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From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
It was a historic moment recently in Onitsha, Anambra State, when the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of Church of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, visited the Diocese on the Niger.
The special visit, the first since the Episcopal inception of the Bishop on the Niger, Rt. Rev Owen Nwokolo was described as “historical, epoch-making and memorial” because of the harvest of achievements recorded by the diocese so far, which the primate expressed delight on.
As the primate visited, a greater number of bishops, clergies and Anglican faithful across Nigeria gathered to welcome him.
The visiting primate performed foundation stone laying ceremonies for a number of projects in the diocese such as the Archbishop J. A. Onyemelukwe Event Centre, Mary Sumner House (Women’s Ministry Secretariat), All Saints Cathedral Secretariat, Cathedral Clergy Quarters, Diocesan Secretariat, Camp of Light Auditorium, Camp of Light Chapel and Camp of Light Guest House.
He also commissioned and dedicated some completed projects such as the magnificent Olive Guest House, Camp of Light Guest House, Cathedral Twin Duplex Quarters, Cathedral Junior Staff Quarters and Archbishop C. J. Patterson Children’s Park and Garden.
The ceremony kicked off proper at the All Saints Cathedral Church of the Diocese on the Niger where the primate first dedicated the Olive Guest House built by the Women Ministry of the Diocese before proceeding to Umunya, Oyi LGA where the Diocesan Camp of Faith was located.
During the church service at the open arena in Umunya, the Archbishop Okoh gave an earth-shaking sermon where he bemoaned the hypocritical nature of many Christians and warned the people against financial misappropriation of funds while embarking on church projects.
He thanked the faithful in the Diocese on the Niger for the various physical projects they have done, as well as the spiritual growth, commending them for their big vision in conceiving the gigantic projects to be sited in the Camp of Faith, which includes a university.
“What I’ve been shown from the sketch and drawings is a massive project and we can only pray that God gives you the good health and resources to execute and finish the projects. People of Diocese on the Niger, you are the grandfather and mothers of the Anglican Church in this area having sired many other dioceses.
“You need prayers to be able to undertake this project. We are facing a lot of challenges today because many are no more faithful in the church today. Give them money to buy an iron rod for N10 and they will tell you it is sold for N25. Some people in the building committee now think that they were selected so as to enrich themselves, but I know that our fathers in faith didn’t teach us that way. Some committee members now allocate the business to themselves and that’s why I say you need enormous prayers to get men of honour and integrity who can do the work.
“In building, you have the factors of production, land, labour, capital etc but I think the greatest factor needed today is getting trustworthy people to work. To those who will give their resources for this project, please don’t use your gift to buy the church. Nobody should dictate to the church what to do or influence what is to be preached in the church because he gave money.
“We dance to the rhythm of the gospel music, but we have not internalized the principles of the gospel. If you give a goat to the church, don’t hold the rope,” he said.
After the foundation laying ceremonies, the primate proceeded to unveil the plaques designated for the mega auditorium, hostel by the Women’s Ministry, Guest House donated by Knights 2014 set, chapel donated by the Gideonites and another guest house donated by the Lady Knights.
Governor Willie Obiano who was at Umunya to welcome the primate in a remark said that he would continue to partner with the church in the areas of education, health and agriculture.
He promised to give his own monetary contribution to the diocesan projects though he didn’t mention the amount publicly.
The governor also urged all well-meaning individuals to support the project so that they could as well attract God’s blessing for doing so.
Back to the All Saints Cathedral, Onitsha, the archbishop laid the foundation stone for the event centre and other projects in the cathedral.
He also prayed and committed unto God all the people who would work in the new projects such as bricklayers, labourers, artisans, contractors, architects, quantity surveyors, engineers, among others.
He prayed that they may be faithful in their function, asking God to grant that at the end of this world, both builders and worshippers may find a place in the heavenly kingdom.
During the formal reception of the primate, the diocese presented an address signed by the Bishop on the Niger, Rt Rev Owen Nwokolo; Ven. Obiora Uzochukwu , Sub-Dean; All Saints Cathedral and Chairman, Planning Committee, Ven. John Nkwoemezie , Synod Secretary and Sir Nnamdi Ibegbu, Chancellor of the Diocese.
In an address read by a general synod delegate, Sir Chris Ukachukwu, the diocese appreciated the primate’s leadership role which they noted has really transformed and restructured the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and made it become a leading church spiritually, as well as structurally and morally developing the church and the nation.
He noted that the diocese has in the past six years witnessed remarkable spiritual and physical improvement with Anglicanism and deep profession of the faith deeply planted and rooted in the hearts and minds of their congregation.
“The diocese is alive spiritually while educationally we are not left behind. More than 20 new secondary schools have been established and approved by the government and the existing diocesan schools have been upgraded.
“To the glory of God, more than 25 new churches have been planted and 20 new churches and parsonages have been dedicated. We are taking our place in the scheme of things in the society, we are the first to establish a radio and television station, and we have a well equipped mission hospital while we are ready to establish a proposed university on the Niger, having purchased about 2,000 plots of land for the project.
“The diocese has given scholarship to over 50 youths through our Calvary Care Foundation for studies in higher institutions, our foreign mission and planting of churches in Togo, Cote D’ Ivoire and Burkina Faso is gaining grounds,” he said.
While assuring the primate of their resolve not to disappoint or fail him, the Diocese on the Niger said it remains committed in her vision to be a leading church that wins souls, impacts lives and dominates her environment for Christ.