Catholic Mission from Osogbo to start a Church in Ijebu -Jesa.

Trained Catechist E.J. Oke resuscitated the primary School and by the time of Catechist S.A. Oluyemi, the school had come to the stage of being headed by trained teachers, prominent among who was Mr. S.A. Banjo (later Archdeacon).

The first clergyman, Rev. E.O. Ajibola (later Canon) was posted to the Church in July, 1924. He stayed for only seven months and was succeeded by the tall, stout, music lover Rev. P.V. Adebiyi (later Canon). The first time this Church would host a Diocesan Bishop was after the Ilesa-Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà road was commissioned in 1927 (but before then, the Assistant Bishop S.C. Philips visited Ijebu–Jesa, then Ijebu-Ere, on June 5, 1902). The Diocesan’s visit was such a novelty- the glance of a Bishop (a white man by name F. Melville Jones), driving himself in an almost portable old ford car with spoke-wheels and tarpaulin top, with his wife sitting by his side.

The idea of putting up a new Church that would be modern and spacious to accommodate at least 2,000 worshippers at a time was mooted in 1963 under the leadership of the late Rev. D.A Yoloye, the first son of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà to serve as vicar of the Church.

The Rev. D.A. Yoloye who was inducted on January 30, 1950 worked so well and got both the Anglican Secondary Modern School and Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà Grammar School to be established. Also, he as Chairman and Pa P.O. Orunmuyi as secretary led a committee of committed members to execute the project of putting up a new, modern Church building. The construction of the foundation was in progress when Papa Yoloye retired in December 1964. It must be mentioned that it was under the leadership of Mama A.B. Yoloye that the women’s Guild rose to become a powerful instrument for mobilising the women-folk in the Church for God’s work.

It was during his tenure Rev. J.M. Ogundele, who assumed duty on December 30, 1968,  that St. Matthew’s Church rose to become the seat of a Provisional District Church Council with other Churches like Iwoye, Ere, Esa-Odo, Eesun and Ido-Oko. The church building received much attention as it was roofed in1971.

In 1974, Ilesa Anglican Diocese was inaugurated. On December 6, 1974 the Diocesan Rt. Rev. J.A.I. Falope held a service to give a provisional approval for the new St. Matthew’s Church building to be used for worship. This was during the tenure of Canon J.B. Olumoya. On July 15, 1977, Ijebu -Jesa Archdeaconry was created and St. Matthew’s Church became the seat of the Archdeaconry. This was the beginning of a 12-year glorious period.

Ven. E.O. Ogunseiju was the pioneer Archdeacon. During his tenure, the Church mapped out seven big projects for Church development:

  • Completion and dedication of the Church building on Sept. 23, 1978.
  • Purchase of a befitting organ (May 1978).
  • Purchase of a supporting organ or piano.
  • Construction of a Belfry.
  • Construction of a new vicarage and children hall.
  • Fencing of the Church Compound.
  • Chancel Stained–Glass window.

The fencing of the Church compound was completed before the dedication of the Church building which is still the present Church building, although has gone through many facelifts over the time. On October 25, 1981 the new vicarage and Children’s hall were dedicated by the Rt. Rev. G.I.O. Olajide who had become the Diocesan.

Two great writers of the History of St. Matthew’s Church, Ijebu–Jesa agree on their assessment and judgement of Ven. Ogunseiju’s achievements as unequalled and indelible both on the Church and on the community as a whole. In the realm of physical development, his record is reckoned as unsurpassed. He was a proven achiever and tireless peacemaker.

It was the continuation of the glorious era when Ven. E.A. Ademowo (now The Most Rev. Dr. E.A. Ademowo, Bishop Emeritus, Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, Diocese of Lagos) took over the leadership of the Church on September 19, 1984.

