St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Maza-Maza recently dedicated its first modern church building, which also marked a beautiful end of the church’s 24 years of struggle and journey out of the swamp, Peace Obi reports
The declaration of The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:8 that better is the end of a thing than its beginning rightly paints the experience of worshippers of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Maza-Maza, Lagos, who had its first modern church building dedicated on October 18, 2020.
The journey of building a befitting place of worship kicked off about 24 years ago. However, the acquired land – swampy in nature- had posed a tough challenge; so much that resources, knowledge and expertise mobilised would often seem grossly insufficient. The project lingered for over two decades.
St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Maza-Maza, located in Amuwo Odofin Local Government is one of the parishes under Kirikiri Archdeaconry of Lagos Diocese. St. Paul’s Church was founded on January 21, 1996.
It was planted by the then Vicar of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Kirikiri, late Rev’d Canon Olayitan Ononoye of blessed memory, who also gifted the church with a plot of land. Christened then “Church on The Rock”, St. Paul’s Church took off at the private property of a parishioner, Mrs. Josephine Ejilibe.
The love, unity and brotherliness members shared soon became a major attraction to visitors and even people around in joining the church. The growth in its membership gave rise to the need for a bigger space. Thus, its journey into building a bigger and better place of worship started with a make-shift that was rooted deep into the depth of swampy land.
The church since then has been struggling to build a suitable place of worship. This was largely owing to the peculiar challenge posed by the swampy land it acquired for this purpose.
Despite its predicament, God’s presence was greatly felt especially as its meetings were accompanied with signs and wonders, further making its need for a suitable place of worship inevitable.
The church with unflinching courage embraced its challenge against the popular view that it quits and get a dry land instead. Though its journey to erecting a befitting structure from the 14-feet swampy land was tough, the church maintained a slow but steady drive to its target.
Its resolve to remain in the environment was said to be based on the determination to fulfil the divine purpose being a beacon of light in the area as well as to serve as a place of refuge for people who seek God within the environs and beyond.
Painstakingly, the church pursued its vision and tirelessly committed unquantifiable resources towards achieving the desired result. Finally, the church building was completed and dedicated on October 18, 2020 by the Diocesan Bishop of Lagos and Missioner, Rt. Rev’d Dr. Humphery Bamisebi Olumakaaiye, signaling an end to a long torturous journey.
It was a remarkable day for friends, well-wishers and worshippers at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Maza-Maza as they rolled out the drums in celebration of their uncommon feat. To many, the dedication of the church was a celebration of tenacity, resilience and unwavering faith.
Obviously, the sound of the church’s ultimate victory was heard in both far and distant lands. Hence, the church’s dedication attracted both friends and naysayers. Those who left when the going was tough came around to catch a glimpse of the new St. Paul’s Church, Maza-Maza. Clergymen within and outside the diocese suspended every other engagement to join in the celebration. Worthy of note was the atypical presence of the Dean Emeritus of Church of Nigeria, Most. Rev’d, Dr. Ephraim Ademowo.
In his message, the Diocesan Bishop of Lagos and Missioner, Rt. Rev’d Dr. Humphery Bamisebi Olumakaaiye appreciated God for the parishioners and everyone who had contributed to making the journey out of the swamp a success. He thanked God for enabling the church to raise the banner of victory despite all odds.
Commending the Vicar of the church, Rev’d Chukwudi Anasiudu, the Bishop noted that God used the man of God who happens to be the fourth priest to serve the church to bring God’s promises to full manifestation.
“I want to sincerely appreciate the vicar of this church and his amiable wife. We want to thank God for you for this great and wonderful work that you have done. In fact, the vicar of this church is a spiritual bulldozer, indomitable and a dependable servant of God. I can see that you have taste and you have demonstrated it in the completion of this church building – furnishing the church to taste. The Lord will honour you, bless you, increase you in Jesus Christ’s name,” the Bishop prayed.
Going down the memory lane, The Missioner and Diocesan Bishop of Lagos Diocese stated that St. Paul’s Church, Maza-Maza, was founded 24 years ago, precisely on the 21st of January, 1996. He said since then, the church has been inundated with the onerous task of building a befitting place of worship.
