"I have immensely enjoyed reading this book and profited greatly from it. I wholeheartedly recommend it to you, fully persuaded that all who read it will find it worthwhile."
That was the verdict of Venerable Obaro Ikime, Emeritus professor of History, of the book The Old and the New: Ten Decades of Our Saviour's Church (1911-2011); a compendium of facts, photos, letters and history painstakingly put together by Dame Jane Ejueyitchie-Oroye, a historian, educator and former Principal, Queens' College, Lagos. Leading to the book's public presentation slated for next week, commendations continue to pour in as the author is finally able to breathe and reflect on the long journey.
18 months ahead of the centenary of Our Saviour's church, a history-writing committee was set up with a view to having a book released as part of the celebration . In the course of its work the committee approached professional historians to help with writing the history from documents provided by its members.
Those approached charged fees in excess of N5 million. Dame Ejueyitchie had, on hearing the name of one of them being mentioned by her late husband - a member of the committee - exclaimed that the latter had sat with her in the same history class! She thereafter offered to do the job without charging fees.
The result, after seven excruciating years, is a 542 A-4 paged written documentary that will define the past and usher in a fresh new century for one of Nigeria's oldest churches.
YOU presented yourself to do an assignment professors had charged millions to do. What were you thinking?
I was thinking of doing something for God. I was thinking of rendering a service. I know I had written two books and I was informed that my classmate had written the history of his church and that is why I told the chairman of the history committee that I would give it a try.
Surely the project was executed at great personal cost to you...
At no cost in the sense that I wasn't going to charge them but there were certain things which the church would do like provide a place where I could work which the church did . I needed a secretary and since it's my church I would need information from members especially those in ministry .Ministry is the hallmark of our church . Other Anglican churches have church societies - we have ministries . We have holy communion every morning in the church but Saturday and after communion I would go into my office - I would not be out sometimes until 10PM!
The colonial regime in Nigeria is regarded with mixed feelings. With this in mind how well received will this work be considering your church is a colonial institution?
After independence, things had to change. The parliament with Okotie Eboh said that there should be change and the last European chaplain we had , he came in as a teacher and he could read the times well. That is a period I described as "the new dawn"; the independence the church enjoyed came to an end . The independence was removed from the church and the law setting it up was abolished so it became the Nigerian church . Many of the things happening there are the same.
The Old and the New is as thorough as any post-doctoral work. Do you foresee that it will be used as resource for teaching, research and academics?
One of the editors I wanted to use to edit the book said: "Are you thinking of the book as a book for Our Saviour's Church alone? Then forget it! That book should be a resource at the school of theology and the universities ". Honestly I know I did my best because I know only the best is good enough for my God.
The epilogue of the book dwelt on reconciliation. Why was this?
When this History project started we had to travel to Ekiti where the retired Archbishop metropolitan of blessed memory was. The last European chaplain - we did not know that by the time he left his license was withdrawn by the bishop who didn't like him in the first place but we didn't know that it meant he lost his canonry. One of the History members who went abroad went to see him and talked to him about that and he said he would be very happy if his is restored and it was restored . That was where reconciliation came in and I was saying the whole church should hold on to that . That was the ministry the Lord committed to us.
How did you feel when it was finished ?
Gratitude. Relief, gratitude to God . My daughter was virtually always on her knees praying for God to help me.
Multi media version
I have a sense of gratitude to God because he encouraged me. The multi media was ready in 2011. I had spent my money. I had given time . I had given my talent. I had given my treasure.
There was a time I thought this work would not be completed but one day I woke up at 3 AM . I remember there was no light. I read the Daily Bread for that day and it was right there : He has already written the beginning ; He will write the next chapter ; He will write the ending . I know from the bible He is the Lord that knows the ending from the beginning but the next chapter was not mentioned.
When the church then published the abridged version they said that the beginning was the multi media version ; the next chapter - the abridged version ; the ending - the book .itself. Then a member of our council came in the following morning and said "Mummy , I came to you on my own "... and what he said to me was just an affirmation so you see why I will not give up on that book . I will do everything to see it through for people generally to love God; to serve Him and give everything.
Given the hostile socio political climate in the country today what is your message to the Orthodox Church and the body of Christ in general?
You will see that I dedicated the book mainly to the church of God . When it went to the editor it was to the church of God but when it came back my husband had died in between , so I added him . Christ said that the church should be one and I am using this to preach the one-ness, the unity of all Christian churches- one Christ , one foundation . In the book in chapter 10 we have seen many areas we need to improve greatly on within the church to be the voice of the people. We are not there yet ; if we were there we wouldn't be stressing denomination and Pentecostal, orthodox, Catholic.
I belong to a body set up by chief Olusegun Obasanjo when he was president: the Nigerian Interreligious Council . It had 25 Christian and 25 Moslem leaders. I don't know ow I got there but I was a member . Our goal was the peaceful coexistence of Moslems and Christians. In Yorubaland especially Lagos hardly will you find a family where you don't have both Moslems and Christians. The time we spend here is limited. If we adopt that attitude the evils in the country will be less . Those in politics will know it's a privilege to be given an opportunity to serve . Politicians don't care what they can give but what they can get. The book is very relevant at this time.