Ven. Ademowo advanced on the achievements of Ven. Ogunseiju and built a high reputation for St. Matthew’s Church that spread far and wide.” From this Church, Ven. Ademowo was elected Bishop of Ilesa Diocese, consecrated on Sunday, February 26, 1989 at St. John’s Cathedral, Iloro, Ilesa. Among those who assisted him as a priest was the now Most Rev. Prof. A.D. Akinde, the Archbishop of Lagos Province and the Bishop of Lagos Mainland.

In April 20, 1989, Ven. M.O. Akinyemi (now Archbishop of Kwara Province and Bishop of Igbomina Diocese) succeeded Bishop E.A Ademowo (now retired Archbishop) as vicar and led St. Matthew’s Church till June 1993. Ven. I.O. Olajubu succeeded Ven. Akinyemi in July 14, 1993. His major achievement was the ground work he did for the founding of All Souls’ Church, Ijaregbe road, by initiating the start of Ile Adura Oke-Odo.

Ven. D.A.O. Adesanmi succeeded Ven. Olajubu on July 3, 1998. A man who works very hard in what he believes, he was so engrossed in evangelical and youth activities throughout the old Ilesa Diocese.

Ven. H.B. Olumakaiye (now Bishop of Diocese of Lagos) succeeded Ven. Adesanmi on July 28, 2002. The Church in his time witnessed unprecedented developments, every department of the Church like youths, women, children, music etc already dropping was resuscitated. The Church began taking quiet but steady giant strides that positively affect the city to be fondly called ‘Ijebu-London’ among the house of clergy in Ilesa Diocese.

Ven. Olumakaiye is a charismatic and visionary leader who is gifted in mobilisation and capacity building. His tenure was characterised with major physical developments e.g. construction of modern children chapel, renovation and refurbishment of old St. Matthew’s School II classrooms now used as Church Office complex, Curate’s house, Youths Centre consisting of Computer Training Centre, Library Facility and Music School. Other developments like granite cladding of the Church, Modern Belfry, Women Building, landscaping of the Church, procurement of 40 K.V.A. Generator, two Mercedes Benz Cars as official vehicles and numerous other renovation works.

The following Churches were also established in his time: St. Michael’s Church, Oke-Eriru, Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà and Anglican Church, Ijaregbe. It was during Ven. Olumakaiye’s tenure as the Vicar and Archdeacon of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà Archdeaconry that the idea and the move to have Ijesa North Missionary Diocese to be created out of Ilesa Diocese (Anglican Communion) came up, around October 2007.

Three indigenes of the area, Chief Oluyemi Olukiran, Pastor Ranti Orioke and Chief Engineer N.O Abogan saw the unprecedented growth in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà Archdeaconry at the period and saw the need for a Missionary Diocese to further the expansion of God’s kingdom. They agreed to discuss the matter with like-minded people.

The Move: The trio discussed this noble idea of having a Missionary Diocese with Mr. E.O. Ariyo, (the pastor’s warden of Saint Matthew’s Church, Ijebu–Jesa for 34 years, 1976-2010). Mr. Ariyo moved round some Churches in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà and Esa–Oke Archdeaconries to see the Churches that would support the idea of proposed Diocese. Fortunately, the Churches supported the move and People’s wardens and Pastor’s wardens of these Churches joyfully signed in support of this idea.

It should be noted that prior to October 2007, no member of the area had the mind to ask for a Diocese or the thought of having a new Diocese from the existing one, but the belief that it is the prerogative of the Primate of the Church of Nigeria to create Missionary Dioceses led to a letter being written to the then Primate and Metropolitan Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, The Most Rev. Dr. Peter Jasper Akinola. Signed by following people:

Chief OluyemiOlukiran   -Chairman, Development Committee

Mr. S.O. Ojolo              -People’s Warden

Mr. E.O. Ariyo              – Pastor Warden

Dr. I.O. Fagbenle         – P.C.C Secretary

The four gentlemen took the matter to the Rt. Rev. J.O.K Olowokure (the retired Bishop of Akoko Diocese) for counselling. Papa Olowokure in turn raised the matter with His Royal Majesty, Oba Oladele Olashore, the Owaloko of Iloko–Ijesa, who incidentally had a meeting in Abuja, and promised to help in delivering the letter of request to His Grace, The Most Rev. Jasper Akinola.