He said, “Where we are now was a 14 feet depth of water and swampy in nature. Before the coming of the present vicar, the church had managed to erect a makeshift structure for a place of worship.” He said that Rev’d Anasiudu arrived as the fourth vicar of St. Paul’s Church on August 1, 2014.
“Adding that the vicar had expressed shock over what he met on the ground and said that he never thought that a church like this could be in Lagos. “However, in less than six years, you all can see that God has turned trash to treasure and ashes to beauty. I want to appreciate this man of God for demonstrating the fulfillment of God’s promises.”
In a message titled “Divine Enlargement”, the Bishop said that enlargement comes with responsibilities, adding that it is not enough to say “God, enlarge my coast, beautify my life”.
According to him, Christians must be ready and willing to take up the attendant responsibility. Speaking on the church’s role in governance and national development, he noted that the church has been sustaining the country, stressing that every time the church gathers, “we give worshipers hope, assuring them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. So, the church has been playing a significant role in the nation’s development.
“The peace we enjoy today is because the church of God has been very active in nation-building. Here, the presence of this church has transformed the whole environment. This place was more or less filled with shanties but the presence of St. Paul’s Church has opened up the environment. Many buildings are coming up and will definitely bring more benefits to this community. This is just the beginning of good things this church will attract to this community”.
The church on the occasion of its dedication was further empowered as the Deed of Dedication was read and the certificate handed over to the vicar of the church.
Making the pronouncement, the diocesan legal luminaries, led by the Chancellor, Hon. Justice, Mrs. Oyebanji said, “We join God’s faithful throughout the world to rejoice that a new church has been built and completed at St. Paul’s Church, Maza-Maza in Kirikiri Archdeaconry within our diocese and jurisdiction…
“Whereas the Vicar of the church, Rev’d Chukwudi Anasiudu has worked and mobilized God’s people towards the completion and dedication of this building for the worship of the Almighty God to serve for the morning and evening prayers; consecration of the Holy Eucharist, baptism, confirmation, wedding and other services. And whereas, we are delighted to so dedicate this building.”
In a final affirmation, the His Lordship declared, “We, the Rt. Rev’d Humphrey Bamisebi Olumakaye, the Diocesan Bishop of Lagos Diocese, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, by divine permission, hereby dedicate this same building and set it apart for worship and godly uses. I hereby decree and pronounce that it (the church building) is so set apart forever in the name of the father, son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!”
The vicar of the church, Rev’d Chukwudi Anasiudu in his remarks, appreciated God for grace and speed of transformation he has granted the church. Stressing his shock at the state of the church on resumption of office on the August 1, 2014, Anasiudu said, “We had never been to any Anglican Church in the Diocese of Lagos in such a deplorable condition. It was an eyesore. The bushes surrounding the church building structure was scary. Various species of snakes and other reptiles were regular visitors to the church.”
Welcoming his guests to the dedication of the new church building comprising of a hall on the ground floor, church auditorium on the first floor and gallery, the vicar on a note joy said, “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing; then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us: whereof we are glad. Psalms 126:1-3.
“The Lord has turned again our captivity just within five years and five months, having spent 18 years and seven months of her existence in the most despicable condition. But now, to the glory of God, the story has changed.
“What was once best described as ashes, the Lord has beautified and made it a sought-after (Hephzibah). The Lord has indeed lifted us out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He has set our feet on solid ground, making our footsteps firm and secured. To Him be the glory”
He appreciated and celebrated the grace and anointing of God in the lives of his predecessors as well as the works God used them to accomplish while they served. They include Venerable Christian Ilekanachi, Late Rev’d Christian Ibeawuchi and Rev’d Canon Paul Chikaodili and prayed that their “labour of love will never go unrewarded.
“I also appreciate Mrs. Phina Ejilibe (Eagle Mummy). I have to single you out and publicly thank you for all your sacrifices. You were instrumental to the planting of this parish and you also donated a plot of land to the church. Not just that, you housed the church free of charge until they were able to put up a makeshift place of worship in their own land.”