Located at the end of Broad Street in Lagos , Our Saviours Anglican Church does not seem to command any attention; not even with the heavy traffic of vehicles around it.
It is one church that is not loud but yet carries with it some features that ranks it as “one of the most prestigious churches in Africa” As Deacon Ayo Ositelu, veteran journalist and sports commentator puts it at a recent press conference organized by the church to mark its centenary celebration.
That the church is prestigious is not gainsaying. It is a church that hosts top Nigerians and captains of industries every Sunday. Even with the relocation of the Federal Capital to Abuja , it has not lost that trait as the high in the society still find solace there. But then, this is not written all over it and it is not one song the church would want to sing.
But for the fact that the church is celebrating its 100 years in existence perhaps its officials would prefer to continue to operate quietly. It seems as though its philosophy is “make impact but keep it low”. For 100 years it has been doing just that.
The celebration which wraps up on December 24 with a worship service is devoid of all the trappings of the typical Nigerian style. The main feature of the celebration is a three-day revival programme and a lecture. And then the church goes on.
Giving insight into the history and transition of the church at the press conference, its Vicar, Venerable Henry Isemede pointed out that the church had gone through several stages in its 100 years of existence.
He pointed that the church was a baby of the colonial masters. The church was said to have began as a chapel attached to one of Kings College . It was first named the Colonial Church and then it carried the name St. Saviours Church and then Our Saviours Church.
For these different stages, the church has had to exhibit certain characteristics that conformed to its names. From 1911 till 1957 when it was under the colonial masters, it was strictly manned and run by the whites. It was not until 1990 that it gained full autonomy from the hold of the British. Isemede disclosed that the church was set up by an act of parliament of the British government. So whatever decision that was reached concerning it had to go through the British parliament.
By 1991 however, the baton changed. Nigerians took complete control and the church now is directly under the Diocese of Lagos of the Church of Nigeria , Anglican Communion. Since its autonomy it has given birth to about three other churches and has helped to reconstruct and support many other churches in the country. Isemede disclosed further that it could not make much impact at the early stages of its existence because it started as a Chapel.
But what has the church done to impact the society since its inception? While responding the curiousity of journalists, Isemede disclosed that the church has made so much impact in the prison ministry. “I must tell you that we have been concentrating on making impact among the downtrodden in the society and the prisoners. We have been able to sponsor many prison inmates at the Ikoyi Prison and Kirikiri prison to school. Some of them are at the National Open University while we have been sponsoring a lot of them in computer education.”
The church has also devised ways making life meaningful to abandoned children. “I can tell you that the Lord has helped us to change a lot of lives. We have taken children away from the streets of Lagos and have made the streets totally unattractive for them.
Many of them are in the university and they are doing well. The other time one of them who is a now a graduate and who owns a fish farm came to church to share his testimony. These are children who perhaps could not trace their family people who were living on the streets. We have also built homes for abandoned children and God has helped us to transform their lives.
He said further that the church is making moves to begin to expand its scope and create jobs for the teeming youths as God gives it the grace