After this, the Churches that agreed to join together to form the proposed  Missionary Diocese started series of meetings under the chairmanship of Mr. I.O. Ariyo ably assisted by Chief. N.B. Agunbiade from Saint John’s Church, Idominasi and Mr. T.A. Olaitan, the People’s Warden of Saint Paul’s Church, Esa-Oke.

The Royal Fathers in Ijesa North Traditional Council under the leadership of HRM, Oba Oladele Olashore also held series of meetings. They also met with the representatives of all the Churches in the area that the request is not to divide Ijesa land but for the expansion of God’s kingdom in Ijesa North. The then Baba Egbe Ijo of Saint Matthew’s Anglican Church, Ijebu–Jesa, Chief S.O. Ogundare also rallied the members outside Ijesa North for support.

The clamour for the creation of the proposed Missionary Diocese did not just scale through without some road blocks, but all the challenges were well handled.

In readiness for the inspection team from the Primate, the facilities and structures that would be inspected had been put in place through the grace of God. First, the Bishop’s Court: His Royal Majesty, Oba Oladele Olashore CON, donated a Multimillion Naira mansion along Ilesa road, Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. It could be said of Oba Olashore that he is like Barnabas of the Acts of Apostles in giving to the expansion of God’s kingdom. Second, the Bishop’s Official Car: Pastor Ranti Orioke donated an executive saloon car.

Third, the take-off grant for the new Diocese: Some children of God donated three Million Naira for this purpose. Fourth, the Diocesan Headquarters: It is wonderful that through the grace of God bestowed on the family of Chief S.O. Ogundare, (the Baba Ijo of St. Matthew’s Church and his wife Mrs. J.O. Ogundare (nee Kuponiyi)), the family was used by God to sponsor the massive and inclusive multimillion naira project.

On Saturday, 19th of April, 2008 at Oke-Eriru, Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà the foundation laying ceremony of the multi million naira Diocesan Office Complex was performed with The Bishop of Ilesa, Rt. Rev. Dr. & Mrs. Olubayo Sowale, Rt. Rev’d and Mrs. J.O.K Olowokure, Vicars and all the churches in the proposed Ijesa North Missionary Diocese etc. in attendance.

The Inspection Team sent by His Grace, The Most Revd. Dr. Peter Akinola arrived on May 5, 2008 led by His Grace, the Most Rev. Joseph Akinfenwa, the then Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ibadan. On Friday, September 25, 2008, the proposed Ijesa North Missionary Diocese was approved alongside Ilesa South-West Diocese (full fledged), having Holy Trinity Church, Omofe as her Cathedral (both carved out from old Ilesa Diocese) at the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion held at Abuja Diocese.

The election of the pioneer Bishop took place at the Episcopal Synod held at All Saints’ Church, Yaba, Lagos Mainland Diocese on November 12, 2008 where the then Provost of Ibadan Diocese, Very Rev. T.O.B. Fajemirokun was elected the first and the pioneer Bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Ijesa North. The elder statesman, full of peace, love and God’s wisdom, was consecrated on Sunday, 11th January 2009 at All Saints’ Cathedral Church, Ughelli.

The Missionary Diocese of Ijesa North was officially inaugurated on Sunday, 18th January 2009 by the Most Rev. Dr. Jasper Peter Akinola under a wonderful atmosphere and colourful service. Archbishops and Bishops numbering up to 44 were in attendance in the epoch-making service. The pioneer Bishop, Rt. Rev. T.O.B Fajemiorokun installed Ven. H.B. Olumakaiye in the same service. As the service was going to a close, the Bishop announced Ven. H.B. Olumakaiye as the Dean of the Cathedral making him the first Dean in the Diocese of Ijesa North.

