Going to church while growing up was a normal way of life for Ven. Segun Ajayi. His father was the verger of the family church back home while his mother was a strong member of the evangelical fellowship of the same church. One of the things any member of the family could do to offend his father was to stay at home while there is a church service going on.
So, growing up in an environment where everybody seemed to be chasing God made him fall in love with God. It was just the normal way of life; so much that he preached his first public sermon at age 14 to the admiration of the vicar of the Anglican Church where the family worshipped. The vicar prayed for him and prophesied that he would be a priest.
That prophesy trailed him though his initial attempts to enrol in the seminary failed. “I went to the selection conference to Emmanuel College. But my admission was turned down because I was very young. I applied again. But this time I did not put my mind to it. Rather, I sought admission at the Obafemi Awolowo University”
He got admission to OAU to study Political Science. He had fallen in love with the school and was about to write the first-semester examination when his father came to campus with the admission letter to Emmanuel College. “My father came and said I had to choose between being a priest and my secular pursuit. From the way he talked, he actually wanted me to be a priest. That day I had to abandon my undergraduate programme in Ife and followed him home. I had thought I would earn a degree and serve as a non-stipendiary priest. But with the admission to Emmanuel College, I had to make up my mind to surrender all.”
Going to the seminary for Ven. Ajayi was like leaving certainty for uncertainty. Society did not see being a priest as a worthwhile engagement. One of his friends even told him “becoming a priest was a lazy man’s job.”
By the time he finished from Emmanuel College Ven. Ajayi hit the ground running. He was supposed to come to Lagos immediately but another bishop requested for him in Ondo State to come help with the work of evangelism. In Ondo, the Lord used him tremendously. He defied traditional practices that were at variance with his evangelical pursuit and would also not allow some people with occultic tendencies to continue with their practices citing the example of how he stumbled on a man cursing a wealthy church member in a cassava farm with the horn of a ram. Despite all pleas to shield the man, he exposed him.
Though he was loved by the church community where he served in Ondo State, some people got together and prevailed on the Bishop that they didn’t want him again in the town. “They actually threatened that they would kill me if I do not leave the town. That was how I landed at the bishop’s court. I was there for four months. Before then, God had used me to establish a couple of churches. When it was one year and five months, my bishop called me that I had to come to Lagos. That was contrary to the earlier agreement to spend two years in Ondo.”
In Lagos, it was easy for him to continue stoking Jesus’ fire. His first place of call was St. Jude’s Cathedral. He founded the evangelical group in the church and it attracted so many people from other neighbouring churches. From there he was transferred to St. Francis, Iwaya where God also used him to impact the community so much that the community leader wanted to confer on him a traditional title which he turned down.
For Ajayi, every church where he served comes with its own uniqueness and presented a great opportunity for him to be a blessing. His experience in St. Paul’s Church Idi-Oro where he was preferred Archdeacon in 2007 was particularly an exciting one. The impact he made in that church was both physical and spiritual.
But he had the most trying time of his life when he lost his first wife in 2011. The incident shattered him. “I thought I would not be able to continue ministry again. I ran to the UK. But my Bishop then, The Most Revd Prof. Adebayo Akinde said nobody would take my place in the church until he was convinced that I would not come back to Nigeria. It was as if he had seen ahead. I stayed in the UK for just two months and got tired. I had to come back.”
Ministry after the death of his wife took a new dimension. “I had to pray for the grace to remarry because doing ministry without a wife is tough. It will be difficult to defend your integrity. If you talk with women, people will think you are having affairs with them. God was gracious to me. I met another wonderful woman that has been a tremendous blessing to my ministry. My marriage has been blessed with wonderful children.
My 28 years in ministry
Ajayi who is also the director of Evangelism for the Mainland Diocese and Vicar of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ikate, said he has met all kinds of people in his 28 years of ministry. “I have met super-rich people who do things with great humility. They have been the people God has been using to bless our ministry.
“My church members are wonderful. Just ask them to do anything. They are lovely people. But we have this challenge with some who have experienced other churches and who feel they can import what they have picked elsewhere to our church. I have tried to explain what the church is all about and the need to adhere to our doctrine. The Anglican Church is Bible-based. There is nothing we do that is not grounded in the scriptures.
Social media has caused a lot of damage. During the lockdown, there were all sorts of doctrines. I was shocked when one of my members advertised himself as a pastor of an online church. While the church is not averse to people who want to work for God, we appreciate that things be done decently and properly. The beauty about the Anglican Church is that it embraces everything in as much you are not going out of the Bible.
I have seen instances where some were teaching themselves how to speak in tongues. We can’t be comfortable with such development. But thank God that many of them now like what they are experiencing.
We now encourage our churches to take advantage of the internet to do online services. I have also tried to encourage them to manage time well. We don’t need to spend more than two hours in service. But what I find out is that after the normal service, a lot of people still hand around the church and some don’t go home until around 5 pm in the evening especially those who come from far places to worship here.
My goal as a priest is that people should see Christ as the ultimate in my life. We should try not to celebrate ourselves more than Jesus. If we can behave like the Christians in Antioch it would be great.