The Missionary Diocese of Ijesa North took off with about 19 Churches, 2 Archdeacons, 5 Canons, 8 Priests (15 in all) and 3 Agents from two Archdeaconries of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà, Esa-Oke and some Churches from Ibokun Archdeaconry, the Churches are now more than 36 Churches, with 41 priests and 12 agents.

The Dean of the Cathedral, Ven. H.B. Olumakaiye was later elected as the pioneer Bishop of Osun North-East Diocese in Otan Ayegbaju in May 2008.This led to the preferment of the first Canon in residence, Canon S. K. Olawoyin as the second Dean of the Missionary Diocese of Ijesa North on 6th September 2009, but the first to be inducted as Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Mathew, Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà on October 17, 2009 amidst glamour and fanfare.

After the creation of the Diocese, a lot of improvement and restructuring had taken place:

  • The Diocese metamorphosed from two Archdeaconries to six Archdeaconries namely:
  1. Cathedral and Group of Churches.
  2. Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà Archdeaconry, St. Peter’s Church, Oke-nisa became the Archdeaconry headquarters with Ven. E.A. Okuyelu as the pioneer.
  3. Esa-Oke Archdeaconry, St. Paul’s Church, Esa-oke (retains being the headquarters, Ven. M.O. Odukoya was the Archdeacon).
  4. Ilase-Ijesa Archdeaconry, St. Paul’s Church, Ilase, became the Archdeaconry headquarters with Ven. L.O. Kupolati as the pioneer.
  5. Erinmo-Ijesa Missionary Archdeaconry, St. Peter’s Church, Erinmo, became the Archdeaconry headquarters with Ven. J.O. Oni as the pioneer.
  6. Iwoye-Ijesa Missionary Archdeaconry, St. Thomas’ Church, Iwoye, became the Archdeaconry headquarters with Ven. Z.B. Tehinmosan as the Chairman.
  • The Missionary Diocese of Ijesa North transformed to a full fledge Diocese. The Missionary toga was shed on 18th January 2012.
  • Establishment of Christian Model College (CMC), the Diocesan Secondary School which is another blessing to the community.
  • Establishment of water factory headed by the Bishop’s wife and the President of Women and Girls’ Organisations, Mrs. M.M. Fajemirokun under the auspices of the Diocesan Women Organisations.
  • Many Church building projects are going on simultaneously e.g. Emmanuel Chapel at the Bishop’s Court, St. James’ Church, Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà, St. Mary’s Church, Iwoye etc.

The maintenance of indisputable achievements of Ven. H.B. Olumakaiye sent ripples of fear, at first, across the hearts of the Church members due to his exit on his election as Bishop of Osun North-East, but God did not leave His work to suffer shame as no vacuum was created; the Church was not only maintained, she advanced, God’s work was not only done, it progressed.

In one statement, the advent of the Anglican Church has actually brought life, light, progress, advancement, fame, beauty and glory to Egboro Land and her neighbouring towns or cities. Incidentally, God has in turn blessed and expanded the Church taking her from a congregation to a parish, to an Archdeaconry seat and now to a Cathedral Church making Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà the headquarters of the Diocese of Ijesa North.

SOURCE:
ÌJÈBÚ-JÈSÀ
THE AUTHENTIC HISTORY
(ÌJÈBÚ-ÈGBÒRÒ, City Set On The Hill)

Researched by:
Rev. (Dr.) G.O. ÈKÉMODÉ
J. Olásebìkan ÒNÍ
Chief Victor A. FÁTÍRÈGÚN
Chief P.O. OLÁTÚNBÒSÚN

Edited and Updated by:
Babáníyì BABÁTÓPÉ
ÌJÈBÚ-JÈSÀ UNIONS CONFERENCE (IJUC)